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DIY Bookshelves - Homeowners - CB Prime Properties

If your books are littered everywhere around your house, here's some good news: You don't need master carpentry skills, thousands of dollars, or a workshop full of tools to build a dreamy bookshelf. With the right supplies and a little bit of creativity, you can build a unit worthy of a great library. Use it to display your cherished reads, media collection, knickknacks, and anything that suits your fancy. Our real estate agents give you the steps below for building an easy and inexpensive DIY bookshelf.

  • Design and Determine the Dimensions
    You can custom design your bookshelf to fit a particular space or make one that can work in various locations. Either way, measure the space where you'll place the shelf unit. Decide how tall and how wide you want it to be. Typically, bookshelves are 12" or 16", but you can build yours to suit your needs. When you plan the size, you want the shelves to support the heaviest objects you have in mind without causing a noticeable dip. The shelves should be strong enough to support a heavy load of books and other décor items. Also, decide if you want your bookshelf to have a closed or open back.
  • Choose the Type of Wood
    Because this is a simple DIY project, you'll want to choose plywood with a hardwood veneer. The type of plywood you choose will depend on your budget, durability, and the weight of the finished product.  You'll also want to consider whether you want to paint the bookshelf, leave it natural, or use a clear finish. The common veneer plywood used for building homemade bookshelves are birch, pine, oak, and maple. Maple lends itself to a range of stains, and birch is the best option if you want to paint your bookshelf.

  • Cut Plywood Frame
    Since plywood usually comes in 4' x 8' sheets, the tricky part of working with it is ripping down the lumber to your desired width.  If you don't have a table saw or circular saw, your best bet is to find out if your lumberyard can make clean, straight rips. You can adjust the measurement if you want your bookshelf to be shorter or taller. 

  • Cut the Rabbet Joints
    The interior shelves need to be rabbet cut using a router. Creating rabbet joints adds strength to the bookshelf and allows the shelves to support more weight. To make the rabbet grooves, make cuts straight across the shelf until the track is as wide as the thickness of the plywood sides. You can also make your cuts with a router fitted with a ball-bearing piloted bit.

  • Assemble the Unit
    To assemble the freestanding bookshelf, use wood glue and finish nails to attach the outer pieces together. Then, put glue in the rabbet joints and slide the shelves into the joints. With the shelves in place, add pocket screws to secure the top and bottom shelves.

  • Add Finishing Touches
    If you want to give your bookshelf a custom look or create the look of a built-in unit, consider adding trim or molding. You can apply nosing to shelf faces or use veneer edging to hide the board's layered patterns. Fill the nail holes with wood putty and allow the wood glue to fully dry.  Sand it smooth to remove handling marks and raised grain and use a tack cloth to wipe off debris. The final touch is to paint or stain your bookshelf to give it your desired look.

If you're in the market for a new home, we invite you to browse our Albany homes for sale and contact us to arrange a showing.

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