How to Do Makeshift Shelves

Makeshift shelves create space for extra books.
Makeshift shelves create space for extra books. (Image: books image by charles taylor from

Shelves don't need to be expensive or permanent to serve their purpose and hold a lot of weight. Create makeshift shelves spaced to fit whatever you need with boards and concrete blocks. Substitute glass blocks for concrete blocks or decorate the shelves with paint or adhesive shelf lining, if you're using the shelves in a living area where you want them to look nice. Leave them plain and utilitarian if they're in a garage or workshop.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 boards, 1 inch by 8 inch by 4 feet
  • 6 concrete blocks

Set one board flat on the floor along the wall where you want the shelves.

Set one concrete block upright on each end of the board. Face the holes toward the room and use them for holding knick-knacks or face the solid end toward the room and leave it plain or decorate it later.

Lay a second board across the top of the concrete blocks directly above the first one.

Place two more concrete blocks upright on the ends of the second board, add a third board on top of them and repeat with the next set of blocks and the fourth board.

Tips & Warnings

  • Salvage second-hand boards to keep the cost even lower.
  • If you need wider shelves, lay the blocks on their sides and use two 8-inch-wide boards for each shelf. If the shelves aren't far enough apart with the blocks on their sides, add an extra block on top of each one to bring the spacing back to 16 inches.
  • Use longer boards or more blocks and boards to build larger shelves, if the floor underneath is strong enough to support them. If you're planning to store heavy objects such as books, add a third block in the middle of shelves more than 6 feet long.
  • If you're building high shelves, make sure they're balanced firmly toward the wall rather than away from it, so they won't tip. If the floor slants away from the wall, add thin wood shims under the front of the lowest blocks to make them level or slanted slightly toward the wall.

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