What Is an Ideal Length for a Bookcase Shelf?

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A bookcase is more than a piece of furniture. Because it holds your books, it makes a statement about your interests, hobbies and values. Bookcases come in many sizes and materials, but a simple wooden bookcase is a good choice for an office, bedroom or family room. Select a bookcase size that works for the room, your budget and the number of books you own, as well as other considerations.

Durability

  • In terms of durability, a bookcase that is 4 feet long is ideal. The shelves of longer bookcases might become bent over time from the weight of the books. If you opt for a longer bookshelf, select one that has a supporting beam in the middle of the furniture. The bookcase should also have a heavy plywood backing, which gives it strength and durability.

Versatility

  • Shorter bookcases usually offer more versatility than longer ones. A long bookcase may fit nicely on one wall in your house, but if you move or want to rearrange the furniture, you may have a challenge finding a new location for the bookshelf. Push two smaller bookshelves together if you have the space and want the look of a long bookshelf. You'll have the option of separating the pieces later if necessary.

Economy

  • If you're building the bookcase yourself, select a length that allows you to build the shelves economically, with a minimum of wasted materials. For example, most boards come in lengths of 6, 8, 10 or 12 feet long. It makes sense then to make a bookcase that is either one of these lengths or half these lengths so you can get two pieces out of one board. To make a 4-foot long bookshelf, you could get two shelves from one 8-foot long board.

Transportation

  • Consider how you'll transport and move the bookcases when selecting a size for them. Long bookcases are more difficult to lift and carry, and are difficult to maneuver up stairs or around corners. Two people can easily carry a small bookcase when it's time to move or rearrange furniture. If you are building a built-in bookcase, all the rules go out the window. Your main concern will be building a case that fits and providing the proper supports so the shelves don't buckle.

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