How to Make Easy Built-In Bookcases

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Add trim molding to create "built in" metal shelving.
Add trim molding to create "built in" metal shelving. (Image: bibliotheque image by Zeno from Fotolia.com)

A full wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves turns any room into a library. Bookshelves give you a place to display your collection of treasures, whether they are books, art objects or toys. Make sturdy, easy built-in bookcases by framing purchased metal shelving. The metal shelving provides a sturdy structure; you add the framework to turn free-standing shelves into built-ins. These shelves are ideal in a rented house or apartment; the only impact on the walls is a few small nail holes.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Free-standing metal shelving
  • Wooden trim molding
  • Liquid construction adhesive
  • Miter box
  • Saw
  • Finish nails
  • Hammer

Measure the space you want to fill with bookshelves. Measure floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Buy free-standing metal shelving to fill the space. You may need more than one set of shelves. You can mix different types as long as they all have shelves at exactly the same heights. The top of the shelves should be between 1 and 2 feet from the ceiling.

Set up the metal shelves in the space. The shelves can be up to 5 inches apart. The distance between the shelves and the walls should be the same or less than the distance from the top of the bottom shelf to the floor.

Measure the distance from the top of the bottom shelve to the floor. This will be the width of the outer trim molding. Buy enough molding to frame in the bookcases. This will be twice the distance from wall to wall plus twice the height from floor to ceiling. Buy some extra to allow for cutting waste.

Buy molding wide enough to cover the spaces between the bookcases. Calculate the length needed by subtracting twice the width of the framing molding from the floor to ceiling measurement. Buy a piece this length for each space. This will be your vertical molding.

Buy molding wide enough to cover the edge of the shelves. This should be as flat as possible. Calculate the length needed by multiplying the wall-to-wall measurement by the number of shelves in one unit. If possible get a single piece for each shelf that will reach from one wall to the other. If you will need to use more then one length, place the joint in a space between shelves. This is your horizontal molding.

Use liquid construction adhesive to attach the horizontal molding to the front edges of the shelves. The top of the molding should be even with the top of the edge of the shelf.

Cut the ends of the molding for the frame at a 45-degree angle using a miter box and saw. The outside edge should be longer than the inside edge. Attach it to the walls and ceiling around the bookshelves with finish nails hammered in at an angle. Nail the molding together at the corners. Nail the framing molding to the horizontal molding.

Cover the spaces between the sets of shelves with the vertical molding. Use construction adhesive to attach it to the frame at the top and bottom and to the horizontal molding. At the top and bottom use finish nails hammered in at an angle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use caulk to fill in any gaps in the molding.
  • Not all rooms are square. If necessary use a cold chisel to adjust the molding until it fits, then fill in any gaps with caulk. Caulk and paint will make it look good.

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