Built-In Shelves in 4 Easy Steps (With “How To” Video!)

Part of the fun aspect of my job is that I get to work with other talented DIYers and learn their tricks of the trade so I can add them to my bag of tricks as well. I watched our handy “I-Can-Do-Everything” project assistant Collin build one set of built-in shelves in our last house (for our den closet), and then I was his assistant building more shelves for our bedroom closet. Now that we’ve moved away from the Nashville branch of the ABM team (waaahhhh!), I’m all on my own and it was time for this baby bird to leave the nest and build her own shelves all by herself. We’ve given the gist of building built-in shelves in other posts (like this one), but I personally love videos for building projects. So I thought it would be fun to make a video tutorial so you can see how easy it really can be to build your own in a nook at your house!

Supplies:
1″ x 2″ boards for support rails
12″ wide boards for shelves
1″ x 3″ boards to trim the front of your shelves
level
stud finder
screws (and anchors if needed)
electric brad nailer or drill
countersink bit

1. Add your support rails: To determine your rail placement, use painter’s tape to mark where you want your shelves to be and check with a level to make sure your lines are straight and even with each other. You can decide if you want all your shelves to be the same height or different heights, so play around with the tape locations until you find a combination you like. I left a little more room at the top of my shelf since my ceilings are slanted and I didn’t want it to look too smushed up top.

Once you have your tape lines in place and level, measure the width of your wall and cut your support boards to that width. Find and mark the studs in the wall with a stud finder (you can just mark on the painter’s tape) to make sure you have a solid place to drill into with your screws (we love these screws for this type of job). If you can’t find a stud, you can use drywall anchors in the wall first (either self drilling or tapping in) and that will give you a good hold for your screw as well. I highly recommend holding your board against the wall once you cut it to size and then marking directly on the board where you want your screw holes to be (screw into studs where you can!) and then take the board off to pre-drill your holes to make the process a lot easier. Line your board up with your level tape lines and attach your board to the wall with your screws (again, you may want to hold up your pre-drilled board and drill holes into the wall first, but some screws are “self-drilling” and you don’t need to do that for them to go in smoothly).

Repeat the process on the sides of your nook by cutting your side support rails as long as they need to be to come right to the edge of your top board once that is put on, and mark your holes, pre-drill your board, and attach those to the walls as well.

2. Attach your main boards on top of the support rails: Now that your support rails are in place, cut your main board to the width of your nook (just a tiiiiny bit smaller actually so you can fit it in … you can caulk any gaps later) and place it on top of your rails. Use a nail gun (this inexpensive electric brad nailer is great to have around for projects like this—no air tank needed!) to attach your board to your rails or you can also screw in the boards if you don’t have a nail gun (pre-drilling recommended so as not to split the wood). I would also suggest laying down a line of wood glue on top of the rails before adding your board on top for a little extra bonding strength.

If using a drill and screws to attach your main and trim boards, I highly recommend also using a countersink bit when you pre-drill so your screw head will end up slightly below the surface of your board and you can fill in the hole with wood filler and smooth it out completely flat at the end. What hole? I don’t see a hole … exactly.

3. Attach your trim boards to the front of your shelves: Once your main board is added, cut your trim board the width of the front of your main board and attach the board to the front of your shelf to finish off the look. I attached most of my trim boards with the brad nails and nail gun, but there were a few spots where the trim was bowed a bit, so I pre-drilled and used screws there to really keep the boards together (brad nails and glue should be fine for non-warped boards, but screws are a stronger hold if they are trying to pull apart based on warping).

4. Add finishing touches: Finish by filling any nail or screw holes with wood filler (let it dry and then sand smooth) and caulking seams between the shelf and wall with latex caulk before painting the boards with semigloss paint (I painted them Soft Stone by Valspar—the same color as our pink walls). Make sure you give the paint its full time to cure (and maybe even add a few more days on to the wait) before setting objects on the shelf. You really want that paint to be cured so it doesn’t stick to the objects and peel up. Adding little felt pads to the bottom of your shelf decor will really prolong the life of your paint job as well!

I’m so happy with how the shelves came out! They really do look seamless and totally a part of the wall, which is just what I wanted. I added some of my favorite shelf items like those two digital prints (take it easy and here comes the sun), some family photos (love lucite frames, gold and lucite ones, and ones that stand up like this one), some gold figurines (peace fingers, similar unicorn and lion, and I would love to add this cutie snail!), gold bookends (love these and these), this white letter board (with these blush letters), and some unique planters (love this one and this one). Overall, this was a great project to “build” my skillset when it comes to woodworking and now I know I’ll be ready to add more shelves where needed as we complete our home makeover—yay! xo. Laura

P.S. Similar cheetah leggings to the ones in the video are here!

BUILT-IN SHELVES IN 4 EASY STEPS

Ingredients

Instructions

Add your support rails: 

  1. To determine your rail placement, use painter’s tape to mark where you want your shelves to be and check with a level to make sure your lines are straight and even with each other. You can decide if you want all your shelves to be the same hight or different heights, so play around with the tape locations until you find a combination you like. I left a little more room at the top of my shelf since my ceilings are slanted and I didn’t want it to look too smushed up top.

  2. Once you have your tape lines in place and level, measure the width of your wall and cut your support boards to that width. Find and mark the studs in the wall with a stud finder (you can just mark on the painter’s tape) to make sure you have a solid place to drill into with your screws (we love these screws for this type of job). If you can’t find a stud, you can use drywall anchors in the wall first (either self drilling or tap in) and that will give you a good hold for your screw as well. I highly recommend holding your board against the wall once you cut it to size and then marking directly on the board where you want your screw holes to be (screw into studs where you can!) and then take the board off to pre-drill your holes to make the process a lot easier. Line your board up with your level tape lines and attach your board to the wall with your screws (again, you may want to hold up your pre-drilled board and drill holes into the wall first, but some screws are “self-drilling” and you don’t need to do that for them to go in smoothly).

  3. Repeat the process on the sides of your nook by cutting your side support rails as long as they need to be to come right to the edge of your top board once that is put on, and mark your holes, pre-drill your board, and attach those to the walls as well.

Attach your main boards on top of the support rails: 

  1. Now that your support rails are in place, cut your main board to the width of your nook (just a tiiiiny bit smaller actually so you can fit it in … you can caulk any gaps later) and place it on top of your rails. Use a nail gun (this inexpensive electric brad nailer is great to have around for projects like this—no air tank needed!) to attach your board to your rails or you can also screw in the boards if you don’t have a nail gun (pre-drilling recommended so as not to split the wood). I would also suggest laying down a line of wood glue on top of the rails before adding your board on top for a little extra bonding strength.

    If using a drill and screws to attach your main and trim boards, I highly recommend also using a countersink bit when you pre-drill so your screw head will end up slightly below the surface of your board and you can fill in the hole with wood filler and smooth it out completely flat at the end. What hole? I don’t see a hole … exactly.

Attach your trim boards to the front of your shelves: 

  1. Once your main board is added, cut your trim board the width of the front of your main board and attach the board to the front of your shelf to finish off the look. I attached most of my trim boards with the brad nails and nail gun, but there were a few spots where the trim was bowed a bit, so I pre-drilled and used screws there to really keep the boards together (brad nails and glue should be fine for non-warped boards but screws are a stronger hold if they are trying to pull apart based on warping).

  2. Add finishing touches: 

  3. Finish by filling any nail or screw holes with wood filler (let it dry and then sand smooth) and caulking seams between the shelf and wall with latex caulk before painting the boards with semigloss paint (I painted them Soft Stone by Valspar—the same color as our pink walls). Make sure you give the paint its full time to cure (and maybe even add a few more days on to the wait) before setting objects on the shelf. You really want that paint to be cured so it doesn’t stick to the objects and peel up. Adding little felt pads to the bottom of your shelf decor will really prolong the life of your paint job as well!

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
Recipe Rating




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