How to Create a Built-In Bookshelf Cabinet

A built-in bookshelf cabinet can look expensive, but doesn't have to be. You can custom create your own with some wood and a little carpentry know-how.

Your objective is to make the bookshelf cabinet look as if it's part of the architecture. In addition to the supplies below, you'll want to make sure you have paint in the same colors as your walls and moldings.

You'll Need:
  • Measuring tape
  • 1-by-12 lumber
  • 1-by-2 wood strips
  • Thin plywood for back
  • 4 supporting pins per shelf
  • Drywall screws
  • Wire brads
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Molding
Step 1: Measure

Measure the area where you want to build your bookshelf, including the height, width and depth. To ensure that the cabinet is strong, plan to include vertical supports every 2 feet, or at least every 30 inches. Use your measurements to plan a design and determine what materials you need.


Alternately, you can purchase bookshelf plans from some home improvement stores or online. Most come with instructions for you to make adjustments for height and other areas in order to get a truly built-in look. If you are a beginner woodworker, your best bet may be to follow ready-made plans and adjust if needed.

Some homes, especially older ones, don't have perfectly square construction. Use a level on the ceiling and the floor where the bookshelf will go. If there is any variation, you may need to plane the wood at the top or bottom to get a truly good fit.

Step 2: Cut

Cut the lumber according to the measurements in your plan. Don't forget to include markings for the vertical supports and where the shelves will go.

Step 3: Position the Bookshelf Cabinet

Place the thin plywood-the back of the bookshelf-against the pieces you've cut for the sides, top and bottom of the case. Secure the plywood with screws. Now you have your box case. Place this against the wall where you plan to install the cabinet. Use the wire brads to secure the cabinet case into place.

Step 4: Drill

Drill holes inside the cabinet walls where you'll mount the shelves. These holes are for the supporting pins that will hold the shelves in place.

Step 5: Paint

Paint or stain your bookshelf cabinet the same color as the walls for a truly built-in look. Paint the shelves the same color, both on top and bottom.

Step 6: Insert Shelves

Insert the supports into the holes, and then slide in the shelves.

Step 7: Molding

Measure and cut the molding that you'll put on the top and bottom of the shelf. The molding should match the molding used on your ceiling and floor. Cut the pieces to fit the top, bottom and sides, and paint in the color that's used on the molding in your room. Attach molding to bottom and top of your bookshelf cabinet as well as any exposed sides.