DIY, build your own bookshelves, shelf plans, finished woodworking project, upright bookshelves, fine
shelf plans, upright bookshelf, how to build bookshelves

It Always Begins With Shelf Plans

Where Does the DIY Builder Go for Shelf Plans?

Every do-it-yourselfer learns in different ways and has different approaches to their work.  No one is the same, but DIYers typically love to depend on themselves to create and repair whatever they need around the house or yard.  One of the most common projects, and perhaps one of the easiest for beginners to start with, is bookshelves.  So, where do you find great shelf plans?

That depends on how you learn.  Some of us like to have written directions, supplemented by visual diagrams and illustrations.  Others like to have a teacher, showing them how to do each step of the project.  Still others like to sketch out their designs and try to map out the plans themselves.  If you are just beginning, there are a host of helpful resources that you can rely on.

DIY, build your own bookshelves, shelf plans, finished woodworking project, upright bookshelves, fine

It Ends With A Beautiful Result

One great one is the video series we’ve put together from our sources on Youtube.  This series begins with  video tutorials on how to build a set of upright bookshelves.  You will find a series of videos we’ve put together to help even the newest beginner feel comfortable with building a project similar to the one pictured below.

You can also do a quick Google search and find endless sites that can help.  Not all of these are equal, and some provide shelf plans that are less detailed, thorough, or precise.  Weed these out and find sites that can help you make the pictures in your head a reality in your home.

In the first three videos below, you’ll see how it all begins with just a sketch or a set of plans.  It always begins this way, and this step 1 is the most important of all.  Your plans will help you estimate the cost of your project, and will guide you, step-by-step along the way.  The last video is about choosing the right materials for the job.  After these first steps, you are ready to work on your project.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video series must be worth its weight in gold.  We hope you find them helpful.

Designing Upright Bookshelves

Estimating the Materials

Choosing the Building Materials


The simple and classic bookshelf made with hardwood and richly finished.

The Classic Bookshelf Made of Softwood

Lumber and Plywood: Building the Best Shelves for Your Home


Building bookshelves is a great way to maximize the space in your home while minimizing the dent it makes in your budget.  Wall shelves can sometimes be more structurally weak than other types of shelving units, so it is crucial that you select the right materials when you build.

What is the best choice for your wall shelves? You can choose from: hard wood, soft wood, plywood, or particleboard.  The right choice for you depends on your budget, as well as what you expect the shelves to hold.  Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each kind.

Hardwoods: These are arguably the most aesthetically pleasing materials from which to build your shelves.  They are also very durable and strong, so they can bear weight that materials like particleboard cannot. The downside of hardwoods is that selection may be limited at lumber yards, and the prices are sure to be higher.

Hardwood is graded on the usable pieces that don’t have defects like knots and splits.  Grades 1 and 2 are the best grades and the best choices for your hardwood shelves, but again, these higher grades will be more pricy.

An option that many people choose is softwood.  It tends to be less expensive than hardwood, and it is easier to work with.  Softwoods, like pine, are also graded.  Clear is the select cut, and is virtually free of flaws.  As you can guess, it is also more expensive than grade 2, which has more flaws.  Knots can affect the stability and strength of the boards, so shelves that need to handle weight should be made from clear pine.

Plywood is often a good choice.  The 4 x 8 foot sheets have either hardwood or softwood veneers, and a benefit of this pressed wood is that it is more consistent than solid woods.  The sheets are straight, and in higher grade panels, flaws are patched so you have a very flat, straight material.  The price is lower, but it is typically more time-consuming to cut plywood

A traditional, classic set of hardwood bookshelves appropriate in a more formal setting such as a living room or home library.

The Classic Formal Set of Hardwood Bookshelves

to size and finish the edges.

Finally, particleboard.  This is the cheapest option and is made from wood chips and wood particles. It is structurally weaker than plywood or hard and softwoods.  It can be a good choice for small shelves – as long as you remember to paint or veneer it.

Your shelf plans will usually make recommendations for the materials you need, and your shelves will only be as good as the materials you have to work with.  Choose the best you can afford, and you will get good, solid shelves that will last for years.

cubbies, built-in bookshelves, custom bookshelf, designer shelves

Space Saving Shelf Plans


Do you want to add built-in bookshelves to your home? Placement and designs can be overwhelming; here are some ideas to

cubbies, built-in bookshelves, designer bookshelves, built-in bookcases

Built-In Wall Cubbies from Shelf Plans

help you sort it out.

Shelf Plans:

Designing Your Bookshelves

Placement is crucial not only for convenience but for aesthetic purposes.  Which walls would benefit from built-in shelving?  Studies, living rooms, passageways or hallways, nooks between pillars or in small corners, and even outside in a patio space are all excellent choices.  Begin by marking the walls and sketching your shelf plans.

Design Basics

Ask yourself what you want to put on the shelves.  How many books do you need to store, and do you need room for adding more books in the future?  Do you want a separate compartment for audio books?  For magazines?  Small sculptures or knick-knacks?  Including cubbies of various sizes is a great way to achieve a very contemporary, though very practical, design.  Think about what you want to use the shelves for and then design them to suit your needs.  When you have a sketch of your shelf plans, you can save time and money by showing them to your contractor and detailing exactly what you want.

Finishing Touches

The right finish will enhance the style and the practicality of your shelves.  If this trim complements the rest of your room, you can create a much more cohesive, classic look.  If you have built a tall, narrow

Sketch illustration of some custom wall shelf plans

Illustration of Custom Wall Shelf Designs

shelf, another finishing touch could be the addition of glass doors or the installation of recessed lighting to showcase important pieces in your book or art collection.  The finishing touches help complete the project and integrate the new shelves into your home’s decor.

With a built-in bookshelf, you not only save space, you maximize it.  Cost varies depending on the size and design, the wood, and other factors, but knowing what you want, and having the plans that map it out, will help make your vision a reality.

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