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.

Which of These Decorative Wall Mounted Shelves Is Right For You?

If you have ever lived in a small space, you know that vertical space is every bit as important as floor space. Wall shelves are perfect for any room, from the pantry and garage to the living and bedrooms,

Beautiful, sculpted glass wall shelves fully adorned with knick-knacks, a variety of vases, and a clock

Sculpted Glass Wall Shelves

depending on the materials from which they are constructed.  Not only do they fill space up, rather than out, they can be used in those odd, narrow corners and spaces that seem to be part of any house.

What Type of Wall Mounted Shelves Are Right for You?

That depends on what you would like to store, as well as upon the look you’d like to create.  Beyond the basics of books, you can store CD’s and DVDs, food items, lamps, craft supplies, sculptures and knickknacks, plants, toiletries, office supplies, clothes, toys… and anything else that will fit within the shelves. They are well-suited for everyday objects that you need within easy reach, as well as for display items.  All of these shelves can be quite decorative and very useful, not to mention affordable if you make them yourself using shelf plans.

When you choose ready-to-install shelves with installer kits, you can get your shelf up and ready for action in no time.  What types of shelves are most common?

The Glass Shelf:

Glass shelves aren’t meant to carry the same type of loads as wood shelves, and they are generally reserved for bathrooms, as well as for decorative areas.  It is common to see glass shelves above bathroom sinks that offer easy access to toothbrushes and paste, hair supplies, cosmetics, and other essentials.  In a living room or bedroom, they may be used to hold photo frames, books, candles, or other light items.

The Corner Shelf:

These are great for those odd and underused spaces.  Corner shelves can fit into any corner and are useful throughout the house.  They are commonly used in the bathroom to clear clutter, and you’ll see multi-tiered corner shelves quite often.  These are great for any room and for a variety of objects, from stuffed animals and special toys to family photos.  They don’t detract from your floor space, and there’s less risk of bumping into them.

The Wood Shelf:

Classic and useful, wood shelves are a staple in most homes.  They fit perfectly in any room, and there is an endless variety of sizes and shapes.  From shabby chic country white to a refined cherry or oak, wood wall shelves are ideal for everything from photos and books to utility items and food.

The Floating Shelf

Floating shelves are another great choice for any room.  They don’t float, but they appear to as they are secured to the wall with hardware that is

Ornate and decorative wood corner shelf with intricate cut out scroll designs and having 2 shelves.

Ornate Decorative Corner Shelf

hidden from view.  These help you use your wall space vertically without

taking up space on the floor.  Perfect decoration when wall space is tight or for small toys in a kid’s room where these are very useful and can be beautiful.

All of these decorative ideas may sound expensive, but you will find you can save considerably if you buy shelf plans and make these simple shelves yourself.  Wall mounted shelves are often unsuited for very heavy items because they tend to have relatively weak frames.  But unless you’re storing 50 pound weights, you will find these shelves useful all over the house.

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