Building a bookshelf with your bare hands in ten easy steps

The Crestline Avenue Home Depot offers inspriation and lumber when it comes to bookshelf building. Photo by Collene Lewis.

The Crestline Avenue Home Depot offers inspriation and lumber when it comes to bookshelf building. Photo by Collene Lewis.

By Collene Lewis

1. Go to Ikea.
2. Cry.
3. Get lost among towering shelves of spatulas and pastry brushes – things you never knew you needed until now!
4. Spend two hours weighing the pros and cons of the different types of bookcases. It’s a big decision, as it’s practically an original and only 100,000 other people will have it.
5. Get overwhelmed.
6. Purchase the nearest item that resembles a bookshelf.
7. Read the instruction manual backward. Try again.
8. And again.
9. Make your significant other build the piece for you.
10. Brag to your friends about how you tapped your “inner mountaineer” and forged this godly bookshelf out of fresh pine from the Swiss Alps.

Kidding. Sort of. Building a bookshelf can be a strenuous task to the novice builder. So I asked a Littleton, CO Home Depot professional for a little help. Turns out there are a few things you need to know before you piece together your dream bookshelf.

Tom Bailey, a Home Depot employee at the Crestline Avenue location, said to start building a bookshelf, you should consider what materials to use. He said a bookshelf could be built using melamine shelving, which is particleboard with a vinyl lamination exterior. He also said you could also use basic wood, called “dimensional lumber.”

“I’d personally rather build a wood shelf,” Bailey said. “Melamine is easy enough to work with and cut and everything, but you have to be very careful when you’re cutting it because it chips.”

Next, Bailey said to screw nails in through the tops or sides of the sides of the bookshelf to get a basic rectangle shape called a “frame.” The frame is made from four pieces of wood, two for the sides, which can be longer, and two for the top. To make the building process easier, Bailey said you could build the frame on the ground.

Once the exterior, rectangular frame is built, he said to start putting in your shelves. Bailey recommended the shelves to be one foot deep or slightly less. He also recommended using peg hooks or solid pieces of wood to stabilize the shelves.

Bailey said the materials you’ll use for a bookshelf depend on the quality of the room the furniture will be in. He said melamine shelving is usually seen in rooms regularly accessed by children, because the particleboard won’t have any splinters or sharp edges; whereas dimensional lumber bookshelves are seen in nicer settings such as kitchens, dens and dining rooms. He added that kits by Ikea use melamine shelving.

Bailey said there are ways to give your bookshelf a finished quality. For melamine shelving, you can purchase plastic tape that will cover exposed particleboard edges. With the dimensional lumber, he said the tape wasn’t necessary because even with exposed edges, it’ll look like wood anyway. He added that you could attach crown molding to the bookshelf to add sophistication or you can stain the dimensional lumber.

“Most people just leave [the melamine shelving] white. But with [dimensional lumber] you can paint it, you can stain it, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it,” Bailey said.

As the last step, Bailey said some people will make moving the bookshelf easier by putting a thin piece of plywood on the back of the bookshelf. To do this, Bailey said to measure around the perimeter of the shelf, cut it and use plywood that is an eight of an inch thick. He then said to secure it with finishing nails or screws.

“That way you have a wall for the back of it, so that the books don’t get pushed through and fall back [behind the bookshelf],” Bailey said.

Having just built a bookshelf last year, Bailey said the total cost of a bookshelf made of melamine shelving would be around $95, whereas a bookshelf made of dimensional lumber would be around $65.

“Building shelves is that simple little thing that you can do to add extra storage space to a project,” Bailey said.

Not in the mood to build, but on a budget? Consignment stores may have what you’re looking for. Unlike thrift stores, consignment stores house brand name furniture for a lower sticker price, according to a Denver Post article on consignment stores. The furniture is leased to the storeowner for a period of 90 days and if the piece remains unsold, the owner can reclaim it or leave it at the consignment store, according to the article.

Denver-based consignment stores-

1. Lush Life Consigned Furnishings
As a family-owned local consignment store, Lush Life Consigned Furnishings puts an emphasis on recycling when resources are becoming limited in our world, according to the website.
Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m; Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
1745 S. Broadway; 303-733-1009

2. Koru Consignment Furniture Boutique
Hip and trendy, Koru Consignment Furniture (pronounced “kaw-roo”) specializes in quality furniture at a reasonable price, according to the website. Plus they deliver.
Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
Sunday 12 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2434 E. Sixth Ave.; 303-333-1738

3. Joy’s Consigned Furnishings
Family-owned since 2002, Joy’s Consigned Furnishings transforms the idea of consignment store shopping through social media. Joy’s Consigned Furnishings lets you view the furniture on Facebook before you step into the shop.
Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
5030 E. Hampden Ave.; 303-757-7269

In the mood to spend a little cash, but looking for a unique piece of furniture? There’s an answer for that too. Azure Furniture Company creates modern additions to your home out of beetle-kill pine, according to Jessica Farwald’s 2013 5280 Magazine article featuring this Colorado-based furniture company. The beetles’ destruction results in different bluish streaks on every furniture item, according to the article.

Another pricey but personalized alternative for your design needs lies with Sjotime Industries (pronounced “showtime”). This Denver-based furniture company has retro-inspired pieces you won’t find anywhere else- especially since most of the furniture is labeled as “limited edition”, according to the Sjotime Industries website. Custom-built Sjotime pieces are available for both commercial and residential projects.




About collenelewis

Collene Lewis is a junior journalism student at MSU Denver. She also is a reporter and assistant to the news editor for MSU Denver's student newspaper, The Metropolitan.

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