As promised, here is the tutorial for creating beautiful, built-in bookcases for a fraction of the cost of hiring a carpenter and having them built. Although I would have preferred to have them stretch wall to wall, we had to contend with unequal measurements and a window. We chose instead to have three sections.
We purchased three sets of bookcases from Ikea for about $69 each at the time (2012). We chose the 15″ depth shelving, which are approximately 79″ tall. Each bookcase is 30″ across. All the measurements I’ll give you for completing the project are for three of the exact same bookcases.
We then visited our local hardware store, where we purchased four 8′ sections of 3″ fluted door casing moldings, which you can find here. Additionally, we purchased a sheet of 5/8″ plywood, which Ed ripped as follows: for the sides, two sections measuring 79.5″ tall and 15.5″ wide. For the top, I wanted to be able to decorate this space and the crown molding would create a little dip, making my objects only partially visible, so we added an additional piece of plywood measuring 15.5″ wide and 8′ 6″ long. Make sure you know that this is optional and in order to make the top even, you will need to add that 6″ to an 8 ft board to match the length of the bookcase. These pieces were attached to the crown molding at the top with finishing nails.
The first step in building these bookcases is to remove to baseboards completely from the wall on which you will building your bookcase. Next, assemble the bookcases according to the instructions. You can see in the photo below, we had freshly painted walls and everything moved to the other side of the room during construction. They were pretty easy to put together and each took about 20 minutes.
The bookcases come with a backer board, which is cheap MDF cardboard and it even has a crease up the middle of each section. While my husband assembled the bookcases, I laid the MDF out in the garage atop 2″x4″ scrap lumber and used a roller brush to paint each section. It made for very fast work. In retrospect, I am upset with myself for not using real beadboard for the backing. My hindsight benefits you! I would definitely do this if I were building another set.
We set the bookcases up and spaced them three inches apart. This is where we would attach the fluted moldings with finishing nails (and a nail gun) so it would appear that the bookcases would appear to more solid and substantial. You can see in this photo how the bookcases were spaced. We reused as much of the baseboard as we could, but did have to purchase a small piece to make up for the sides. Ed also used 2″ L brackets to secure the bookcase to the studs in the wall at the top of the bookcases. This baby is completely sturdy and won’t ever move!
At the top and bottom of the casing moldings, Ed mitred the edges at a 45% angle. You can see that here:The final steps are nailing up the side boards, the top, and replacing the baseboards. Once that’s complete, caulk the small finishing nail holes, and all the seams so that the finished look is very professional. Sand over the dried sections where you caulked, wipe it down well, and then paint the bookcase in the color of your choice.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that I am a bit of an instant gratification kind of girl. Waiting for paint to dry is painful for me. Waiting on an exhausted husband to rest (well, sleep at night while I’m awake coming up with more IDEAS…) is excruciating. He knows this and loves me anyway.
The actual building didn’t take more than a couple of evenings. Once the bookcases were up, I couldn’t even wait to start styling. I carried load after load of books from upstairs and filled the floor with things I wanted to display. Ed, ever the realist, said he still had to sand and paint the trim, and I shouldn’t do that. I replied that I owned a duster. He went to bed early.
So Ed finally finished the caulking, sanding and painting and I was off and running. It took a few more days for him to hang the draperies (let me tell you about that deal….$20 for TWO panels, and they’re long enough for my 9″ ceilings! That’s 80 bucks for the entire room – four windows (IKEA- Heaven on earth for the home enthusiast, let me tell you).
Here’s what we ended up with: