How to Build a Built-In Bookcase (without any carpentry skills)

My dream bookcase

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

I have always dreamed of having a library. Maybe not a library in the traditional sense, but I have always dreamed of having a wall of bookcases in my home to hold the books I love.

Anyone who has looked into buying a bookshelf, whether it is made of wood or of wood-looking particle board, knows how quickly the price tag goes up for size and quality. For years, I have priced out building Ikea shelves and fastening them to the wall, or placing a series of tall shelves side-by-side to get the built-in bookcase look. But the look, quality, and size put together that way kept me from building the piece-meal shelves.

Meanwhile, my small bookshelves piled higher and higher with precarious stacks of books I want to keep. (I lead — great books are important!)

For some reason, this June I decided I was going to try it. How hard could building bookshelves be?

I compiled a collection of Pinterest photos, read as many How-To manuals that I could find, and began to measure and draw up plans.

How to Build a Built-In Bookcase (without any carpentry skills)

Steps 1 – 10 … this is what I started with:

Built-in bookcases: The beginning -- the walls and desk stripped down
1. Plan. The beginning — the walls and desk stripped down. To begin: I cleared out the wall where I wanted the bookcase to be, bought a Bosch power drill/driver, a few boxes of screws, and a level.

2. Measure and plan: After I measured the width of the room and the height, I divided it up into 3 sections and calculated the lengths and types of wood I would need.

A stack of lumber
A stack of lumber (the guys at the lumber yard thought I was crazy)

3. Buy lumber. I bought Pine “whiteboard,” which is economical and solid.

*Learning: it helps to live close to the home improvement store. In my case, I visited Lowe’s 5 times more than I thought I would.

Begin with the measurements
4. Begin with the measurements and cut the wood to the appropriate measured lengths


Place the anchor strips at the right spacing
5. Place the anchor strips at the right spacing, drive anchor screws into studs in the wall, and fasten the verticals to the strips.

*One learning — insist on buying only straight wooden planks. Some were warped, which meant I had to work hard to get them to mount to the wall straight.

Assemble the verticals and horizontal strips to studs to hold each shelf
6. Assemble the verticals and horizontal strips to studs to hold each vertical and shelf. Fasten facing to each vertical and to frame off the shelves to the walls, floor, and ceiling.

*Another learning: I am not a carpenter. I did have to work carefully with a level, etc. to ensure the angles would be straight. Even still, there is some degree of inaccuracy. I am okay with it. The imperfections emphasize that this is mine, built with my own hands. 🙂

Add decorative molding
7. Add decorative molding. I knew from the Pinterest photos I collected that I prefer the sturdier look with some decorative element. I chose a few different moldings and fastened them to the facing boards with appropriate molding brads.


8. Paint. It is amazing how much paint can do to finish off a project (and help hide imperfections).


Add sleeping dog
9. Add sleeping dog. Poppy approves. It is beginning to feel like the bookcases were built with the house. And, every shelf and vertical is solid, sturdy enough to come down only with the wall itself.


Add books
10. Add books. I am so happy to have plenty of room to add more books as I continue to read and discover books I love.

The result? A very happy me.

I agree with Cicero, who also said: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”


Cheers to working hard and accomplishing the things we dream of.

Now, I can rest, read more books, and enjoy my built-in bookcases.

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

13 thoughts on “How to Build a Built-In Bookcase (without any carpentry skills)

  1. Your book shelves look great! When I went back to college (after my divorce), I took 3 years of woodworking (along with the classes required for my education degree.) I had been asking the men in my life to make a blanket chest for each of my 4 children. When I didn’t get the help I wanted, I decided to sign up for woodworking and do it myself. I loved what I learned and am very proud of the projects I made–as I’m sure you are of your shelves. Congratulations on the realization of a dream 🙂

    1. That is a fantastic story, Kim. I love the way you embraced a skill that isn’t traditionally female-filled. I especially love that you made your own heirloom projects for your children! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow! You did an amazing job!!! It looks beautiful! I have the piles of books syndrome as well! You may have inspired me to do something about it!! Congrats!

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