Picture of Built In Book Cases
For this project, we needed built-in book cases for a long wall. By using pre-drilled melamine laminated boards and pre-built cabinets from the local home store, we were able to build them with a minimum of tools, and get a perfect fit to the room.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
The book cases are made from a series of frames - pre-drilled shelf hole melamine on the sides, and 3/4" plywood on the tops and bottoms.  All the middle ones have a pre-made cabinet under them, and the leftover space was divided in half, to have a narrower bookshelf on each end to fit the room end-to-end.

The cabinets are pre-built and 36" wide and about 13" deep.

Melamine laminated sides - they are sold as 12" wide, but are actually 11.75" wide.  These are pre-drilled with shelf pin holes.

Plywood top & bottom & shelf above cabinet - we used 3/4" hardwood laminated - Luan or Birch is fine.

Plinth blocks (5" high and 2.5" wide) and rosettes (2.5" square)

Fluted molding - 2.25" wide

front edge trim molding

bottom and top trim 1"x3"

shelves - 3/4" plywood with 1"x2" front edges

shelf pins and knobs for the cabinet doors

crown molding

1-40 of 96Next »
kbrooks135 days ago

Hi I see you cut out the shape of the cornices at the top of the melamine that touches the wall.... How did you deal with the cornices on the two end shelving pieces? The far left and the far right ones?

CarlS (author)  kbrooks134 days ago
I wanted to preserve the old crown molding in case they were removed some day. So, I carefully coped those around the old molding and used some caulk to seal up any gaps. I probably cut it on an angle to start.
JasonB213 months ago


Did you do anything special for the electrical outlet in the baseboard? I haven't looked yet, but will an old work electrical box fit into the 1x3?

Thanks - I buying materials now. Very excited to build this.


CarlS (author)  JasonB213 months ago
I believe a box did fit under there. Good luck!
AdcockE7 months ago

How do you get the shelves to stay flush against the wall? Did you nail them?

this is why most have backs.. the wall is not perfectly straight.. never is... look for the method of trim off alittle to get it flush.. utube.. and with stuff on the shelf only U know it has that gap.. glue a piece of cardboard on the back if all else fails and get it not to let things drop thru.. toothpick size bothers us but the world at large never notices.

CarlS (author)  AdcockE7 months ago

For the most part, they were large enough that they do not move, and I was able to use a shim on the front bottom under the sides in some cases. But, I snuck in a couple L brackets fairly high up to be sure and painted them to match the side of the cabinet and the wall. Those are mostly covered by books and don't stick out.

purchase longer and cut it off and utilize the scrap in next project... 8'6" walls in this house makes for a lot of that.

AdcockE7 months ago

Hi, can someone please explain how the "fixed shelves" were done?

CarlS (author)  AdcockE7 months ago

I am pretty sure I just screwed those in from the sides with drywall screws. I would have pre-drilled the hole and counter-sunk it so it would not split the plywood, and so the screw head would not stick out.

esaydam7 months ago

Awesome built-in bookcase plans. I have 9' ceilings in the room I would like to build this in. Does anyone know where to find longer length pre-drilled melamine boards?

CarlS (author)  esaydam7 months ago

I am not sure about taller pre-drilled melamine. There are hole drilling jigs from stores like Rockler. It may be possible to divide the vertical sides up at the sides of the cabinet, though it might not be as strong - not sure if there is enough cabinet frame to scew in to.

I made a set myself and they turned out great (I'll add pictures). I am having one problem, and that is that some of the longer runs of shelves are beginning to bow. Do you have any suggestions for combating against that? I can't imagine I'm the only one who has encountered this problem.
CarlS (author)  nathan.yeoman.99 months ago
First of all, nice job, but it's kind of creepy seeing a part of my house in a different context! ;-)

I have not noticed that issue, but only have shelves the width of two cabinets. Did you use plywood or particle board on the shelves? Plywood may be stiffer. In either case, one idea is to use angle aluminum (or a square tube) in the middle of the shelf to stiffen it up - you can paint that to blend in. You could use another board, but with that 3/4" clearance, metal would probably be stiffer. Another idea is two shelf boards together so the whole shelf is 1.5" thick. There may even be stock shelves like that...

Good luck - as you say, this must be a common bookshelf issue.
sam11i11 months ago


Thanks for sharing, you inspired me to go for it!

A couple of questions:

- Did you use uppers or base cabinets? Is there a difference or just a size preference?

- How much space do I need to leave between the door and the molding to allow the door to open without hitting the molding?

- What measurements should I use for the base in proportion to the cabinet size?

- How do you match the paint color the melamine?



CarlS (author)  sam11i11 months ago


The cabinets are upper cabinets - the depth of those is more in line with a bookshelf depth. Since the cabinet boxes are slightly larger than the doors, I did not need any extra clearance on the top and bottom.

I am not sure what you mean on the base proportion - the frames of each unit are the width of the cabinets, and the height of the cabinets was just what I got from the store.

I do not think I did a great job of matching the melamine paint, but since it's all white, it does not show up much unless you get close. Melamine has a texture, but maybe semi-gloss?

Good luck!

Thanks a bunch for sharing this. Haven't yet decided if I'm up for tackling it yet or not though, having a little debate about if this is worth the effort compared to just springing for 3 sets of Ikea bookcases. The pros for Ikea are that they are portable should we decide to rearrange or repaint, have a option for glass doors and can be completed in a afternoon, the pros for this are the full built in look, maximized use of space, durability and some cost savings.

The biggest detriment to this project however is that the pre-fab cabinets only come in 12 inch or 24 inch depths. You used 12 inch uppers, but I'm really wanting a deeper storage space for some oversized books and computer equipment. Ikea options come in 14-16 inch depths.

Ideally I'd like 18 inch cabinets for the bottom run with a stained wood top and 12-14 inch bookcase above it but that's a substantially harder and more expensive undertaking. Still got some head scratching to do.

CarlS (author) 1 year ago

I wrote the Instructable after I built it, so the pictures are not the best. If you look closely at the picture in the Step 1: Materials section, you can see the 3 brown fixed shelves. One is near the bottom for the cabinet to sit on, and one is right on top of the cabinet. The third one is near the top of the frame. I'll try to label them in that picture.

All three were secured the same way - with drywall screws from the sides. Each frame was made separately, so there was plenty of access to the sides before they were put together. Be sure to pre-drill the holes since you are screwing into the side of plywood and don't want it to split.

I have a couple questions, as of now...lol.

"the cabinets have three fixed shelves; one for the bottom of the cabinet, one for the top of the cabinet, and one at the top of the frame."

Where is the "one for the bottom of the cabinet" Is it visible? Also, how did you secure the top shelf? Is it just sitting on the pegs or is it screwed in to the melamine. Thanks.

tcd5551 year ago
Yes a window!
tcd5551 year ago
Ok just finished and this is how mine ended up
14, 12:36 PM.jpg
CarlS (author)  tcd5551 year ago

Looks great! Is that a window in the middle? I was thinking TV at first glance, but then looked closer.

l2zhang1 year ago
We like your shelves very much. What kind of knobs did you use for the cabinets doors and where did you get them? Thanks for your quick reply. Cheers, Li
CarlS (author)  l2zhang1 year ago
Those are glass cabinet knobs - I think we got them at Orchard Supply, or maybe Home Depot.
tcd5551 year ago
I love this project and am going to start it in a few weeks. A lot of people are asking how much it cost. My room is 19.5 feet wide with 9 feet high ceilings, so I am going to use 5 36x30 cabinets and basically all the other materials Carl used and I am estimating about $1200-$1500 with all materials coming from Home Depot. Hope that helps with the answer to that question!
CarlS (author)  tcd5551 year ago
Thanks! Good info, and good luck!
l2zhang1 year ago
Thanks so much for sharing this. It looks like exactly what we would like to have in our office/library room in our new house. Did you purchase all the materials for the built-in at homedepot? Would you mind to share the total costs of the material? What is the full length of your built-in on that one wall?
CarlS (author)  l2zhang1 year ago
Thanks. Yes, almost everything came from Home Depot. This was a few years ago, so the same products may not be available. I am not sure about the total cost - hundreds, for sure. The length is just over 20 feet. Good Luck!
nicalex22 years ago
This is great. I was looking to make something like this for my family room. You said you used 36" cabinets that were 13" deep. I went onto Lowes and Home Depot sites and they only had 12" deep. Did they change how they make them or are there others they aren't showing on their websites?
zydecohogg3 years ago
Thank you for this great idea! I am thinking about installing something similar in my refinished basement. The floor has not yet been installed, so I am trying to decide if I should go ahead and install the bookshelf before or after the floor is installed. By installing the bookshelf first, I i don't have to risk scratching the floor. Any thoughts?

CarlS (author)  zydecohogg3 years ago
I guess it depends on whether you consider them to be permanent - if so, then maybe do them first. The floor would then not extend under them. I built mine in an existing room, so I built on an existing floor, and as I mention in the Instructable, I worked the new molding around the existing molding to allow these to be removed some day - not that I ever intend to! :-)
okinawajoe3 years ago
For your half inch front edge here, was this something you picked up as a molding or cabinet edge? Just wondering where I go to look for this ... same areas as the molding, and just ask for 1/2" trim?
CarlS (author)  okinawajoe3 years ago
That was just some standard molding from Home Depot.
nancyellen3 years ago
I can't seem to find these premade predrilled 36 inch wide cabinets you are using. Where can I get them?
CarlS (author)  nancyellen3 years ago
I used ones from Home Depot. I am not sure now which ones I got, but i *think* these are the ones, or close to it:


They are 36" wide wall cabinets.

Hope that helps!

quelle43 years ago
Carl, love your bookcases, they really make the room more practical, not to mention they really give the space so much character!

Me and my husband recently finished our built in bookcases (pics and info here:

http://www.christonium.com/HomeProject/the-library-built-in-bookcases-around-the-window )

however we used regular pine wood planks which we painted and beadboard for backing. I really like your cabinets at bottom however - so practical to be able to hide things you don't want to be out in the open! Great job!
CarlS (author)  quelle43 years ago
Nice work - that is a huge improvement in the room! I worked around the old molding, but I can't say that was important :-) I also had some low outlets which I moved forward to the new bookshelf baseboard molding, so that worked out well in my case.
makushr13 years ago
Carl - Looks great! I just bought a home that has a perfect space for something like this. I'm a little confused on the base though. I understand that the melamine frames extend from the ceiling to the floor, and that plywood is at the bottom. Is the only thing touching the floor the melamine frames? Also, are the cabinets sitting on the plywood and/or are they fastened to the wall and/or frame? Thanks for posting this, your help will make our 1960s home look like something from this decade!
CarlS (author)  makushr13 years ago
Thanks - yes, as I built them,only the Melamine sides touch the floor, so the bottom shelf can be set to just the right height for the baseboard molding (molding height + ~1/4" for a reveal). The cabinets are sitting on the bottom shelf, and I am pretty sure I screwed them to the sides from the inside of the cabinets since the frames were all up when I added the cabinets. I used a couple L brackets for the whole thing to hold the top shelves to the wall just to make sure it did not move.

Someone else suggested building a base like you might do for kitchen cabinets - that would probably be fine too.

I wish I took more pictures - was from pre-Instructables days! :-)

Good luck!
elicat3 years ago
Carsl, I can't wait to start this project. I just have a question:
How do you secure the frames with the back wall? or only with the sides wall will be enough? let me know.
1-40 of 96Next »