Introduction: How to Build a Simple Bathroom Shelf

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If you need a simple and practical shelf for your bathroom (or anywhere else, really!), then this simple design would be a great choice. This shelf is pretty easy to build, it's made with plywood, and you could always get the home improvement store to do the cuts for you at the store.

The build utilizes simple dados made with a router to hold the shelves, and I decided to attach bead board for backing, however you can use anything you want. Utilizing cheap plywood for furniture is a great option, especially when you paint it.

Step 1: Cuts

I decided to make my shelves 9 inches tall, which seemed like a good height for bathroom stuff, however you could certainly alter this to make it fit your things better.

I used 1/2 inch plywood for all my cuts.

The size of the final cabinet measures:

  • 36 in high
  • 2 ft wide
  • 6 in deep


I had the home improvement store make 4 cuts to a sheet of plywood, each one measuring 1x8 feet. That way it was a lot easier to transport the wood home.

Step 2: Dados

Because I wanted 6 inch deep shelves, I'm working with 12 inch strips of plywood. When you're cutting dados and you need them to be identical for each side of the cabinet in order to fit the shelves, it's a lot easier to work with one larger piece, cut the dados across the whole piece, and then cut the piece in half. That way they're identical.

I spaced the dados nine inches apart for half inch shelves, and the dados were 1/4 inch deep. To create the dados, I clamped a piece of scrap plywood at each point, ran the router 1/4 inch deep and continued the length of the plywood. Once I had all the dados in place I ripped the piece down the middle to 6 inches. Next I cut up the shelves. The top and the bottom shelf measure 23 x 6 inches and the three middle shelves measure 23 1/2 inches, accounting for the 1/4 inch dado depth.

Step 3: ​Assembly

I'm marking where each dado is located on the other side, that way I'll know where to put in my nails. I'm using a brad nail gun to secure the shelves in place, however you could skip this step if you have long clamps. You could also use 1 1/4 inch drywall screws instead.

Glue in all the shelves in the dados and nail or screw until they're all in, as well as the top and the bottom.

Step 4: ​Backing

For the back I cut up a piece of bead board measuring 24 x 36 inches, however you could also use hardboard, thin plywood, or leave it without a back altogether.

I used finished nails to secure the back to the shelves.

Right after I glued and nailed everything together, I measured so both diagonals were the same measurements. I secured a piece of scrap wood in the front to hold the shelves in place while it was setting up, to be removed once the glue was set up.

Step 5: Design

For a decorative touch I added a top board to create some definition. I simply cut a piece of plywood about two inches longer than the top shelf, and then glued and nailed it on top.

Step 6: ​Nailing Strip

To be able to hang the shelf on the wall, I created a nailing strip using a 1x2 piece of wood. I cut it to just fit inside the top shelf. Then I pre-drilled the sides of the cabinet, and screwed it in from the sides.

Step 7: ​Painting

I put on three coats of flat white paint on the shelf, and then I top coated it with de-waxed shellac, since it's going in a bathroom and I'm looking for more durability. Shellac is great because it dries quickly, and it gives nice protection. You could also use a glossier paint, or top coat with a polyurethane or lacquer.

Tip! If your plywood has a lot of imperfections, use regular spackle to fill it in before painting. After sanding and painting, you'd never know the wood wasn't perfect!

Step 8: ​Installation

Find where the studs are on your wall, and then mark where on the nailing strip they're located. Pre-drill and secure with 3 inch screws.

Step 9: ​Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective on each step, make sure to watch the video that goes over how to build this very practical and nice looking shelf.