Introduction: Stairway Bookshelves

About: Professionally I have been a summer camp counselor, a Draftsman/designer, salesperson, bicycle mechanic, laminate flooring machine mechanic, teacher, and designer of the OP Loftbed. Personally I am a human tha…

My wife loves books. She has filled a few bookshelves and we are running out of places to put bookshelves. We have four foot wide stairs, so I thought I could put some on the side of the stairs.

Step 1: Design

It is against building code to have anything on the stairs, it could be a tripping hazard or fire hazard, but I thought our stairway was wide enough. And I fastened them to the wall with screws, so we could remove them if future owners did not want them.

Not all stairs are the same, so not all stairway shelves will be the same. I started off measuring the stairs and then drawing them in CAD. There are a bunch of free CAD programs that will make designing projects much easier than drawing by hand. With CAD you can get a better idea of how it will look. I ended up making the uprights 60" long and the horizontal shelves 19 1/2" long, again these measurements worked for my stairs and should just be a reference for your project. I notched our the bottom back side of the uprights to clear the toe molding on the stairs. I practiced making this notch, on a scrap piece of wood, before cutting on the good pieces. The uprights rested on every other step, starting second from the bottom and ending second from the top. The shelf pieces were glued and screwed to the uprights using #6 x 1 5/8" long wood screws and the whole assembly was screwed into studs in the wall using #8 x 2-1/2" wood screws. All total the materials cost around $250

Step 2: Tools and Materials


Cordless circular saw, cordless drill with drill bits and phillips bit, rafter square, measuring tape,bevel gauge, coping saw, a hobby rasp, clamps, profile gauge, sand paper, wood glue, wood stain and sealer, and saw horses to work on.

Fancier equipment like a table saw or chop saw would have made this job easier. But using the tools I had worked out fine. One of the tools that makes a project like this easier was the corner clamps. They are like a third hand when it comes to holding boards together at right angles.


(11) pine boards 3/4" thick x 7 1/2" wide x 96" long.

(72) #6 x 1 5/8" long wood screws

(8) #8 x 2 1/2" long wood screws

Step 3: Measure Mark and Cut

Measure twice and cut once. I used the rafter square as a guide for my circular saw.

Step 4: Measure Mark and Drill

I drilled and countersunk all the holes in the uprights, which was tricky because some were countersunk from one side and others from the other. Using those holes, I match drilled the holes in the shelves.

Step 5: Glue and Screw

After test fitting everything together and on the steps, I went back and took everything apart and then glued and screwed it back together. I made (3) main sections, so it would be easier to put in the house and on the stairs.

Step 6: Sand and Stain/Paint

During the test assembly, on the stairs, I sanded all the joints to make them flush. We decided to stain the bookshelves to match the steps. My mom wanted to do the staining. I don't like painting and staining so I was happy that she wanted to stain. It took two coats of stain and one coat of semi-gloss sealer to get a close match to the steps.

Step 7: Final Instalation

You can see in these pictures, the three sections and how they go together. I screwed the three sections together, without gluing them, so that during the staining process, no stain would be where the final glued joints would be during final assembly. I also used some pieces of scrap ripped to 1 1/2" wide to make lips that I glued and screwed to the bottoms of the second shelf of each section. I used these lips to anchor the bookcase to the wall studs using #8 x 2 1/2" long screws. Thanks to LeslieGee for pointing out this important step that I left out of the original edit of this Instructable.

As always, Thanks and hope you enjoy.

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First Prize in the
Home Improvement Contest 2017

Box Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Box Contest 2017