Introduction: Upcycled Wooden Ladder Bookshelf

About: Still learning about everything. I have a long way to go.

I was looking for a unique bookshelf for my home office, and decided to make one out of an old wooden ladder. It was an easy way to customize the colors and shelf size to what I wanted. Depending on the condition of the ladder you use, shelf sizes, and paint choices, this can be easier than the steps I provided.

Materials Used:

  • 1x3, 4ft
  • 1x12, 20ft
  • 2" bolt, qty 10, with nuts and 2 washers for each bolt
  • Threaded rod with nuts
  • Paint (I chose one color for the ladder and another for the shelves)
  • Brush and/or paint roller
  • Painter tape
  • 2" wood screws
  • Wood putty

Tools Used:

  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Angle grinder w/ cutting wheel
  • Driver
  • Drill
  • Levels, 4' and 2'
  • Ratchet set

Step 1: Ladder Prep

The cross beams, which there were two of, were not at the same height as their opposing steps. These were removed and I kept the hardware and wood for reattaching the later. Since the bolts at the end of the original threaded rods were rusted, I used an angle grinder to cut the ends.

Where possible, apply blue tape to the metal. I wanted to have the galvanized metal unpainted when I was finished, so I covered it when I knew I wouldn't be able to paint around it.

Step 2: Add Some Color

I first applied paint in the cracks and crevices, using a small sponge brush. Then applied two coats to the full ladder, making sure to get into the treads on each step.

Step 3: Measure and Cut

Find, or create, a level spot for your ladder in order to mark the proper locations for your cross beams. My back patio was sloped for water runoff, so I used some scraps of wood to level the ladder.

For my shelves, I decreased their length by 3" as they went up. The bottom shelf was 40". The top shelf was only the length of the step and painter shelf.

With your ladder leveled, measure and mark the height needed for cross beams opposite the steps. My 4' level was perfect for this, resting on a step and marking opposite legs.

Step 4: Attach Cross Beams

The original cross beams were reattached in the same method they were originally on the ladder. I used threaded rods to reattach, along with the original bracing hardware and washers. This gave an original look to those two cross beams.

For the other two cross beams I used 1x3 pine boards, cut to the appropriate length.

Note, the legs of my ladder decreased in width apart from the bottom to the top. I cut the two new cross beams to fit this angle.

The new cross beams were attached with 2" wood screws, with the heads counter sunk. The heads were covered with wood putty and sanded smooth, to hide the screws. I then painted over them.

Step 5: Shelves

After painting the shelves, I set each in their place on the ladder, and aligned them appropriately. As the steps were wider than the 12" shelves, I had to find the center for the width and length.

Each shelf was secured to a step using two 2" bolts.

Why bolts instead of just using wood screws? With the bolts, I can easily disassemble the shelf for moving.

Step 6: Load It Up!

With the shelves attached, place it in the desired location and load it up with books!

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