I so suck at DIY that taking on this project seemed completely counterintuitive. However... I had a few free months, we'd bought a new house which had sockets for a wall mounted TV, and my kids (5 and 3 year old boys) treat TV like something akin to kiddie heroin so I didn't want to have a TV in the middle of a big blank wall as the sole focus of their attention. Plus I had books that were now tumbling off their existing bookshelves, so more space was needed.
What was the plan?
In order to reduce the probability of near inevitable DIY failure, I opted against building bookshelves from scratch: that seemed like witchcraft to me. So I went for the ever popular Ikea hack option instead, which looked a lot more achievable.
I wanted to give the impression of built in bookshelves, but wanted them wooden against a blue wall, so understood that it would never look quite as perfectly built in as the white shelf projects I'd seen online. My wife and I are trying to get a Scandi kind of look throughout the house, with woods and brass/copper and, just like me, a bit mid-century.
The objective was to raise up the bookshelves to reduce the gap with the ceiling. To have two full-sized bookshelves either side of the wall mounted TV with 'landscape' shelving underneath the TV for PS4, soundbar etc.
2 x Ikea Kallax Oak Effect bookshelves 182 x 182cm
1 x Ikea kallax Oak Effect bookshelf 77 x 147cm
Pine timber enough for 3 frames - 1 to match the base of each bookshelf (measurements attached)
3x Oak fronted mdf timber to front each frame
Screws and woodglue
Stain to match oak fronted mdf timber to oak effect kallax bookshelves (the only as yet incomplete step)
Dremel with cutting disc
Chisel and hammer
Crappy 1980s plastic handled rasp
Circular saw or table saw
Adhesive cable fixing clips
Step 1: Frame
I measured up the room using a regular tape measure.
Note of caution which others will probably already know: if you're measuring a long-ish room from anywhere above the floor (in my case, above the skirting board) you will get tape measure sag and this will cock up your measurements by some mms. This can result in unnecessary remedial action later on. I say this from experience...
I got a timber yard to cut all the pieces to measure for me. I laid them out according to the plan, put wood glue on each connecting piece before screwing them together. The oak fronted mdf was added last, with lots of wood glue across the whole connecting face, and then screwed from behind (as it were) going about halfway into the mdf. After each glue/screw I applied force (using clamp or weights) for about half an hour to let the glue set.
When the frames were completed I left them a couple of days for the glue to cure... I have no idea whether this is even a real thing, but it felt like what an expert would do.
Step 2: Skirting Boards - Smashing Up the New House
If you want to make your bookshelves look built in you have to contend with skirting boards.
I guess I could have done something clever with a jigsaw and cut bits out of the bookshelves, but Ikea furniture tends to be veneer over particle board in an eggshell formation. So that seemed out for a novice.
So I ripped off the skirting boards.
There's plenty of information online about pulling off skirting boards. Less about doing so with a wooden floor in place that sits above the bottom of the skirting board. Even less still about cutting the skirting board at the point that the bookshelves would (hopefully) nestle in to the remaining skirting board going around the rest of the room. So I made it up.
I used a cheapo dremel type tool with a cutting disc on it to cut through most of the skirting board. I put down some hard plastic to prevent me from accidentally cutting into the nice new wood floors. There's only so far you can cut through with that sort of tool, so I then used a small drill attachment to drill a number of almost linking holes horizontally into the skirting board and then used a hammer and chisel to cut through the rest. Because my skirting boards were basically made up of dust magically bound together it was not very solid: I was careful to only use the 'flat' edge of the chisel against the side of the cut that would be remaining in place and visible once the bookshelves were slotted into place.
I then used crowbar, hammer claw and hefty pliers to prize the skirting board from the wall. It's held in place by skinny but long nails and some plaster dabbed on. The most difficult bit was minimising the number of times the crowbar or hammer popped through the dot and dab plasterboard wall behind the skirting board. Also, pulling the board out from behind the wooden floor was also a bit of a pain in the backside: after I ran out of patience trying to finesse it out, just muscling it seemed to work fine.
Step 3: Get Your Measurements Right!
I then went to fit the three separate frames side by side into the space I'd created between the ripped up skirting boards.
And of course it didn't bloody fit.
Because I'd allowed sag in the tape measure earlier, when measuring the length of the room from above the skirting board, there was exactly 5mm extra across the three frames.
I don't have a plane and wasn't going to buy one for just that one job.
I didn't want to undo all of the frames and cut them again because I'd glued them together and having to do so would have meant I'd basically just lose the will to live.
So I just used a cheap 1980s plastic handled rasp thingy I'd inherited from my dad and spent the rest of the afternoon rasping off 5mm relatively evenly distributed amongst each end of each frame. I then sanded them smooth and flat with a random orbital sander (which I'd earlier tried unsuccessfully to remove the 5mm of stock with...that was never going to work).
After about 4 hours I managed to lay the frames end to end and knock them 'gently' into place with a rubber mallet (using a towel over the contact points to avoid leaving rubber marks on the oak frontage).
(At this point I realised it was definitely time to bring an end to my sabbatical from work, go back into gainful employment and never again try to do any sort of woodworking - leaving that to paid professionals).
Step 4: Assemble the Units - the Easy Bit That Makes You Feel Like You Might Just Make It
Assemble units as per Ikea's instructions.
Lift the two big bookshelves into place on the frame (lift with your knees, not your back, because although the new Kallax range is a lot lighter than the old Expedit range, they're still pretty damned heavy and unwieldy). Move them into place and marvel at how brilliant your measuring (and rasping) skills are when the units perfectly align with the joins between the supporting frame.
The bookshelves are now basically irresistible climbing frames for your children, so either finish off quick so you can secure them to the wall, or bar the children from the room until you do. As you can see, the telly isn't mounted on the wall yet, so it was no trouble getting the kids to avoid that room for a while.
Step 5: Mounting the Television
I'd worked out the gap between the two bookshelves and bought a TV that would fit. 40 inches was best, to give a little bit of play either side, as the depth of the bookshelves meant that I'd need an extendable bracket so the TV could be moved outwards and angled where needed. I therefore gave myself some room either side for maneuvering and for getting to sockets etc.
Because the electrical and satellite sockets were mid height on the wall, there was only going to be a PS4 HDMI cable that needed to be run from the bookshelf and to do that I ran the cable along the thicker bookshelf edges using self adhesive cable clips so that it came in horizontally from the right as you look at it (where the ports were on the telly). This meant there was only a couple of centimetres of cable visible in the whole set up and it's really not that obvious at all once all the books are in place and looking 'busier.'
Step 6: Cutting the 'landscape' Bookshelf to Shape
There are loads of instructionals on how to cut down and reassemble ikea furniture. They're not that easy and can leave some chipping on the veneer. Here is a very helpful instructable:
However, I was almost there, wanted a perfect finish and felt I'd reached the limits of my carpentry so I contacted a local carpenter who is awesome and did a perfect job for a very reasonable price. I had bought the smaller bookshelf second hand from a popular selling site and its cost, plus the cost of the carpenter netted out at about the price of a new one.
On measuring: because the 4x2 bookshelf was going to have to be cut by quite a bit, it meant that it would be shorter than 3x2 by a couple of cms. After much measuring and wrangling over how to make it work without it being lopsided or 2 full shelves plus 2 tiny ones, my wife took charge and explained to me again and again until I got it how it should be done.
It went like this...
- because we'd be ending up with enough length for about 3x2 shelves (bit less) then we should find the centre point of the centre shelf (of the three shelves you'd be ending up with - disregarding the one that was going to get cut off, which was dead space) and measure outwards from that.
- halve the total desired length and subtract the thickness of the external edge/upright (which is going to be bolted back on after cutting)
- measure out from the centre point of the centre shelf you marked earlier and this gives you the cut points that you want to make on the horizontals.
It's a bit complicated and if anyone needs a diagram of how we did it then I can put one together. Basically, it took me a good few goes to explain my wife's logic to the carpenter, who initially went about it like I did. Until he got it and (as did I) exclaimed just how clever my wife had been. She's so annoyingly clever at this stuff...
If I hadn't chickened out and I'd done the cut myself (as per the link above) then I'd have cut at those marked points, pulled apart the off-cuts to get the wooden sections that the bolts screw back into, glued them back into place at the cut points, glued the plastic end caps back on and reassembled.
But I didn't. The carpenter did. And he did an ace job.
The shrunken shelving unit then just slid perfectly into place and matched up neatly with the joins in the frame. If you have a bit of a gap then just push the big units in a bit, because it looks less obvious having a 1mm gap by either wall than it does between the units.
Step 7: Cabling It All Up
We wanted to have some industrially looking gallery lighting at the top of each bookshelf in the middle and I found some very reasonable metal desk clamp lamps that could be used upside down because the the lamp had enough rotation.
Habitat Tommy Clamp Lamps were perfect for what we were after and only cost about GBP20 each.
I ran 2m single socket extension cables from the wall sockets up to the top of the unit, securing them behind the bookshelf uprights with self-adhesive cable clamps, using 1 clamp per shelf segment. I then used some 3M tape to secure the extension sockets to the top shelf, hiding behind the books.
For the PS4 HDMI I did the same thing, running the cable along the upper edge of the middle Kallax unit and the left edge of the right hand bookshelf using the cable clamps and then let it 'jump' across to the TV. I gave it a little bit of extra slack for when I'm pulling the TV in and out.
The units were then all put back in place and secured to the wall with long enough screws to bridge the dot and dab plasterboard walls and into the breeze block wall behind. I suspect that these wouldn't be strong enough to prevent them being pulled directly outwards by a strong enough person, but the base frame is very level, holds the shelving units very flat and, fully laden, it doesn't look like those bookshelves will be movable by the tiny, angry hands of my two little boys.
Step 8: Finishing Touches
Of course the most important thing in this process is arranging your fiction books in alphabetical order and your non-fiction into categories. Done!
I am still in the process of finding the right stain to get the frame oak to match the shelves, but I haven't been trying too hard as it looks pretty good already (plus I have all my books and the PS4 back in play so, you know...)
Couple of little trailing plants on the top of each big bookshelf and a soundbar on the top of the middle one makes it look really nice I think.
Now all we need is a nice rug and, a mid century armchair, a console table and some pictures up on the walls and we're all done in there :)