How to Build A Simple Wall Shelf

Want to add some shelves in your kitchen or bath? No need to buy pre-fabricated shelving – it’s pretty easy to create custom shelves yourself! This can be made into a very beginner-level project for those of you who are nervous about using a saw by taking your measurements to the hardware store and asking them to cut your wood to the right size. You’ll want to consider the depth of the wood pieces too, based on what you’ll be storing on them. The shelf I built for storing cookbooks in our NYC apartment was deeper than the shelves I built for bathroom decor, for example.

Once you have the wood measured and cut, you’ll likely need to paint or stain them, but just putting a coat of clear polyurethane is also an option. On one of these shelves, I used leftover sample paint to be cheap, but I added a coat of polyurethane to it as well, because sample paint isn’t made to be long-lasting. If you use stain, remember to rub it on and wipe off the excess so it doesn’t end up looking like you painted it brown; there are loads of staining tutorials available online already that you can google.

Hanging is the hardest part. First, you’ll want to mark where you want to hang them, and then use a level to draw the line straight so your shelves are level (not slanted). Once your lines are drawn, it’s time to install the brackets.

Now, it’s important to choose brackets that fit your style, but that are also sized correctly to your shelves. In addition, always be sure your brackets are designed to hold the type of weight you’ll be putting on them. This information should be clearly stated on the package or on the website when you’re ordering them. First, measure exactly how far apart you want the brackets (and centered) and put a mark there. If you can, use a magnetic stud finder to try to line up at least one of the brackets to a stud (wooden beam behind the wall), which will make it a bit more sturdy. Hold up the bracket in the spot, and mark the wall-side holes with a pencil. This is where you will need to pre-drill holes. If you’re drilling into a stud, just go for it. If not, drill the hole big enough that you can push a molly into it. Sorry, I was drilling into studs in these pictures, but you can find a picture of a screw and molly kit here. Next, line the bracket back up in front of your holes and drive screws right into those holes. Hooray, your brackets are now attached!

Now it’s time to repeat some of those steps in attaching the shelf, except without any talk of studs and mollys. Double (and triple) check that you’re using screws that are shorter than the thickness of the shelf, or you’ll have sharp points poking through the top of your shelves! Lay the shelf down on the brackets, ensure that it’s level (or you may have to back up and adjust a bracket!), drill small pilot holes into the shelf wood right through the bracket holes, and then insert your screws. Finally, congratulate yourself, because you’ll build your first set of shelves!

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