Ready-to-assemble bookcases are readily available at home retailers, but they often lack the substantial appearance of custom built-in shelves. However, with a few simple steps and the addition of trim, you can transform these affordable bookcases into impressive built-in features. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of creating DIY built-ins using basic bookcases, allowing you to add architectural character to your space.
Desired number of full-sized bookcases
One narrow shelving unit for the corner (optional)
1 gallon of paint or stain
Screws and a screwdriver (or drill)
Trim pieces (enough to line the top edge of the full unit)
Hammer and nails (or nail gun)
Step 1: Screw the Bookcases Together
Start by assembling the bookcases if necessary. For a seamless look, choose tall bookcases that almost reach the ceiling. Before assembling, paint all the units in the same color. A darker finish can lend a sleek and modern appearance, but feel free to match the bookcases to your wall color or add a bold accent color. Once the paint is dry, arrange the bookcases against the wall as desired. If you are working with corners, consider using a narrow shelving unit to connect the bookcases. Once the bookcases are properly positioned, screw them together to eliminate any gaps between the pieces. To ensure stability, anchor the bookcases securely to the wall.
Step 2: Cut Trim for Bookcases
Adding trim to the top edge of the unit is a crucial step in creating the illusion of custom-built shelves. For this, you will need two pieces of trim. We recommend using a 3/4 x 2-5/8-inch painted poplar trim layered over a 1/2-inch x 1-1/2-inch trim piece. The length of the trim will vary based on the width of your bookcases. Cut the trim to the required size and miter the corners by cutting them at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure a precise fit. Before attaching the trim, sand it and paint it the same color as the shelving units.
Step 3: Attach the Smaller Trim
Nail the smaller trim across the front of the entire unit using trim nails. Make sure to use nails that are shorter than the combined thickness of the molding and bookcase panel to prevent them from poking through the inside of the bookcase. Align the trim pieces with the top of the bookcase and ensure they are level.
Step 4: Nail the Larger Trim
Repeat the process with the larger trim, positioning it higher than the first piece to reach the ceiling. When nailing it in place, hold it tightly against the ceiling to avoid any gaps between the unit and the ceiling. This will also help maintain the trim’s level appearance.
Step 5: Touch Up and Decorate Built-Ins
Fill any nail holes with wood filler and touch up with paint. Choose a wood filler that closely matches the color of the bookcases to ensure a seamless finish. Once the touch-up work is complete, it’s time to decorate your built-in shelves. Arrange your favorite books and accessories to personalize the space. For a custom look, consider experimenting with paint or contact paper inside the shelves.
By following these steps, you can transform basic bookcases into stunning built-in features that add architectural character to your home. Enjoy the process of creating your DIY built-ins and admire the impressive results they bring to your space.
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