How To Build Custom Shelves

Hello hello! We get a lot of questions about the many (many!) custom shelves Collin has built, so today’s post is all about tips for planning, measuring, building them and finishing them off to look as professional as possible! So, first I will show you a few custom shelves we’ve done and after that I will pass it over to Collin to give you some tips!
These shelves (above) were built custom in Nova’s bedroom. The room lacked storage for toys, but was also very visually plain. We decided to do built-ins around the bed (which is queen size) that could double as storage as well as a way to add wall sconces to use as bedside lights. We’re extra proud of these shelves because if you look along the top, Collin removed the original trim and refitted it, making it look as if the shelves had always been a part of this room.
These "rainbow" bookshelves This room was also kind of boring before we added these and they really made the room. This was Collin’s second time to do floor to ceiling shelves (I think … pretty sure the first time was here).
Another really great use of shelves and customizing is redoing closets—see a whole post on that here.
There is also a great example of small and large shelves added in this room.
Tips for Custom Shelves
Tips for planning: The most helpful thing you can do to when you’re planning out your shelves is to get some painters tape and place pieces of tape on the wall you’re building them onto help you visualize properly—so you can get the proper shape and spacing. This will also help you in figuring out how many of each piece of wood you will need and what lengths of boards. Most boards come in 6′ or 8′ pieces, and seeing the shelves in tape form can help you from creating too much waste and also save you money.
Tips for measuring: After you have the tape up and can properly visualize the shelves, it’s time to start measuring. You’ll want to make sure all of your taped lines are even and equally spaced on the wall, so once you start measuring you can either move the tape to where it is perfectly even or mark the wall with a pencil. You’ll also want to grab a stud finder and a long straight edge and mark all of the studs in the wall.
Tips for Building: My tips for building are to think of it in these four steps:
1. Attach all support boards to wall.
2. Attach all actual shelf boards to support boards.
3. Attach all trim boards.
4. Caulking, wood filling, painting! Also, my favorite screws for attaching the support boards to the wall are these 2.5″ star bit wood screws and for areas where you don’t have a stud to mount to, these drywall toggle anchors are the best!
Tips for finishing for a professional look: To achieve the most professional and clean look, be really meticulous when measuring and cutting the trim boards as well as caulking all cracks. Gaps and improper caulking is what will make your shelves look really "homemade," so take your time with this part. Another tip is to buy pre-primed boards, that way you don’t have to worry about the knots in the wood eventually bleeding though the paint (and believe me … THEY WILL.). Lastly, if you’re building floor to ceiling shelves and the room has crown moulding, you’ll have to remove the crown moulding on that particular wall. My final tip is to take the extra time and add it back onto the shelves like I did Nova’s room (pictured below). It really sends it over the top and looks extremely clean and professional and properly "built in."
Tips for painting: The best option for painted shelves, especially when there are cabinet doors involved, is a hard dry paint. Follow this tutorial for best results—it is so worth the extra steps! Also, mini paint rollers will save your life!! It will make painting go by so, so much faster and look way more professional.
Thanks so much for reading. If you feel like custom shelves might be in your future, don’t forget to Pin this post to reference later! xx- Elsie + Collin

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