Sunday, June 05, 2016

Lessons Learned From A Built-In Shelving Project

I just finished a set of built-in shelves in a closet off of our study. I've never done that kind of project before, so I knew it was going to be a learning experience and end up somewhat less than perfect. Which it did. I also knew the closet has a door, so the whole thing could be kept away from the eyes of guests. That's a good thing.

The completed project, before painting. I used 5/8" particle board as the shelving and 2x3s as the supports. It wasn't what I had planned, but when I went to Home Depot, it was the best I could find The hardest part of the design was figuring out how to do the L-shape. The shelves in the back are fully supported by the 2x3s and are as sturdy as a battleship. The shelving along the side required angle brackets.

An angle bracket at the end of a side shelf. I had intended to use 2x3s on this side, but there was only a stud at the corner, and nothing but drywall from there on out. I had nothing to anchor the 2x3 so I had to fall back to angle brackets. Trying to get the angle bracket tops level with the 2x3s was a real bear. I got close, but not perfect.

The biggest lesson of all. I didn't cut the shelves to fit. There's a gap between the shelves and a gap you can't see between the shelf and the wall. That's because I measured the length of the wall and then cut all the shelves at once. I should have cut one set as a throwaway template, measured the gaps and then added that much to the real shelves when I cut them. Instead, I figured my measurements were close enough. They weren't. This won't cause a big problem, the books will easily bridge these gaps, but it looks bad.
And there you have it. Our books will be stored and everything will work out, but next time I try something like this, I ought to do a better job.


Ilíon said...

If you're planning to fill these with books, you might want to put some brackets in the middle -- even plywood would be apt to bow; the particle-board is likely to break/collapse.

Still, for a first effort, it looks good.

tim eisele said...

It does look good, but I concur that you might need some additional center support. Particle board shelves have an annoying tendency to gradually sag under load, so while they will seem to be holding up fine at first, they will slowly deform over a period of a few weeks. Having full support along the entire rear edge like you have done is an excellent idea and will probably be sufficent, but I'd advise keeping an eye on it and being ready to shore it up.

Something my wife has done that is effective and also looks nice, is to get some copper water pipes, cut them into sections that will go between shelves, and hold them in place with rubber padded bolts that go through the shelves and can insert inside of the copper pipes.

Ilíon said...

I keep telling myself to post a few pictures of the work I've been doing at my house. But I'm lazy, so it doesn't get done.

K T Cat said...

Thanks, all. I think the back support, being 2" deep, will stop the sagging. Still, I'm wary of the long shelf and I may just put in another bracket to support it. Online, you can find the caluclations showing how far you can run different materials as bookshelves without sagging. Yes, particle board is the worst.

Foxfier said...

If it's something were some slight roughness won't be an issue-- like bookshelves-- consider using cedar fencing. The squared off type, not the rounded. :D
I made a shelf out of it, a sort of prototype, and WOW did it smell good and it did something I had neglected to think about-- dealt with the soggy Seattle rainforest issue.

ligneus said...

Good job! To prevent sagging you could nail and glue strips of 1x2 pine on the front edges, it would clean up the rough edges too.

O/T and if I may take up a bit of space, check out this book, it's really good.