Easy DIY Custom Shelves 01:00

Build your own custom shelves using these simple tips from Alison Victoria.

Step 1

1. Alcoves are a good place to put up shelves, there are two ways to do it: the ladder method and the ledger method. The ladder method is stronger than the ledger method and can be used across a wider span because shelves are more rigid.
2. Twin-slot brackets are the most flexible because they can be used anywhere.
3. Invisible screws can be used to make floating shelves to support heavy loads. Check the wall with a detector for wires and pipes before drilling. If the wall is a stud wall, drill into the studs.

Step 2

Alcove Shelving With Ledger Supports

If using ledger supports in an alcove, draw a level line around the alcove where you want the lower edge of the first shelf. Start with either the top or the bottom shelf.

Measure the line and cut a 2"-x-1" ledger to fit. Hold its top edge against the line and drill pilot holes. Install it in place (Image 1). You can miter the front end of ledger to make it less visible (Image 2).

Measure and cut two ledgers to extend from the ends of the back one to at least two-thirds of the shelf’s depth. Drill them in place.

Measure down (or up) to where you want the next shelf, and mark guide lines (Image 3). Cut and attach ledgers in the same way as for the first shelf.

Cut and position shelving material on the ledgers (Image 4). If walls are not square, scribe shelves to fit against them.

Nail each shelf to the ledgers every 10 in (250 mm) along the back and side edges (Image 5).

Step 3

Alcove Shelving Using a Ladder Support

Measure for ledgers as done in the previous method, but cut two long ledgers instead of just one (one for the back and one for the front of the shelf). Cut short strips to fit between them at each end and roughly every 10 inches in between to create a ladder-like frame. Build the frame using butt joints, countersinking all the screws (Image 1).

Attach the frame to the wall at the back and along the sides of the alcove. Use screws suitable for the type of wall. Then attach the shelf to the frame by nailing it onto the ledgers at regular intervals. Hold a level across the shelf in between inserting screws, to ensure that the shelf is level (Image 2).

Step 4

Twin-Slot Shelving: Attaching Brackets to the Wall

Draw a plumb line, using a level, where you want the first support. Hold a bracket against the line and mark the pin holes (Image 1).

Drill pilot holes and plug them, then screw the first bracket in place (Image 2). Use wood pieces to fill behind the bracket if the wall is uneven. Use 2-inch screws.

Hold the next bracket in place. Rest a level across the tops of both brackets to check for level (Image 3). You may find it helps to have someone hold the bracket. Adjust the position of the bracket until it is completely level with the first, fixed one. Pilot drill through the top pin hole, then secure in place.

Mark for other pilot holes, then swing bracket to one side. Drill the pilot holes, plug them, and loosely attach the bracket in place (Image 4).

Check that the bracket is plumb, then attach it securely.

Step 5

Twin-Slot Shelving: Placing the Shelves

Hook the shelf supports into the wall brackets, taking care that they are level (Image 1).

Mark the position and depth of the brackets on the back of a shelf. Cut out this area with a chisel so that shelves will sit flush against the wall (Image 2).

Place shelves on the supports and insert small screws through the support into predrilled holes on the underside of the shelf (Image 3).

Step 6

Invisible Bracketed (Floating) Shelves

The thicker the shelf material, the easier this system is to apply. Use rods one-third longer than the shelf's width. Measure and mark for attaching points on the back of the shelf roughly near the ends, and at similar intervals in between if spanning a wide space (Image 1).

Use a level to draw the shelf's position on the wall (Image 2). Hold the marked shelf up to it and mark the attaching points from the shelf on the wall.

Drill into the wall to a depth that equals two-thirds the width of the shelf. Use a bit slightly larger than the diameter of the threaded rods.

Clamp the shelf securely. Drill at the attaching points to the depth of the holes in the wall, ensuring that the drill stays square to the wood (Image 3).

Inject resin into the drilled holes in the wall, and insert the rods (Image 4). Use a level to ensure that they are exactly straight.

When the resin has set, slide the shelf onto the rods (Image 5). Set a level on the shelf. If it is level, insert resin into the holes to attach it onto the rods.

Step 7

Finishing Your Shelving

Finishing Your Shelving

Once you have filed and sanded the edges of your MDF shelving, it's time to finish them with a piece of molding. Use a hammer and carpentry nails to tack it into place.

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Shelf Material and Finishing

MDF is the ideal shelf material because it is so easy to work with, but it usually needs finishing after construction. A decorative wooden molding or veneer can be attached to the edges of shelves to make them look like solid wood. The example here shows putting molding on the front of a shelf in an alcove. For simple back-and-side supported shelves, miter the fronts of the side supports to make them less obvious.

The edges of shelves can be filled and sanded. If there are gaps between any shelves and the wall, use a flexible filler on them. Do not use white filler if you are going to apply a natural wood finish; use stainable filler to match the finish.
If you paint shelves, leave them to dry for several days before using them; the usual 24 hours is not long enough to prevent items on a shelf from sticking to new paint.

Hammer molding in place with panel pins every 4 inches. Set the pins' heads below the surface.

Fill all pin holes in the shelves with filler, then sand smooth, and decorate as required.