Instructions on How to Build Shelves

wood shelves

Whether you need shelves to display knick-knacks or to hold a heavy storage load, having the proper instructions on how to build shelves will help you complete the project correctly and safely. While building shelves may seem like an easy enough task, if you don't do it correctly, all your work can come crashing down in an instant.

Types of Shelves

Before you start building shelves, consider what you'll be using the shelves for and where the shelves will be placed. This well help you determine what kinds of shelves you need.

  • Garage shelves: Used to store heavy loads; should be constructed of strong material
  • Wall shelves: Uses vary, often used to store books, knick-knacks
  • Closet shelves: Serves to organize shoes, sweaters, seasonal storage
  • Pantry shelves: Used to store lightweight boxes, small appliances and cans
  • Kitchen shelves: Should be strong enough to hold the weight of stacked dshes, pots and pans
  • Decorative shelves: Used to display trinkets, trophies, collectibles and organize small items

Supplies and Materials for Building Shelves

No matter what type of shelves you're building, you'll need to have the proper supplies on hand. If you are building wood shelves, you'll have cut the wood to the correct width and length for your project. You can use a handsaw to cut the wood though power tools will save you both time and energy. If you don't own power tools for cutting wood, consider asking your local home improvement store to cut the wood for you. You will also need measuring tape, wood screws, a screwdriver or electric drill, a hammer, wood glue and sandpaper.

Simple Instructions on How to Build Shelves

The specific instructions on how to build shelves will vary depending on which type of shelves you set out to build. However, you can construct and install simple and stylish wall shelves by following these easy instructions:

  1. Choose a pair of sturdy ornamental wall shelf brackets or simple L shaped brackets.
  2. Cut a piece of wood to the correct length, width and depth for your storage needs.
  3. Sand, stain and seal the wood board.
  4. Use a stud finder and mark the area of the wall where the stud is located.
  5. Place a bracket against the wall, just below where the actual shelf board will be placed.
  6. Use screws to secure the bracket into the wall.
  7. Rest the wood board on top of the bracket. Use a level to ensure the board is perfectly straight.
  8. Once the shelf is level, use a pen to mark the placement for the second bracket.
  9. Screw the second bracket into place.
  10. Put the board on top of the mounted brackets.
  11. Fasten the shelf to the brackets by drilling screws through the brackets' holes underneath the shelf.

You can place these types of shelves on a wall in a vertical row to create the look of book shelves. Be sure to space the shelves so that you have enough room to accommodate your tallest items.

Shelf Building Tips

Whether you're building shelves for storage or for display purposes, keep these general shelf building tips in mind:

  • Measure the wood twice before cutting to avoid mistakes.
  • Stain or paint shelves before setting them in place.
  • Use the proper size screws to avoid splitting or cracking wood boards.

Shelf Installation Tips

Proper installation is key when it comes to setting up your newly built shelves.

  • Use anchors when installing shelves on drywall.
  • Always use a level to ensure that your shelf brackets are aligned evenly.
  • Use a middle bracket for extra support when building long wall shelves.
  • If you don't own a stud finder, check for studs by knocking on the wall. You'll hear a difference in sound when you knock on the section of the wall where the stud is located.


While the prices of store-bought shelves vary, the sense of accomplishment from building your own shelves is priceless. After you've completed your project, step back and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

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Instructions on How to Build Shelves