Shelf brackets and scrap wood create inexpensive shelves.

How to Make Cheap Bookshelves

by Kathy Adams

Bookshelves come in handy in just about any space, from a small studio apartment to a teenager's bedroom or family room. If store-bought bookshelves don't quite fit into the budget, make them yourself from salvaged and inexpensive materials, saving quite a bit of cash in the process. A trip to a salvage or resale shop may provide most of the materials you'll need to get started.

Shutters and Accordion Doors

A series of shutters or accordion closet door panels turns into book shelves when paired with shelf brackets. These brackets, from plain on up to decorative and ornate, are available at a home improvement store in a variety of sizes. To make the shelves, attach one bracket to a stud after finding the stud with a stud finder, or use wall anchors that support heavy loads. Once one bracket is in place, set a shutter or door panel atop it, using a level to determine placement of the second bracket for a straight shelf. One bracket every 45 inches is a good rule of thumb; use even more, as well as sturdy wall anchors, if loading the shelf with heavy items such as books. Instead of wall-mounted shelves, build a small shelf unit using shutters for the sides and shelves held together with L brackets.

Shipping Pallets

Shipping pallets are often available for free from any business receiving shipments on a regular basis. The planks on these pallets are essentially free shelf-building materials, but may require a bit of sanding first to make them splinter-free. The wood pieces can be used for either a wall-mounted shelf or free-standing shelf unit, built to your own specifications. Dress the finished piece up with a bold shade such as apple green, or give a free-standing unit a coat of chalkboard paint for a doodling space for a budding young artist.

Planks and Blocks

Wide wood planks, either salvaged or new, plus two cinder blocks per level create a simple bookshelf from the most basic of materials. Planks 10 to 12 inches wide provide a wide enough space for most types of books; the length depends upon how long you want the shelves. To assemble the shelves, set one block, either horizontally or vertically, depending on how much space you want between shelves, near either end of where the shelf belongs. Set a plank atop the blocks, then add two more blocks and another plank. Keeping the shelving unit fairly short helps prevent the structure from tipping over. If the cinder blocks look a bit too plain, dress them up with your favorite paint color, or cover them with sheets of shipping foam wrapped in decorative fabric. Pins hold the fabric to the foam, as well as the foam boards to one another.

Stands and Crates

Stands of various sorts, from ironing boards to glass-topped sofa table bases missing their tops, are just the type of thing that show up at yard sales or salvage shops for a low price. Add a wooden plank or long, narrow piece of wood to create a single shelf display. A scissor-style keyboard stand with hardshell keyboard case works as well, for the burgeoning musician with spare gear. Wooden wine crates stacked atop one another create customizable shelving, or attach one or two crates to the wall with screws and wall anchors.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.

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