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Built-in Bookshelves and Floating Shelves

Add more storage and floor space to your rooms by installing built-in bookshelves and floating shelves to your walls.

Posted in Shelves over 16 years ago, 0 replies

You would be surprised to know just how much installing built-in bookshelves and floating, or wall-mounted, shelves to your walls can add warmth and character to a room. Wall-mounted shelves can offer you extra storage and floor space. From a single shelf tucked into a hard to decorate corner to elaborate library shelving with its own sliding ladder, built-ins and floating shelves are versatile and offer such amenities as adjustable shelving options.

In one way or another, built-in bookshelves and floating shelves seem to be a part of almost everyone's home. And they are inexpensive and rather easy to install. You can complete a shelving project in a weekend's time and for only about $145.

Decor Options

Built-in bookshelves and floating shelves can encompass a wide range of decor options. Bookshelves not only display books but also brandish the latest in home decor, which can include everything from a large vase and decorative plate to a small collection of knickknacks brought back from that cruise to the Bahamas. Give some thought to how you will use the shelves. Also, think about where you will install the shelves and how they will be attached to the wall. Consider your shelving needs carefully before you begin your project. Do you need shelves for function or style, or both?

There are many different shelving styles that you can mount onto your wall. Here are some of the popular types:


Built-ins are constructed as part of a larger unit; they are not detachable. The beauty of built-ins is that they have an enormous amount of versatility. Built-in bookshelves can be installed just about any place you can imagine. Your built-ins can line an entryway wall, hover above a window or door, flank a fireplace, be embedded into the bottom of a set of stairs, or even line the wall that goes alongside the stairs. You can use a built-in bookcase to make an alcove in a large room, or use it as a room divider.

Clip and Cable Shelves

Clip shelves or cable shelves are primarily designed with glass or stainless steel. Clip shelves are essentially shelves that are secured to a narrow bracket on the wall, and then actual clips come down and attach to the shelves. Cable shelves are slightly sturdier than clip shelves. Cable shelves mount to the wall on a bracket, and then cables extend down from the bracket and hook onto the shelves' outer edges.

Corner Shelves

Corner Shelves are perfect decorating solutions for otherwise wasted corner spaces in your rooms. Hanging corner shelves are optimal as they are stable, can display your decorative items safely in a high-traffic area, and can be placed high enough that they are out of children's reach. Hanging corner shelves are attached to the wall on a corner bracket. The bracket is frequently some type of scrollwork or carving that can be easily installed into the corner also.

Floating/Wall-mounted Shelves

Floating shelves are flat hollow boxes connected to a cleat that is mounted to a wall. These shelves can create a clean, streamlined appearance in your room and are strong enough to withstand many decorative items such as glassware and picture frames, and also heavier items such as vases and hardback books. And because no part of your floating shelves actually touches the floor, you can say hello to more storage and decorative options without forgoing floor space!


Visit any home center, lumberyard, and Internet site and you will see that the choices for shelving material are abundant. Until you have lent a significant amount of time to browsing these places and sites, you should not commit yourself to any certain design style. Take your time in deciding on your design style. Careful contemplation typically means you manage to keep down project costs on the whole.


In terms of cost, particleboard is the most inexpensive and easy to maintain type of material to use on shelving projects. It is a material created from wood fragments such as chips or shavings that are compressed into sheet form by a machine and bonded together with resin. Particleboard comes in a variety of colors, commonly in white but also available in almond, gray and other colors. It is very thick, heavy, and flat. It is often used as a substitute for solid wood or plywood because it is less expensive and yet less resilient to everyday wear and tear.


Real wood is the most traditional material used for installing bookshelves. You have a wide array of choices: oak, pine, walnut and other woods. And you can choose a shelving project that is constructed with pre-finished or unfinished wood. In addition, you can find shelves that are precut, which cuts down on labor. If labor is not a factor, you can make your own shelves, breaking them off from solid lumber.


Plywood is made of layers of wood glued together. It is durable, rigid, lightweight, and because it rarely splits or warps (becomes distorted), it is a great material to use on shelving projects. It can be molded into curved or irregular forms. Softwood (fir) and hardwood (birch, mahogany, walnut, or white ash) make the most commonly used types of plywood. Softwoods are not as strong and are less expensive than hardwood boards of equal size. Plus, plywood offers a large selection of face veneers suitable for paint or clear finishes.

MDF (medium-density fiberboard)

This is the most affordable substitute for wood or plywood shelves. MDF is not as stiff as solid wood or plywood, but it has the advantage of not being susceptible to splintering, cupping or warping. It also can be easily painted. You can find special MDF fasteners that will ensure your shelves are the most secure to the wall.


If you are looking for a chic and stylish way to display your house wares, consider installing glass shelves. Curved glass shelves are especially great in small areas. But make certain you use shelves that will not overtake the space where you want to install them. For example, strive to put up shelves that are about 2 inches smaller than the area of installation. Thus, you should mount 14" shelves in a 16" space.

Or use glass shelves to create the illusion of openness in an existing bookshelf by trading out wood shelves for glass, painting the back panel to match the walls or placing up mirrored backings, and adding a battery-operated underlight. Wooden shelves require exterior track lighting or separate lighting on each shelf, but glass shelves permit lighting to gleam through from above and below. As far as practicality goes, glass shelves may not be the wisest choice for storage. But glass shelving is aesthetically pleasing and adds a unique element to your modern home d├ęcor.


Usually, the first thoughts that come to mind about steel are that it is mostly used in industrial projects. But think stainless steel when you think of your next shelving project. Floating stainless steel shelves in your kitchen not only house necessary kitchen utensils and withstand everyday wear and tear, but often serve to create a modern look in your room as well as be aesthetically pleasing.


After you have chosen the style and material you will use for your shelving project, your next step is to determine the weight your shelves will carry, and the manner in which you will support that weight. If you want to use shelves to store picture frames, for example, you can attach lightweight yet secure shelves to your wall. Medium-weight shelves are best for displaying houseplants, storing clothes and linens in closets, and storing everyday-use items in your bathrooms.
If your shelving project is destined for housing your massive collection of books or heavy-duty storage items, the best way to prevent sagging shelves is to install supports on shelves by affixing them to wall studs. Many shelving units can be bought as kits that include shelves (of course), supports, and typically include posts as well as the sleeves needed to join shelves to the posts.

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