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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    3

    Default Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    I've been following the plans for built-in bookshelves outlined in the "How to Build a Bookcase" article on thisoldhouse.com, and I have a couple questions:
    1) It doesn't mention in these plans if you need to secure the shelves to the frames. It just says to slide the shelves in, and the next step is to add the facing. On some built-in bookshelf plans I found on another website, they have a step to secure the shelves to the frames w/ wood screws once slid into place. Thoughts?
    2) Many photos I've found of built-in bookshelves have some sort of backing to them (probably 1/2-ply) that is painted the same color as the shelves. These plans do not have a step to add a back to the bookshelves (i.e. the back will be the wall behind). What is more professional looking? Wouldn't plywood backing add strength to the shelves?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,481

    Default Re: Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    Shelves do not need to be captive, regardless of the cabinet being a built in or free standing, you just have to make sure that the unit is built to accommodate whichever style shelf you choose (fixed or adjustable ).

    It is your choice how you build the cabinet (backed or backless ), depending on the wall you're going up against. What you will need to be wary of is that a back adds strength and stability to the cabinet, so unless you'll be affixing the cabinet to the wall, put a back on it. Most "built-in" cabinets are actually freestanding cabinets slid into a niche, then trimmed around the front to tie it into the opening, hence most have backs for structural rigidity. What you can do instead is to put a cleat at the top and mid-point of the cabinet, then you attach the cabinet to the wall with these cleats, thereby giving you a sturdy backless cabinet.

    I've never used plywood thicker than 1/4" for a back on any bookshelf, it just isn't necessary.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    Thanks for the advice. I decided to secure the shelves to the side frames w/ drywall screws, and they're much studier as a result. Also, I went with 1/4" plywood backing. This also added a lot of strength.

    And for my next question: I have built and mounted the two bookshelves, but now I'm trying to figure out how to complete the span at the top to make it an entertainment center. The width between the bookcases is 62 1/2"...which is quite wide for shelving. My thought was to build a box out of 3/4" ply w/ the 1/4" ply for backing, mount that to the wall and to the side of the bookcases. My concern is, how do I make the bottom shelf (bottom of the box) stong enough so it doesn't sag over time? Will the facing and backing be enough to support it? Or should I add some sort of bracing? Note: I would prefer not to have bracing in the middle of the box (dividing the box in two). Or is there a way to just add a shelf in between w/o building a box and have it strong enough to not sag?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,481

    Default Re: Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    If it is a free span that won't ever see weight, then the nosing like you installed on the shelves will be fine. If you're going to put any kind of weight on it, then increase the height of the nosing. If the weight will be significant, then install support front and back of the shelf, the back support that will be unseen can be made of plywood. The type of support will depend mostly on the total weight upon the shelf and the amount of space you have for supporting of the shelf.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    nova scotia, canada
    Posts
    1,522

    Default Re: Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    use wood screws not drywall screws.. drywall screws arent intended for this type of use and are very brittle, they have little shear strength
    fire up the saw and make some dust

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Built-in Bookshelf Advice

    Thanks for all the great advice. Everything is built and mounted.

    Question: what type of paint do you suggest I use to paint my new built-in entertainment center? I built the whole thing out of 3/4" birch hardwood plywood, except for the facing that's poplar. I want to ensure the shelves don't end up with a gummy, sticky consistency. Some old shelves in our house were painted with latex many years ago, and books and things stick to them. Especially things that are heavy. But I digress. I've read conflicting things on the web. Some say using oil-based will give the smoothest finish and will not be sticky. Others say use latex, but give it a very long time to dry between coats. And I'm assuming I should prime everything before I paint?

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