I own a lot of books, and would love to display them on a bookshelf that covers an entire wall. I love the look of wood, but it is so expensive at the moment. I'm also a bit short of spare time, so I am pondering the cheapest and/or easiest way to make a large bookshelf. The compromise will be on appearance I guess.

I've had a few ideas:

  • Buy from IKEA (usually very cheap) and butcher it to fit, then paint it to obscure the cheap finish
  • Salvage unpainted wood from local skips (dumpsters) - I've got lots of wood this way, but never long neat planks, or enough of the same size timber!
  • Run two parallel wires (or metal rods) from wall to wall, and sit the books on that - would the covers get spoilt?
  • Somehow make the shelf out of old books from a charity shop?!
  • Wait for Freecycle to come good...

By the way, I've bought a Kindle, which is going to reduce the problem in the future!

  • How wide are you wanting your bookshelf? do you have walls to support custom shelves on each side, or is it going against a flat wall? I dont have to point out the obvious and say that books are heavy, just remeber that the material that you are going to get from cheap shelves is not going to support too much weight without sagging if the boards are too long. You can make your own relativly cheap and more sturdy with a piece of good 3/4 inch ply and some one bi'es. I believe they use like a composite type material or even partical board for their shelves. You might be able to find wood ones. – lazoDev Aug 8 '11 at 16:40
  • Milk Crates! They can usually be found just lying around behind grocery stores. – Tester101 Feb 28 '12 at 17:21

Trimming out DIY-assembled shelves is a common way to go about it. Ikea, of course, being a popular source for the DIY shelves to use.

The basic premise is buy your shelving system, assemble it, then use trim stock to finish it off to give it the look of a built-in or single unit.


I had a pastor who did missionary work in Africa for many years, and he really took minimalism to heart. He simply used wooden planks over cinder blocks, stacked and spaced as needed.

It was surprisingly effective and I, personally, thought it looks really good in a "modern industrial" sort of way.


I like this idea of using plumbing pipe, though it doesn't solve the cost of the wood...

  • 5
    Those pipe fittings aren't cheap, either. Still, cool look! – DA01 Feb 28 '12 at 16:32
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    Answers that consist of only links, are very susceptible to link rot. Please summarize the information contained in the link, so if the link dies this will still be a useful answer. – Tester101 Oct 5 '12 at 16:57

You don't describe whether you want these to be built in, free standing, or what sort of environment.

One way to make a cheap, closet book shelf is to mount 2x2's to the sides and back of the closet and lay in a piece of OSB cut to fit. Any 3 sided room segment will work with this idea. The reason I suggest 3 sided is that the OSB is cheap and WILL sag if not supported.

While this is somewhat unattractive, you can scale it up by improving the wood you buy (knotty pine finished with Varethane can look fairly nice).


Ikea bookcases are a good answer if you're short on time. They're pretty inexpensive, too.

Trying to fill the entire wall will be difficult, but if you're able to accept "most of" the wall, then a row of, say, Billy bookcases are cheap and easy to put together.

Don't forget to get some shims to help them stand up straight and even.

(Ikea has a more expensive line with adjustable feet. They're nicer, but the shims are cheap.)


Here's a cheap idea I found:


Basically, it involves getting shelf brackets (which can come as cheap as $2 for a pair) and a set of bed slats (the cheap pine ones, not the engineered springy kind!) from IKEA. Screw the shelf brackets to the wall, put a pair of bed slats on each, and pile on the books.


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