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Living Room Renovation: Building Custom Shelves

One of the unwritten rules of home ownership is that you always need more shelving. No matter how much you have, it’s never quite enough because you keep accumulating more stuff every year you live there. What you need to do is add more shelf space, especially in the living room where you can show off your best stuff. Here’s a guide to building custom shelves for your living room.

Why You Want to DIY

building custom shelves
Image via Flickr by JodyDigger

The primary reason you’ll want to build your own bookshelf is because it provides the opportunity to match it with the current decor of your living room. That’s preferable to buying some pressboard product at a local retailer. The mass-manufactured shelves are cheap, unattractive, and tricky to match.

Tools of the Trade

In order to build your own shelving, you’ll need several tools. You’ll need a measuring tape, a table or circular saw, a hammer, nails, glue, and one eight-foot longboard per shelf. The most important decision during the preparation phase is determining the type of material you want to use for the shelf. If the storage area isn’t in plain sight, you can save a bit with cheaper wood. If it’s the focus of a major area such as the living room, you’ll want better wood such as mahogany.

Cutting Crew

Cutting your materials is one of the most important steps in the process. You’ll want to take care here. A mistake with your saw means wasted material, and that means you’ll have to spend more money than anticipated. “Measure twice, cut once” might not be cautious enough for this practice. Don’t employ your saw until you’re absolutely certain your measurements are correct.

If you use a table saw, place the good side of the wood facing upward toward the ceiling. For a circular saw, you’ll want it to be face downward toward the floor. Make sure that you push the material through the saw steadily. If you do this at a different rate, you’ll wind up with an uneven cut, which will create problems later.

The Shelf Itself

The purpose of your sawing is to craft a series of pieces that will eventually fit together. The goal is to cut small support pieces of plywood into longer strips of wood. The actual form the shelving takes is entirely up to you. If you want an open-backed design, you’ll need less material than if you prefer a more conventional style. The look of your shelf directly determines the cuts you make. You can find more information about the process in this video.

Note that a back frame does provide more support, but you can counterbalance that by placing the shelf against a wall if you want to use less wood. The other aspect to consider is if you’re going to build shelving directly into a space. For a finite space, you’ll have to perform additional measurement to ensure that the new structure will fit where it’s intended. Since you control the size of the build, it’s simple to adjust for this as long as you understand the spatial conditions in advance.

Building custom shelves for your living room is certainly satisfying, and you’ll enjoy a better piece of furniture for a more reasonable price, too.

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