fixed shelves necessary for wall-to-wall bookcase?

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Forum topic by gtgauvin posted 03-29-2017 07:07 PM 436 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 657 days

03-29-2017 07:07 PM

I’m in the planning stage for a wall to wall bookcase. Basically, the plan is to start with a 2×4 frame resting on the floor, which I’ll use to level the whole thing. On top of that I’ll install 5 MDF frames measuring 23 1/2” wide, 12” deep and 8’ tall, with 2 1/4” poplar stiles covering the gaps between the frames on the face. On top of that I’ll install another 2×4 frame to fix the whole thing to the wall studs.

My question is, will I need fixed shelves to make the whole thing stable, or does this design seem structurally sound enough to to stand on it’s own? I’d like to do the whole setup with adjustable shelves, but I also don’t want to waste a lot of time, effort and money to see the project fail over time.


5 replies so far

View Ocelot's profile


2123 posts in 2872 days

#1 posted 03-29-2017 07:13 PM

If you put a back on the case, it will stiffen it a lot – even if it is only 1/4” plywood.

I built one of those 16 years ago with no fixed shelves. It was ok.

Mine was 12 1/2 ’ long and 8’ high, built out of oak veneer plywood.

I had trouble buying 14’ 2×4’s that would lay flat on the floor – for the base, so I ripped a 2×10.


View gtgauvin's profile


3 posts in 657 days

#2 posted 03-29-2017 07:36 PM

Thanks. I wasn’t planning on putting a back on it, but I was going to put a 3/4” vertical spacer between each frame and screw the adjoining standards. I’m also attaching the outermost standards to the walls. I figured all this plus the upper 2×4 frame would keep everything from bowing or racking, but I can’t shake the feeling I’m missing something.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1153 days

#3 posted 03-29-2017 10:13 PM


I suspect that if the center vertical panels of adjoining bays are screwed together, that bowing of the center vertical panels would be unlikely to occur. The ¾” thick MDF in the center divides would become 1-1/2” thick. The walls into which the vertical end panels are attached should stabilize the outer panels. Additionally, if the adjustable shelves are cut to snugly fit (with just enough slop to allow the shelves to be removed), any bowing would be restrained by the adjustable shelves. This assumes that vertical load is transferred from the vertical panels directly to the floor through the base.

I am a little concerned about the leveling base made from construction lumber. My concern is out of a belief that construction lumber can twist as it dries, which could stress the vertical panels restrained by the wall fasteners and the framing at the top of the bookcase. Using a kiln dried hardwood or even ¾” MDF might be a better choice for the base. Alternatively, allowing the vertical panels to extend to the floor and then using shims for leveling would be one alternative. Or some leveling feet that screw into T nuts installed on the bottom edge of the vertical panels would make leveling the assembly a little easier than using shims.

View Rrrandy's profile


212 posts in 712 days

#4 posted 03-29-2017 11:01 PM

gtgauvin, this seems like something you should ask jbay about. I’ve seen his projects. He does a lot of full wall units.

-- Y'all need to locate a sense of humor. Borrow one if you can't find yours...

View gtgauvin's profile


3 posts in 657 days

#5 posted 03-30-2017 12:28 AM

Thanks, JBrow. MDF base and top frames may be the better choice. And after talking to my girlfriend about it, we’ll be taking Ocelot’s recommendation of backing the unit with plywood. I’d like to attach a rolling library ladder to the unit someday down the road, so I’m going to want to build it to last.

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