Need help in constructing built in bookcase.

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Forum topic by TKP3321 posted 02-06-2015 09:35 PM 1399 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1407 days

02-06-2015 09:35 PM

I am looking to build a similar bookcase in our office. I am somewhat familiar to constructing built ins in that I had to finish what the hired handy man didn’t. (Long story short I learned a framing carpenter shouldn’t be finishing work such as cabinets.) I digress…I will be using my Kreg Jig to construct it and had a question as to how I should approach making this built in bookcase. Let me say I am not a professional in the least when it comes to woodworking but love doing it so if any comments or suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

What I have in mind is to first attach the vertical dividers to the 1×12’s that I will use as the horizontal shelves. Once vertical dividers are attached I then plan on securing the shelves into studs on the back wall as well as the two side walls. Will continue to do this up the entire length of the wall; attaching the horizontal shelves as well as the vertical dividers into the shelf below using pocket screws..does this make sense? I’m kinda confused myself…Never the less once thats done I then plan on using 1×3’s as the face frame. My main question: will using 2 1/2” pocket screws into the studs be sturdy enough to hold up a 11 foot long 1×12 shelf?

9 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


7052 posts in 2799 days

#1 posted 02-06-2015 10:15 PM

If I understand correctly, and I may not…you will not be using a back of plywood and then attaching to the walls. I also wonder if laminating plywood would not be an easier/cheaper option and then use the desired thickness/width wood for the face frames.

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2 posts in 1407 days

#2 posted 02-07-2015 04:27 PM

I know the description of my plan is vague., hoping to clear that up. I attached a picture that shows the concept of how I want to construct the built in bookcase.

The picture is obviously on a much smaller scale since I am planning on having 11’ shelves covering a 9’ wall from the floor to ceiling as well as it doesn’t have vertical dividers…but hopefully it at least gives you a better idea of what I’m trying to do in securing the shelves using pocket screws into the studs on both the side and back walls. Do you believe the bookcase shelves (being made of 1×12’s and 11’ long) will be sturdy enough to hold up? Attached photos of the wall I’m planning to do this project on as well as a drawing (pardon the drawing quality, not an artist in the least bit.) Would love to hear any comments or suggestions. & yes I like that idea Shane for the face frames, would be a much cheaper option.

The x’s in the picture mark the stud locations. I drew two shelves just for visual purposes but would have them continuing up the wall.

View sras's profile


4943 posts in 3330 days

#3 posted 02-07-2015 05:45 PM

The blocks in between each shelf will be a big factor in how stiff the shelves feel – and if they stay up.

How much weight is going to be on the shelves? If it is full of books, you would want supports every 3 feet or so if a 1×12 is your shelf. If it it to display art pieces, maybe not so much. I would check by setting a board up with supports spaced apart, piling some weight on, and see how it looks/feels.

Also, you should use pocket screws with some extra length. Sheetrock is 1/2 or 5/8” thick and will do nothing to provide support. So your screws have to reach through the sheetrock and then grip the studs. Make sure you are centered on the stud! A screw blowing out the side of the stud will lose a lot of holding strength…

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View mcg1990's profile


159 posts in 1493 days

#4 posted 02-07-2015 05:50 PM

I’m not sure I’d want to use 1×12 for this. Maybe it’s just my area, but 1×12 is expensive and is often twisted and warped out of convenient usability. MDF would be perfect for a good paint surface if it weren’t for being terrible with fasteners. Have you considered using a good hardwood ply and edge banding? You’ll get four 8ft lengths out of one panel. Going by Lowe’s pricing that’s $12.50 per 12” x 8’ ‘strip’, as opposed to $18.80 per 1” x 12” x 8’.

In terms of strength you should be fine. If it goes all the way down to the floor there will be a good distribution of weight between all the verticals. A little thought for aesthetics, on your horizontals put your pocket holes on the underside of the boards for the lower half of the unit, and on the topside of the board for the top half of the shelf. That way if your plugs are seldom if ever seen by the eye if they expand or bulge out like mine always seem to.

I would find my studs and mark them with a chalk/pencil line, and then start at the floor working my way up. Have all your lengths pre-drilled for your pocket holes and start by fastening in your verticals. Then lay your horizontal on top, check for square and fasten. Repeat.

If you’re wanting a gap under the unit like in your first photo, I wouldn’t do it without at least a couple of spacers/feet underneath if all you’ve got are pocket screws holding it up. If you had real thick material (some kind of prefinished engineered board) you’d be able to run steel dowels from your studs into the back of the shelving which would be all the strength you need. I don’t know if this is how it’s usually done, but it’s what makes sense to me and is how people make ‘floating’ shelves.

View bobro's profile


320 posts in 1511 days

#5 posted 02-07-2015 07:46 PM

Are your studs on the side walls really that close together?

Even if you did have studs there on the sides, screwing into them through the ends of the boards would not be a good idea with solid wood. A painted pine board isn’t going to move much, but it will nevertheless move, changing in width throughout the year. Say just a 1/16” throw, but that is still rocking the screws back and forth in the drywall or what have you and in the stud. With hydraulic power.

Because you probably don’t have studs that close, you’re looking at floating shelves, with good plywood being your most practical choice. The vertical elements if secure will give you added strength here, and the fact that the whole unit is trapped between the walls will help with the otherwise absent overall diagonal rigidity, but in my opinion you should regard the unit as “floating, happily reinforced by the verticals”, and get the appropriate floating shelf hardware. The kind that is a strip running along behind the shelf, screwed into each stud and with rods protruding deep into the shelf.

An opinion.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19435 posts in 2057 days

#6 posted 02-07-2015 07:58 PM

I would think that at least on one side if not both, there won’t be any studs in the first 12” from the corner. At best you will get one and I guess you could squeeze two pocket screws into it. You may need to consider having sides.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3432 days

#7 posted 02-07-2015 09:41 PM

I see a problem here. 11 feet wide would require the shelves to be in two pieces if you used plywood. So it looks like you are stuck using with pine or poplar in 12 foot lengths.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3432 days

#8 posted 02-07-2015 09:54 PM

A few more thoughts.
- If some of your shelves are fairly shallow, driving pocket screws into the vertical supports may prove difficult, if not impossible.

- Have you considered cross cutting dadoes for the vertical supports to fit into? An exact width dado jig would come n very handy. It would require some accurate measurements and planning but it could be done.

- I downloaded the picture that provided your inspiration. The shelves and supports appear to be thick – 1 1/2 inches thick.

- A good solid base that is level and plumb to the wall is important.

I am out of ideas. :-(

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View oltexasboy1's profile


250 posts in 1905 days

#9 posted 02-07-2015 10:20 PM

I agree with the sides part, that is only way I can see having enough substance on the sides to attach your shelves. I made some, like what you have pictured, but were only 5 ft wide. Mine were slightly deeper so I attached cleats to the side walls for the shelves to set on. The pocket screws will probably hold but you absolutely need them attached to the studs in 2 places or you will need a side wall. Good luck.

I would think that at least on one side if not both, there won t be any studs in the first 12” from the corner. At best you will get one and I guess you could squeeze two pocket screws into it. You may need to consider having sides.

- firefighterontheside

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

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