How to Make Your Own Built In Shelves

Discover hidden storage space in your walls with these two built-in shelf projects.

Time

Multiple Days

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

Varies

Introduction

Unlock hidden storage space anywhere in your house with this project for recessed, built-in shelves. Install a single, open box of shelves, or two boxes and add a set of glass doors.

Tools Required

  • Clamps
  • Combination square
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Drywall saw
  • Forstner drill bits
  • Framing square
  • Glue
  • Hearing protection
  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Pocket hole jig
  • Router
  • Safety glasses
  • Sawhorses
  • Screw gun
  • Stud finder
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure

Materials Required

  • 1/16-in.-thick washers
  • Silicone caulk

In almost every room of your house, you can find tons of storage space hidden between the two sheets of drywall. Simple recessed, stud-space cabinets like the two we show here are great for capturing some of this wasted space, and they’re some of our favorite built-in shelving ideas. We’ll show you a couple of different ways to build them.

Two boxes of built-in shelves joined together and covered by glass doors.

The first version on the left is a basic built-in shelf project built using common carpentry tools and a drill. We used a pocket hole jig, but this is optional. You can get excellent results by simply nailing the parts together. Even if you’ve never built a cabinet, you’ll be able to finish the basic shelf project in a weekend.

The second project, a glass door cabinet, is a bit more challenging and requires a few more tools. You’ll need a table saw and a miter saw to make the precise cuts required. You’ll also need a pocket hole kit to assemble the doors and a router with a 3/8-in. rabbeting bit to cut the recess for the glass. If you use concealed hinges like we did, you’ll need a 35-mm Forstner bit to drill the hinge recess holes. The video below will help with rabbeting.

Video: How to Cut a Rabbet Joint with a Table Saw

Project step-by-step (22)

Step 1

Open Box of Shelves With a Face Frame

This basic version of built-in shelves (perfect for recessed bathroom shelves) is easy to build and install. It will hold all of your bathroom or kitchen necessities and can be fitted to suit your needs.

Step 2

Cut an Inspection Hole

  • When you find a spot you like for the shelves, use a stud finder to make sure the studs are at least 14-1/2 inches apart.
  • Before you cut the big hole, cut a small inspection hole.
  • Use a compact mirror and flashlight to peek inside the wall.
  • Look for pipes, wires or other obstructions.
    • Note: If there are obstructions, at least you’ll only have a small patch to make. Learn how to patch drywall holes here.