Built-In Shelves (Part 2 of 2)

March 11, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, Dining Room, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

A DIY fix! I’m so pleased with how this worked out, I’m actually giddy to show you the before and after’s. Remember when I shared the play-by-play at building your own built-in shelves but then concluded that the shelves had gotten saggy under the weight of all my books? It’s all better now!

Before we began repairs to the built-ins, they looked like this:

Dining room shelves, before. Notice they're starting to bow?

Notice, especially the shelves at eye level, bow slightly in the center. It’s not at code-red-critical state yet, but we knew this was only going to continue to get worse, so we came up with a few plans. Maybe it’s easier to see the bow with less on the shelves?

Emptier, bowing shelves.

Our brainstorm included ideas that might have been unattractive design-wise but functional, and some involved brackets which would have made it feel very hacked together, but the final and winning solution called for a very symmetrical application of 1×3 boards at the front and rear, supporting each shelf from beneath.

The benefit of using 1×3 boards is that this is the same trim that I had applied around the perimeter of the shelves when they were first constructed, so the addition of these extra boards didn’t stand out as an “I-messed-up-the-first-time” hack.

Before buying lumber, we measured the necessary length for each board (generously by an inch or two, to allow for mis-cuts) and determined that we could get 3 lengths of wood out of a single 10′ board, which was also as long as we could go without hanging a board out the back of the Jeep in a snowstorm (yes, another snowstorm). So, I needed a total of 3 boards, and that wasn’t as much as I was expecting to have to buy! Cheers for planning out a project meticulously. I splurged on a mid-grade pine that had fewer knots and overall straighter boards, and they were still <$5 each, keeping the project costs around $16 with taxes.

When I got home from the store, it really only took an hour to measure, cut, and install the supports; I carefully (so carefully) measured for each individual board separately, knowing that there was a slight 1/4″ difference between the width at the shelving at the top from on the bottom. And I should mention that Pete cut each piece perfectly – no mis-cuts, even the anal-meticulous boards that were requested to be 37-5/16″ in length.

This was another fun reason to pull out the pancake compressor. You probably know by now that we really like the nail gun. I could nail gun all day long. The boards went up easily. We started by installing the reinforcing boards on the front of the shelving because it was easier to force the underside of each shelf to be level.

Nail gun time. This makes projects SO much easier.

The boards went up easily. My original measurements were so precise that the boards were actually a nice, snug fit into their respective spaces, which made it easier to install the support, since it wasn’t slipping around and didn’t need to be caulked to fill large¬†crevasses. The front boards alone really helped to fix the bow in the shelving, but for visual consistency and added support (because now I’m an overachiever at reinforcing my projects), we added another board at the back wall beneath every shelf. Once we found the studs, which is what Pete’s doing in this next photo, the boards were pre-drilled and screwed directly into the wall so that the back of the shelves couldn’t bow downwards.

Finding the studs for the back supporting boards.

A little wood putty and sanding corrected the nail dimples and made a smooth surface for priming and painting.

Sanding down the dried wood putty, and wiping off the dust to prepare for painting.

After careful taping, the priming and painting took this built-in shelf to a whole new level.

Updated shelves, primed and painted. The tape is still on in this shot.

And so the next day, the tape came off and I began sorting my belongings back into place!

Loading some belongings back in. Testing out the strength with lots of books.

I’m in love with the added bulkiness the shelves have now – I wish I had done this sooner!

  • Cait @ Hernando House
    7 years ago - Reply

    I love it!

    • Emily
      7 years ago -

      Thank you :)

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