If you’re like us, you’ve probably gone ahead and purchased inexpensive furniture (shelves, bedside tables, TV stands) from Sauder to save a buck or two. If you’re like us, you’ve probably experienced your share of Sauder breakdowns too.
It’s not the highest quality and some would argue not even worthy of saving. This shelf almost went straight into the trash when we moved it from Pete’s apartment, because after being used for two years to store lots of (really heavy) books, it had become a little wonky. OK, a lot wonky.
Pete said he tried to lift it up once and ripped off the top. Busted fiberboard is basically equivalent to death in the Sauder world. Frankly, I’m surprised he was able to continue to use it even in this state for as long as he did.
Call me crazy, but since I thought it would be complementary to the IKEA EXPEDIT shelf that’s already in my living room, I decided I wanted to try and make it work (with as little financial investment as possible, because let’s face it, you don’t usually put money into fixing this type of furniture). Pete suggested reinforcing the structure similarly to how we upgraded the built in shelving with added, unobtrusive support to prevent bowing. The boards I found to use were free… salvaged from a past project. Remember when Pete tore apart the basement bathroom and used the lumber to make a workbench and gardening table? (Read about it here and here and, oh, here too).
Really, he probably suggested adding supporting pieces to the back of the shelf so he could bring out his nail gun again. Even though the pancake compressor freaks out the dog, it’s amazing to have. If you haven’t caught on by now, we really like this tool and want you to have one too (these are unsponsored good words in support all nail gun brands).
First things first, I wanted to put a little glue in the exposed wounds. We considered Gorilla Glue, but couldn’t find it in the mess of the move; we also considered that the expansion of the Gorilla Glue might even warp the shelf a little more (or would have to be clamped more securely than we could have managed with the tools we had on hand) so in the end we resolved to test out plain old Elmer’s wood glue.
After the glue was spread liberally on the exposed fiberboard, we stuck the original top back into place. A few wooden pegs were left on the middle-most post to help secure it from slipping around, but I still brought in lots of books to add weight to the surface and create a strong bond between the boards and the glue (just like what I did when I was fixing the IKEA RIBBA drawers).
Once the salvaged boards were cut to length, we squared off the structure and nail-gunned the top most panel to the back of the shelf. The board overlapped all legs and the back of the shelf top as well so we could make sure we were nailing into as many pieces as possible.
Hey, here I am looking very serious while I nail gun. I was enjoying myself, I swear.
Oh, well I was enjoying myself until I screwed up, nail gunning a little too close to the top edge (and at an angle), which made the nail blast through the top panel of the shelf.
We couldn’t even get it back out the same way it came in, so Pete came to the rescue with the cutting wheel on the Dremel and corrected that little snafu. Thanks dude.
Just like the top, we secured the bottom with a reinforcing beam to add to the keep-it-square plan. If you really wanted to go all-out, you might want to consider adding boards the entire length of the shelf, top to bottom. Seriously, how sturdy would THAT be?
Oh yeah – one other thing I did while the glue was drying? Took some stain to the edges of those new support boards. I had some dark brown stain on hand (an “oops paint” find from Home Depot, priced at $1) which wasn’t exactly the same color but was close enough to get the job done, particularly along the edge of the top board where the non-stained edge would have stood out loudly if left untreated. Yes, sometimes the DIY response is “close enough”. See the before/after comparison in this photo:
I let the glue dry overnight before removing the DIY weights, although it probably would have been fine with just a few hours – the new supporting boards on the back added loads of reinforcement to the previously wobbly shelf.
And that’s how you can fix a broken shelf. It’s basically been brought it back to life.
I bet there’s a biblical Easter story in there for you if you look really hard.