How to Build Shelves with Less than $75

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Deciding to build shelves can be more economical that buying a unit. Not only will you be saving money, but you can also customize your design to suit your space. Our hypothetical unit will be 6′ tall with 4 shelves. If you have tools, then this can be accomplished for less than $75.

1. Wood $35 (optional service $15)

If you put some thought into it, you can cut all of the pieces you need from a single 4′ by 8′ sheet of wood. Remember that your shelves will be holding a good deal of weight, so you will want something solid to build with. A good quality sheet should cost around $35.

For our hypothetical unit, you will need:

  • 2 4′ by 1′ pieces for the 2 middle shelves
  • 2 6′ by 1′ pieces for the 2 sides, and
  • 2 4’1″ x 1′ pieces for the top and bottom shelves.

You will be left with a scrap that is 2′ by 1’11”. You can use this to cut some support pieces for the connections between the sides and the top 3 shelves. So cut 6 1′ by 2″ pieces from the remainder of your wood. If you do not have a saw, most hardware stores are willing to cut the wood for a price.  $15 worth of service is estimated for this project.

2. Hardware $6

You will need some wood screws to put all the pieces together. A 1 lb box will be plenty and should ring up at around $6. Be sure to measure the thickness of your wood and multiply it by 1.5 in order to get the right length of screw. If you go too short then the unit will fall apart, if you go too long then you will have points sticking out at all your joints. When you are assembling the unit, it is a good idea to drill holes before screwing in the screws. This reduces your chances of cracking the wood.

3. Finishing $18

Everything to follow is optional. But if you are at all concerned with keeping up appearances then stay tuned. Seeing the screws all over your unit may be troubling you. Purchase some wood putty for $3 and use a putty knife (another $3) to smear it over the screws and get a nice even surface. When it is dry, use some sandpaper ($1) to eliminate the excess. Now you can either paint or stain the shelves. A quart should be enough to cover you in either case and can be found for less than $10. Get yourself a paint brush, which can be as cheap as $1 if you do not intend to save it afterwards. Everything else is merely labor, which is free.

Though taking on a project like this requires some extra energy, it will do less damage to your personal funds than buying a pre-made shelving unit. Now you will have custom designed furniture and a sense of accomplishment


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