Short walls on either side of doorways can prove to be tricky spots in which to fit storage. Flat-packed shelves are a great budget option, but modular sizes might not fill a small wall, leaving precious space lost. Nothing can beat the storage muscle of custom-built units, but what about the price? Well, by using your DIY skills, you can build them for a fraction of the cost.
Before you start
Sometimes, houses are not as level or plumb as you might think, so it helps to know what you’re dealing with before you break out the tools. Follow these simple steps and plan a project that will fit your home like a glove:
1. Make a mark 30mm above the top corner of the architrave. Draw a level line from this mark along the walls where the bookcase will be. Measure down to the skirting at various points. The shortest of these measurements is the overall height of your bookcase if you use a plinth the same height as the skirting.
2. Measure from the side wall to the back of architrave at the top, middle and bottom of the wall. Take the largest of these numbers and deduct 18mm (for the filler strip) to get your overall width. If the difference is over 18mm, you will need to allow for a wider filler.
3. Place a level on top of skirting so it’s sticking out over floor where plinth will sit. Measure to floor at various points. The largest measurement is the thickness of your plinth material. You will have to scribe plinth for uneven floors.
Gather your supplies
• Side panels (4) 2005 x 295 x 30 laminated clear pine
• Shelves (12) 1000 x 295 x 30 laminated clear pine
• Back panels (2) 2005 x 1060 x 9mm MDF
• Door panels (4) 632 x 495 x 9mm MDF
• Side door trim (8) 632 x 66 x 11mm primed pine
• Top and bottom door trims (8) 363 x 66 x 11mm primed pine
• Plinth faces (2) 1030 x 90 x 18mm primed pine
• Plinth sides (2) 256 x 90 x 18mm primed pine
• Plinth rears (2) 976 x 90 x 18mm primed pine
• Plinth sides (unseen) (2) 238 x 90 x 18mm primed pine
• Filler strip (2) 2005 x 20 x 18mm primed pine
• Connecting shelf 1760 x 295 x 30mm laminated clear pine
• Adjustable shelves (2) 995 x 270 x 30mm laminated clear pine, painted with undercoat and topcoat (optional)
You’ll also need
Power saw; straightedge; cordless drill; countersink bit; 75mm wood screws; Dulux 1 Step Acrylic Primer, Sealer & Undercoat; Dulux Super Enamel in Vivid White; PVA glue; 25mm nails; nail gun; 35mm Forstner bit; inset cabinet hinges (4 pairs); 25 x 25 x 20mm angled brackets (2); sandpaper; hand plane; wood filler; door catches (for cabinets)
1. All measurements given are based on a bookcase width of 1060mm.
2. All joints are glued and screwed unless otherwise indicated. All screws are countersunk.
3. Plinth should be at least same height as skirting.
4. An oil-based enamel topcoat will be hard-wearing and easy to keep clean.
Step 1 Cut side panels and shelves to width out of laminated clear pine panels. To do this, clamp straightedge to panels as a guide for the base plate of your saw, making sure the blade is on your cutting line.
Step 2 Using hand plane, slightly chamfer front edges. Hold plane at a slight angle to the direction you are planing to slice through the timber more easily.
Step 3 Cut side panels and shelves to length and sand all edges smooth. Apply 1 coat of undercoat and allow to dry. Cut back panels to size and apply 1 coat of undercoat to 1 side. Allow to dry.
Step 4 Mark out side panels for shelves. To allow for doors, the distance from the bottom of side panel to the underside of first shelf should be 668mm. This allows a 3mm gap at top and bottom of doors. Space remaining shelves 297mm apart with top shelf slightly shallower. Make sure all panels are marked with same measurements. Mark top and bottom of each shelf.
Step 5 Using a 5mm bit, drill 3 clearance holes through side panels where the centre of the shelves will be. Place a block of timber under the panel where you are drilling to prevent the timber from breaking out.
Step 6 Put bottom shelf in position against side panel so their face edges are flush. Drill a 3mm pilot hole into shelf and screw together. Repeat for all shelves, checking each 1 so face edges are flush. If not, place a block of wood on the join and tap slightly to make flush.
Step 7 Turn bookcases over and, using hand plane, make the joins between the back of side panels and shelves flush.
Step 8 Spread PVA glue over back edges of shelves and side panels and place back panels on top, painted-side down. Line up the long factory-finished edge of sheets with edge of side panels and nail every 200mm. Then line up the short side to make bookcases square and nail. Then nail to other side panel. Mark middle of shelves across back panels and nail along these lines into shelves.
Step 9 To support connecting shelf, cut a small rebate in top of bookcases on facing sides to take angled brackets. To do this, mark a 25 x 20 x 3mm-deep rebate, 40mm in from the front. Cut out using a sharp chisel.
Step 10 Measure the height and width of the opening for doors at bottom of 1 bookcase. Deduct 10mm from the width and divide by 2 for the width, and deduct 6mm from the height to get the size of each door panel. This will create a gap of 3mm around the doors and roughly 3mm between them. Cut door panels and door trims to size, then glue and nail door trims to door panels.
Step 11 Using the template supplied with inset cabinet hinges, mark out their positions on backs of doors. Using 35mm Forstner bit, make holes for hinges. Place hinges into holes, make square with side of door and screw into position.
Step 12 Cut plinth faces and visible side pieces to length with a 45° mitre on 1 end of each. Cut plinth rear and plinth side (unseen) pieces to length. Glue and nail together. Using wood filler, fill all nail and screw holes in bookcases, plinths and doors. Remove hinges from doors. When filler is dry, sand smooth and undercoat pieces not yet undercoated. Allow to dry. Apply 2 coats of Dulux Vivid White to all components, allowing to dry between coats.
Step 13 Place 1 completed plinth on floor and make level by packing off floor, if required. To scribe plinth to an uneven floor, find the largest gap between plinth and floor. Make a block the same thickness as this gap. Place block on floor against face of plinth and put a sharp pencil where they meet. Run block and pencil along plinth, marking face. Remove plinth and cut or plane off area below line. This will ensure plinth sits level on an uneven floor. Screw through plinth into skirting or wall to secure. Repeat for remaining completed plinth.
Step 14 Place 1 bookcase on 1 plinth so it is hard up against architrave. Measure the distance to the side wall at top, middle and bottom of bookcase. Transfer these measurements to middle and ends of filler strip and join the marks. Plane filler strip along the line. Remove bookcase from plinth and fix filler strip to its side so it is set back 20mm from the face. Repeat for remaining bookcase.
Step 15 Place bookcases back on plinths, pushing them back against the wall and hard up against the architrave. Screw through back of bookcases into wall frame to secure.
Step 16 Again using the template supplied with inset cabinet hinges, mark out position of hinge base plates on inside of cabinet. Make sure they match up with hinge positions on doors, then predrill and screw them on. Click hinges into base plates. Use the screws set into the body of hinges to adjust doors so the gap around them is even. Attach door catches
Step 17 Cut connecting shelf to length and apply 1 coat of undercoat. Allow to dry. Create a 25 x 20 x 3mm-deep rebates in sides of connecting shelf to match rebates made earlier in tops of bookcases. Screw angled brackets in connecting shelf rebates so they protrude out from top of shelf. Apply 2 coats of your final paint colour, allowing to dry between coats. Lift connecting shelf so it sits on top of architrave and brackets sit in rebates on top of bookcases. Screw through brackets into bookcases and down through top of shelf into architrave.
Step 18 To install optional adjustable shelves inside cabinets, create an adjustable shelf hole template by drilling 5mm holes in a 500mm length of 70 x 19mm timber 250, 300 and 350mm from 1 end. Place end of the template you measured from on base of cabinet, 60mm in from front. Drill through template to make holes 8mm deep. Repeat for other side, then back of sides, placing template 60mm in from the rear. Install adjustable shelf in desired position.