How To Build Inset Bookcases


Inset bookcases are attractive and charming home additions that homeowners can add during construction or at any time they feel like adding them. An inset bookcase is functional as well as attractive, freeing up more floor space than what a traditional freestanding bookcase or shelf will allow. This home improvement project is one of the easier projects that typically takes no more than a week to complete.

Step 1

Examine the home's blueprints to decide on a location for the inset bookcase. Look for a spot in the home where the wall studs are farther apart, for a wider-inset bookcase. Additionally look for a location where no pipes or wires run though the middle of the wall, at the height you would intend to place the bookcase. After deciding on a location, use the stud finder to mark where wall studs are located.

Step 2

Cut out a hole for the inset bookcase. Wear goggles and a disposable nose and mouth mask to prevent drywall dust from getting into your eyes and airways and causing irritation, itching and coughing. Cut only deep enough to cut out the drywall or paneling of the wall. Do not cut out and remove any wall studs unless you intend to place a header board; this will cost you more time and effort when you can simply build a skinny inset bookcase between wall studs.

Step 3

Measure the width and height of the open space and cut a piece of the panel board to fit the dimensions. Attach the panel board to the back of the opening with finishing nails around the edges only.

Step 4

Measure the depth of the opening and cut down the width of all 12-inch boards to make boards whose width match the depth of the opening for the inset bookcase. Most walls in a home are between 4 and 8 inches thick, so you will probably need no more than 8-inch-wide boards for the top, bottom, sides and shelves of the inset bookcase. Instead of cutting the boards to the necessary width, you can simply purchase the boards precut.

Step 5

Cut two of the boards into a length that matches the height of the inset bookcase. Install these pieces along the sides of the opening by driving finishing nails through these pieces and into the wall studs. Cut two more boards measuring the width of the bookcase and install these two pieces as the top and bottom of the inset bookcase.

Step 6

Cut more pieces, measuring 1 ½ inch shorter than the width of the inset bookcase opening. Cut as many pieces as you want or need; these pieces are the shelves of the bookcase. Set the pieces into place horizontally inside the bookcase opening; the pieces should fit snug on their own. Drive finishing nails in at angles along the very ends and the back of the shelf pieces.

Step 7

Paint or stain all surfaces of the bookcase, including the back paneling. Paint the interior trim pieces that will go around the outside of the shelf at this time as well. Allow the bookcase and trim to dry overnight.

Step 8

Attach the trim pieces to the wall around the edge of the inset bookcase. The trim will hide the seam between the wall and the bookcase. Drive the finishing nails into the trim, leaving a tiny bit sticking out to be set into the surface of the trim with the nail set.

Things You'll Need

  • Blueprints
  • Stud finder
  • Power saw
  • Safety goggles
  • Disposable mouth and nose mask
  • Sheet of panel board
  • Finishing nails, 1 ¾ inch
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • 12-inch-wide by ¾-inch-thick boards
  • Paint or wood stain
  • Paintbrushes
  • Interior trim


  • Ron Hazelton's Housecalls
  • Black and Decker Powerful Solutions

Who Can Help

  • Popular Mechanics: How to Build a Bookcase
Keywords: inset bookcase, traditional freestanding bookcase, build inset bookcases

About this Author

Stephanie Daniels is a freelance writer residing in Louisa, Kentucky. Daniels focuses on parenting, children, gardening and home decor articles. She was the manager of Home Decor for Home Depot for 4 years. Daniels has written for many online publications and enjoys ghostwriting.

Article provided by eHow Home & Garden | How To Build Inset Bookcases