How Do I Build a Paperback Bookcase?


Homeowners often have favorite paperback books they enjoy rereading and discussing. They also take pleasure in decorating their homes with the books. Whether built-in or freestanding, paperback bookcases can house these treasured books safely and securely. Their shallower shelves display the books more effectively than deeper bookcases, and their smaller footprints take up less room in homes. Homeowners with basic carpentry skills can easily build paperback bookcases for their books.


Homeowners should decide the amount of room they wish to dedicate to storing books and then design the paperback bookcases to meet their needs. They can determine the height and width of their bookcases based on this decision. For paperbacks, they should choose shelves either 4 or 6 inches deep. The 4-inch shelves have the smallest footprint and will take up the least amount of room. However, the 6-inch shelves will hold a variety of different-sized books, including the larger "trade" paperbacks. Also, homeowners should plan to should secure tall paperback bookcases to the wall for security, just as they would for deeper bookcases.


Homeowners with limited budgets may opt for bookcase sides and shelves made of inexpensive pine. Those with larger funds may choose oak, cedar, cherry, mahogany or some other wood matching their home décor. For the bookcase backs, homeowners must select either plywood or sheets of wood matching the sides and shelves. If they plan to paint or stain the bookcases, they also will disguise the plywood with the finish. If they plan to merely apply a polyurethane finish to fancier wood, they will need to match the back with the shelves.


Homeowners must decide whether their bookcase shelves will be fixed or adjustable. If they purchase only one size of paperback books, fixed shelves will be appropriate. They should measure the height of the books plus about 1 inch and install each shelf that distance above the one below. This spacing will allow homeowners to easily remove and re-shelve their books. However, if they buy books in a variety of sizes, adjustable shelves will be more useful. Homeowners will need to purchase additional hardware to install adjustable shelves if they select that option.


Homeowners should collect all the tools required to build the bookcase in one location. These tools include a measuring tape, table or hand saw, electric drill with drill bits, sandpaper or electric sander, finishing nails and screws. Homeowners wanting fancy edges or scrollwork on the bookcase should add a router and jigsaw or scroll saw to the collection. They must remember to use caution when handling the tools and keep children and pets away from the working area.


After collecting all the needed tools, homeowners should measure their lumber, cut the pieces of the bookcase to the pre-determined size, attach the sides and top to the back piece and set the bottom shelf into place about 3 inches from the bookcase's lower edge. They should also make a skirting board the width of the bookcase and as high as the measurement from the floor to the bottom of the bottom shelf. When attached under the bottom shelf and between the bookcase sides, this board will increase the stability of the bookcase. As desired, homeowners should install the fixed shelves or the hardware for adjustable shelves.


Homeowners will complete their bookcases by applying their desired finish, whether paint, stain or polyurethane. They may select a finish that blends in or contrasts with their room décor. Whichever finish they select, they should always protect against the finish's toxic chemicals by working in a well-ventilated area and disposing of all materials safely.

Keywords: paperback bookcases, building bookcases, planning bookcases

About this Author

Based in Brazos County, Texas, Jennifer Wiginton has been writing and editing since 1989. She has published two cookbooks and articles in “The Joyful Woman” and “The Common Bond.” Wiginton has two degrees and a Certificate in Homeland Security from Texas A&M University.

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