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Family Room Built-In - Building and Installing The Shelves

Hi there!

Things here in the family room are moving fast. I'm so happy to see this entire wall of shelves taking shape!

I didn't want to hold the building and installing of the shelves for too long, I tried to upload pics quickly and set a time to work on this post. There are so many things happening at this time of the year! 

This past Monday I was decorating our thanksgiving tables, then on Tuesday, I had to take my son to a doctor's appointment. We got a big snowstorm on Thursday and hey, I still need to go find some room decor! I'm sure's the same way for you too.

Anyhow, let me tell you how this building went along.

My last post ended with that first picture when the base cabinets and countertop were done. Yep. It was ready for the shelves.

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I bought the material, ¾" plywood sheets at Home Depot. And I asked them cut them -lengthwise- at 12". From each 4' x 8' sheet I got four lengths. Three of those lengths are 12" wide, and the last one ends up being narrower, about 11¾" because of the amount of product the blade eats with each cut or kerf.

I used that narrower piece for building the columns or boxes that go in between shelves.


Anyhow, having all that material already cut, made things easy because I only needed to cut across each 12" board. My miter saw was my go-to tool for all those cuts.

Once all the material was cut, it was time to set the shelf placement. I always like to draw the lines where the shelves would sit on both sides of the side panels. It's a good visual guide when assembling the shelves.

The other thing I also like to do is pre-drills right in the center of each set of lines. It's easier for me to drive the screws later on.

I set my assembling line right there in the family room. It's already cold in my garage.
After applying wood glue, I set the shelves in place with a 90° angle and corner clamp, I like that it holds the shelf in place and of course at the right angle, while I check that the lower section is inside the lines I drew.

One by one, the carcasses were built.

Here you see the four of them. The ones on both ends are missing a shelf because my plan is for that shelf to be adjustable or on pins.


The next step was to build the columns or boxes that go in between the shelves. Same length and only 4½" wide. The two columns flanking the center opening are the same depth as the shelves while the other boxes were only 6" deep.
They were all put together with wood glue and 1½" brad nails.

Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Lithium-Ion Cordless AirStrike 18-Gauge Brad Nailer with (1) 1.5 Ah Battery and (1) 18-Volt Charger


I like to use ½" plywood on the back of my shelves. I can drive the screws to attach them to the wall wherever I want. Also, I don't get to see a single stripe of wood across the front which is what needs to be installed when using ¼" material.

  • Each case was placed on the floor, face down and the ½" backer was placed on top, aligning it all around the case.
  • Then, I marked the shelf placement. It's easy by simply following the lines drawn on the sides of the case.
  • Trace a line for each shelf. That line's going to be the drilling line to secure the back to those shelves.
  • And of course, also drive 1" wooden screws all along the sides and top of the case. Even here, I make pre-drills.


These are the only pics I could find of the work done up to this point. It looks like a corner.


A long but small shelf is the only piece that goes in the top center of this wall.


After assembling all the pieces... Cases, columns, and center shelf, it's time to put everything together and attach it to the wall.

I asked my husband to help me with this step. I knew I couldn't handle that center shelf all on my own. But, we spent like two hours installing those 2 x 4's to mount that center shelf onto them!
I know crazy!!  He began measuring and re-measuring and looking for the "perfect" screws, which obviously he couldn't find. I guess he was scared, he doesn't like this type of work.

Luckily, my BIL, the guy you see in the picture below, had to come to our house for a totally unrelated situation, and guess what? Yep. He was the one who saved the day! :D
That center shelf was first attached to the columns on each side and then to those 2 x 4 supports. 
Now, those 2 x 4 supports bump-out that centerpiece, following the same configuration on the base cabinets where the center and both end shelves stuck out.

Then, we worked from the center out... Clamping the column to the next shelf, making sure everything was level, which was very easy thanks to this Bosch self-leveling cross-line laser. I clamped it there on the ladder and the only thing I had to do was to move it to one side or the other, up and down, so we could follow the lines and install everything where it was supposed to be.
Three - 1½" screws were driven from each side of the shelf and onto the column and vice-versa. Top, mid and lower points.
My Ryobi brushless cordless drill/driver was the tool for this job, lots of power!

Two 2½" screws were driven at the lower part of the top shelf to attach the bookcase to the wall, making sure they were driven onto the studs on the wall.

Both bookcases on each extreme were also bumped-out with 2 x 4's on the backs. And both end columns were attached to the wall from the top.

Here they are, almost done!!

Up next is finishing those rough edges, adding trim, and closing that top part.

Here are the links to all the work done for this built-in project:

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  1. This is looking soooo awesome! I built the built-ins in my living room while my house was under construction so it made it a lot easier to make the mess INSIDE! One suggestion that I know is too late at this and sand all the pieces outside before assembly...then all you have to do is caulk and putty and paint inside after assembly...eliminates the need to do a lot of heavy sanding inside. You would still have to do a tiny bit of sanding but not nearly as much. I have no doubt you have your reason for not doing that! Can't wait to see the finished are rocking it!

  2. Wow you are cruising! I'm amazed how much you are getting done in such a short time. All I have on my plate right now home improvementwise is finishing odds and ends from a few projects and I can't even get that little bit done! And it all looks so beautiful. I wish I could keep my work areas as neat as you do too! Lol

  3. You are so amazing! These are spectacular and the fact that you did it all yourself is inspiring!

  4. This is going to be amazing. You are so talented.

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