Helping you plan your home improvement project, from start to finish

By on Aug 10, 2016
How To Build A Bookcase

Before you dive into actually building your bookcase, your first step should be to nail down your design inspiration. Remember that the structure itself doesn’t have to be complicated. The plan just needs to be well-thought-out and the design properly constructed.

In addition to seeking out what style of a bookshelf you want to create, you should also consider its size and location. The instructions below will give you a better idea of what you need to build a bookcase and how to go about completing this DIY project successfully.  

Build A Bookcase

Overview & Materials

The purpose of your bookcase is important in determining the design of your project. In most cases, homeowners are looking to store books and materials, fill an empty space or add dimension and character to a room.

In this article, I’m going to outline plans for creating a pine bookshelf with open sides, inspired by the Pottery Barn Hendrix Bookcase. I want to make it clear that this is one of many bookcase design options. I’ll be showing you images of additional ideas throughout the article so you get a better feel for what other styles homeowners are building.

DIY Pottery Barn Bookcase

The bookcase above is one of many different configurations you can choose to build for your home. This particular example is made of pine and doesn’t have any side walls. It’s a basic structure with four shelves and a backing. It stands just under 6' tall and is decorated beautifully. Below I outline general DIY steps for getting started on your personalized Pottery Barn inspired bookcase.

Instructions For Building A Bookcase

General Instructions

Step 1: Determine Dimensions

The first order of business is to determine how wide and tall you’d like your bookcase structure to stand. Consider if you’re trying to fill a vertical or horizontal space, and how much time and effort you’d like to put into the building and finishing process. Documenting your measurements and purchasing the right saw for the job is key to your success. There are plenty of online resources to help you blueprint your plans and determine the right dimensions and tools you’ll need for your specific project.

Step 2: Construct Face Frames & Drill Pocket Holes

A standalone bookcase contains two face frames (front and back) that come together to form the edges of the structure. Make all of your cuts according to your documented measurement guide on a clean and level surface.

Next, drill your pocket holes using a pocket-hole jig. A pocket hole is simply a hole drilled at an angle that forms a "pocket" for the screw to sit into. The purpose of pocket holes is to connect your individual pieces together.

To achieve the Pottery Barn Hendrix Bookcase look, drill two pocket holes on each side of the tops of the legs and one on each end of the shelf trim boards. You’ll also want to drill pocket holes around all sides of all of the shelves–it’s recommended you drill two per end, and four per front and back side of each shelf.

DIY Bookcase

Step 3: Attach Shelves

As I mentioned above, the purpose of your pocket holes is to connect your pieces (shelves to the frame). You’ll want to align the wood boards that are to be joined and drive a pocket screw at an angle into the pocket hole. This will securely attach your pieces together.

When you mount your shelves, leave about a 1" gap at end of each shelf. This extra space will be used for the end trim pieces. It’s recommended you attach all of the shelves on your front frame before adding and securing the back frame.

Step 4: Measure & Cut End Trim Pieces

It’s now time to measure and cut each of your end trim pieces. As learned in the previous step, your end trim pieces are for filling the gap you left on the edge of each shelf. After cutting your pieces, use your pocket hole screws to attach them through the pocket holes you drilled on the underside of the shelves. Your trim piece should now be attached to the structure. Repeat as necessary.

Step 5: Glue & Nail Back On

The final step will be attaching the back piece of wood to your frame. One recommended material that you can use for the back of the structure is PureBond Plywood. You’ll find it right at The Home Depot and the staff will even cut the piece down to the right size for you.

Once you have your back piece, use finish nails and glue to attach it to the rear of the frame. All of the pieces for your bookcase should now be connected and the configuration should be sturdy.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

You’ve come this far, now it’s time to apply the finishing touches! Begin by filling all of the holes with wood filler and letting it dry. When the wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Be sure to wipe your project clean with a damp cloth. To get the specific look that I’ve used as an example in this article, it’s suggested you use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Building a bookcase can be as easy or as complicated as you’d like. It depends what size, design and materials you prefer to use. The information above should give you a better idea of what building a bookcase entails and demonstrate the steps you’ll need to take to reach your end goal.

For more DIY furniture ideas, please see 5 BIY (Build It Yourself) Furniture Ideas.

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