IKEA Bookshelf DIY hack by Tracy Joy Jones

I Dreamed of a Library (Part 2) — Assembling Bookshelves

In any DIY project, there comes a point where you are terrified to take the next step. And let me tell you, cutting carpet is terrifying. But if you want to build a built-in bookcase, there’s simply no way around it. You’re forced to fully commit to the project all the way to the finish line, and there is a strong possibility that you might end up with a total mess. Fortunately, Matt was the brave one willing to tackle the carpet. First, he removed the trim from the wall behind the bookshelves and used a hacksaw to cut the trim a few feet from each side of where the bookshelves would go. Then with mad courage, he pulled back the carpet and padding to expose the cement floor.

Demo done, we were ready to start building. After lots of measuring, we built and installed a wooden frame to support the bookshelves. Okay, this step was mostly Matt. He loves measuring and cutting wood. My measuring leaves either a little or a lot to be desired… and it needs a lot of filler or caulk for the end result to remotely look like I know what I’m doing. Letting Matt do it just makes good sense.

IKEA Billy bookcase installation by Tracy Joy Jones

It’s starting to look like a library!!! Notice the base for the bookshelves. Unfortuantely, this is the only picture we took where you can see the exposed base.

We built a base for several reasons. Our ceilings are really tall and we wanted the bookshelves to appear evenly spaced between the base and the header above. In order to do that, we had to raise the bookshelves off the ground. In addition, our concrete floors are anything but level. Building a base enabled us to use shims to level the foundation for the prebuilt shelves. It also gave us a place to secure the baseboard and trim.

Base level and secured, we were finally ready to begin assembling the IKEA Billy bookshelves. The good news is, they are wonderfully easy to build.

IKEA Bookshelf installation by Tracy Joy Jones

We centered the middle IKEA shelf on the wall and secured it to the back wall. We could then use it as our guide for installing the other shelves.

The only problem? Our room is not exactly five bookshelves wide. I wanted a thicker piece of trim between each bookcase which required us to use spacers. The added inches left us a little short on the space we needed for five full bookshelves. Our solution was to trim length off of the two end bookcases. Matt used a table saw to do this step, and to the naked eye, the lost inches are almost imperceptible. Trimming the shelves solved the problem of fitting all the shelves in the room. However, in trimming the shelves, we lost the handy-dandy cam-locks that IKEA pre-cut into the permanent shelves and the divots in the adjustable shelves. We ended up using screws on the permanent shelves. On the adjustable shelves, we hand-chiseled in divots to recreate the unique IKEA shelf holder design. There was a bit of skill needed to make the divots end up in the right place on the shelves. But we made a template out of painter’s tape to know where to chisel the divots, and that made the process a lot easier than we originally thought.

At this point, I was already head over heels in love with my library wall. I could hardly wait to see the finished project. Shelves fully installed and secured to the wall, we then added MDF to the front of the base we’d built. But the problem with MDF is it has really ugly edges. The solution was to add trim to the top of the MDF and molding to the bottom. Problem solved!

Bookshelf installation by Tracy Joy Jones

You can see in the picture, the thin trim covering the exposed edge of the MDF and the baseboard molding at the bottom.

Bookshelf installation from Tracy Joy Jones

It’s coming together!!!! Can you see the vision yet? I was squealing with joy at this point, and fighting the urge to unload all my books before I’d even painted.

Adding the fluted molding pieces to the front faces between the shelves instantly made the IKEA bookshelves feel like they’d had an upgrade. I didn’t want any books hiding behind the trim which was why we’d added the spacers. My books have waited a long time to come out of storage, and no one hides my babies behind trim on a shelf. But I love the fluted trim look. In my opinion, it’s really the little touches in DIY projects that take them to that next level, and this trim does that.

So, so close now! The dream is starting to feel very real.

That’s it for today, but tune in Friday for the glorious reveal of our bookshelves painted and our library full of books. Happy, happy day! Thanks so much for reading along with me. I hope you’re enjoying reading as much as I’m enjoying sharing!

Comments 2

  1. So excited with you!! And I’ve even seen the beautiful end results 😉 Can’t wait for the next chapter!

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