How to make built-in shelving with MDF boards

Create the ultimate space-saving shelving system in no time!

When you start to think of all the stuff you would like to store away on shelves, and yet you do not want to spend money on shelving, there is only one thing that remains an option – building shelving yourself. In reality, shelving can be built really easily as essentially it is only a frame with horizontal boards attached to serve as shelves. So, why do you end up spending several hundred pounds for something that you can easily build up on your own with some MDF boards and basic tools? It really won’t require any expertise or advanced woodworking skills or tools at all. There is no need to design anything complicated, as you can opt for the most basic of designs, where all of the shelves are of the same size. So, let us discuss in a little more detail how to make built-in shelving with MDF sheets cut to size.

MDF Wall Shelf Template. Image credit: Luthieres

MDF Wall Shelf Template. Image credit: Luthieres

Start off by measuring the space where the built-in shelving will be installed. Based on the space available, you can then decide on the layout of the shelving. Do you want the shelves to be exactly the same from top to bottom, or would you rather introduce a design where you make use of shelving dividers so as to alternate the shelves’ lengths as you move from one row to another? The decision will depend mainly on what you intend to place on the shelves, and their respective sizes. For instance, if they are going to be used as a built-in shelving system for books, you will need to take into account that some books are bigger than others. So some shelves may need to be of a bigger height than others. If on the other hand you will be placing DVDs, which are of the same height, you should opt for shelves that are of the same height all along. These considerations and decisions should be made in advance because otherwise you might end up wasting a great deal of space, and possibly not be satisfied with how much you managed to store on the shelves.

Once you have come to a decision, purchase and cut the MDF boards in the required dimensions. Once all the boards have been cut, it is best to sand them lightly because MDF tends to remain rough on the edges where the cutting was carried out. You may also wish to consider painting them. In that case the painting should be carried out at this point, before we move to the assembling phase.

Next, you will need to build the frame of your shelving unit. Set the base, and assemble the side to it. Do not just glue, but nail them up for more security. Make sure that they are flush. Next, attach the upper board so that the outer frame is all assembled. It is important that you allow the glue to dry well. Then the frame will then need to be attached to the wall, so make sure you take into account the materials you will need to fasten the frame securely to the wall. This is even more important if it is quite large.

Next you will need to build the shelves in their respective positions in the frame you just completed. As a general rule of thumb it is advisable to avoid having shelves longer than 40 inches as they can easily start sagging. You should also attach an anti-sag cleat at the rear part of the shelves. Cut the brackets and fasten them together with the bracket supports for more durability. As always, sand each piece with fine grit sandpaper. Fill all the nail holes with wood putty, and once it is dry sand lightly. Always apply enough to cover well, and remove the excess after a couple of minutes.

MDF Built-in Wall Shelves. Image credit: Durkan Design & Build

MDF Built-in Wall Shelves. Image credit: Durkan Design & Build

That is basically it. You will not be spending several hours to complete it and you won’t be spending a fortune either. Besides there is the fact that you will be feeling that sense of accomplishment once it is completed. Built-in shelving has always been a great way to make your home more organized, and at times you can never have enough when it comes to shelves, especially if you are a bookworm, or someone who never wants to throw anything away! Built-in shelves are also great for storing toys and stationery in kids’ bedrooms and play areas. They are also great for living areas, and in bedrooms to store away clothes that are off season, shoes and handbags. So, once you complete one built-in shelving system you are most probably going to build others for other rooms in no time! And with MDF boards it is very affordable indeed!