With three walls for support, an alcove or a small closet is an ideal place to install shelves. These shelves are great for extra storage around your home and are easy to construct. We recommend pre-painting them before starting this project to make finishing easier once they’re installed. Here’s what you’ll need for this straightforward build:
- Circular Saw
- Miter Saw
- Stud Finder
- Caulk Gun
- 16 & 18 Gauge Nailers
- OR Hammer & Nail Set
- 3/4″ Birch Plywood
- Wood Putty
- Putty Knife
- Chalk Line
- Construction Adhesive
- 1-1/4″ & 2″ Gauge Nails
- OR 3D & 4D Nails
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
- Ear Protection
- Eye Protection
Lay out shelf locations. Place the tape measure on the floor against your back wall and mark the height for the bottom of each shelf. If your wall is more than 24 inches wide, use a two-foot level to draw a line across the wall and the sides of the alcove. For narrower walls, place a straight piece of wood on each mark, leveling with a torpedo level before drawing your lines.
Find studs. Use a stud finder to locate and mark the position of each stud along the entire layout line. Extend your marks a bit so they’ll be visible when you’re installing the cleats.
Cut back-wall cleats. The walls of your alcove may not be perfectly plumb, so it’s a good idea to measure along each back-wall layout line and cut cleats to fit. Cut your 1×2-inch cleat stock with a miter saw. If they’re different lengths, number them from top to bottom so you’ll know where to place each one.
Install back-wall cleats. Apply construction adhesive to the back of each back-wall cleat. Align the top along your layout line and using a 16-gauge nailer, secure with two-inch nails.
Measure for side cleats. Measure the distance from each back-wall cleat to the front of the alcove. If the distances vary, use the shortest measurement. When determining the length of the cleats, remember to subtract the thickness of your front molding if you’d like your shelving’s molding to be flush with the front walls.
Cut side cleats. Cut your side cleats to length, making an angled cut at the front of each so they can be tucked behind the front molding. To lay out the cut, measure and mark the end of each cleat one inch less than the width of your molding. Our molding is 1- 3/8th inch wide, so we marked our cleat at 3/8th of an inch.
Once you’ve made your mark, make another three inches from the bottom of the cleat. Connect the marks and cut along the line with a miter saw. Use a scrap piece of 1×4 cut at a 45-degree angle to extend your fence and guide your cut piece.
Install side cleats. Apply construction adhesive to the back of a side cleat. Align the top along a sidewall layout line, and secure with nails.
Rip shelves to depth. Measure and mark the depth of your shelves on both ends. Snap a chalk line between both points, and make a rip cut with a circular saw. Be sure to make your cuts with the top of the shelves facing up so any splintering will be hidden by the cleats.
Crosscut shelves to width. Measure and mark the width of your shelves with a chalk line, then cut to width with a circular saw.
Install shelves. It’s finally time to install your shelves. We recommend starting at the bottom and working your way up so you’ll have room to maneuver. Apply adhesive to the top of the cleats and put each shelf in place. Secure with an 18-gauge nailer and 1-1/4th inch nails spaced about 12 inches apart. Be sure to nail straight down so nails don’t protrude through the cleats.
Attach molding. Measure and cut each piece of molding to size with a miter saw. Apply adhesive on the front edge of each shelf. Set the molding in place and secure with 1-1/4th inch nails and an 18-gauge nailer.
Fill and caulk. Fill nail holes with wood putty and sand until they’re flush with your wood. Fill any gaps between your new shelfs and your walls with paintable caulk. Once dry, touch up wall paint as needed.
Your project is complete. Step back and admire your new shelving.