Creative Ways To Build A Bookshelf With Cheap Or Free Materials

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

A bookshelf is a fantastic addition to almost any room. It looks great and can showcase all sorts of items including art, plants, and of course, lots of books. It works well in a bedroom, home office, living room, and even in the kitchen. But bookshelves can cost hundreds of dollars or more. This might have you wondering if it is possible to build your own bookshelf with cheap or free materials.

To build a bookshelf for free, find free wooden palettes, wooden food crates, or milk crates as materials. You can also cheaply and easily build your own bookshelf using pine or other inexpensive wood from a hardware store. Try repurposing items like dressers, vintage suitcases, or even your old fireplace. Unconventional items like rope and cinder blocks can also help create unique and functional bookshelves for cheap.

There are also tons of other cheap or even free materials that are easy to find to build a beautiful bookshelf for your home you can be proud of. So, if you want to build a bookshelf but are on a tight budget, keep reading to discover the top creative ways to build a bookshelf with cheap or even free materials.

1. Use Free Wooden Pallets

Wood pallets can be a godsend for DIY enthusiasts on a tight budget. Usually, there is no shortage of these types of pallets. If you ask around at various businesses, you are bound to find one that will give you several for free.

There are several ways to build a bookshelf using pallets. Usually, the most impressive and professional-looking ones incorporate the longer plywood pieces to build a solid backing and shelves. This is achieved by carefully pulling apart the pallet and using the thick longer pieces.

Remember that pallets usually require some work to look their best. This involves a few rounds of sanding, then staining the bookshelf a more unified color, and sealing it to ensure its longevity.

2. Find Wooden Crates

Another type of wooden vessel that can also be easy to come by for free is wooden food crates. You often see these at farmers markets, produce stores, and other food establishments. They have a lovely rustic aesthetic to them, and they are also a perfect size to store books and other items.

You can stack these crates on top of each other in a symmetrical or fun asymmetrical design, using some additional wood as support. This can be a great way to have a compartmentalized and geometric-style bookshelf. These are also fairly easy to build, as there isn’t a lot of disassembly required. Just remember that these crates aren’t built of strong wood, so additional reinforcement and a quality sealant is crucial to preserve this type of bookshelf for years to come.

3. Use Recycled Doors

Old wooden doors are usually fairly affordable, and depending on where you live, might be fairly easy to find. You can cut out portions of the wood, and then angle it, similarly to a ladder shelf, to create a leaning bookshelf that gets deeper on the lower the shelves.

If you can find a free or cheap door, this can be a very inexpensive and fun DIY project. This is an indelible addition to a room in a home that is going for a country or rural-chic type of aesthetic. A nice white-wash finish or distressed paint job can complete the look, and make this a centerpiece in any room.

4. Make A Bookshelf With A Repurposed Dresser

If you are wondering what to do with an old dresser, you might want to think about turning it into a bookshelf. While you can turn almost any dresser into a bookshelf, it is particularly fantastic when you have a tall dresser with many shelves.

In order to turn the dresser into a bookshelf, you essentially just need to remove the dresser drawers and turn the empty space into shelves. Often, you can repurpose the drawers themselves as material to make the shelves. Old dressers can be found for cheap at thrift stores as well. You can also use the top of the dresser as additional space.

5. Build A Ladder Shelf

Ladder shelves are a great way to maximize space in smaller rooms, and they have a timeless look to them. You can place books, artwork, and all sorts of trinkets from your travels. A ladder shelf is also a design that can be achieved fairly easily, as long as you have some tools.

In order to make this a cheap project, try finding low-priced but solid wood from your local hardware store or look for cheap or free building materials in your community. You can often use leftover scrap plywood for the shelves, and cheaper woods like pine for the tall ladder pieces.

6. Incorporate Vintage Luggage To Make A Small Bookshelf

Old luggage is often a mainstay at thrift stores and yard sales. It might have a bit of a smell to it, but after spraying some vinegar or alcohol, and cleaning them up a bit, vintage luggage can be a charming addition to a room. One great way to utilize old luggage is to prop it open vertically, and install a shelf of two. While it cannot hold tons of books, it will add lots of charm, and vintage flair to the room.

7. Make Your Unusable Fireplace A Bookshelf

If you have an old sealed-off brick or stone fireplace somewhere in your home, and it sits idly just collecting dust, you should think about turning it into a bookshelf. You can paint a stone or brick fireplace to rejuvenate it, and then build a bookshelf within it.

This is a great and cheap option, as you already have the basic framework for the bookshelf. You simply need to build a few shelves and clean up the area a bit. This will breathe new life into the space. You can even create a cozy reading nook in this old fireplace area, using chairs and blankets, creating a fireplace-like atmosphere, only with books instead of flames.

8. Create A Wood Board And Cinder Block Bookshelf

One cheap and easy way to build a bookshelf in your home is by using cinder blocks and wooden boards. The construction of this type of shelf is easy. Simply stack the cinder blocks over the wooden boards, creating shelves between them.

Remember to purchase wood boards that can handle ample weight. Also make sure you don’t build these bookshelves too high, no more than two levels of cinder blocks, as you don’t want to risk it falling. But this works great for anyone looking for a long, shorter bookshelf and are on a tight budget.

9. Paint And Stack Milk Crates

Milk crates are easy to find for cheap or free, and with a little paint, can look nice. You can stack these crates in a square, rectangle, or other geometric shape to fit your space. If you don’t have tools, simply use zip ties and paint them the same color to help reinforce the milk crates. This is a great option if you need a bookshelf for books and belongings but have very little money in the budget for one.

10. Create A Hanging Rope And Plywood Shelf

If you are handy with knots, and know how to properly hang items from the ceiling, consider building a hanging bookshelf. Use a strong rope to hang from your ceiling, and then drill holes in the wood.

These bookshelves are best when reinforced and flushed against a wall to prevent tipping. They might not be able to hold a lot of weight, but they can look great when you are going for an earth-toned or beachy look in a room.

Final Thoughts On Building A Bookshelf With Cheap Materials

Bookshelves are fantastic ways to use space wisely in your home. They are also great at showing off a book collection and all sorts of stunning treasures you own. But they can also cost a lot of money. Luckily you can build your own bookshelf using free materials like wooden pallets, wooden produce crates, or even milk crates. You can use old furniture like old wooden doors, old dressers, and even vintage luggage to build a bookshelf for cheap. You can even use your old fireplace, or incorporate rope, wood boards, and cinder blocks from your local hardware store.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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