Ikea Built-in Bookcase – Part 1

Something that we have had on our list of home improvement projects for years is for me to make a built-in bookcase.     Our house is more than 100 years old, and it has two built-in bookcases on the first floor, so it would fit in well with the style of the house.  Mr. C also has a growing collection of books, so his room would be the best candidate for adding in a bookcase.  However, I’ve been ignoring this list item since I have very limited carpentry skills, so I thought it would probably never happen.

Then Ms. J came across an article showing how you can take one or several Ikea bookcases and convert them into built-in by making a wooden base, attaching the bookcases to the wall, and then adding wood molding around the top and sides.  Then you paint the wooden base and molding to match the bookcase.    The article made it seem easy.

So we took a trip to the closest Ikea store in Stoughton, Massachusetts, where we looked for the bookcase mentioned in the article.  All Ikea products have a name, sometimes it is vaguely Scandinavian, sometimes not.  Some of the names for their bookcases include; Finny, Gnedby, Hemnes, and Klimpen.  The bookcase style we needed is named ‘Billy’.  The ‘Billy’ comes in several sizes, horizontal, vertical, tall, short.  To fit in the space we had in mind, we needed three Billy bookcases that were each about six feet tall, and fourteen inches wide.  For the low price of just $50 each, we found the ones we needed.

Once we left the store, we had to figure out how to get the three long flat boxes that were more than six feet long into the car.  We spent about a half hour in the parking lot, trying to get them into the back of the car. Finally figuring out that if we placed them at one specific angle, with the backseat pulled down, they would just fit in, with the top of the box just about touching the dashboard, and the bottom of the box touching the back of the wagon’s rear hatch.  Yes, I’m too cheap to pay for the delivery.

Putting together a piece of Ikea furniture is a great test of any relationship, with all of its hardware pieces and instructions written with as few words as possible so they can use the same instruction sheet in several countries.   There’s a game show here in the US that sends couples around the world on a scavenger hunt, ‘The Amazing Race’.  One year they had the couples go to Sweden and put together a piece of Ikea furniture, whichever couple did it fastest won that leg of the race. The couples either finished quickly, or ended up arguing.   I have very limited spatial abilities, so I always anticipate problems with things like this.  In High School there are standard test questions that illustrate some kind of multi sided box, the question is what would the box look like if it were turned upside down or sideways.  I always got those questions wrong.    However, these bookcases weren’t so hard to construct,  except for me at first putting in one of the shelves upside down, it did turn out to be fairly easy.

Here’s the area where we want to put the built-in:

The first thing I had to do was build a base for the shelves.  Measuring the height of the baseboard, and where the bookcase is supposed to fit onto the baseboard, I used some 2X6 lumber to make a base.

Here’s what it looks like from above.  It’s probably stronger than it needs to be with those pieces of wood added into the middle of the box.

Here’s the three completed bookcases placed on top of the base.


They really do need to be bolted into the wall, they’re not very stable sitting on their own.  The instructions try to make sure that you know what you’re getting into with these bookcases.  Ikea pretty much tells you that if you want a freestanding bookcase try one of the other styles since this one is supposed to be bolted on the wall.

Something I figured out is that since the house is so old, there’s a substantial slope to the floor.  In just under a foot, there’s about a 1/4 inch slope from level, so I had to add small blocks to the bottom of the base to make it level.  Also, see that vertical pencil mark ?  That’s where I almost cut that piece of wood, which would have been a big mistake.


This is just the start of this project, I’ll have to add another post later.

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