How to Add Cabinets & Bookcases to a Fireplace Wall

Written by carol luther
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Built-in bookcases are no longer a common feature in homes with fireplaces. When you add bookcases with cabinets to your fireplace wall, you create a focal point for your room. You can also use the bookcase shelves to display collectibles. The cabinets let you store less-frequently used items while keeping them at hand. This do-it-yourself project requires simple carpentry skills and tools that every homeowner usually has in the toolbox. Your bookcase design choices depend on your woodworking skills.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Birch plywood or lumber
  • Nails and screws
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain or paint
  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Mitre box
  • Wood filler

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  1. 1

    Measure the wall space on both sides of your fireplace and the wall height from floor to ceiling. If the room has crown moulding or chair rails remember to take these measurements, and calculate how snugly the bookcases will fit against the wall and your ceiling clearance.

  2. 2

    Select a bookcase design. Pick one that fits your room dimensions to avoid unnecessary conversion of your measurements. Review the Wood Dance Studio and HGTV bookcases with cabinets for pointers. Links to both of these are in the Resources section below.

  3. 3

    Buy a plan for a bookcase with cabinets from any commercial woodworking site or home improvement bookstore. Get free plans for cabinets and bookcases by using the links at Free Woodworking Plans.

  4. 4

    Buy the plywood, hardware and wood finishing supplies for your project. This Old House has valuable tips on bookcase construction that will help you choose lumber and design sturdy shelves. The HGTV team suggests that you buy hardwood plywood for medium-size bookcases.

  5. 5

    Cut plywood pieces to fit your measurements for the top, bottom and length of each side from 3/4-inch plywood. Cut the back section of your bookcase from 1/4-inch plywood. Make one frame for your bookcase and cabinets. Cut 11-inch-deep bookcase shelves and 20-inch-deep shelves for the cabinet.

  6. 6

    Use glue and nails to put the shelves into the frame. Attach the back of each bookcase and cabinet unit with nails. Anchor them by screwing through the back and into the studs in your fireplace wall.

  7. 7

    Fill screw and nail holes with wood filler and sand all surfaces. Stain or paint your bookcases to match your decor.

Tips and warnings

  • Download Google Sketchup and install it to use 3D plans that will help you a build a customised bookcase and cabinet combination for your fireplace.
  • If you cannot use a reciprocating saw (or do not know what it is for), consider buying a ready-made bookcase that fits your fireplace walls. Attach shutters to the bottom of your bookcases with hinges and add some latch hardware to the shutters to create a faux bookcase cabinet.
  • In newer homes, wall dimensions are likely to be the same. Older homes tend to have irregular dimensions.
  • Always anchor a bookcase to a wall stud to keep it from toppling over and causing an injury, regardless of its height.

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