How to Make a Cheap Ladder Bookcase

Written by amy mcclain
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How to Make a Cheap Ladder Bookcase
You can turn an old wooden ladder into a beautiful bookshelf. (Wooden ladder image by Tasha from

Ladder bookcases are a stylish addition to any home decor. They provide extra storage space for books and are a lovely way to display favourite items. Purchasing a ready-made one can be pricey. With a few materials, however, you can make your very own ladder bookcase in one afternoon.You can personalise it to your exact design, and you'll save money, too.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wooden step ladder
  • Wood or power saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Scrap plywood
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Sandpaper
  • Damp cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • Wood stain or paint (optional)

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  1. 1

    Find an old wooden step ladder if you don't already have one. Garage sales are a great place to find one. You'll need the type that folds open into an inverted V style. Don't worry if you find one that seems too tall--you can cut it to whatever height you desire. You should be able to find one for less than £13.

  2. 2

    Prepare the ladder for its transformation. Using your wood or power saw, cut the ladder to the desired height by removing any unwanted inches from the bottom of your ladder.

  3. 3

    Decide how many shelves the bookcase will have. Count the number of rungs the ladder has, minus the top step. Using the saw, cut the shelves from the scrap plywood. The width of each shelf should be equal to the width of the ladder's rungs--use the measuring tape to measure one of the rungs as a guide.

    Cut the shelves in graduated lengths, so that the bottom shelf is the longest and the top shelf is the shortest. A good rule of thumb is to make each shelf long enough so that it hangs over the rang (and corresponding back brace) 5 inches on each side. Be sure to measure each shelf's location on the ladder before cutting the shelf.

  4. 4

    Attach the shelves. Unfold the ladder, with the inverted V facing towards you. This will be the front, as you will want the straight side of the ladder against a wall. Start with the longest shelf, placing it through the upright beams of the ladder. Center the shelf on the bottom rang and back brace of the ladder. Once the shelf is in place, use your drill and wood screws to attach it to the legs of the ladder, drilling the screws through the side of the ladder into the shelf. You can also drill through the top of each shelf to the rungs/braces that it rests on for added support. Continue this process in order from bottom to top, until all your shelves have been screwed securely in place.

  5. 5

    Dress it up for a completely personal look. Sand the ladder and shelves. Wipe off any dust or dirt with a damp cloth. Using your paintbrush, apply your stain or paint to the shelves. Allow the finish to dry completely before using your new bookcase.

Tips and warnings

  • You can leave the ladder and plywood unfinished for a rustic look.
  • Attach a dowel rod to the top of the ladder just below the top step to make a hanging bar for a small quilt or blanket.
  • If you have hardwood or linoleum floors, add rubber pads (available at any hardware or home improve store) to the bottom of the ladder to keep it from sliding.

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