How to Build Wall Insert Shelves

Written by michael straessle
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How to Build Wall Insert Shelves
A wall insert shelf saves space and adds visual interest to a room. (estanteria libros musulmanes image by topmilitar from

Insert shelving includes bathroom shelves, wall shelves and other storage or display shelves set within a wall. This shelving saves space within a room and adds visual interest to walls. When selecting a wall for insert shelving, make sure to locate electrical wiring and plumbing that might be in the wall. Also, use lumber that matches the width of the studs in the walls. For example, if the wall frame was built with 2-inch by 4-inch studs, use 1-inch by 4-inch boards to build your shelves.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 2 pieces of 1-inch by 4-inch by 72-inch lumber
  • Framing square
  • Variable speed drill
  • 1/16th-inch drill bit
  • Wood glue
  • 1-inch by 4-inch by 29-inch lumber, 9 pieces
  • 6-penny finish nails
  • Hammer
  • Damp cloth
  • 1/2-inch plywood
  • 4-penny box nails
  • Carpenter's level
  • Keyhole saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Circular saw

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    Assembling the Parts

  1. 1

    Place a 72- inch length of 1-inch by 4-inch lumber on a worktable. Measure from one end and make marks every eight inches. Mark the area past the last mark as the top of wall insert shelf. With a framing square, draw a perpendicular line across the width of the lumber at each mark. Repeat this process with a second 72-inch length of lumber.

  2. 2

    Drill two pilot holes 3/8-inch below each line with a 1/16-inch drill bit. Keep the pilot holes at least 1/2-inch from the long edges of the lumber.

  3. 3

    Apply glue to the ends of a 29-inch length of 1-inch by 4-inch lumber. Secure one end of the lumber below the top line you have drawn on one 72-inch length of lumber with 6-penny finish nails. Secure the other end to the corresponding line on the second 72-inch length of lumber. Clean up excess glue immediately with a damp cloth. Repeat this process with 8 additional 29-inch lengths of lumber. These will be your shelves.

  4. 4

    Drill a pilot hole through the sides of the wall insert shelves between the top two shelves and the bottom two shelves with the 1/16th inch drill bit. These holes will help secure the wall insert shelves to the studs in the wall.

  5. 5

    Cut 1/2-inch plywood into a piece measuring 30-1/2 inches by 72 inches.Run a bead of glue on the centre of the back edges of your shelves. Place the plywood on the glued edges of your shelves and secure it with 4-penny box nails.


  1. 1

    Locate three studs in the wall for the installation of the insert shelves. Mark the wall for the bottom shelf. Place a carpenter's level on the mark and draw a level line across the wall between the two outside studs.

  2. 2

    Measure up from the line and mark the wall at 72 inches. Put the carpenter's level on the mark and draw a level line as you did for the bottom of the insert shelves.

  3. 3

    Cut horizontal lines in the sheetrock where you drew the lines. Cut with a keyhole saw. Next, cut along the inside edges of the outside studs for the vertical lines. Remove the sheetrock and cut out the centre stud with a reciprocating saw.

  4. 4

    Insert the wall insert shelves into the hole in the wall. Secure it to the studs with 6-penny finish nails through the pilot holes.

Tips and warnings

  • Trim the face of the shelves with door casing or another flat moulding.
  • Do not leave power tools within reach of children. Wear goggles while operating.
  • Do not apply a finish to the wall insert shelves without proper ventilation.

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