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How To Build Built Ins How To Build Built Ins

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How To Build Built Ins

Written by: Harper Martinez

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Caegan Moore
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Reviewed by
Caegan Moore

Content Creator specializing in woodworking and interior transformations. Caegan's guides motivate readers to undertake their own projects, while his custom furniture adds a personal touch.

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Learn how to build beautiful DIY built-ins with our step-by-step guide. Get creative with your crafts and transform your space today! Discover expert tips and tricks.

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So, you've been dreaming about adding some built-ins to your home, but you're not quite sure where to start. Well, you've come to the right place! Building your own built-ins can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to add both storage and style to your space. Whether you're looking to create a cozy reading nook, a stylish entertainment center, or a functional office space, building built-ins allows you to customize the design to fit your specific needs and the dimensions of your room. In this article, we'll guide you through the process of creating your very own built-ins, from planning and designing to installation and finishing touches. Let's get started!


Planning Your Built Ins

When it comes to building built-ins, the first step is to carefully plan out your project. Here are some essential tips to consider when planning your built-ins:

  1. Assess Your Needs: Take a good look at the space where you want to install the built-ins. What purpose will they serve? Do you need storage for books, display space for collectibles, or a combination of both? Understanding your specific needs will help you design built-ins that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

  2. Consider the Style: Think about the overall style of your home and the room where the built-ins will be located. Do you want them to blend in seamlessly with the existing decor, or do you prefer a statement piece that stands out? Consider factors such as color, material, and architectural details to ensure that your built-ins complement the space.

  3. Take Precise Measurements: Accurate measurements are crucial when planning built-ins. Use a tape measure to determine the exact dimensions of the space where the built-ins will be installed. Consider the height, width, and depth, as well as any architectural features or obstacles that may impact the design.

  4. Create a Detailed Design: Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, style preferences, and measurements, it's time to create a detailed design for your built-ins. You can sketch your ideas on paper or use design software to visualize the final product. Consider the layout of shelves, cabinets, and any additional features you want to incorporate.

  5. Set a Budget: Building built-ins can be a cost-effective way to enhance your space, but it's essential to establish a budget for your project. Consider the cost of materials, tools, and any professional assistance you may need. Setting a budget will help you make informed decisions throughout the planning and construction process.

By carefully planning your built-ins and considering these essential factors, you'll be well-prepared to move on to the next steps of the construction process.


Choosing the Right Materials

Selecting the right materials is crucial when it comes to building durable and visually appealing built-ins. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when choosing the materials for your project:

  • Wood Selection: When it comes to built-ins, wood is often the material of choice due to its durability and timeless appeal. Hardwoods such as oak, maple, cherry, and walnut are popular choices for their strength and natural beauty. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider high-quality plywood with a hardwood veneer for a similar aesthetic appeal.

  • Hardware and Fasteners: The hardware and fasteners you choose can significantly impact the overall quality and longevity of your built-ins. Opt for high-quality hinges, drawer slides, and handles that can withstand frequent use. Additionally, select appropriate screws, nails, and other fasteners that are suitable for the type of wood you're working with.

  • Finishing Materials: The finishing materials you choose will not only enhance the appearance of your built-ins but also provide protection against wear and tear. Consider the use of wood stains, paints, or clear finishes to achieve the desired look. Be sure to select finishes that are compatible with the type of wood you're using and that complement the overall style of your space.

  • Backer Material: Depending on the design of your built-ins, you may need to consider the material for the back panel. While plywood is a common choice for its stability, you can also opt for beadboard, MDF, or other decorative panels to add visual interest to the back of your built-ins.

  • Additional Decorative Elements: If you want to add decorative elements such as trim, molding, or decorative hardware, carefully select materials that complement the overall design of your built-ins. Consider the architectural style of your home and the aesthetic you want to achieve to ensure that the decorative elements enhance the visual appeal of your project.

By carefully considering these factors and selecting high-quality materials, you can ensure that your built-ins not only meet your functional needs but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your space. Now that you've chosen the right materials, it's time to move on to the next steps of the construction process.


Measuring and Designing Your Built Ins

Accurate measurements and thoughtful design are essential for creating custom built-ins that seamlessly fit into your space and meet your specific needs. Here's a detailed guide on how to measure and design your built-ins:

Measuring the Space

Before diving into the design phase, it's crucial to take precise measurements of the area where your built-ins will be installed. Use a tape measure to determine the height, width, and depth of the space. Take note of any architectural features, such as baseboards, crown molding, or outlets, that may impact the design. Additionally, consider the location of windows, doors, and other elements that could affect the layout of your built-ins.

Designing the Layout

Once you have accurate measurements, it's time to design the layout of your built-ins. Consider the specific functions you want your built-ins to serve, whether it's storage for books, display space for collectibles, or a combination of both. Sketch out different design options, taking into account the placement of shelves, cabinets, drawers, and any additional features you want to incorporate. Consider the overall flow of the room and ensure that the design complements the existing decor and architectural elements.

Customizing the Design

Customization is one of the key advantages of building your own built-ins. Consider incorporating unique features such as built-in lighting, adjustable shelving, or integrated charging stations to enhance the functionality of your built-ins. Additionally, think about how you can personalize the design to reflect your style and preferences. Whether it's adding decorative trim, incorporating glass doors, or choosing a distinctive hardware style, these custom touches can elevate the overall look of your built-ins.

Considering Ergonomics

When designing your built-ins, it's important to consider ergonomics to ensure that the final product is both practical and comfortable to use. For example, if you're creating a desk area, consider the ideal height for the work surface and the placement of storage compartments. If you're designing a media center, think about the optimal viewing angles and accessibility of electronic components. By prioritizing ergonomics in your design, you can create built-ins that are not only visually appealing but also highly functional.

Seeking Inspiration

If you're feeling stuck in the design process, don't hesitate to seek inspiration from home improvement magazines, online platforms, or even by visiting furniture showrooms. Gathering inspiration from various sources can help you refine your design ideas and identify elements that resonate with your vision for the built-ins. Whether it's a unique hardware detail, a creative storage solution, or a distinctive architectural feature, drawing inspiration from diverse sources can enrich your design concept.

By carefully measuring and designing your built-ins with these considerations in mind, you can create a customized and functional storage solution that seamlessly integrates into your space. With the design phase complete, you're ready to move on to the next steps of the construction process.


Building the Frame

Building the frame is a critical step in the construction of your built-ins, as it provides the structural support for the entire unit. Here's a detailed guide on how to build the frame for your custom built-ins:

Gather Your Materials and Tools

Before you begin constructing the frame, gather all the necessary materials and tools. You'll need the selected wood for the frame, a saw for cutting the wood to size, a drill for assembling the frame, wood glue for added strength, and clamps to hold the pieces together during assembly. Additionally, make sure you have measuring tape and a level to ensure precision and accuracy throughout the construction process.

Cut the Wood to Size

Using the measurements and design layout you created in the planning phase, carefully cut the wood to the required dimensions for the frame components. This includes cutting pieces for the top, bottom, sides, and any additional structural elements such as dividers or vertical supports. Ensure that each piece is cut accurately to achieve a precise fit during assembly.

Assemble the Frame

Once the wood pieces are cut to size, it's time to assemble the frame. Begin by laying out the components according to your design layout. Use wood glue along the joints to provide additional strength, and then use a drill to secure the pieces together with screws. Ensure that the frame is square and level during assembly to prevent any misalignment or instability.

Add Reinforcement

Depending on the size and design of your built-ins, you may need to add reinforcement to the frame for added stability. This can include installing additional support beams, cross braces, or corner brackets to ensure that the frame can support the weight of shelves, cabinets, and any items that will be stored or displayed within the built-ins.

Check for Stability

Once the frame is assembled, carefully check for stability and structural integrity. Ensure that the frame is level, square, and free from any wobbling or shifting. This is also a good time to confirm that the frame fits snugly within the designated space and aligns with any architectural features or obstacles in the room.

By following these steps, you can build a sturdy and reliable frame for your built-ins, setting the foundation for the next phases of the construction process. With the frame in place, you're ready to move on to the installation of shelves, cabinets, and additional components to complete your custom built-ins.


Installing Shelves and Cabinets

After building the frame for your custom built-ins, the next crucial step is installing the shelves and cabinets. This phase brings your design to life and transforms the frame into functional storage and display space. Here's a detailed guide on how to install shelves and cabinets for your built-ins:

Preparing the Components

Before installation, ensure that all shelves and cabinets are cut to the precise dimensions required for your design. If you're using pre-made components, double-check their measurements to guarantee a proper fit within the frame. Additionally, if you plan to add any decorative elements such as trim or molding, have these components ready for installation.

Positioning the Shelves

Begin by positioning the shelves within the frame according to your design layout. Use a level to ensure that each shelf is perfectly horizontal, and make any necessary adjustments to achieve a uniform and balanced appearance. If your design includes adjustable shelves, follow the manufacturer's instructions to secure the shelf supports in place.

Attaching the Shelves

Once the shelves are positioned correctly, secure them in place by attaching them to the frame. Depending on your design and the type of shelves you're using, this may involve screwing the shelves into place, using shelf pins for adjustable shelves, or installing additional support brackets for added stability.

Installing the Cabinets

If your built-ins include cabinets, carefully install them within the frame. Ensure that the cabinets are aligned properly and that the doors open and close smoothly. Use a level to confirm that the cabinets are plumb and make any necessary adjustments to achieve a seamless and professional installation.

Adding Decorative Elements

Once the shelves and cabinets are securely installed, it's time to add any decorative elements that will enhance the visual appeal of your built-ins. This can include installing trim along the edges of shelves and cabinets, adding decorative molding to the top or bottom of the unit, or incorporating decorative hardware such as knobs or handles.

Checking for Stability

After installing the shelves, cabinets, and decorative elements, carefully check for stability and functionality. Ensure that the shelves can support the intended weight of items to be stored or displayed, and confirm that the cabinets open and close without any issues. Additionally, check that all decorative elements are securely attached and contribute to the overall aesthetic of your built-ins.

By following these steps, you can successfully install the shelves and cabinets for your custom built-ins, bringing your design one step closer to completion. With the shelves and cabinets in place, you're ready to add the finishing touches that will elevate the visual appeal and functionality of your built-ins.


Adding Finishing Touches

Adding the finishing touches to your built-ins is the final step that brings your project to completion, enhancing both its visual appeal and functionality. Here's a detailed guide on how to add the perfect finishing touches to your custom built-ins:

Applying a Finish

Once the structural components are in place, it's time to apply a finish to the wood surfaces. Whether you prefer the natural beauty of wood grain or a painted finish, carefully apply the chosen finish using a brush, roller, or sprayer. Ensure that the finish is applied evenly and consistently across all surfaces, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying and curing times.

Installing Lighting

To add a touch of elegance and functionality to your built-ins, consider installing lighting elements. LED strip lights, puck lights, or integrated lighting systems can illuminate the shelves and display areas, creating a warm and inviting ambiance. Carefully position the lighting fixtures and conceal any wiring for a seamless and polished look.

Incorporating Backing Material

Depending on the design of your built-ins, you may choose to incorporate backing material to add visual interest and stability. Consider using beadboard, fabric panels, or decorative wallpaper as backing material to create a striking backdrop for your shelves and cabinets. Ensure that the backing material is securely attached and complements the overall aesthetic of your built-ins.

Adding Decorative Hardware

The choice of hardware can significantly impact the overall look of your built-ins. Select decorative knobs, handles, or pulls that complement the style of your space and add a touch of personality to the design. Whether you prefer sleek and modern hardware or ornate and vintage-inspired pieces, the right hardware can elevate the visual appeal of your built-ins.

Styling and Organizing

Once the finishing touches are in place, take the time to style and organize the contents of your built-ins. Arrange books, decor items, and personal mementos in a visually appealing manner, and consider incorporating storage solutions such as baskets or bins to keep smaller items organized. By styling and organizing the contents, you can showcase the functionality of your built-ins while adding a personal touch to the design.

Final Inspection

After adding the finishing touches, perform a final inspection of your built-ins. Check for any imperfections in the finish, ensure that all lighting fixtures are functioning correctly, and confirm that the decorative elements are securely attached. Take a step back and assess the overall appearance of your built-ins to ensure that every detail contributes to the cohesive and polished look of the final product.

By carefully adding these finishing touches, you can transform your custom built-ins into a stunning focal point that enhances the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your space. With the finishing touches complete, step back and admire the beauty and functionality of your newly constructed built-ins.



Congratulations! You've successfully navigated through the process of building your very own custom built-ins. From the initial planning and material selection to the meticulous measurements, precise construction, and thoughtful finishing touches, you've demonstrated the dedication and skill required to create a functional and visually stunning addition to your home. By following this comprehensive guide, you've not only enhanced the storage and display capabilities of your space but also personalized the design to reflect your unique style and preferences. As you step back and admire the craftsmanship of your built-ins, take pride in the fact that you've tackled a challenging DIY project and transformed your vision into a tangible reality. Whether it's a cozy reading nook, an organized office space, or an elegant entertainment center, your custom built-ins are sure to make a lasting impression and serve as a testament to your creativity and craftsmanship. Cheers to your successful venture into the world of DIY home improvement!

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