How Much Do Built-In Bookshelves Cost? – Bob Vila

By Katie Flannery | Published Mar 3, 2023 11:29 AM
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Built-in bookcases can add storage space and an area to showcase books, decorative items, and collectibles. Custom bookshelves are a permanent investment that can create a unique focal point to any room. How much do built-in bookshelves cost? According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, built-in bookshelves range from $1,290 to $4,420, with the national average price at $2,853. Homeowners can choose from premade bookshelves or custom built-in shelves. A DIY built-in bookshelf can cost as little as $400, and a custom floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelf wall unit can cost more than $8,000. The overall project price depends on the bookshelf material, shelf size, shelf style, and the local labor costs to construct and install the built-in unit. From clean white built-in bookshelves to those made of dark wood or metal, there are styles and designs that can match any aesthetic.
Labor costs to install built-in bookshelves generally account for 70 to 80 percent of the overall project budget. The more difficult and complex the built-in bookshelf build and install, the more expensive the project. This guide will examine the important factors that affect built-in bookshelves cost, additional costs and considerations that can change the final price of the built-in bookshelf installation, the various materials that can be used for a built-in shelving unit, the advantages of having built-in bookshelves, and some frequently asked questions about built-in bookshelves and the installation process.
Having a built-in library is a goal for many homeowners. While the average cost to install built-in bookshelves ranges from $1,290 to $4,420, the overall price can vary from the national average of $2,853 due to some important factors. These can include the built-in bookshelf material type, shelf size, shelf style, local labor prices, and the installation location.
No matter the type of built-in bookshelf ideas a homeowner may have, the material used to construct the built-in unit directly impacts the cost of the project. The cost of premade bookshelves usually starts at $150 per linear foot, and the price for custom-made built-ins runs from $150 to $1,200 or more per linear foot, depending on the overall design and the materials. Some budget-friendly materials include medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plywood, while more expensive materials are wood, glass, marble, and wood/metal combinations. Each of these materials is discussed in a section below.
Many homeowners decide to build shelving in recessed alcoves in the home or invest in built-ins around the TV to make the most of their space. The shelf size for these areas influences the price of the built-in unit. Deeper and larger shelves cost more than smaller ones, and wall units that include built-in shelves and cabinets will cost more than an open-shelving component.
Standard-size books can be stored on shelves that are between 10 and 12 inches deep, and smaller paperback books can be accommodated with 6- to 7-inch-deep shelves. Larger coffee- table books may require shelves that are 14 or more inches deep. If the space for the built-in unit has an awkward shape or unusual depth, a custom-made built-in bookshelf will typically be the best option. A professional contractor or carpenter will be able to measure the area correctly and provide an accurate estimate for the built-in bookshelf, depending on the material. When the time comes to arrange books, art, and decorative items in the unit, homeowners will want to be sure to follow the dos and don’ts of arranging a bookshelf.
From built-in modern bookshelves to those that are a more rustic country style, there are many different types of built-in bookshelves. Prices depend on the size, material, and design of the built-in unit. Below are some popular styles of built-in bookshelves.
The cost of labor to build and install built-in bookcases varies depending on the size of the built-in unit and the material. The final labor prices are typically 70 to 80 percent of the project total, and a professional handyperson often charges between $30 and $130 an hour, depending on geographic location and experience level. Installing built-in units around pre-existing structures or installing floor-to-ceiling bookcases is more expensive than fitting shelves in a small alcove area. The labor prices include measuring, planning, designing, building, fitting, and installing the built-in bookshelf in its space. Small built-in bookshelves can take between 4 and 5 hours to install, while larger components can take 20 hours or longer. Custom-designed built-ins are typically more expensive than even the best bookshelves because of the time and effort that goes into the design and construction of the piece.

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Where the built-in bookshelves are to be installed also influences the price of the project. Built-in shelves in many areas of the house can create much-needed storage space—from the kitchen pantry to the bedroom, and all the rooms in between. The overall built-in installation price varies according to the installation location, size, and construction material. Furthermore, the location may dictate additional customizations, such as cabinets, doors, lighting, drawers, or a built-in desk, all of which can increase the overall cost. Below are some of the common areas where built-in bookshelves are installed and the average price ranges.
When budgeting for built-in bookshelves cost, homeowners may find that there are additional price factors and considerations that can change the total installation cost. These can include the difference in price between premade and custom-made built-in bookshelves, preparation work and customizations, as well as painting and finishing costs.
Premade bookshelves typically cost about $150 per linear foot and can be found at a local home improvement store. Premade options are less expensive and are an excellent option for homeowners with a limited budget. Prefabricated bookshelves can be moved to different areas, but homeowners will want to be aware that they are usually made of cheaper materials and may not be very sturdy.
Custom built-in bookshelves are an investment that are designed for a specific space. These can range in price from $150 to $1,200 per linear foot, and floor-to-ceiling options can cost from $5,000 to $14,000.
If the area where the built-in bookcase will be installed has crown molding, baseboards, or other flooring elements, those will need to be removed before installation. This adds more time and effort for the installer, regardless of whether it’s a contractor, carpenter, or one of the best handyman services, and it will increase the project total.
Adding customizations to built-in bookshelves can personalize the space. By adding features like a sliding ladder, glass doors, built-in lighting, drawers, or crown molding, the built-in unit can blend in or become a bold focal point to the room. Below are some common customizations that can be added to built-in bookshelves and the average price ranges.
Painting built-in bookshelves can make the space stand out from the rest of the room or blend in to create a cohesive space. Depending on the size of the built-in unit, painting it can cost from $300 to $1,000, on average. Some contractors or carpenters may include the price of painting or staining the built-in with their total estimate, although others may not. For that reason, it’s always a good idea for a homeowner to confirm pricing before the project begins.
When it comes to the overall built-in bookshelves cost, materials are one of the most significant factors. Medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, is the most budget-friendly option, with glass and marble as the most expensive. Below are the most common materials for built-in bookshelves and their average price ranges.
MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, is made from pressed wood fibers that are layered to prevent damage and warping from temperature fluctuations. While this material is an excellent choice for custom finishes because it accepts paint well, it may sag over time under the weight of heavy books. MDF works well for storing lighter books and decorative objects, but not large and weighty items. As a budget-friendly option, MDF costs from $150 to $400 per linear foot.
Glass built-in bookshelves usually have some type of metal or wood frame. At a cost of $750 to $1,200 per linear foot, glass is one of the more expensive material options. This delicate material requires careful installation, which drives up the overall price. Typically made from tempered glass, this type of built-in bookshelf is heavy and extremely fragile. Homeowners who have a contemporary modern design for their home may prefer the look of a glass built-in unit over other materials.

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The cost of custom hardwood built-in bookshelves can range from $500 to $1,000 per linear foot. Solid wood components are sturdy and durable and can be built from various wood species, such as birch, cherry, maple, and oak. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that some varieties of wood are stronger and more scratch-resistant than others. Below are some different wood types and the average price range per linear foot.
Custom built-in marble bookshelves cost from $800 to $1,300. This natural material is available in a range of colors that can match any interior decor. It’s a popular material for built-ins that are installed around fireplaces since it’s flame- and shatter-resistant. This high-end material is the most expensive option, and it may be more difficult to find depending on the supplier.
As one of the strongest materials for built-in bookshelves, metal ranges in price from $450 to $800 per linear foot. This material handles moisture well and can support the weight of heavy books and other items without buckling. Metal built-in bookshelves can provide a modern or industrial look to a space.
A combination of two popular materials, metal and wood built-in bookshelves provide the strength of metal with the warm elegance of hardwood. Metal and wood combination units generally cost from $450 to $1,000 per linear foot. Typically designed with metal framing and wood shelves, the built-in unit can be customized to fit the vision of the homeowner.
Plywood is another budget-friendly material that costs from $150 to $500 per linear foot. This dependable and sturdy built-in bookshelf material is also made from sheets of pressed wood fibers. Plywood with a hardwood veneer on the front and back surfaces costs more than other options. Homeowners can choose from various wood species, such as pine and maple.
Built-in bookshelves add a luxurious focal point to a room and can provide much-needed storage. As a practical way to utilize unused space, built-in shelving units add dimension, detail, and an integrated home design. Below are some advantages of installing built-in bookshelves to any home.
Smaller rooms can have floor space freed up with the addition of built-in bookshelves, and areas that aren’t typically used can be used to provide extra storage. Some ways to optimize the space within a house include using the area under a staircase for bookshelves; adding shelves to rooms where the ceiling has a downward slope; or taking advantage of the space around doorways, fireplaces, and windows. Built-in bookshelf storage areas can also free up closets within a home to use for other purposes.
Built-in bookshelves can be endlessly customized to meet the needs of any household. The design of the built-in unit can be customized to match the surrounding decor, and even oddly shaped out-of-the-way areas can be used to store books, decorative items, and art to add value and interest to a home.
Built-in bookshelves provide a great return on investment when it’s time to list a home on the market. A good way for a homeowner to ensure built-in bookshelves maintain their value is to mindfully design the space, use quality materials, and plan a functional and attractive storage component.
Built-in bookshelves provide a fully integrated storage design that matches with the overall decor and style of the home. Since built-in features can seamlessly fit into the home, they’re a popular choice for storage solutions. Homeowners who have unusually shaped sculptures, large books, or a turntable and speakers may find that having shelving customized to a certain size and depth can aid in storing and displaying these items.
Ensuring a cohesive aesthetic will likely be at the top of the homeowner’s list during the design and installation of built-in bookshelves. A built-in unit can add improved aesthetics to a room, create a focal point, and add charm.
If you have carpentry skills, it’s possible to build your own shelves in an alcove. DIY floor-to-ceiling bookshelves will take more skill, effort, and time. While homeowners who are installing their own built-in bookshelves will save on labor costs, it may end up costing more if they make a measuring or cutting mistake—and buying or renting the necessary equipment and tools can quickly add up. Because of the expense involved in wasting materials and having to buy parts twice, not to mention the diminished value of a built-in unit that shows uneven cutting with visible splintering and chips, many homeowners prefer to hire a professional contractor or carpenter to design and install built-in bookshelves. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that they can spend anywhere from $100 to $3,500 to install built-in shelving on their own, depending on size and materials. An industry pro can ensure the installation of durable and long-lasting built-in bookshelves and a professional result.
Built-in bookshelves can create additional storage space, improve the overall aesthetics of the room, and create a visually interesting focal point. Depending on the size, style, and materials of the built-in unit, this project can cost a considerable amount of money. Below are some money-saving tips when budgeting for built-in bookshelves cost.
Asking a pro the right questions about built-in bookshelves and the installation process can help homeowners gain important information about built-in units and the installation process. Below are some questions homeowners can ask a professional about built-in bookshelves.
When planning to install built-in bookshelves, homeowners will benefit from having all the information about the average costs of installation and the installation process. Below are some frequently asked questions about this project to help improve homeowners’ understanding.
Built-in bookshelves can increase home value, although a few steps can be taken to ensure the home’s new owners will appreciate the value of the installation. Homeowners will want to make sure the built-in unit is functional, attractive, adds character, and is thoughtfully designed.
Hardwoods work better for built-in bookshelves than softer wood like pine, which can sag and bend under the weight of heavy books. A built-in bookcase shelf should be able to hold 20 to 40 pounds per foot. Some popular wood species for bookshelves include maple, oak, walnut, birch, cedar, cherry, koa, and mahogany.
Typically, yes, it’s cheaper to build your own shelves than to buy them—although it can depend on the material and style the homeowner chooses.
Built-in bookshelves can save space since they can be installed in areas that aren’t being used, such as under the stairs and around a door or a fireplace.
Built-in bookcase shelves should be no wider than 36 inches without some kind of center support.
While built-in bookshelves are commonly found in older homes, that doesn’t mean they’re an outdated trend. This type of functional interior design works in new homes and in many different decors.
Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, Fixr
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