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cost for built in shelving

JillElise's picture

I'm visiting from Cook's talk.

Coudl anyone give me a ball park idea of how much I could expect to pay to have a 12' long by 8' high bookshelf built in? Very simple, not expensive wood, completely finished.

Thanks kindly.

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #1 of 29)

The first question that comes to mind is: what will you be putting on the shelves?  If you are intending this to be used as a library, for example, books are pretty heavy.  The greater the load, the better the shelves will need to be braced.  If, on the other hand, you plan to display your Hummel collection, they will not bring so much weight to bear.

To more directly answer your question, a span of 12' should be comprised of at least three (if not four) units.  The more weight you will be putting on the shelves, the closer the "standards" should be (thus having more and more narrow shelf units). 

Depending upon the design and the materials you use, combined units should cost in the neighborhood of $300 to $500 (very lowball figure), plus labor if you are having someone build and install it. 

The term "built in" is pretty broad.  If you just mean erecting the shelves against an existing wall, that's not a problem and can have a very nice look.  Moving or demo-ing a wall is another matter.  The more efforts toward making the shelves appear "built in" (the more moldings needed to achieve "the look"), the greater the cost.

So, a built in 12' l x 8' h in common lumber with homemade trim and everything painted could be done fairly economically while a nicely finished oak or cherry project could become pretty pricey.

JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #4 of 29)

Thank you very much for such a clear answer. I needed just exactly this kind of info. Thanks again.

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #7 of 29)

Here is an idea that you may use.  It has the "built-in" appearance and is very adaptable.  The attached photo will give you a quick idea of the concept while the link provides you with the opportunity to obtain a "how to" video and plans to build your own.

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JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #13 of 29)

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #14 of 29)

My pleasure!  Let us know how everything turns out!

JIMMIEM's picture

(post #88253, reply #24 of 29)

Any idea on where I can find plans for a book case that I can hang on a wall?  I would like to keep the floor area beneath it clear.  I've got a 7 foot long wall and lots of books.


Thank You

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #25 of 29)

You may try these:,,diy_14350_26908,00.html

If I were doing such a project, it would be hung on a "French cleat" (1 x 4 or 2 x 4 cut at an angle of about 45 degrees so that the mating angles--one attached to the wall and other to the bookcase--provide a very solid hanging mechanism).  The bookcase itself must be reinforced so that the shelves will not sag under the weight of the books.  Make sure that the cleats are very securely anchored so that they will not fail.

JIMMIEM's picture

(post #88253, reply #26 of 29)

Thank You for the Links.  Also, I recently hung a store bought vanity cabinet and used the French cleat that you suggested. The really nice thing about using the cleat is that I could do it all without a helper.

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #27 of 29)

Glad to be of help!  There are several advantages to the French cleat, but being able to install cabinetry by yourself is way up on the list!  The great plus of having the weight of the cabinets and their contents distributed across the length of the cleat is also high on the list of advantages.

forestgirl's picture

(post #88253, reply #28 of 29)

Heart, that Lumberjock bookcase was interesting.  I notice he hung the bookcase above the granddaughter's bed.  Hope she doesn't live in earthquake-land, not a good idea!  Thanks for posting those links, might spur an idea for our space-challenged home.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #29 of 29)

We live in tornado alley, and there is a fault line not far away that rumbles just a little every now and then, so I am not in any hurry to hang heavy stuff in the house.  But, space is an issue in many households, and I stopped offering my opinion in other folk's design dreams a good while ago.  FG, you would not believe some of the color combinations and "interesting" stuff I have installed in homes.  If it please the homeowner (particularly if it pleases the lady of the house), I'm ecstatic!

YesMaam27577's picture

(post #88253, reply #17 of 29)

>>"....combined units should cost in the neighborhood of $300 to $500 (very lowball figure)....."

Very lowball indeed. Try to get any carpenter into your home for one day for that amount, and you'll likely be disappointed, regardless of your location. And one day is not enough, assuming these shelves are to have some type of finish. And that amount doesn't include ANY materials.

I am in the area near Raleigh NC. In general, when I am asked to give a "quick and dirty" estimate for built-ins, I follow these rules:

$110 per running foot for half-height cabinets (either base cabs or wall cabs.)

Twice that for bookshelves that go floor to ceiling (or almost to the ceiling)

Add $110 per door (flat slabs of ply), and $110 per drawer (no dovetails unless even more $$).

Those rules include shelves/cabinets made from birch ply that is "lumber yard grade", with the simplest of edging for exposed edges (wood tape, ironed on). No face frames. No crown. No special base to match the trim in your home.

Painted. Stain and clear-coat (poly or laquer) is more$.

So, 8' tall, and 12' long, should be more like $2600 - 2700, for basic shelves, with installation and paint included.

I didn't do the math, but I'll bet that $300 would not cover the lumber.

Politics is the antithesis of problem solving.

Edited 12/29/2008 4:25 pm ET by YesMaam27577

. . I can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone, So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here. (Phil Ochs)
bmchan's picture

(post #88253, reply #20 of 29)

I agree entirely with this math. And to "put my wallet where my mouth is" I agreed to a price of $2,500 today to do my built-in cabinets. I have built my own in the past. See attached. BTW - the crown moulding is upside down but only I can tell. I built two of these on both ends of my living room.

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heartwould's picture

(post #88253, reply #21 of 29)

The figures I ran were about what I paid for some common 1 x 8 lumber I used to build about as much shelving as proposed in my own home.  (I elected not to use any plywood).  Notice that I did say that this was a lowball figure and that labor would be an additional charge.

The OP did not give any specifics, particularly as to whether this would be a DIY or a commissioned work.  There are way too many unknown variables to really give a good figure, but I attempted to supply a starting point. 

Really well made, custom built-ins can be incredibly expensive.  Some can afford it better than others.  A few years ago I made a white cedar "built-in" library to the homeowners' specifications.  Within a few weeks, the lady of the house had me tear it out and do something else.  Within a year, someone else ripped that out and totally remodeled the entire house--including the two upstairs bathrooms I had done.  They now live in a totally custom home, but that does not appear to be quite right either.  We can only do what we can do with the information at hand.


JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #23 of 29)

Thank you. I really do now have a pretty good idea of how much it might cost, and what I'd get for the prices.

JAMES's picture

(post #88253, reply #2 of 29)

don't be scarred... I am in San Francisco so this is where my pricing comes from but I will take it to the low end as I assume you are elsewhere.


frame out wall to tuck shelves into, drywall interior, firetape etc

construct 5 30" x 8' shelving units to match any other millwork within house ( likely painted)

install units and trim to match existing millwork, rearrange any hardwood flooring border to make sense with the new space, finish flooring

clean up and load out


you are looking at around 8500 - 12000 depending on the trim details and location of the project ( 3rd floor rear with a narrow winder being the high price)



bmchan's picture

(post #88253, reply #3 of 29)

I just received a quote from a local craftsman (central MA) for an 8' tall 3' wide built-in (fireplace to exterior wall). The bottom will be a 30" tall closed cabinet and the top will be open shelves with a crown moulding.

This individual is a master wood carver and cabinet builder and he quoted me $3,000. I nearly hung up on him. I won't pay more than $2,000 and that's too much. You should pay no more than $1,000 for a basic, simple cabinet. Be scared if someone qoutes $8,500 - $12,000.

JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #6 of 29)

Thanks. I am scared!

JAMES's picture

(post #88253, reply #8 of 29)

depending on your location that may be a fair quote.


Built-in's are one off's that are made to fit a given space... You usually can't even do a complete plan until the space is defined.


from your description ( 8x30, half closed.. doors, crown) installed 3k dose not sound so bad from here... hell an Ikea box like that would likely cost you @500 and that would be picked up by you and assembled by you and installed by you oh.... and be made entirely of pressboard.


I bet the "craftsman's" cabinet probably had at least 250$ worth of wood in it... so he is supposed to construct finish and install that piece for 750?? lets not forget that he also has other expenses like his shop for one.. and tools and maintance etc. and as a craftsman he is entitled to earn a fair wage... 50/hr at a minimum and that is really a self employed carp wage, I would expect a furniture maker and shop owner to be shooting for 75 - 100/hr.

unless your craftsman is working out of his garage and retired I think that amount of money is low (1k). Real furniture ( even cabinets ) cost real money.

having said that I couldn't afford to hire me to build the cherry roll away I built myself last month. I figure I would have had to charge 4500$ for the rolling 4x3 8 drawer unit.

even quality production kitchen cabinets cost more than what you are willing to pay for that piece. 7 years ago I installed a dura-supreame kitchen in antique white that set the customer back 60k just for the cabinets.. that was under 25 boxes so we were looking at about 2400 per box. I wish he had asked me to build them... they were very nice but still jig built kitchen cabinets.



JeffHeath's picture

(post #88253, reply #11 of 29)

You obviously have no idea what it costs a professional cabinetmaker to operate his/her shop.  You seem to be guessing based on what value you place on having the work done, which isn't much value at all.  If you personally had any experience doing these built-in's professionally, you would have a better understanding of what is involved.  At the prices that you are quoting, the only individual you could entice into taking the job is a total beginner with no concept of what he/she is doing.  That same person will be totally upset with himself/herself for taking the job so cheaply when it is over and installed, if it even gets that far.

I'm in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Here are just a couple of recent projects that I put out.  The maple unit is almost 20 feet long, and cost $18K.  The alder project was 15 feet long, and 12 feet high, and cost $15K.  The cherry units were 8 feet and 10 feet in length, and were $14.5, to a very close friend.  I've been doing this for over 20 years, and know my market very, very well.

Typical pricing around here from a professional shop (no weekend garage warriors) is between $600 and $1000 per linear feet of cabinetry.  That includes materials and installation.  I wouldn't put the key in the ignition of my truck for a customer who wanted to spend $1000.00 on the bookshelf unit you described, because it's a loser from day 1.


Edited 12/29/2008 3:52 pm ET by JeffHeath

A distinguished graduate of the School of Hard Knocks
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JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #12 of 29)

Those are gorgeous shelves!

We have in mind the simplest of shelving, nothing like your photos. No cabinets, no fancy trim, just plain straight lines, and built for books, along a wall.

Sorry to have caused this misunderstanding.

JeffHeath's picture

(post #88253, reply #15 of 29)


My response to the other person was in no way intended to make you feel that you created a misunderstanding.  If it did, I apologize.  My purpose for responding was to create a voice of reason, as Lee (mapleman) was also trying to do.  It irks me a bit when an individual responds here to questions that he/she obviously knows absolutely nothing about.  I assure  you that, we, as professional woodworkers, aren't getting rich any time soon.  Custom projects take time to design, prepare stock, and execute.  Your question was an excellent question, and you came to the right place to get the answers.  Unfortunately, not all the answers you got were accurate.  Mapleman and I are just trying to make sure you get the right answers.

If you are looking for inexpensive cabinets for your home, you should try to find them already built, and paint them to give you the finish you desire.  If you are trying to really set the room up nicely, and create a wall of custom work that you'll be proud of forever, as well as increase the value of your home, then you should be speaking with a local craftsman.  I can guarantee you that you won't be sorry, in the long run, by having a quality job done for you.  You'll never, ever have to apologize for outstanding quality work.

Good luck in your search, and Happy New Year!!


PS  If you decide to build them yourself, just come here and ask lots of questions.  We'll get you through the project, and you'll be happy you didn't go to Ikea.


Edited 12/29/2008 3:48 pm ET by JeffHeath

A distinguished graduate of the School of Hard Knocks
Napie's picture

(post #88253, reply #16 of 29)

You sir, have no idea of what you are talking about.  Do you give your services, whatever they are, away for nothing?

Edited 12/29/2008 4:15 pm ET by Napie

JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #5 of 29)

That is a truly terrifying quote! We couldn't afford that, but we couldn't afford to live in SF either! Thanks for the info, though.

JAMES's picture

(post #88253, reply #9 of 29)

I know what you mean by stuff being expensive in the city... the flip side of it is that if you are working in san francisco you generally make more money...


a three bedroom house on the outskirts of town here with a one car garage and the neighbors piled on you sells for @ 750,000$.... funny thing is you can buy a one bedroom condo downtown for that and not even get a parking place.

I think you can safely cut my low price in half, that may be more representive of your area.



mapleman's picture

(post #88253, reply #10 of 29)


You very well may get a whole slew of wild quotes here, so I will just add the following:

Depending on who builds the unit, the price will vary. If the unit is built and installed by a professional woodworker who has employees, overhead, insurance, etc, then James's quote is very fair. Plus or minus a couple thousand for different parts of the country, but fair.

If the unit is built and installed by someone who does woodworking in his/her garage on the weekends and spare time, then the price will be the cost of materials plus whatever that individual wants to make as a profit.

I would estimate the cost of materials (where I live) using maple, for example, to be roughly $700- $900. That is assuming 4- 36" wide units connected to make the 12' width. That's using 3/4" maple ply for the carcass, 1/4" maple ply backs, solid maple face frame, maple crown, and maple base molding. I used maple because it's in between the cost of oak and cherry to give you a rough idea.

So, you see, you're at almost $1000 before you figure in labor, finishing, and delivery/set up. Just depends on how much you want to spend, and how experienced a person you want doing the work and in your home doing the install.

Good luck,


YesMaam27577's picture

(post #88253, reply #18 of 29)

Please seem my response (#18 in this thread) to another post.

Politics is the antithesis of problem solving.
. . I can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone, So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here. (Phil Ochs)
Shoemaker1's picture

(post #88253, reply #19 of 29)

There is no thing as cheap shelving. Period.
As you can see the numbers vary.
Let me tell you a story.
Many years ago in college I worked for a husband and wife who owned 2 beer and wine supply stores. I managed on part time. One day the boss said " bring your tools and build some cabinets to store those carboys off the floor (glass 23 liter about 10 LBS)" I said for 5.00$ and hour my tools stay hole. If you want shelves but I will build them". Needless to say he was irritated his wife mad! So he bought some cheap ply and grey angle brackets and built about 50 feet of shelves around the top of the wall and was so smug, " all that for $200.00 and a day" I nodded and said goo nice to have them off the floor. The next morning he was in early. Seem over the night ALL the shelves fell and as they hit the floor the alarm was set off. He was up to him armpits in broken glass. I never offered to help clean up. The next day he was assembling commercial grade metal shelving. The cheap shelves probably cost about $600.00 in broken glass 1970's prices.

That said books are heavy, The higher you hold them the heavier they get.
Go to a place that does custom closets and ask them what they could do for you.
Look for a store that is going out of business or upgrading shelves.

On another thread here, some on asked about building a bunch of free standing book shelves, 8 feet high and 1 ft deep, concensus was don't do it !
Keep us posted

JillElise's picture

(post #88253, reply #22 of 29)