Making our own alcove shelves - is this a mistake?

(24 Posts)
oriel3 Wed 13-Oct-21 18:15:07

We would like to add some shelves to the alcoves either side of the fireplace. Just simple floating shelves painted the same colour as the wall, to hold books. The shelves will be roughly 100cm x 25cm, and 2cm thick I think.

Anyone got any idea on the cost for a carpenter to do it, including ingredients? I've found a company that will supply them £60 each, not sure if that's a good price? Is this the sort of thing we can try to fit ourselves or will go wrong?

Thank you!

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oriel3 Wed 13-Oct-21 18:28:13


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FixTheBone Wed 13-Oct-21 18:31:22

Depends on your walls and equipment

If you've got perfectly square stud walls and a decent bench saw, you could do this yourself very easily.

If the walls are at all untrue, i.e. not 90deg corners and smoothly plastered it could be a total nightmare.

DespairingHomeowner Wed 13-Oct-21 18:31:32

You can buy pre-made floating shelves from places like B&Q, B&M, Homebase, IKEA.

Standard sizes are 90 or 120 cm wide (whi h you could trim), mine were £12 each, which is probably cheaper then getting a carpenter in (I got a handyman to fit mine, cost about £30 for all 3, with other jobs)

I’d get a carpenter in if it was a more skilled job like building a cupboard

HandlebarLadyTash Wed 13-Oct-21 18:44:08

How many books? If using floating shelf make sure they can take the weight

Lonelycrab Wed 13-Oct-21 18:44:10

I guess it depends how good you are with basic carpentry, and if you have the tools. Wood wise it would probably around £30-50, possibly cheaper if you can upcycle a bit.

We had a similar pair of alcoves, paid a carpenter around £180 to fit 6 shelves. It was a Victorian place so had to be hand measured but the fit was really good.

oriel3 Wed 13-Oct-21 18:44:40

@DespairingHomeowner thanks for this. I had a look at Homebase and B&Q but couldn't see any shelves you could paint yourself?

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Angiedx Wed 13-Oct-21 18:58:16

Hi Homebase do some different depths pine wood which can be painted
Think it’s furniture board
I have used this and cut it down to size
Alternatively if you have the measurements it’s worth trying your local timber merchants
With mine I gave them the measurements chose the wood and they cut it to size for me
Made life so much easier

oriel3 Wed 13-Oct-21 19:20:10

can anyone link me to a Homebase or B&Q or IKEA shelf that's suitable for painting and that can be 'floating'? I don't want visible brackets. Thanks!

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Lonelycrab Wed 13-Oct-21 19:56:31

You can pretty much paint any shelf with a light sand, and then primer undercoat.

I’d just be wary of the load ability of a floating shelf that only screws in along the back edge, more support is needed. Wouldn’t want to stack loads of heavy books for example. Alcoves mean you can support from the sides and across the front, finish well and it looks floating but is strong too.

Meloncurse Wed 13-Oct-21 20:04:00

We built our own, fairly time consuming as our walls aren't very true so they had to all be individually measured and scribed. We built frames and then sandwiched with MDF and painted so look chunky.

JerkintheMerkin Wed 13-Oct-21 20:13:48

I bought IKEA lack shelves and got a carpenter to cut to fit. A skilled carpenter will be able to make them look amazing especially if the walls are wonky (as mine areconfused)

BlueMongoose Wed 13-Oct-21 20:17:02


can anyone link me to a Homebase or B&Q or IKEA shelf that's suitable for painting and that can be 'floating'? I don't want visible brackets. Thanks!

Speaking as someone with a house infested with books, I don't think floating shelves are up to the job for books, unless all you have are little wee paperbacks.
1m is fairly long, so again, if it's books, you need some solid shelves or they'll warp between brackets, unless you use a lot of brackets.

What will you be putting on the shelves, and what's the wall like? Plasterboard with a gap behind or without , solid plaster over brick, or what? It affects what fixing method you can use.

Another vote here for a local timber merchant, if you have one. They're usually cheaper and better than the big chains.

tizwozliz Wed 13-Oct-21 20:22:06

We built our alcove shelves, hidden fixings so they look like chunky shelves but are actually wooden frames fixed on 3 sides and covered in MDF. Built like shown here

ChickenGotLegs Wed 13-Oct-21 20:35:08

Get onto YouTube. You can find tutorials on everything and anything.
Nothing is impossible these days!

AgathaX Wed 13-Oct-21 20:40:12

You can do it yourself, but if you're not very DIY competent then I'd get a carpenter to make and fit them. Books are heavy, walls are rarely straight and a patchy a job looks like a patchy job.

MrsSkylerWhite Wed 13-Oct-21 20:41:16

DIY can be really cost effective if you have straight walls. Unlikely in anything much older than a 50 year old house.

SallySkelington Wed 13-Oct-21 20:43:24

I made mine! Excuse the state of them, we are mid extension so this room is full of crap from the kitchen! I made them with a power drill, some wooden baton and some mdf. Been there for 5 years now and I'm not particularly handy in the DIY department!

Calmdown14 Wed 13-Oct-21 20:52:20

Loads of online places will make to your measurements. Look at places like worktop express.
Simple enough to fit. Remember to check how square your alcoves are. Ours go in a fair way front to back

oriel3 Wed 13-Oct-21 22:00:40

I've been a bit put off now! The house is Edwardian so wonky AF. We had floating shelves at our last house - not fitted by us - that supported our books, so looking for something similar. Maybe a carpenter is the better idea here!

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FixTheBone Thu 14-Oct-21 18:19:17


I've been a bit put off now! The house is Edwardian so wonky AF. We had floating shelves at our last house - not fitted by us - that supported our books, so looking for something similar. Maybe a carpenter is the better idea here!

problem is the off the shelf (pardon the pun) shelves normally have a spike on a bracket to mount them, which isn't particularly strong, whereas a decent bespoke effort will either be recessed into the wall, or have a batten on the wall and a step or recess in the shelf to slot over it an conceal it.

hannahcolobus Fri 15-Oct-21 16:23:02

I've done 6 pairs of alcove shelves myself over the last few years, totally do-able! The hardest thing I've found is the wonkiness of the walls, it can be really time consuming to overcome that and obviously that's where a proper joiner/carpenter might be worth paying for because their skills are going to be useful for dealing with that.

Really just depends whether you fancy the project or not. There's loads of good tutorials about and you don't really need loads of power tools either. The biggest cost will be materials, and as they've jumped up in price then mistakes could add a bit of money on. Again, a decent tradesperson isn't likely to have that issue so might make their prices seem more reasonable!

CPDubs Fri 15-Oct-21 16:30:22

This was ours (rubbish picture I’m afraid) hubby even made closed in units to hide wires and have some extra hidden storage. Can’t remember exact cost but it wasn’t too bad, much cheaper than having them made. All bought from B&Q smile

oriel3 Fri 15-Oct-21 17:39:53

@CPDubs good job, that looks fab!

Quotes are coming in around £1200 for 8 shelves. There's disagreement between builders on how thick the shelves have to be in order to support books, if they are also to be floating. Some say 25mm (my preferred thickness), some 50mm.

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