How to Choose Shelving Materials

If you're ready to build a shelf, you've come to the right place. We'll walk you through everything you need to know about lumber, hardware, molding, and more.

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You put a lot of craftsmanship and time into your projects, so you want to use the right materials for the job. As with tools, always try to purchase the highest quality material and hardware your budget allows, as appropriate for your project's intended use. For instance, don't waste money buying a fine hardwood, such as cherry, for a utilitarian bookcase in a basement or workshop. We'll walk you through how to choose between different materials, hardwares, and more.

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Choosing Lumber for Your Built-In

Different projects call for different lumber. We'll help you choose the right lumber for your built-in. You'll learn the differences between hardwoods and softwoods, when and where to use each type, and how to select them. You'll find out about the special properties of plywood, the many grades and types it comes in, and how to choose plywood for built-in projects. You'll also learn how to describe and compare other composite sheet goods, such as oriented strand board, particleboard, and fiberboard. And you'll find tips for how best to use each type of material.

Understanding Sagless Spans

A shelf is only as good as its strength. Before you build, it's important to know what you plan to store on your shelf, how much it weighs, and thus how strong you need to build your shelves. We'll walk you through the common sag limits of shelves, plus recommend additional ways to add strength.

How to Create Sturdy Shelves

Hardware Options for Your Built-In

Walking the hardware aisles at a large home center can be overwhelming. We'll guide you through various types of fasteners and show you how to pick the perfect one. And fasteners are just one category of hardware. No less puzzling is the variety of hinges, shelf brackets, and other products that help you assemble wood into functional pieces of case furniture and shelving. You'll learn to recognize these as well.

Finishing the Project

Finally, you'll discover the materials experts use as the finishing touches to bookcases and shelves. Edge banding is an easy-to-use product that makes an inexpensive piece of plywood look like a costly solid board, for example. Another idea: Employ moldings to give simple boxes a degree of finish and flair that makes them a source of pride as well as practical functionality. Many cabinet- and furniture-making solutions are quite simple. This section will provide the know-how to get the results you'll be proud to showcase in your home.

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