How to Build an A-Frame Ladder Shelf for Stylish DIY Storage

Follow our simple instructions to learn how to make this A-frame ladder shelf in just one day.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

With its A-frame shape, this DIY ladder shelf provides a modern alternative to a traditional bookcase. The A-frame bookshelf is both decorative and utilitarian, and it's perfect for flanking a sofa or tucking into an empty corner. Style the shelving unit with books, decor, artwork, houseplants, and other accessories. If you need to move the shelf or pack it up for storage, it's as simple as removing the shelves and folding it up like a traditional ladder.

The project comes together using wood boards in various lengths, wood glue, nails, and hinges, and it takes about a day to complete, including drying time. You can customize your ladder shelf with paint for a colorful accent or highlight the wood's texture with a stained finish. Learn how to make this DIY A-frame ladder shelf using our step-by-step instructions below.

gray ladder shelf with plants and books in living room
Carson Downing

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw
  • -20 sandpaper
  • Sanding block and/or pad sander
  • Hammer or power nailer
  • Paint brush


  • 1x2-inch boards
  • 1x10-inch boards
  • 3/4-inch square dowel
  • Wood glue
  • 2 hinges
  • Primer and paint or sealer


  1. Make Cuts

    Cut your wood to the below dimensions.

    Piece Dimensions Quantity
    A-frame structure 1x2x69-inch boards 4
    Bottom shelf (shelf #5) 1x10x37-inch board 1
    Shelf #4 1x10x31-inch board 1
    Shelf #3 1x10x25-inch board 1
    Shelf #2 1x10x20-inch board 1
    Top shelf #1 1x10x13-inch board 1
    Ladder rungs 1x2x9-1/2-inch boards 6 per ladder; 12 total
    Cleats on bottom shelf 3/4x3/4x9-1/2-inch square dowels 2
  2. Prepare the Wood

    Measure and cut the wood as specified in the cut list. Lightly sand the pieces to smooth rough edges. On a flat surface, arrange two of the 1×2×69-inch pieces parallel to each other, with the narrow sides facing up. Mark ladder posts, starting at the top:

    • 3/4”
    • 12 3/4”
    • 13 1/2”
    • 24 3/4”
    • 25 1/2”
    • 36 3/4”
    • 37 1/2”
    • 48 3/4”
    • 49 1/2”
    • 60 3/4”
    • 61 1/2”
  3. Attach the Rungs

    Start by nailing the first rung flush at the top between two long side pieces. Position remaining rungs between markings using an L-square and a nailer. Glue and pin-nail the rungs between the two lengths. Allow the glue to dry. Repeat with the remaining lengths and rungs to create the second ladder.

  4. attaching hinges to top of a-frame shelf
    Dera Burreson

    Connect the Ladders

    Stack the ladders on top of each other horizontally. Attach two hinges to connect the two ladders at the top to form the A-frame. Set the shelf up vertically and slide the two ladders slightly apart.

  5. a frame shelf attaching thin board
    Dera Burreson

    Attach Cleats to Bottom Shelf

    Put the bottom shelf on a flat surface and arrange the two cleats parallel to each other, 1 inch from either end. Secure using glue and pin nails. These will help keep the ladder from sliding open too far. Allow the glue to dry.

  6. completed a-frame shelf
    Dera Burreson

    Finish A-Frame Ladder Shelf

    With the ladder shelf standing upright, lay the bottom shelf on the bottom rungs with the cleats resting outside the rungs. Set all of the other shelves in place. If desired, cover nail holes with wood filler and paint, stain, or simply seal your A-frame ladder shelf.

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