Follow our simple instructions to learn how to make this ladder-style shelving unit in just one day.

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

With its A-frame shape, this DIY ladder shelf provides a modern alternative to a traditional bookcase. The ladder-style étagère 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.

  • Working time 2 hrs
  • Start to finish 1 day
  • Difficulty Kind of Hard
  • Involves Sawing, Sanding, Gluing, Nailing
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What you need

Tools
Materials
Cuts
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How to do it

Part 1

Step 1

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 each piece at the following measurements from the bottom: 17-1/4 inches, 18 inches, 28-1/4 inches, 29 inches, 39-1/4 inches, 40 inches, 50-1/4 inches, 51 inches, 62-1/4 inches, and 63 inches. 

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gluing cross piece of a-frame shelf
Credit: Dera Burreson
attaching crossbar to a-frame shelf
Credit: Dera Burreson
Step 2

Attach the Rungs

Lay five of the rung pieces between the two frame pieces and line them up between the five pairs of measured marks. Glue and pin nail the rungs between the two 69-inch lengths. Allow the glue to dry. Repeat with the remaining lengths and rungs to create the second ladder. 

attaching hinges to top of a-frame shelf
Step 3

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.

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a frame shelf attaching thin board
Step 4

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.

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completed a-frame shelf
Step 5

Finish the 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.

By Jessica BennettJeni Wright and Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

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