How to Make a Ladder Shelf

Turn a unique vintage buy into a functional storage piece with farmhouse style. Our quick instructions make it easy!

Kitchen shelving

Step inside a vintage resale shop, and you'll probably find a rustic ladder or two. These unique pieces look so neat tucked away in a nook, but they don't always hold much purpose. To better incorporate these vintage finds into your home, try your hand at this DIY ladder shelf. This country-inspired piece is perfect for open shelving in your kitchen or as a one-of-a-kind display in the living room. With our easy steps, this is one weekend project you can agree to. 

What You Need

  • Vintage ladder
  • Circular saw
  • Sandpaper
  • (5) 1X12X30-inch pine boards
  • Paint primer and paint
  • Paint brush
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Countersink drill bit
  • 3-inch construction screws
  • (2) 1X3-inch strip of salvaged wood (length varies by project)
  • 1-1/2-inch screws
  • Miter saw

Step 1: Cut Ladder in Half

Cut a wooden ladder into two equal sections using a circular saw. Be sure ladder rungs align perfectly when two halves stand together. Sand the raw edges.

Note: You may purchase two smaller ladders instead, however ladder rungs must align perfectly for even shelving. 

Step 2: Prep For Shelves

Cut 1×12-inch pine boards for the shelving. Ours are 30 inches long, but they may be any length. Sand, prime, and paint all sides. Lay both ladder sections flat. 

Measure and mark parallel points 4 inches to the right and left of the center on each rung. Drill holes at the marks using a countersink drill bit. Lay one ladder section on its side, center a shelf next to the top rung, and attach through the holes using 3-inch construction screws. The construction screws prevent the wood from splitting when driven close to the shelf edge. 

Step 3: Connect Shelves To Ladder

With a partner's help, carefully stand up the ladder, and attach the other ladder section to the shelf. Place a 1×3 strip of salvaged wood diagonally across the back of the unit. Strip should be long enough to diagonally connect the bottom of one ladder to the top of the other. Drive a 1½-inch screw at the bottom. Check that the shelf is level; attach the opposite end of the brace. 

Install the remaining shelves. Further secure the brace to the shelves. Place a second brace across the back. Mark and remove the section where the brace crosses the first diagonal board using a miter saw. Attach the brace. Trim overhanging brace ends.

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