How to Build a DIY Recessed Wall Shelf

This DIY home improvement project is ideal for small spaces, such as a narrow hallway or bathroom wall. Use our tips to build a storage shelf between the studs in your wall.

recessed shower shelving solution
Photo: Stacey Brandford
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Small spaces are especially prone to clutter, and there's not always enough room to utilize freestanding storage solutions. Declutter a narrow hallway or messy bathroom with this DIY recessed shelf. Perfect for holding hair products or displaying favorite decor items, this shelf sits right in the wall so it doesn't protrude into limited space. While this project might seem like a job for a professional, it's completely doable with the right tips and tools. Follow along with our instructions to learn how to build a recessed wall shelf and check this weekend project off your to-do list.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Stud finder
  • 1 Measuring tape
  • 1 Drywall saw
  • 1 Small mirror
  • 1 Flashlight
  • 1 Power drill or driver
  • 1 Hammer
  • 1 Putty knife
  • 1 Paintbrush

Materials

  • 1 15-1/2 X 14-1/2-inch sheet board
  • 1 13 x 15-1/2 inches craft board
  • 1 Screws
  • 1 Wood glue
  • 1 Finishing nails
  • 1 Wood putty
  • 1 Sandpaper
  • 1 Stain or paint

Instructions

  1. Make an Inspection Hole

    mirror in drywall, mirror, light, drywall
    Jay Wilde

    Locate studs with a stud finder. Make an inspection hole to ensure your placement is not interfering with electrical, HVAC, or plumbing.

    To do this, choose a small section (3 x 3 inches) of wall between studs where you want your shelf to go. Use a drywall saw to cut out a square while holding the saw at a 45-degree angle. (This will prevent the piece from falling into the wall.) Place a pocket-size mirror into the hole and use a flashlight to look for any obstructions in the way of where you want your recessed shelf to sit.

  2. Cut Drywall

    level, pencil, DIY
    Jay Wilde

    Measure how tall you'd like to make your shelf (we made ours 16 x 16 inches) and how high up you'd like it to be installed. Use the drywall saw to cut out drywall between studs, using a stud finder to be exact. Remove drywall and set aside.

  3. Build Box Sides

    DIY wooden box drill
    Jay Wilde

    Cut small sheet board and craft board to the dimensions of the interior shelf. This should include a back to the shelf, 4-inch-deep sides, and a 1- to 2-inch lip to go around the shelf. The lip frames should be cut at a 45-degree angle.

    Begin by building the sides of the shelf. Position the side boards to form a square, and use two clamps to hold the structure together. With a pencil, make marks for two screws at each corner. Use a power drill to make pilot holes, followed by the screws.

  4. Attach Shelf Back

    Line the sides of the shelf with wood glue as shown above. Place the cut craft board directly on top of the box structure and press down. Let dry.

    Once glue is dry, drill one screw in the middle of each side. First, measure and mark 3/8 inch from the edge. Drill pilot holes followed by screws. Set aside.

  5. Build Shelf Lip

    Use wood glue to press the corners of the shelf lip together. Let dry. Line the shelf structure with wood glue, and place the shelf lip directly on top. Press down and let dry. Use a hammer and finishing nails to secure the lip to the shelf as shown above. Use two nails per side.

  6. Apply Putty

    putty wood pink spatula hand tool
    Jay Wilde

    Apply wood putty to all seams in the shelf using a flat putty knife. Let dry. Sand away excess putty until smooth and wipe with a clean cloth. The wood putty will dry to match the color of the wood and will help conceal the seams and holes made by the finishing nails. Stain and paint shelf, if desired.

  7. Insert Shelf and Attach to Wall

    drilling wood wall studs
    Jay Wilde

    Carefully place shelf into drywall hole. Attach shelf to wall studs by drilling pilot holes and screws into the sides of the shelf. There should be two screws on each stud-facing side.

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