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Modular Stacking Shelves

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Make a stylish shelving system for your home using easy-to-build boxes and hollow-core doors.

Modular Stacking Shelves

Project Overview

Skill Level

Intermediate

Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost

$$$$$$

Tools & Materials

Tools

  • Circular saw
  • Tape measure
  • Miter box and handsaw
  • Hammer and nail set (or brad nailer and compressor)
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Electronic stud finder (optional)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Wood glue
  • 8d finish nails or 1-3/4-in wire brads
  • Wood putty

Materials

  • 6 - 3/4 x 4 x 8 birch plywood, #37985
  • 8 - 1 x 2 x 8 poplar boards, #1078
  • 2 - 30-in oak bifold door sets, #12358
  • Valspar Signature semigloss paint: Pontoon White (#7006-13), Bistro Chair (#ar819), Day at the Jewelers (#ar2004), Pink Suede (#WV 31014), Sea Port (#ar1220), Earthen Rose (#CI 103)
  • 1 x 4 x 8 pine (optional)
  • 1 -1/2 x 4 x 8 rigid insulation (optional)
  • #8 x 2-in flathead wood screws (optional)
  • #8 x 1-1/4-in flathead wood screws

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

Missing anything? Shop Online

Instructions

The project consists of a series of interchangeable boxes and hollow-core doors from a bifold closet door kit. The doors are ready for paint or stain with a little putty and sanding. The boxes, in three different styless, are all built in a similar manner: Cut the panels to size, paint the interiors to save time, assemble, and add a face frame. See a Lowe’s paint associate for help selecting colors that will accent your room. The plywood and boards accept stain as well as paint. Arrange the components to suit your needs -- the Project Diagrams show four configurations.

For the arrangement shown above with six small boxes, four large boxes, and six shelves, budget about $487 plus the finish of your choice. If you only need two small boxes, two large boxes, and a pair of shelves, allow about $152 plus finish costs.

Prepare the Box Parts

Step 1

Cut 4 inches from the length and width of a 1-1/2-inch-thick piece of rigid insulation. Place a piece of 3/4-inch plywood on the insulation sheet. The insulation provides a way to fully support the panel as you cut it to size, and it backs the cut to reduce splintering. By cutting the insulation slightly smaller than the sheet, a straightedge board can be clamped to the plywood to guide the saw for accurate cuts.

Step 2

Measure the blade offset.
Measure the blade offset.

Measure the distance from the inside edge of the blade to the edge of your circular saw base that will ride against the straightedge as you cut.

Step 3

A straightedge and foam yields smooth plywood cuts.
A straightedge and foam yields smooth plywood cuts.

Mark the desired width of the cut (Project Diagram, Cutting List), allow for the saw base offset, and clamp the straightedge board to the plywood. Double-check where the blade touches the cut line and make the cut.

Good to Know

When pushing the saw down the sheet, apply pressure slightly in the direction of the straightedge board to prevent the saw cut from wandering away from the guide.

Step 4

Repeat the straightedge setup and cut to size the tops/bottoms, sides, and backs of the boxes.

Step 5

Use tape to keep the glue areas free from paint.
Use tape to keep the glue areas free from paint.

Sand the panels in the direction of the grain with 180-grit sandpaper. Mark a line 1-1/2 inches from the bottom and 3/4 inch down from the top of the sides and back. Cover these areas with painter’s tape. (Wood glue doesn’t stick well to paint, so masking these strips will allow a better glue bond when you assemble the cases.)

Good to Know

By holding the tape away from the layout line, the paint will go just a bit into the joint area. That way, if the final assembly is slightly off, the raw wood will not be exposed.

Step 6

Prime the plywood interiors.
Prime the plywood interiors.

Apply primer to the interior faces of the panels. After that dries, apply two coats of paint. When the paint is dry, remove the tape.

Assemble the Boxes

Step 1

Rest the bottom on spacers and add the side.
Rest the bottom on spacers and add the side.

Apply glue to one end of the bottom panel and place it on two 3/4-inch-thick spacers. Clamp one side of the box to the bottom and secure the joint by hammering 8d finish nails or driving 1-3/4-in nails with a brad nailer. Now add the top to the side panel.

Step 2

Insert the back and secure.
Insert the back and secure.

Glue and nail the second side and then the back to the box.

Step 3

Mark the rails to fit
Mark the rails to fit

Cut the stiles (the vertical frame pieces) to match the height of the box sides. Glue and nail them to the case so their outside edges are flush with the outside edges of the box. Hold the rails (the horizontal pieces) in place and mark their length. Cut the rails to length.

Good to Know

When making parts for a project, slight variations occur, and you should always use the completed assembly to mark the actual length or width to cut a part -- a method called cutting to fit.

Step 4

Glue and nail the rails in position. If you use a hammer to drive the finish nails, use a hammer and nail set to drive the finish nails 1/16 inch below the surface of the wood. Fill any nail holes or slight gaps between any boards with wood putty using a putty knife.

Step 5

Mask the interior panels to get clean paint lines.
Mask the interior panels to get clean paint lines.

Sand the assembled boxes and the bifold doors with 180-grit sandpaper and apply the primer and paint. To prevent the outside paint color from getting on the inside of the boxes painted earlier, apply painter’s tape to the front edge of the plywood bottom.

Step 6

Repeat as needed for the remaining boxes. We made a total of four long boxes and six square boxes, and we used three pairs of bifold doors to make the shelves.

Stack the Shelves

Step 1

Using the Project Diagrams, place the doors and boxes as indicated, or in your own configuration. To prevent the parts from being tipped, drive 1-1/4-inch screws through the top and bottom of each box into the door panels once the components are in position.

Step 2

If the unit exceeds 32 inches tall, secure the unit to the wall by driving screws through the backs of upper boxes and into the wall studs or wall anchors. Where the unit meets the wall, you will need a spacer that is as thick or thicker than the wall base trim in your home.