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How Much Do Built In Bookshelves Or Cabinets Cost?

National Average Change Location | View National
$2,086
Typical Range
$1,100 - $3,156
Low End
$600
High End
$5,000

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On This Page:

  1. Built In Cost Factors
  2. Pros & Cons of Built-Ins
  3. Types of Built-In Units
  4. Is This a DIY Job?
  5. Inspiration

Built-in bookshelves & cabinets are sleek, effective solutions when you need to minimize space clutter. They’re able to hold anything -- books, gadgets, decor -- without having to stand out by several feet. They’re very elegant looking, and it’s a great way to arrange your space’s decor. If you want to have these installed, expect to pay between $2,000 to $5,000 for a carpenter to come in and do the job. If you buy the materials yourself, you can usually get a handyman in to install them for $30 to $130 per hour. Here are some factors to consider when investing in built-in shelving.

Built In Cost Factors

Some of the factors that can influence your total cost for built-in shelves include:

  • Materials: You can buy shelves made of various materials -- veneer plywood, birch, douglas fir -- but this means your price will vary just in buying them. Make sure to check how much the material can hold without sagging.
  • Construction: There are three different kinds of cabinets -- pre made, semi-custom and custom. The pre made cabinets won’t cost much to buy, but the custom ones can run you a few hundred dollars. There are pros and cons to each type, so weigh them carefully before choosing one to invest in.
  • Labor: If you are installing a lot of built-in shelving, then you’ll pay more in labor, whether to the handyman or the carpenter. You should take on an additional $100 to $200 for labor to the total cost.
  • Design: Shelving comes in various designs, in terms of width, height, depth and so forth. Some considerations to keep in mind when buying the right design include:
    • Height – If you install a shelving unit between 8-10 feet in height, it shouldn’t cost much. However, shelving that’s 10 feet or higher will take more time and resources to install, thus a higher cost.
    • Fitting in – If you need to remove molding, flooring or other elements to fit the bookshelf in the space, that will take extra work and time. Then you will also have to consider repairs.
    • Features –  If you want to add more items to the shelving design -- doors, drawers, windows, etc. -- you’ll pay more overall..
  • Accessories: Along the lines of features, you can add more accessories to your shelving unit for a more personalized look. A coat of paint, some accent carpentry and so forth can make it really appeal but will cost you more in the end.

Once you budget for this project and start looking for professionals, keep in mind their experience and contracts. You don’t want to hire a handyman or carpenter with zero previous experience in this field. Make sure you to talk to at least 3-4 professionals before settling on the right one. With the contract, be sure to have it include materials, payment schedule, start/finish date and how the work will be done. That way you can make sure they follow the guidelines and don’t ask for extra money if they take too long.

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Pros and Cons of Built-ins

If you’re still on the fence about considering built-in bookshelving, here are some of the common pros and cons to help you make a decision.

Pros:

  • It blends rather than stands out.
  • They can provide a lot of extra storage since they use a whole wall.
  • You can create a cohesive design with the shelving and your home.
  • The storage is more efficient and clean-looking
  • You can easily add lighting for ambience.

Cons:

  • It’s an investment you should seriously consider as a homeowner
  • You can’t take the shelves with you
  • If you use a professional, it will cost more than DIYing the job.
  • Professional installation will mean having to be out of your home during the installation.
  • It’s a very time-consuming process

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Types of Built-in Units

You can get built-in cabinetry in various forms, including:

  • Built-in, closed door cabinetry for your office
  • Entertainment center built-in shelving for your DVDs, CDs or blu-rays
  • Dining room built-in cabinetry which can have both open and closed sections for dinnerware and decor
  • Built-in bookcases in the living room or bedroom for your small gadgets and books

When determining what kind of built-in shelving you need, you should also consider the material it will be made from and its elasticity. Elasticity is defined as “the ability of an object or material to resume its normal shape after being stretched or compressed.” In layman’s terms this means you want a material to withstand the weight of your objects without sagging or cracking. Here are some common built-in shelf materials and their elasticity:

Type of Wood

Elasticity

Birch

2.01

Douglas Fir

1.95

Hard Maple (Sugar)

1.83

White Oak

1.78

White Ash

1.77

Shortleaf Pine

1.76

Black Walnut

1.68

Poplar

1.58

Cherry

1.49

Red Oak

1.49

White Fir

1.38

Ponderosa Pine

1.26

White Pine

1.24

Western Red Cedar

1.12

There are also common standards of shelving including:

  • Base -- 24 inches deep and 36 inches tall
  • Wall -- 12 inches deep
  • Tall -- 83.5 inches in height (good for your kitchen or hallway)
  • Specialty -- includes corner cabinets suspended units and so forth. It can be customized to your needs.

These are only some factors to consider with your built-in shelving. That’s why it is best to determine what the use of the cabinet will be, what it will hold and the space it needs to fit into. This can be determine what kind of built-in shelving you need, along with the potential materials and tools you’ll need for the project.

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Typical/Common Dimensions

As aforementioned, the base model of a shelving unit is 24 inches deep and 36 inches tall. For taller built-in shelving, you should aim for 30-42 inches high and no higher than 84 inches. You want to be able to comfortably reach whatever is on the shelf, so your built-in bookshelves should probably be between 72-78 inches in height.

Depending on how much room you need, the shelf’s width should be between 3-5 feet wide. Whether or not it will sag depends on your shelving material and how much you load onto it. If your shelving or cabinets sag more than ¾ inches, it’s not properly weighted and you should move materials off it to avoid further damage.

The depth of the bookshelving unit should be determined by the items you will store on it. The average range for depth is 6-24 inches, again dependent on the materials and what kind of wood you will use. A bookshelf usually has a depth of 10-12 inches.

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Is This a DIY Kind of Job?

The answer to this question is mostly yes. You can buy pre made shelving units from the local home improvement store, but do your research before making a purchase. You should also consult videos and tutorials beforehand. You will pay anywhere between $200 to $500 to install built-in shelving units yourself. The cost of the shelving itself will be anywhere from $25 to $150, depending on the size you need.

DO NOT BUILD THE SHELVING. That is rule number one from professionals. You run a lot of risk with it falling apart under the weight of your objects. You can design them, but you should rely on a carpenter to construct them or purchase pre made units from the store. This saves you a lot of potential headache down the road should the shelving fail for any reason.

That said, if you need a large unit of built-in shelving -- tall bookcase, shelving units that will take up a whole wall and so forth -- then you should probably go professional. They have the tools and previous experience to install your built-in shelving without a lot of problems or extra work needed.

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Inspiration

To help you find the right kind of built-in shelving for your home, here are some photos of already installed units. Some might be the right fit for your home, while others might work as a basis for your personal shelving design. As always, do a lot of research through design magazines and the Internet to make sure you have a perfect picture in mind of what you want.

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