How to Build Beautiful Built-In Shelves Around Your Fireplace


Hey there, Reader! Are you looking to spruce up your living space and add some functional storage? Building beautiful built-in shelves around your fireplace is a fantastic way to achieve that custom look and create a cozy atmosphere. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of creating these stunning shelves that will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your room but also provide practical storage solutions. Let’s dive in!

how to build built in shelves around fireplace

Preparing the Space

Clean and Clear

Before you begin building your built-in shelves, it’s important to clear the space around your fireplace. Remove any furniture, decorations, or other items that might hinder your construction process. Keeping the area clean and clutter-free will make it easier to work and ensure accurate measurements. Additionally, consider protecting your floor and surrounding walls with drop cloths or plastic sheets to avoid any damage during the construction phase.

Assessing the Fireplace

To build seamless built-in shelves around your fireplace, it’s crucial to assess the current structure. Take note of any protrusions or irregularities in the fireplace design, including mantels, hearths, or vents. These factors will impact the overall layout and design of your built-in shelves. Make sure to measure the dimensions of the fireplace and take note of any specific requirements or restrictions for the construction.

Measuring and Planning

Precise Measurements

Accurate measurements are the key to a successful built-in shelf project. Use a measuring tape to measure the height, width, and depth of the wall space surrounding your fireplace. Take note of any irregularities or obstructions, such as switches or outlets, that might affect the shelf placement. These measurements will guide you in designing and creating the perfect fit for your built-ins.

Creating a Plan

Once you have the measurements, it’s time to create a detailed plan for your built-in shelves. Consider the overall style and design you want to achieve. Will it be a simple and minimalistic look, or do you prefer something more elaborate with decorative moldings and trim? Sketch out the placement of the shelves and determine if you want open shelves, closed cabinets, or a combination of both. Having a clear plan before starting the construction will save you time and prevent any costly mistakes.

Gathering Materials and Tools


Before starting the construction, gather all the necessary materials for your built-in shelves. The materials will depend on your design preferences and the style you want to achieve. Typically, you will need plywood or MDF boards for the shelves and construction frame, wood glue or screws for assembly, paint or stain for finishing, and any decorative elements such as trim or molding. Don’t forget to gather safety equipment like gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself during construction.


Equipping yourself with the right tools is essential for a smooth construction process. Ensure you have a measuring tape, a level, a circular saw or table saw for cutting the boards, a power drill, a screwdriver, sandpaper, and a paintbrush. Additionally, if you plan to add decorative trim or molding, you may need a miter saw to make precise cuts. Having all the necessary tools within reach will make the construction process more efficient and enjoyable.

Building the Frame

Marking and Cutting

With the materials and tools in hand, it’s time to start building the frame for your built-in shelves. Begin by marking the desired placement of the shelves on the wall, making sure to align them with your previously measured and planned design. Use a level to ensure the lines are straight and make any adjustments as necessary. Next, cut the plywood or MDF boards according to the measurements, creating the pieces for the sides, top, and bottom of the frame.

Assembly and Installation

Using wood glue or screws, assemble the frame by attaching the side pieces to the top and bottom pieces. Make sure the corners are square and use a level to ensure the frame is straight. Once the frame is assembled, attach it to the wall using screws and wall anchors for stability and support. Double-check that the frame is level before moving on to the next step. Your built-in shelves are starting to take shape!

Securing the Shelves

Adding Shelf Supports

Before securing the shelves, you’ll need to add supports within the constructed frame. Measure and mark the desired height for each shelf, ensuring they are evenly spaced. Attach support blocks or cleats to the side pieces of the frame, creating a sturdy base for the shelves. These supports will hold the weight of your belongings and ensure the shelves remain secure and stable.

Cutting and Attaching Shelves

With the supports in place, it’s time to cut the plywood or MDF boards to create the shelves. Measure and cut the boards according to your desired depth and width. Slide the shelves onto the supports, making sure they fit snugly. For added stability, secure the shelves to the supports using screws and wood glue. Take your time to ensure each shelf is straight and level before moving on to the next step.

Adding the Backing

Importance of Backing

The backing of your built-in shelves serves both a structural and aesthetic purpose. It provides stability and support, preventing any unwanted movement or warping of the shelves. Additionally, it creates a clean and finished look, concealing any gaps between the shelves and the wall. Measure and cut a plywood or MDF board to fit the entire back of the shelves, ensuring a precise fit.

Attaching the Backing

Using screws or nails, attach the backing board to the rear of the shelves. Make sure the board is flush with the edges of the shelves and aligns perfectly with the top and bottom of the frame. Take your time to secure the backing properly, ensuring it is centered and securely attached. Once the backing is installed, your shelves will have the structural integrity and polished appearance you desire.

Finishing Touches

Sanding and Smoothing

Before applying any finishes, it’s essential to sand the surfaces of your built-in shelves. Use sandpaper or an electric sander to smooth out any rough edges, ensuring a seamless and professional appearance. Be sure to remove any dust or debris before moving on to the final step.

Painting or Staining

Now comes the fun part – adding your preferred finish to the built-in shelves. Whether you choose to paint or stain them, make sure to select high-quality products that suit your style and match your existing decor. Consider the color scheme of your room and whether you want your shelves to blend in or stand out. Apply the paint or stain evenly, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and allow sufficient drying time before moving on to the next step.


Congratulations, Reader! You’ve successfully learned how to build beautiful built-in shelves around your fireplace. By following these step-by-step guidelines, you’ve created custom storage solutions that enhance the aesthetic appeal of your living space. Now, it’s time to showcase your organizational skills and style your shelves with your favorite books, decor, and personal items. Enjoy your newly transformed room, and don’t forget to check out our other articles for more design and style inspiration!

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