How Much for Custom Built-In Bookshelves?

    Photo: Wentworth, Inc./Hometalk

    Custom built-in bookshelves can be utterly gorgeous, whether we're talking original shelves included in a historic Craftsman or sleek modern designs installed in a new home. They're great not just for showcasing a book collection, but also for displaying special items in a way that will make them stand out; and customs come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. As if this wasn't enough to convince you to get on the bandwagon, they often add considerably to the resale value of a home, particularly when well-designed and flawlessly installed.

    Before you begin

    The cost of installing custom built-ins is variable, depending on a number of factors. Before you take the plunge, you might want to know some basics about what's involved and what can bring the cost up or down. In all cases, it's important to have a clear idea of what you need and want before starting the project, and to work with a skilled finish carpenter on getting the finishing touches down perfectly, because ideally, you will be looking at these shelves for many years to come.

    Size & design

    Obviously, one key factor is the size of the room and the configuration of the components. A carpenter can meet with you to discuss the space and its limitations, determining where custom built-in bookshelves could be installed and what kind of organization would be best. Your carpenter can also discuss design features, ranging from ornate trim to match with a historic Victorian or Queen Anne to more sleep, angular, modern designs that will mesh with modern architecture.

    Making built-ins look natural

    It's important to make the shelves look organic and natural, as though they have always been part of the room rather than added on as an afterthought. In the planning stages, you should consider everything from the finish used to the type of paint or varnish to confirm that the shelving will look great. This also determines cost; for example, custom built-in bookshelves made with oak, mahogany, or another beautiful wood will be more expensive. Pressboard, engineered wood, and less expensive woods  (like pine, for instance) that will be covered by paint are less costly, but may not hold up as well. Be aware that ultimately, labor is the most expensive component of the cost, rather than materials.

    Adding doors

    Adding doors to custom built-in bookshelves will increase the cost. Simple hinged doors may be available at a baseline price, while sliding and accordion doors will likely cost more because they're more complex, requiring more construction and installation time. Likewise if you want recessed lighting or electrical outlets, as the addition of electrical wiring to the project will raise the cost. Height can also be a factor; installations over ten feet tend to be more complicated and require extra skills.

    Job site

    The job site can also have an effect on how much custom built-in bookshelves will cost, because some locations are easier to work in than others. Apartment buildings can be tough to work in because of restrictions on building activity for the peace and quiet of other residents, as well as the lack of loading elevators for moving up construction materials smoothly and easily. Homes that are small or cluttered can also be hard to work in.

    Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

    Updated October 25, 2018.

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