DIY Bookcase Upcycle

This week I spend a lot of time giving new life to an old, dark, outdated bookcase. We got this bookcase a few years ago, and although it has been extremely functional, it completely lacked visual appeal. Fortunately, it was really sturdy and provided a great base to work with to create something (sort of ) new! Don’t worry if you don’t have an old bookcase to recycle, soon I will post a plan to create this same bookcase from scratch.

Not counting fasteners, paint, and the free bookcase the cost of this project was around $50!


Tools Required:

  • Pocket hole jig (like the Kreg Jig)


  • Old bookcase
  • 1″x2″ boards (for face frame – quantity depends on size of bookcase)
  • 1″x3″ boards (for door frames – quantity depends on size of doors)
  • 1/4″ hardboard (a 2’x4′ piece should be sufficient)
  • 16″ edge-glued board (optional – for top)
  • Pocket hole screws
  • General purpose/drywall screws
  • 3/4″ brads
  • 2″ brads
  • Cabinet hinges


Here it is: dark wood grain , chipped veneer, sticker remnants and all. The good news is that it was solid – the back was made from 3/4″ thick material!


The first thing I did was scrape the veneer from the front edges of the bookcase. This provided a good surface on to which the face frame could be glued. I did it with a wood chisel, and it took a lot longer than I originally thought given that some of the veneer was already starting to peel off the front edge.


The face frame was cut so that the vertical pieces would overhang the sides of the bookcase by 1/4″.

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Because I planned to add doors to the lower half of the bookcase, the middle shelf needed to be fixed. I drilled pocket holes around the bottom of this shelf to attach it to the rest of the bookcase.


Then I used glue and pocket hole screws to assemble it, carefully checking for square as I went. Cooper inspected. Cooper approved. (At least I think so anyway.)


The face frame pieces were also assembled with pocket hole screws and glue. They were attached to the bookcase with 2″ brads and glue. I cut the top from a 16″ wide edge glued pine board. This is optional, but I chose to do it to conceal the top, which gave away that this bookcase started life as a piece of RTA furniture. I also chose to round off the edges of the top piece with an 1/8″ round-over bit in my router. But this too is completely optional.


The top was attached with glue 1-1/4″ screws from the inside of the bookcase.


The doors were made to fit the opening with a 1/8″ gap all around. To determine the height of the doors, I measured the opening then subtracted 1/4″. To calculate the width, I measured the width of the opening, divided that measurement by two, then subtracted 3/16″.  The 1″x3″ frames were cut to fit those dimensions and assembled with pocket hole screws and glue.


The door panels were cut from 1/4″ hardboard, 2″ shorter and 2″ narrower than the door frames. (I found out that I should have cut them a little smaller when I attached the knobs to the doors, as I needed longer screws to go through both the frame and the panel.) I attached to the frames with glue and 3/4″ brads.

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Here’s a finished door, ready for paint!


The bookshelf was painted with two coats of Zinsser primer and two coats of semi-gloss white paint. After painting, I realized that I needed to add a small block behind the face frame at the top of the door opening to attach the magnetic door catches.


The hinges that I found to work with the inset doors were not available in oil-rubbed-bronze, so I painted them with a metallic ORB paint from Rustoleum.


The hinges attached to the inside of the face frame and door frame.


Cabinet knobs were attached to the doors, about 5-1/2″ inches from the top.


And here is the finished product! We are really happy with how this turned out.


And Jess made it look even better with a few decorative touches (as usual 😉 ).







If you have an old, ugly, read-to-assemble bookcase laying around, don’t throw it out! For around $50 dollars you can dress it up AND turn it into something functional. Good luck!


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