How much does it cost to install built-in shelving?

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Built-In Shelving Cost Guide

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Reviewed by Adam Graham remodeling expert. Written by

Reading is a wonderful pastime and a requirement for many professions. That’s why home bookshelves are so popular, as many people can use them, and they add depth and decor to any space. A well-placed built-in bookshelf allows you to showcase your book collection and give your office cubicle a fresh and sophisticated feel. Additionally, they are the perfect storage solution for your office or room space to display books, decorative items, and gadgets.

The cost of built-in bookshelves ranges from $2,500 to $5,000, with the average homeowner paying around $3,500 to install 5 linear feet of built-in bookshelves made from solid wood. On the low end, you will spend $800 on installing 2 linear feet of MDF built-in bookshelves. On the higher end, 8 linear feet of solid wood built-in bookshelves with lighting and glass cost approximately $6,250 to install.

Cost of Built-In Shelves

Built-In Bookcase Cost
National average cost$3,500
Average range$2,500-$5,000

Built-In vs Prefab Bookshelves

When setting up bookshelves, homeowners choose prefab bookshelves ($200 to $1,500) or built-ins ($1,500 to $4,000). A prefabricated bookshelf is freestanding and can sit anywhere in your room. These come as boxes, cabinets, and bookstands that are mostly inexpensive and designed to appear to be made of wood or metal. They are standard design, cheaper in quality, and not very sturdy at times. If homeowners aren’t sure they want permanent bookcases or like the freedom to rearrange the furniture in a room, then prefab bookshelves may be better than built-ins. Otherwise, customized built-in bookcases are a worthwhile investment even with higher costs due to impressive durability, style, and functionality. The below table shows average prices for installing 5 linear feet of solid wood bookshelves.

Comparison of the Cost to Install a Prefab vs Built-In Bookshelf (mobile)

TypePrice (Installed)
Prefab$200 - $1,500
Built-In$1,500 - $4,000

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Custom Bookcase Cost per Linear Foot

A custom built-in bookcase per linear foot costs between $300 and $1,300, including installation. The exact price depends on the work needed and the materials used. For example, you will pay more for 10 feet of oak bookshelves than 10 feet of pine simply because oak is a more costly material. Custom built-in bookcase makers have various ways of pricing for their services. Some charge per linear foot, meaning larger bookcases have higher prices. The price per linear foot usually includes labor and materials, but it is always worth checking with your contractor.

Custom Built-in Bookcases Cost by Material

You can expect to spend $300 to $1,300 per linear foot based on the material you choose for your custom built-in bookshelf. One of the most important factors in determining the overall cost of your custom bookcase is the material you choose. There are some affordable options like MDF and more expensive alternatives, such as elegant solid woods and metal/wood combinations. The table below shows some common bookshelf materials and their average price per linear foot:

Cost per Linear Foot to Install an MDF, Plywood, Metal, Metal and Wood, Wood, Glass, and Marble Custom Bookcase (mobile)

MaterialPrice per Linear Foot (Installed)
MDF$300 - $400
Plywood$400 - $500
Metal$450 - $800
Metal and Wood$450 - $1,000
Wood$500 - $1,000
Glass$750 - $1,200
Marble$800 - $1,300

MDF Built-In Bookshelves

You can expect to spend about $300 to $400 per linear foot to install MDF built-in bookshelves. MDF is ideal for people who want custom bookshelves on a budget. It is also an ideal choice for custom finishes because the material takes paint well. MDF is also called medium-density fiberboard and is made from pressed wood fibers arranged in layers that reduce the risk of warping and damage due to temperature changes. You must be cautious when choosing MDF, particle boards, and other softwoods like pine for custom or built-in bookshelves. These materials sag under excessive weight and are prone to dents and scratches. Therefore, you may have bookshelves with short-term durability that require extra support for longer spans. It is best to choose MDF bookshelves for lighter book collections to prevent sagging and damage.

Plywood Bookshelves

On average, a custom built-in bookshelf using plywood will cost between $400 and $500 per linear foot. If you are looking for reasonably sturdy and dependable custom built-in bookshelves, then plywood is the perfect candidate. Plywood is similar to MDF in that it is relatively affordable and made from layers of pressed wood fibers in sheets. You may choose from a few plywood hardwood styles, including maple and pine.

Metal Bookshelves

The average cost of custom built-in bookshelves made from metal is between $400 and $800 per linear foot. Metal is one of the strongest materials for bookshelves. Bookshelves in commercial locations like offices, book shops, and libraries tend to be made of metal due to the resistance and strength of this material. Metal shelves support the weight without buckling and handle moisture well, but they are not as glamorous and elegant as wooden shelves.

Metal and Wood Bookshelves

On average, you can expect to pay $450 to $1,000 for metal and wood built-in bookshelves. Offering the best of both wood and metal bookshelves, these combination units feature a mixture of metal frames and wooden shelves, or vice versa. While the wood allows you to create a customized design and style that suits your taste and preference, metal offers strong support and rigidity. These durable bookshelves have a contemporary design with a rustic twist, making them a popular feature in living rooms and offices.

Custom Wood Bookshelves

The average price for solid custom built-in wood bookshelves is between $500 and $1,000 per linear foot. A solid wood bookcase refers to one made with nothing but natural woods like oak, maple, cherry, and birch. You may opt for a wide range of solid woods when ordering custom built-in bookshelves. Some woods are better at withstanding weight than others. Hardwoods like oak and cherry are great choices for resisting scratches and maintaining their shape over time, but they tend to be more expensive than softer woods.

Cost per Linear Foot to Install an Oak, Cherry, Birch, and Maple Wood Custom Bookshelf (mobile)

Wood TypePrice per Linear Foot (Installed)
Oak$500 - $800
Cherry$550 - $850
Birch$600 - $900
Maple$700 - $1,000

Glass Bookshelves

The cost for a glass built-in bookcase ranges from $750 to $1,200 per linear foot. Glass bookshelves are among the most delicate and sophisticated and take a lot of labor to produce for custom jobs. Therefore, they have a higher price. They usually have a metal or wooden frame to keep the tempered glass sheets in place and are highly prized for their appearance and contemporary charm. But they are very heavy, difficult to move, and easily broken.

Marble Custom Shelf

Custom built-in bookshelves using marble will cost you between $800 and $1,300. Nothing compares to the natural and gorgeous look marble has to offer. However, this material is high-end and may be harder to find depending on your location and the supplier. These bookshelves are durable, hardwearing, and shatter-resistant. From a safety perspective, marble is a perfect insulator. And unlike wood, it is resistant to catching fire. Nowadays, you can choose marble in any color and create fascinating designs to suit your home’s décor and your personal style.

Cost of Custom Built-In Shelves by Location

Based on its location, you can expect to spend about $500 to $8,000 for custom built-in shelving. Custom built-in bookshelves are a great way to add a bit of style and transform your room. You can install a built-in bookshelf in various places at your home or office. You just need to pick the best spot for book storage and have a professional install a bookshelf using an appropriate frame, shelves, and support. Keep in mind that the average cost of built-in bookcases varies by the location you want them installed and the size and material you use. Below are the estimated costs of building and installing 5 linear feet of solid wood bookshelves in each location.

Custom Shelving Cost by Location: Fireplace, Shower, Doorway, Home Office, Kitchen, TV, Around Windows... (mobile)

Location5 Linear Feet Unit (Installed)
Around the Fireplace$500 - $5,000
Shower Shelf$800 - $1,500
Pantry$800 - $2,000
Doorway$800 - $3,000
Home Office$1,000 - $4,000
Kitchen$1,000 - $5,000
Headboard$1,000 - $8,000
Around TV$1,500 - $4,000
Around the Window$2,000 - $8,000

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Labor Cost to Install Built-In Bookshelves

Of the average $2,500 to $5,000 for built-in shelves installation, labor accounts for about 70% to 80% of the total cost, or $1,750 to $4,000. The labor required to install custom built-in bookshelves varies widely, depending on the project size and scale. Installing tall units or shelves around pre-existing structures like fireplaces is more difficult than fitting shelves into an alcove. So, the exact labor price varies from one carpenter to the next, depending on their experience and the project scope. In general, carpenters and cabinetry companies charge between $50 and $150 per hour. The installation process includes planning and measuring the installation space, removing any trim or molding if necessary, fitting the unit, and cleaning up. This takes from four to five hours for a small unit to 20+ hours for larger jobs.

At times, the scope of building a built-in bookshelf is not that big, but they may still cost a little bit higher than expected, especially when compared to standalone bookshelves. Sometimes homeowners wonder why they have to pay such a steep price for something as simple as a bookshelf. However, it is custom-designed and requires a lot of detail work to build into existing construction, driving up the cost.

White Reading Area With Built-In Bookcases

Custom Bookshelf Ideas

Custom built-in bookshelves are found in various styles to suit every home, from industrial-style shelves and contemporary offerings to more rustic and country-themed options. Prices range and depend on the design, size, and material because each custom shelving project is unique. You can also find inspiration online at sites like Pinterest or ask your contractor or builder if they have their own custom designs. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing for inspiration.

Custom Bookcase Ideas: Shelf Book Towers, Double Wide Bookshelves, Library Style, Happy Landing, Alcove Formation, and Paneled Look (mobile)

Shelf Book Towers

Shelf book towers are popular for home offices or living rooms. You can get a tall bookshelf with seven or more shelves. These are commonly referred to as towers, which are normally narrower than standard bookcases and contain several shelves. The standard height of these towers is approximately 84 inches. There’s also the option of bookshelf towers with two, three, four, or five shelves in a single design.

Double Wide Bookshelves

These bookshelves result from joining two units together with a permanent border in the middle of both bookshelves. You can get a double-wide design with three to ten shelves. However, the length, depth, height, and width of these shelves are open to customization, depending on your preference or needs. If you’re looking for bookshelves where you can display books, awards, and other personal mementos, then double wide bookshelves give you the stylish space to do so.

Library Style

These are bookshelves arranged in a fashion to create passageways. For this, you can unite a flatly trimmed series of shelves to create aisles, forming a mini-library. This gives your home an old-mansion look. If you have a home office, this option can help you make the most of your office space by creating tall and wide bookshelves across the wall. If you’re interested in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, library-style is a worthwhile option to maximize your space and make a dramatic design impact.

Happy Landing

This design for built-in bookshelves takes inspiration from Paul Rovinelli, a Dutch Colonist from 1915. He created custom built-in bookshelves transforming hallways outside a new office. Today, the happy landing design is used to turn dark hallways and spaces into well-lit reading nooks. All you need to do is turn narrow bookshelves outward, facing each other to showcase your books. You can use various MDF trims or solid wood with adjustable shelves to store books.

Alcove Formation

Building a customized bookshelf around a furniture piece makes a cozy architectural masterpiece. You can create a built-in bookshelf around a bed or a sofa and sit snuggly surrounded by your favorite reads. Alcove bookshelves around a piece of furniture give you the chance to use crown molding and subtle lighting to create a safe oasis for relaxed reading. While many people consider this design for master bedrooms or living rooms, it works great for children’s rooms. Kids may especially enjoy having shelves for books and toys near their bed in their room.

Paneled Look

You can create a streamlined, clean interior look by knotting pine panels and creating customized built-in bookshelves. This gives your room or office space a bit of a rustic feel. These shelves are perfect for an open-plan living room or dining area. You can use them to put all the little things from books to artwork and maximize your interior space using the existing walls with multilayered shelves. Common pine stock is your best bet for building uniform grids of built-in shelves for a simple yet elegant look, although you can achieve a paneled appearance with other woods.


Smaller built-in bookshelves of 2 to 3 linear feet cost $600 to $1,500, whereas larger ones of 7 or 8 linear feet cost $6,000 or more. The bookshelf size influences the total project price. Some custom built-in bookshelves are designed to be small, fitting snugly in little alcoves around windows or doors, while others are much larger units that take up entire walls or vast spaces in a bedroom, study, or living room.

The larger your bookcase, the higher the final costs. However, this varies depending on certain key factors. For example, units taller than 8’ to 10’ may be charged a premium price by some companies because they are complicated to make and fit into your home. Similarly, complicated corner units may also be more expensive due to the unique requirements of installing the shelves in hard-to-reach spaces.

The bookshelf depth also has an impact on the final price. If you plan to store standard-sized books, they need to be about 10” to 12” deep. Smaller depths of around 6” to 7” may be chosen for smaller paperback books, or larger depths of 14”+ may be selected to store large coffee table books. Custom built-in bookcases have many sizes to fit into homes, so measure the space where you want the shelves installed. Using this information and the materials and designs you want, a carpenter or cabinet company can provide a price quote.

Modern Reading Place with White Paneled Custom Bookcase

Pros and Cons

Like all home projects, built-in shelves come with their own set of merits and shortcomings. Built-in shelves are great to optimize limited spaces and cover up any awkward layouts or slightly worn-out spaces in your room or home office. An adequate custom-built shelf ensures you get to maximize the given space for storage purposes. Built-in bookshelves also increase the indoor aesthetic appeal of your home. Rooms with no walls or ceiling decor can appear very dull, but a well-designed bookshelf enhances the appearance at a minimal cost.

Of course, there are some possible downsides to installing built-in shelves in your home or office. As pleasing as these built-in shelves look, understand that you must pay upfront, and this cost is mostly irrecoverable. You can get a freestanding bookshelf and sell it at any time to recover your investment, and other people should buy those shelves with a generic design. However, a custom built-in shelf is harder to remove and sell because it's designed for your specific home and design style.

While a brand new built-in shelf may be an exciting feature in your home, it is permanent. You cannot simply replace this bookcase by buying a new one unless you are willing to spend more money to build a new piece or remove them from the wall, which is a costly task. Installing built-in shelves to maximize storage space may result in overcrowding the space available in your room or office, so keep that in mind before you install.

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Built-In Bookcase With Glass Doors

The cost for glass doors depends on the size needed. They are usually made and fitted for about $100 to $200 per panel. Most custom built-in shelves are installed as open-format shelving. Still, glass can be added as desired. Glass doors are installed on your custom bookcases to prevent books and items inside from getting dusty while also enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the shelves.

Built-In Bookshelf Lighting

Many modern built-in bookcases and shelves are fitted with strips of LED lights. A set of lights costs around $20 to $30. These lights illuminate the space with a gentle glow. They come in various colors, from whites to blues, and some even include color-changing options and remote controls. You may need multiple sets, depending on the shelving unit size, and how much light you want on the shelves in the first place. This may not be necessary if the room gets enough light otherwise.

Painting a Built-In Bookcase

Built-in bookshelf painting costs vary depending on the size but generally range from $300 to $1,000. You may wish to have your bookcase painted to blend in with the surrounding room or stand out more prominently. Some materials, such as MDF, are much easier to paint than others. Be sure to ask your contractor whether a stain or coat of paint is included or if that will incur an additional cost.

Built-In Bookshelves With Drawers

Drawers can be inserted into your custom built-in bookcase design for $100 to $250. There are many ways to customize your bookcase or shelving unit. One option is to add drawers, allowing you to store items away safely and enjoy more storage solutions. This is a great way to enhance the use of your bookcase or allow it to serve multiple purposes to make it a better investment.

Built-In Bookcase Crown Molding

Crown molding costs from $75 to $300, depending on the project scope. Crown molding serves as a nice final touch to your built-in bookcase design. It is an elegant trim placed on top of the cabinets. Crown molding is available in multiple sizes and styles. Sometimes, it directly connects the top of the bookcase to the ceiling, while at other times, it simply gives it a more decorative look.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Prep work. If you plan to install a custom bookcase in a space with molding or flooring elements that might get in the way, they may need to be removed. This adds time and cost to your project.
  • Regulations. If you plan a custom bookshelf project in an apartment, it may take longer than in a home because many apartment buildings have strict rules regarding when work may be done. This may mean that a job that normally takes a day in a house takes two or three days in an apartment.
  • Separating spaces. As more modern homes are constructed with open floor layouts, the concept of a hallway is starting to fade away. Bookshelves are used as a makeshift hallway to separate a large, open-plan space into smaller sections. They are used to define different areas or even offer privacy.​
  • House dating. Built-in shelving may become a trend that is no longer popular, creating a timestamp on your home. Semi-permanent pieces and neutral colors are suggested for the most lasting value.


  • How deep should a built-in bookcase be?

This depends on what you plan to store in it. If you only use little paperback books, a depth of 7” should be enough, but you need 10” to 12” for regular-sized hardbacks or up to 16” for larger art books.

  • Do built-in bookshelves increase home value?

When built and installed to a professional standard, built-in bookshelves certainly increase the value of a home and may become an interesting selling point to attract potential buyers.

  • Is it cheaper to build your own shelves?

While material and labor costs may seem cheaper if you do it on your own, in the long run, it’s better to pay for the peace of mind from a professional. This way, you can avoid expensive measurement and installation mistakes and ensure long-lasting bookshelves.

  • Are built-in bookshelves outdated?

Built-in bookshelves are traditionally found in many older homes, but it doesn’t mean they are outdated. Bookshelves are functional interior design and decor pieces that make sense in many rooms. Custom built-in bookcases work in many contemporary homes. It depends on the design.

  • Should I paint my built-in bookcase?

Painting a built-in bookcase is a good way to protect the surface and enhance the design without spending too much, with average costs of $300 to $1,000. MDF is the easiest bookshelf material to paint, but you can find paints and stains for other kinds of bookshelves, too.

  • Are built-ins good for resale?

Yes, built-in bookshelves and storage units add value to your home. If they enhance the look and function of the space, they add a significant amount to your home’s equity and help you get a better sale price.