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March 9, 2006

Fixed shelves for an alcove

Filed under: Easy DIY,Home Improvement — DO or DIY @ 11:07 am

An alcove a very suitable space to utilise for fixed shelves and built-in cabinets. For shelves you could use spur shelving systems or brackets, but a more attractive solution is to have floating shelves, where the brackets or supports are invisible.

Creating a floating shelf in a rectangular alcove is a relatively easy DIY job. It’s basically a piece of timber supported on a frame and the front is covered with a thin piece of timber or decorative edge..

Tools you’ll need:

  • Spirit Level
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Masonry bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Saw

First mark the shelf positions with a spirit level on all sides of the alcove. Then measure the distance between the walls and cut a piece of batten to length. Fix this to the wall with appropriate screws and wall-plugs. Then measure the adjoining walls and cut two pieces of batten – take into consideration the thickness of the front batten plus any front covering edge you wish to use. Fix the battens to the wall. Then cut out the front piece and fix it with two screws at each side to the side battens.

If you want your shelf to support heavy items, or the alcove is wide and/or deep you’ll need some central cross supports – how many depends on the width & length of your shelf. Cut another piece of batten and screw it to the front batten – the rear screws have to be fixed at an angle.

Then cut your shelf to size and screw it to the frame from below – or glue it in place with industrial strength glue.

Then cut the front covering piece and glue it and/or pin it to your shelf. The main purpose of this edging is to conceal the screws.


  • Use PVA glue at joining points for extra support
  • Cover the shelf with textured wallpaper (don’t forget underneath)
  • For a contemporary look, veneer the shelf
  • For a Mediterranean look, use textured paint (no need for the edging piece)
  • For a rustic look, use chunky wood or deep battens.
  • For a traditional or elegant look, use some wooden moulding as the covering edge
  • For a modern look, plaster over the shelf (use mesh and metal edging pieces)

You see, making shelves for an alcove is not a big deal!

Note: Before you start any DIY jobs, make sure you’re wearing sensible clothes and have proper house insurance!

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