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How To Build a Shelf Between Studs

I love the idea of making storage out of unused space, and one way to do this is to build a storage shelf between the studs in your wall.

I knew our pantry project was the perfect place for a shelf like this. We have built-in shelving on two walls, but there wasn't enough space for shelving along the third wall. We need to be able to walk into our walk-in pantry, after all.

So my husband built a between-the-studs shelf!

You can see in the picture below exactly where the shelf is located:

If I were to do it over again, I'd move the light switch. Oh well.

Before he put the drywall up, my husband nailed horizontal 2x4's where the top and bottom of the shelf would be. Then he hung drywall, completely covering the inside and outside.

After the drywall was taped, textured and painted, we carefully cut a rectangle shape into the drywall. The cuts were made along the inner edge of the studs all the way around. You can find studs in your wall by using a stud finder and double, no triple checking your measurements. You also have to be careful to cut little by little... you don't want to go sawing through wires! We knew exactly what was in our wall  because we built it, but in most situations, you don't. Proceed with caution!

When we were done, we were left with a hole:

Next came the shelf-building part. Each part of the shelf was cut separately and nailed in place as we went. So for that bottom section, there were two horizontal pieces, two vertical pieces and a back piece. We built it this way so that we'd have something to nail to. The back of this area is the drywall in our living room, so we couldn't nail anything into the back--only the side studs.

After building the shelves and nailing them all together, we added trim... moulding along the top and bottom with thin slats of wood along each side. We used the same slats (I think they were made for lattice) to add a lip to each shelf.

Here's a close up:

After a lot of wood filler to cover up all the imperfections and several coats of white paint, we have a between-the-studs shelf!

I love how it turned out! It's the perfect place in my pantry to store little things... spices, sauces, etc. and of course, our candy jars which are empty at the moment. Boo!

Do you have a place in your house that's just calling for a between-the-studs shelf? They'd be great in any room... craft room, bedroom, bathroom, entryway. Really. Such a great way to add storage without taking up any space!

We are getting so close to being done with the pantry! All that's left is painting the door and installing baseboards, door trim and crown moulding! Can't wait to show you!
Jennifer V.
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  1. This is brilliant! My husband and I are going to be replacing the old horrible giant in the wall electric heaters with a new heat pump system next week. The old units are between the studs, and we've been trying to come up with a creative solution for our massive pile of books. We are so going to do this.

    1. Perfect! The shelves are only about 4 inches deep, so you may want to build them out just a bit if you are going to use them for books. But that's totally doable!

    2. Good to know, thanks for the tip!

  2. Such a smart idea!! I love how it turned out! Can't wait to see you at SNAP!

  3. Theresa from Auckland, NZ.May 27, 2016 at 4:49 PM

    OMGeeee! What a fab idea, job and transformation. All the way from Auckland, New Zealand. Thank you for the idea and how to. Love, love, love it.

  4. my dogs made some ugly holes in the laundry room wall. im still not sure how?! but since the holes are already there this is a great idea to fill them and have more storage in the laundry room.

    1. Sounds like you are making lemonade from lemons! Great idea!

  5. Well done!!! Clap clap clap!!!

  6. This is a fantastic tutorial. Thank you so much.

  7. I may have missed it but did you just use plywood for the shelves?

    1. We had some scraps of solid pine that were just the right size, so we used those.

  8. How did you attach the back panel if you could not screw it into the drywall behind? This is an awesome idea, I can't wait to try it!

    1. If I remember right we used glue on the back of the panel and the side pieces help hold it in place.


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