DIY Fireplace Shelves

  • DIY Fireplace Shelves, AFTER
  • DIY Fireplace Shelves, BEFORE

Whether you’re building an extension or doing a reno it pays to integrate display areas into the structure of rooms. 

In this living area, four short stud walls were built to create two 2760 x 995 x 400mm alcoves either side of a central fireplace column.

There was no complicated joinery involved, as the fascia, side and back supports were simply secured with screws to the stud framework then the shelves glued and nailed in position. 

To create a smooth, sleek look, the leading edge of the shelves was recessed into a rebate in the back edge of the fascia support. The 16 x 8mm rebate was cut using a router with a 10mm straight cutting bit.

Five shelves were installed on either side, spaced 320mm apart starting 600mm above the floor. Extra 600mm spacings were provided above the third and fifth shelves. 

Cut the components

Use a circular saw and straightedge guide to cut the shelves from 16mm MDF or have the supplier cut them to size. The side and back supports, and the wider fascias are cut from primed finger-jointed (FJ) pine.

Start by measuring the height, width and depth between the floor, ceiling and walls then decide how many shelves are needed. 

Space the shelving to fit the books and items to be showcased.

TIP Standard hardcover books are about 240mm high while taller albums are about 320mm high. 


The fascia, side and back supports for the shelving were secured to the stud framework with 50mm x 8g timber screws. 

Attach the 10 MDF shelf panels to the pine supports from above using PVA adhesive and 40 x 1.6mm panel pins.

Install the shelves 

Step 1. Paint the timber

Apply an undercoat to seal the MDF shelves then apply two coats of gloss acrylic using a roller. The FJ pine is already primed so paint the fascias, back and side supports with two coats of acrylic using a paintbrush.

Step 2. Rebate the fascias

Clamp the fascias securely to a workbench then use a router with a 10mm straight cutting bit, setting the depth to 16mm and the fence to cut 8mm wide, to cut a 16 x 8mm rebate along one edge

Step 3. Locate the studs

Mark the shelf setout on the back wall of the alcoves then use a stud finder or drill small 1.5mm holes to locate the centre of all studs. Use a spirit level to transfer the stud centres to each shelf location.

Step 4. Attach the back supports

Measure and cut the back supports then position them at the base of the shelf setout. Drill 2mm countersunk pilot holes at each stud centre then check for level, securing the back support with screws.

Step 5. Secure the fascias

Use a spirit level to transfer the shelf setout to the front inside edge then measure and cut the fascias. Position each fascia, drill pilot holes and secure with screws, then cut and attach the side supports.

Step 6. Check the fit

Position each shelf in turn to check for a neat fit on the fascia and supports. If the shelf is too long or wide or if the wall corners are out of square, scribe trim lines or measure the space and mark the shelves.

Step 7. Plane the shelves

Clamp the shelf panels upright then use a power planer to remove the waste down to the trim lines. Rotate the shelf panel to plane one edge at a time, trimming down the shelves gradually.

Step 8. Drill pilot holes

Mark the panel pin positions at 200mm centres, 8mm in from the front edge of each shelf. Drill 1.5mm pilot holes at the marks, angling the bit slightly to the outside so the panel pins don’t break through.

Step 9. Attach the shelves

Run a bead of PVA adhesive around the top of the supports and fascias then position each shelf. Tap in the panel pins, punch the heads below the surface and fill with timber filler. Sand lightly then touch up the paint.

Click on the diagram

Click on the diagram to see the measurements of the shelves.

Click on the diagram

Click on the diagram to see measurements of the alcoves. Measurements are in mm.

Click on the cutting list

Click on the cutting list to see what materials are needed for this project, and in what sizes.

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