My Ikea ‘Billy’ Bookcase Hack for under $500

I think we all have that one room….that seems awkward, out of place and never gets used much. Right?

For me, it was the front room of the house….aka the “living room”.   Sadly, there was not much ‘living‘ going on in that room at all.    It needed something, and since it was near the front entry, I wanted it to make a statement. I had recently painted it and removed all the furniture..and was ready for something big.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
Lonely Living Room

I had pondered adding a fake fireplace or bookshelves, or a combination of both. I was worried about the fake fireplaces because I was scared of a not so realistic ‘look’…then I discovered all the really cool blogs about hacking IKEA’s classic BILLY style bookcases.

I was inspired by several designs and styles online including Amy’s beautiful project here  at 11magnolialane.com. I also liked what Laura had designed over at the Makerista page here.

Seeing their plans gave me the confidence to try.  Hope you like and let me know of any questions, suggestions  🙂

Tim


Step 1.  – 2 x 4 Braces                 

Part of the challenge/complaint with IKEA bookcases is the risk of them falling over. Some people probably skip that step of securing their bookcases to the wall using the L Brackets or they hope the drywall will hold it.  Like the other hackers, I wanted a completely secure way to anchor these cases to the wall that would eliminate all potential for sliding or falling.

I chose not to remove my baseboards, so that meant the bookcases would not be flush against the wall, so I needed some space to fill that gap and also a place to be able to attach the L brackets.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
Locating studs and marking the wall

For my needs, 2×4’s did the job.  I ran three of these the length of the wall….of course since I don’t own a pickup….(and I’m in Texas ..I know I know)…. I had to cut these down from the 12′ sections to fit in my Jeep.  Luckily, this didn’t matter since the bookcases would be resting on them regardless of where the joints occurred.

First you need to find the studs in the wall.  If you’re serious about it being solid, you have to attach your braces to the studs.  Using a stud finder, you can easily mark these locations on the wall.  You can see my faint blue lines vertically in the above pic.

Once I had the studs determined…and since I am the worrying type…. I drove some 1″ nails in the stud lines where I wanted by braces. I did that for 2 reasons…One, I wanted to make sure I was really at the stud before I drilled all these holes and two, the nails acted as a extra set of hands for the 2×4 by holding it in place until I could get the first screws in.

If you are lucky, these planks will be level with the wall and not bowed. Any variances and you will  need to add some shims to make it level out.  I couldn’t believe it but my 60’s era wall was actually flush. Off to a great start.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
2×4’s in place to anchor shelves

Step 2 – Make an IKEA run….or two…or four.

The BILLY brand comes in a few sizes and colors. You can find those here at the IKEA site.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Since my ceiling is a standard 8 foot ceiling, I knew with the 79 1/2″ height of the Billy’s I had some room to play with…almost too much room.

Doing the math,  96 inches less 79.5 inches would leave me with a top gap of 16.5 inches. I knew, like the others hackers, that I’d have to RAISE up my cases from the floor. At this point, I was unsure by how much i needed to lift them,  but I knew I had to go get a bookcase and get started. I had tried planning it all on paper….but sometimes actually seeing it helps.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
First BILLY…here we go  http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00263850/

Don’t be intimidated by these instructions…. you CAN do it alone….just have to be careful and PATIENT. (Sadly, I’m bad at both those…but I forced myself).

There are six shelf boards with each Billy. Three of these are permanent and cannot be moved. They consist of the TOP and BOTTOM shelf and one in the MIDDLE.

First Lesson Learned:  Be very careful of how you place these 3 permanent shelves and in what direction. The key to remember is if you are LOOKING at the FRONT of the shelf (edges smooth not particle board) you should not see any of the holes from the turn screws.  Or ya know…better yet , like really read the directions. …remember that patience flaw from earlier? 😦 I don’t like to ask for directions if lost either lol.

In the pic below you can see my error on the bottom shelf. Luckily I caught this before I had gotten too far along. Those spots for the screws should be facing down on all shelves except the top one. Imagine  if I had discovered that after I was done. Wow. 😦 

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Step 3… How tall…..What am I doing?!

This is the stage in the project I think I was the least confident.

I knew I had space for 4 Billy’s and I knew the spacing would be tight….but the unknown that was driving me crazy was the number of inches I’d need to raise them from the floor.  My idea was to trim the top to the ceiling and the bottom as well.  This had to be as equal as possible so it would look balanced.

Finally,  after sliding small pieces 2×4’s and 1×2’s under the cases trying to see the perfect look , I finally landed on the right number.  It’s a wonder that bookcase didn’t tumble like a game of Jenga the way I was moving boards around…Probably not the smartest thing to do, but it worked…or I got lucky maybe.  The lift I decided that worked the best was 6″ off the floor.

With a 6″ LIFT i knew that would give me a clean 10″ on top and bottom.  A key thing to remember is the spacing from the top of the BOTTOM shelf, not the bottom of the bookcase. I knew early on that this was where I would end my bottom panel and trim.

So here is my 6″ lifters and that 4″ total to the top of the bottom shelf.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

For the 6″ lift, I really didn’t want to use any combinations of 2×4’s etc.  I opted for the 6x6x8 that Lowes sells. It is pressure treated (see NOTE below) and no doubt for exterior decks and things, but it worked perfect and was the ideal height. I cut it into 8 pieces roughly the depth of the shelf…11″. And before you panic, about the cancer concerns of CCA treated pressured wood….apparently we can relax, it’s no longer available for residential purposes.

NOTE: On December 31, 2003, the US wood treatment industry stopped treating residential lumber with arsenic and chromium (chromated copper arsenate, or CCA). This was a voluntary agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

https://www.news-leader.com/story/life/home-garden/2009/04/26/most-pressure-treated-lumber-no-longer-contains-arsenic/77200928/

These lifts should be even with the front facing shelf sides so the trim will butt up against it flush. You can see where on some of these I will have to trim those down as they are sticking out….Lesson #2 learned 😦

To make sure these 6″ lifts were secure, I bolted them to a 2×4 that runs along the back baseboard which is then bolted to the studs in the wall.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.  My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Lifts in place, bolted to 2×4’s that are bolted to studs in wall

Spacing –

At this point, I knew I had the following space to consider:

4 bookcases at 31.25 = 126 inches wide

Total length of wall = 134 inches wide

So with 4 cases I have roughly 8″ of gap to consider in determining my spacing between the shelves. Not a heck of a lot. What saved me is knowing the trim would extend over the sides of the bookshelf on each side.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My final spacing was 2″ for all the gaps except the ones that meet the wall on each side. Those ended up being about 1″.


Step 4 – Securing it all 

All downhill from here…and that’s a good thing. 🙂 Now that the spacing is set and all the leveling is perfect, it’s time to secure the shelves to the wall and to each other.

I wanted to not only secure the 4 Billy’s to the back wall using the L Brackets, I also wanted to secure them to each other to prevent any shimmy or looseness. I added some 1×2’s and secured them from the shelf interior from each side with some particle board screws 1″.  I countersunk the screws and later covered them with spackling to hide.

Tip:  When installing the L Brackets, I placed each shelf alone on the lift and marked a horizontal line on the shelf wall where the bracket lined up with the braces on the wall. Each Billy comes with only 2 L brackets. I placed one on each side. SECURE it to the cabinet side THEN place it back up on the Lift. There is virtually no way to attach that L bracket to the shelf once you have them all set.

Luckily you can probably get one bookshelf side screwed in to the wall brace before you place the neighboring bookcase next to it.

For the other one, it helps to have a super long 16″ etc screwdriver and a steady hand.  I added some spackling to the screw before putting it on the screwdriver…. to keep me from dropping the screw and never seeing it again…it totally worked. Whew.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

The hard part is done. Huge sigh.


Step 5 – Trim

I knew for my trim, I needed 5 strips.  I knew I had some 3″ gaps and some almost 2″ gaps to cover.  I could have used plain lattice boards, but I thought the beaded trim dressed it up a bit.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Using a brad nailer with 18 gauge 1 inch nails and compressor…..here is the middle trim in place!

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Using painter’s caulk, I caulked all the trim edges, especially as it meets the wall and all nail gun holes. Caulking does wonders to make things appear seamless. Have a wet washcloth handy to wipe down any excess for a clean look.

I used the same paint color as my baseboards (Delicate White from Olympic) in semi gloss to paint the trim. It matched well with the shelves.

As you can see, I could barely wait to start filling up the shelves.  Yeah I hated those peg holes too, but I soon found that standard Tub and Tile glossy silicone caulk can fix that real quick!

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Holes gone…almost all.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Now I was at a crossroads, because I could not decide what to do about the top….

Should I totally build it in and take it to the ceiling?  Or should I place some crown moulding across the top as is and leave it open?

Since this room has no overhead lighting fixtures, I decided to leave the top OPEN and help that low light issue by adding some strip lighting. But first, I needed some crown moulding and some 1×2’s.

I added some 1×2’s laying flat across the top here so I would have something additional to attach the crown moulding to.

ikea billy hack

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
Support (1×2) for the crown

New moulding on Top

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.
Just need the bottom done and some lighting!

Step 6 – Lighting

I knew I wanted some new LED strip lighting and preferably Alexa enabled, with an app, etc.

Found these on Amazon and they have worked perfect and were a breeze to connect and install.  They are 16.5 feet long so I had plenty to cover the entire length.

ikea billy hack

I just ran the extension cord down the right side of wall behind trim. I opted to NOT plug it in behind the shelves ( I have a plug back there in the middle of the wall…. I had decided to cover it up, but I could cut into the backboard of the bookcase to get to it. I really didn’t want to try that and then worry about that plug and any risk.

Instead I ran it out to the plug on the other wall. There is another plug a foot from the shelves.  It’s visible but I feel safer about it. Just had to adjust the trim to make room for it.  You can see how I popped off the right wall trim in this pic….

My IKEA Billy Hack How I built a custom look built in bookcase for under $500 using IKEA Billy bookshelves.

ikea billy hack

Supposedly 16 million color combos and coordinates with music? Wow…I’ll probably stick to the white or blue, or purple (Go Frogs)….not looking for a disco effect …….But pretty cool nonetheless, and really helped the low light in this room.


Step 7 – Bottom trim

For the base, I used my existing 5″ baseboard …good thing I had some extra in the attic. Behind that, I ran a primed pine 1×8″ board to reach the top of the bottom shelf to complete the built in look.

But before I did all this, there is a small gap you will have to deal with. It is about 1/4″ that exists between the bottom shelf and the sides of the shelf that stick out. See pic below

ikea billy hack

I used some 1/4″ lattice boards (4) in lengths of 30″ that fit snugly on each bookcase front.

ikea billy hack

ikea billy hack

I used 1″ 18 gau brad nails here on these with no issues. Be careful not to get too high up on the lattice or you may pierce thru the top of the shelf….. Not saying I did that but …..;)

Next, I added the primed pine 1×8. Just had to make some jigsaw cuts to accommodate the existing baseboard.  Caulk truly does hide all your mistakes.

I drilled these in and countersank the screws. Later I filled in with a plastic wood product and lightly sanded with extra fine until smooth.

ikea billy hack

Almost Done…..next….baseboards!ikea billy hack

The added baseboard went on without a hitch and finally I can say, I think it’s DONE!ikea billy hack

ikea billy hackThanks for checking my IKEA hack out and let me know if you have questions, comments etc. I hope this helped someone, it’s tedious but if this accountant who never took wood shop can do it, anyone can. Good Luck!

Tim

UPDATE:  Lots of requests for more lighting pics….

ikea billy hackikea billy hack

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