Blood, sweat and shelves

“This weekend, my husband and I decided to try our hands at some DIY,” says production manager Patricia Pieterse. “Both book lovers, we knew it was time to replace our haphazard and overworked book storage with floor-to-ceiling shelves.”

Inspired by the images of the clean looking wall-mounted shelves in this article from Apartment Therapy, we thought it would be easier to accomplish and less expensive than having wooden bookshelves custom made and fitted.

I learnt many lessons this weekend: patience, perseverance and the importance of using a spirit level, but the biggest was that DIY is always more difficult, and takes much longer than you anticipate, but it’s ultimately a very rewarding way to spend your time.



A few days before starting on the shelves, we measured the walls to find out how many and what size shelves we’d need. There was a waiting list at Builders Warehouse to have planks cut and edged, so don’t leave this for the weekend you plan to make the shelves. Once we had our shelves, we bought sufficient rails and brackets according to our measurements.

Luckily we had the relevant tools (drill, 10mm masonry drill bit, spirit level) but make sure you have everything you need – nothing spoils your momentum like having to trek to the hardware store for a screwdriver.


  • Rails for the brackets (we used five in total – three for the wider side and two for the other)
  • Shelves (we used eight each of short and long)
  • Brackets (three each per long shelf, two per short)
  • Anchor (Rawl) bolts for the rails (we used five per rail)
  • Screws to affix the brackets to the shelves (we used two per bracket, totalling 80)
  • A drill
  • A masonry drill bit


  1. Measure. Measure, measure, measure. And then measure again.
  2. Using a spirit level, mark the spots on the wall where you’ll need to drill for the bolts. After drilling, fix the rails to the wall with sufficient bolts. We used five per rail.
  3. Plan where to put your shelves. Slot the brackets in, making sure they all fit, and rest the plank on top. Make sure you have at least one space big enough to accommodate your tallest books.
  4. Mark on the plank where you’ll need to screw in the brackets, then remove the brackets from the rail and screw them onto the plank. Before starting on the next one, make sure it all fits correctly.
  5. Do this for all the remaining shelves, and place them into their slots.
  6. Arrange your books as you please. There’s an argument to be made for colour-coordination, alphabetisation or grouping by subject, but as you can see, I chose the just-shove-them-in-where-there’s-space method.


  • 16 shelves, with edging – R480
  • Five rails – R875
  • 40 brackets – R1 400
  • Five packets of six anchor bolts – R260
  • Packet of 100 screws – R40
  • Total – R3 055


This depends on your skill level and how much help you receive. The first lot of shelves look us longer as they’re bigger and we were still figuring out what to do. We did these in roughly five hours. The other shelves, which we did the following day, took less than three hours. A conservative estimate of the total time for the full wall is eight hours, done by people with limited, but some, experience.