How to Assemble a Bookcase


Bookcases are an essential item in the modern home, even if you don’t have books to store. This furniture item can serve as an entertainment center, gaming desk, or collectible display.

Although you can purchase pre-made bookshelves that don’t require any assembly, those pieces are usually small. They might provide 3-5 shelves that you can use to store items or support electronics.

If you need something bigger or taller, with 6-10 shelves to use, you’ll need to know how to assemble a bookcase.

This short how-to guide takes you through that process so that you can have a successful experience. 

Steps to Follow When Assembling a Bookcase

1. Lay out all of the components first.

Before you start the assembly process, it helps to know that you’ve got all of the pieces needed to complete the job. You’ll want to layout each board, shelf, hardware item, and backing material to ensure everything is there.

If you encounter a missing piece issue, you may need to contact the manufacturer to ship a replacement. When you’re missing hardware, a professional assembler or your local hardware store might have what you need.

2. Insert the cams where instructed.

Once you have everything inventoried, it is time to start putting together the shelves. The first step in most designs is to insert the cams.

These circular metal pieces (sometimes plastic) hold the bolts or screws as you put together the sides and shelves. They give the furniture more strength so that you can put on your books, collectibles, or electronics. 

Some of them can be a little tricky. You may want some extra hands available to help draw pieces together as you tighten the cams (see step 4).

3. Insert the dowels.

Most bookcases use dowels to attach the shelves to each side. You’ll need to put them in the appropriate place according to the instructions given. Although some products only use one dowel per side, most designs use 2-3 to offer added security.

Once you have them in place, you’re ready to assemble the “box” shape of your bookcase.

4. Build the bookcase from the bottom up.

You’ll want to start with the bookcase’s base first as you begin assembling the pieces. The trickiest part is the small trim the runs between the floor and the first shelf you install because you’re attaching it to two boards that don’t want to stand up.

You may want some help to draw these pieces together. If you need to use screws instead of cams, helping hands are necessary to avoid damage.

Once the trim is in place, you can attach the shelves.

Some bookcases have the dowels stick out from the side of the unit with pre-drilled holes. You’d set the shelves on top of those metal pieces, and you’re done.

You may need to create a clean joint by inserting the dowels into the shelf first before placing them in predetermined holes with the bookshelf design.

Continue to affix the shelves based on your design until you’ve attached the top unit.

5. Add the backing.

Your bookshelf won’t be steady until you attach the backing to the furniture. If you’ve purchased an entry-level piece, it’s probably a thin board that you’ll nail to the back of the unit.

When attaching the board, you’ll want to ensure it is stretched out entirely along the back. This piece gets folded to save space, so it may not always want to cover the entire shelving area.

Tack one corner in place where it should go according to the instructions given. Once secured, move to the diagonal corner away from it to affix the next one.

You can then attach the other corners to get a flat result. Continue adding the nails, rotating along each side, until you have the entire component secure. 

If you receive a plywood backing, engineered wood, or natural wood, it helps to pre-drill holes into the material before affixing the back. You’re more likely to encounter bending or inappropriate screw movement without this assistance.

6. Install your drawers.

If your bookcase comes with drawers, you’ll need to install the rails during this step.

You can assemble the drawers at your convenience during any step. They won’t get added to the furniture until you have the unit standing and the sliding mechanisms installed.

When installing the drawer rails, please remember to organize them based on the direction they face and which end points toward the front if you have multiple installations.

Place the rails at the indicated installation points with the hardware remaining. Slide the assembled drawers into place. 

If you’re having any trouble with this task, a professional installer can help you complete the job quickly and affordably. Let us know if you need some assistance, and we’ll be happy to get you a competitive quote!


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