How to Make Cheap Shelves

You can make cheap shelves with very simple materials. All you need is a pair of robust stable supports separated by flat surfaces. Buy inexpensive shelfs at a home improvement store, search for boards at a salvage yard, or reuse pieces of antique furniture as a dresser. Plastic milk crates or heavy wire provide additional storage, and cement blocks are inexpensive at about $2 each.


  1. Examine the wood for rough areas. Sand the edges smooth or flat surfaces, if necessary, to prevent chips or damage to books or whatever you plan to put on them. Cover the panels with adhesive shelf liner following the manufacturer’s instructions, if desired.
  2. Lay a board on the ground where you intend to place the shelf. Place milk crates or concrete blocks on top of the board no more than 10 to 15 inches at each end. Fit brackets with the opening facing you for additional storage if you’re using milk crates.
  3. Lay a second board on the supports. Press down on the center of the board and add support zif the board bends under pressure. Remember that books are heavy and tables may need additional reinforcement to support the weight.

Tips & Warnings

  • Paint or cover the concrete blocks with felt or cloth or using decorative concrete for a look of others.
  • Bolt terracotta pots for the boards through the drainage holes to create an added touch support.
  • Stack shelves no more than two high.
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