How To Build a Cubby Wall

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

We recently did an overhaul of our back room. This room is a hub of multi-purpose in our home: it serves as the pantry, laundry room, garage, recycling center, and it has entrances to outside, the kitchen, and the basement. When we moved in, the storage in that room was just NOT meeting our needs for a room with so many purposes.

In fact, sometimes it got to the point where we couldn’t even walk through it. {Don’t believe me? Click here for photographic evidence.}

The remodel started with a collapsed ceiling. Since we had to clear the entire room in order to get the ceiling replaced, we took that opportunity to repaint, hang new 8′ shelving in the laundry area, and install this gorgeous wall of cubby shelves.

Before I go any further, I need to give mad props (yes, I really just said that) to my husband Byron. He did 99% of the work, and he did an amazing job! He does not have a ton of experience with handyman work, but this is a pretty simple job!

So first, let’s take a look at what this area looked like before:

Not perfect, but good enough. And that's all I need.

There was a “shelf” haphazardly thrown together with scrap 2×4’s and plywood. Because it wasn’t meeting our storage needs, we had bins and boxes piled precariously on top of one another.

So, let’s look at how we built the cubbies!

Supply List:
  • 1×12 boards
  • wood screws
  • wood glue
  • scrap wood for squaring
  • molding for top and bottom
  • small finishing nails for trim
  • caulk
  • paint

*how much of these items you need will depend on how big your space is and how big your cubbies will be*

  • saw
  • level
  • drill
  • a T-square can be helpful but is not necessary

Step 1: Square off your bottom level.

My back room is not even close to square. The floor and ceiling both slope pretty heavily. So you’ll want to start by cutting your first shelf to fit, then shimming it to make it level.

Once you have the bottom shelf leveled with the scrap wood, remove the shelf so you can attach the vertical boards.

Step 2: Attach the vertical boards to the shelf.

I recommend planning ahead and measuring your space so you can determine how tall and wide you want your cubbies to be. We made our bottom layer slightly taller than the rest (because I had just a few taller items to store). Then the rest are a consistent size.

Cut the vertical boards all the same size. From the bottom of the shelf, attach each vertical board with 2 wood screws.

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

When you finish with this layer, you’ll have the shelf with a bunch of boards sticking up like this:

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

Double check to make sure the shelf is level, then use 4 wood screws to attach the outermost vertical boards to the side walls.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 with remaining layers.

You’re going to repeat this step over and over until you reach the ceiling. As you add each layer to the layers below it, put a strip of wood glue on top of the vertical boards of the lower layer. Putting weight on the shelf while the glue dries (see above photo) will help hold everything in place. Again, double check to make sure all of the shelves, both vertical and horizontal are level as you go!

Step 4: Put in the top board and shim the space.

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

Step 5: Attach trim.

We picked up our molding in the “mistake” bin at our local home improvement store. Since we didn’t need much, it was a huge money-saver! We had to cut it oddly because of the sloping floor/ceiling. I sincerely hope that your homes are better built than this one! This is what the shelf looked like after installing the trim.

Once you cut yours to fit, attach it with small finishing nails.

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

Step 6: Caulk the cracks.

Use caulk in any seams that are too wide for paint to fill. This step is important to give the whole system a seamless, professional, and built-in look. Make sure you let the caulk set for at least 24 hours.

Step 7: Paint it.

After an epic fail with a sprayer and several trial-and-error failures, I finally figured out that the best way to paint my cubbies was:

  • Use an edging tool to get the flat spaces. (Like this one! Cheap & convenient.)
  • Use a brush to get the corners.
  • Grab a scrap piece of wood or cardboard and use that in the corners that meet the back wall to help keep paint off of it.
  • EXPECT that you will have to touch up the back wall if you have it painted in a different color than the shelves.

I painted my shelf in glossy white, and it took two coats to cover it. It took a long long time — about 12 hours of painting.

Luckily I had some help!

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

Once the painting is done, your shelves are complete! Take a look at our finished project!

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den

I am completely in love with my shelves! The amount of storage I have in my back room now is unfathomable.

This whole project took about a week to complete, working on it off-and-on. I pushed my husband to complete it a little faster because we were due to have houseguests soon after, and I wanted to put all of the stuff away that was piled on various surfaces around my home.

Do share! Where would YOU build cubby shelves in your home? 

How To Build a Cubby Wall ~ Our Cozy Den
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