How to Construct Built-in Fireplace Shelves Around a Fireplace

What You'll Need
Wood glue
Shelf brackets
An electronic stud finder
3/4 -inch plywood
1-inch nails
1 1/2 -inch screws

Fireplace shelves add to the beauty of a living room. Built-in shelves around your fireplace can hold books, jars, paintings, sculptures, flower vases, family pictures and more. The best part is that you can do the construction yourself and then fasten your bookshelf to a fireplace with the help of a stud finder or shelf brackets. Wood types ideal for fireplace shelves are oak, pine, Hemlock and Cherry wood; others include Alder, Douglas fir, Poplar, MDF and Maple wood.

Wood types ideal for fireplace shelves are oak, pine, Hemlock and Cherry wood. Others include Alder, Douglas fir, Poplar, MDF and Maple wood.

Step 1 - Plan and Measure

First, make a rough sketch of what you want. Decide on how many shelves would be great on each side of the fireplace. Next, measure the space you have around the fireplace (the length, width, and height). Make sure you take each measurement twice before recording as part of your final dimensions of the rough sketch. Remember that the level of accuracy you place while cutting each component will affect the whole lot.

Step 2 - Preliminary Construction

Now, identify the correct place you would want the bottom of the bookshelf to be located in your living room. It is a good idea to allow enough space between two bookshelves. First, cut the plywood for the top, flank and bottom pieces of the fireplace shelf adhering strictly to the design drawing.

Step 3 – Shelf Construction

Arrange and glue the pieces of plywood before screwing or nailing them together. At this stage, we have a rectangular structure. What is left is the construction of the shelves.

You can create adjustable shelving by cutting four grooves and 17 inches between each pair. Put a 1½-inch thick runner in each pair of grooves and then nail the runners to the side of the shelf. Next, the body and the back of the unit should be fastened together (ie, nail or screw). Do the same thing for the first and second shelve before moving them into place.

Step 4 - Finish Up

It’s time to consider aesthetics. If you’re using an oak wood, then you do not necessarily need to paint or polish the wood. Nevertheless, some people prefer to paint their bookshelves white or black or some other color that would go well with the interior decoration of their living rooms.


Arrange both shelves on each side of the fireplace. Use a mantel or head to connect the two shelves at the top. Neatly screw or bolt the shelf into the wall. The screwing and bolting to the wall should come first before attaching a header or a mantel on top of the shelves.

The bookshelves should have enough space for the type of books you would place inside them.