Saturday, September 8, 2012

Upgraded Rain Gutter Bookshelves

I did something really crazy.

I, I mean Superman, beefed up my, I mean the kids’ bookshelf wall so it’s even MORE awesome.
Feast your eyes:

raingutter bookshelf6

And, in case you can’t remember what it used to look like, here’s the ‘before’:


First of all, I haven’t decided if the Turkish Coffee color is here to stay or not, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the railing above the books. Wanna know why? My punk kids can now put books away without them falling right back off the wall.

There was a flaw in these adorable shelves that we noticed after the ‘new’ wore off them: there was no way to insure that the books on the wall STAYED on the wall.

I complained to Superman. Told him how much I  loved the bookshelf. Didn’t want it to go. But WISHED there was a way to keep the books on the wall.

I had clearly forgotten that I had married a genius.

He instantly recommended that we simply put a rail just above each shelf.


So, here we go. Another attempt at some sort of a tutorial. Yay me! :D

You will need:

* 4” crown moulding in whatever length your shelf will be (this will be the front/decorative portion of the shelf)

* 2” x .50”  board in whatever length your shelf will be (this will be the actual shelf that the books sit on)

* 1.25” x .75” trim board, cut into 2” blocks (these are the brackets that will brace the rail across the wall – you will need 15 of them)

* 1.25” x .25” trim board in whatever length your shelf will be (this is the rail that will go above each shelf)

* 3” or 4” screws

* Nail gun

raingutter bookshelf1

Okey dokey. Here we go.

First of all: do yourself an enormous favor and paint all of the wood to whatever color you want it to be when finished … that way you just have to do minor touch ups when you are finished. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step. We skipped it. Learn from us.

Second, you are going to construct each ‘shelf’ of the wall separately, and then install it onto the wall. There is the shelf and there is a rail. At least, that’s what I am going to call them.

To construct the shelf: Simply measure the 2” board to match the length of the 4” crown moulding; both of which need to be the entire length of the wall, whatever wall you are using. I think Home Depot sells crown moulding in lengths up to 16 feet. That could be fun to get home … but, they sell them. Our wall is just over 10’ long.

Once you’ve got the 2” board cut to the same length as your 4” crown moulding, brace the two together using a nail gun. You want the shelf to sit at the top of the crown moulding as shown in these pictures. Just use your nail gun to shoot some invisible (is that the word?) nails into the front of the mouding, securing it to the shelf portion. Man, I hope this makes sense.

Now that you essentially have the shelf portion put together, you just have to put it on your wall. This also requires your nail gun. Just shoot nails across the bottom of the crown moulding, which will be sitting against the wall. You also want to shoot a few diagonal nails into the back of the top shelf, against the back of the wall. Putty over any tiny nail holes … and then touch up paint when you are finished.

Now, for the top railing above each shelf: Cut each railing piece to the same length as your shelf piece.

Cut 15 – 2” blocks (5 for each railing, unless your shelf is 5 feet or less in length, then you only need 3 per shelf) using 1.25” x .75” trim board. So, your blocks will measure 2” x 1.25” x .75”.

raingutter bookshelf2

Next, find the studs in your wall. Use a block as a brace bracket on each end, in the center, and then one in each stud on either side of the center. Hope that makes sense. Superman used a nail gut to place each bracket onto the rail before screwing the whole railing, including brackets, into the wall.

raingutter bookshelf3

Use a 3” piece of scrap wood at each bracket setting to make sure the railing is installed straight and perfectly level. Also, use 3-4” screws to screw all the way through the rail and bracket and into the wall.

raingutter bookshelf5

Once you have installed all the shelves and all the railings, just caulk or putty over each screw/nail hole and then touch up paint the area.

raingutter bookshelf4

Then you don’t have to tape off every nook and cranny and then re-tape and repaint the wall when you finish painting the brown shelves. Painting these while they were on the wall was a nightmare. Trust me. So, you’re gonna learn from me and not do that, right? ;)

This is a surprisingly simple and super fast project (maybe 3 hours, start to finish) …  Because there isn’t tons of cutting involved. I highly recommend using a spot where you can do wall to wall shelving, like I have done. Then, there aren’t any weird intricate angling cuts trying to finish off the sides of shelving.

raingutter bookshelf6

I can cram about 200 picture books on these three shelves. Not even joking. Because, with the railing there to keep the books on the shelf, I can stack the books 3-4 books deep, one behind the other.

raingutter bookshelf7

These shelves are worth every second of tender loving care you put into them.

raingutter bookshelf8

One last close up of the brackets … you don’t even really notice them at all. These ARE essential. You do have to brace that big long railing several times in between the ends of the shelf. Otherwise, some punk kid is going to put too much weight against the railing and snap the wood. That would just break my heart for you.

So, what do you think? Should I keep them brown? Or paint them back to white?

(I’m leaning towards brown, mostly because they were so frustrating to paint in the first place)


  1. I like the white better, but the brown is nice too. if I were you I'd leave them the way they are for simplicity's sake. The shelves are so amazing. They're even better looking in person. Such a great idea!

  2. I like the white better as well, but the brown doesn't look bad.

  3. Def back to white. Looks so much more simple and pretty. LOVE the railing though. Makes it so much easier to put the books in without having to think about it. :)

  4. I think the color of the shelves should match the decor of the room. The dark would definitely look better with dark furniture.

  5. Wow, you really did install some heavy-duty shelves! We just opted for the traditional DIY rain gutter bookshelves and love 'em! That horizontal bar to keep the books in is very cool though - way to go! We vote white!!

  6. Wow! While simply-made rain gutter bookshelves are fantastic on their own. You were able to make it even more amazing with a little additional wood and framing. I like what you did here, and I thank you for sharing the idea with all of us. By the way, you do know that you can also use rain gutters as plant beds, right? I wouldn't be surprised if people started recycling their old rain gutters. Good job!
    John @ Beach Windows & Siding