How to build a DIY Modern ladder shelf

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I recently started renovating my office/craft studio and wanted a nice ladder shelf in the corner to display my favorite second-hand finds. I couldn't find anything used that I could remake so I decided to make my own. DIY modern ladder rack. And oh boy, it was such a fun project to make that today I'm going to show you how to make a simple ladder shelf.

Ladder shelves have become popular in recent years and I love the simplicity of it.

It took me about 3 hours to do this, but that was mainly because I didn't use plywood for the shelves and had to figure out how to make a 16 inch bottom shelf out of wood. After some manipulation with wood glue, I return to the Kreg jig. for help and I wish I had done this from the beginning. But let's see how to make this shelf, here is a step by step guide on how to create DIY Modern ladder shelf.

I've already made a staircase before, and that's it. DIY blanket ladder inspired by anthropologybut it was a simple design and took much less time.

If you want to watch me do this despite all the failures and things that go wrong, watch it HERE

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Let's talk about the DIY cost of this ladder rack

I calculated the lumber cost based on the amount of lumber I used, but keep in mind that most boards are not sold in 4', so you'll need to buy it in 6' and leave the remaining wood for later projects.

Cost: about $25

Duration: 3 hours

Level: medium



1×4 @ 4'

1×8 @ 2'

1×10 @ 4'

1×12 @ 4'

(2) 1×2 @ 6'

1×2 @ 4'


(1) – 1x8x24″- shelf 1 (from top)

(2)- 1x10x24″ – shelf 2 and 4

(2) -1x12x24″ – shelf 3 and 5

(2) -1x4x24″ – shelf 4 and 5

(2)- 1x2x72″ – edges for base

(2) – 1x2x24 – top and bottom for base


Step 1 – Make shelves

Determine the height of your ladder shelf and the dimensions of the shelves that will go on top of it. I just found a nice shelf I liked online, measured out my space and took the measurements.

Here is a photo of dimensions close to mine. I didn't bother doing it for sure and chose the easier route.

Trim your shelves.

Skip this step if you're using plywood, but if you prefer the solid wood shelves I made, you'll need to add a few boards to create 2 wider lower shelves.

My largest shelf was the bottom shelf (16″x24″), so I had to add 12″ boards and 4″ boards. I added 10″ and 4″ boards on top.

At first I thought I could get away with just glue, but when that didn't work I used a Kreg jig to secure the two boards together. It wasn't a perfect job so I had to fix a small crack in between and I did this successfully using wood filler.

Sand all the shelves so they are super smooth.

Step 2 – Create a foundation

Cut the edges for the base

Determine how high you want the shelf to be. Mine is 6 feet.

Take 2 boards of size 1x2x72 inches and cut them at a 10 degree angle from one side. This will go towards the bottom and stabilize the DIY leaning shelf so it can lean against the wall.

Cut (2) 1×2″ boards at 24″ to go on the top and bottom of the base.

Attach them to the sideboards using glue and 2″ screws.

Be sure to use a triangle to create a perfect 90 degree angle. It is important for the balance of the shelf.

Attach the 24-inch board to the bottom at an angle. It may stick out a bit but you can sand it down later.

PIN FOR LATER >>>>>>>>>

DIY ladder shelf

Step 3 – Assemble the ladder library

Make spacers.

Spacers are essential for faster assembly, even if you have help. I'm sure you don't want to spend time measuring the distance between each shelf.

In my case, the space between the shelves is 11 ½”. I already had pre-cut boards that I used as spacers (I'm so lucky haha).

Place the spacers on the floor and begin assembling the DIY ladder shelf from the bottom.

Set a level to precisely determine shelf placement. And don't forget to level not only horizontally but also vertically.

Drill pilot holes with a drill (to prevent the wood from cracking) and use 2-inch screws to attach the shelves to the sides of the base.

Proceed to the last shelf.

And ready!

How to build a DIY Modern ladder shelf

You can finish it with stain or leave it bare. I left it like this for now since it's going to my office and I want to see how it looks with other furniture.

But let your inner designer take control and play with different wood tones!

It's very rewarding to be able to build a piece of furniture you need instead of buying it.

Not only are you saving money, but you're also creating something with your hands! And it's an incredible feeling.

Plus, looking at the furniture in the store, it's not cheap but it's generally very poor quality. Unless you're going for something very expensive. So what's the point?

I recommend you go and build a custom DIY ladder rack that suits your needs, will be perfect for your home, and I bet you'll be happy with the process.

It doesn't even need to be perfect, mine certainly isn't, but I absolutely love it!

So go build something! If you have any questions during this process, feel free to contact me; I will help you too!

You can find me on Instagram @ifonlyapril. Don't be strangers, let's be friends!

Happy building!

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