Built-in furniture and storage spaces are pieces that are permanent parts of the home — such as a bench seat nestled below a window or a set of bookcases flanking a fireplace.

Built-ins are attached to or recessed inside the surrounding walls and are typically unable to be relocated without dismantling them. Built-in bookshelves and cabinets are sleek, effective solutions when you need to minimize clutter. However, you can’t take them with you if you move, which is something to keep in mind when deciding whether to install them.

There is also a large range of cost, depending on size and on how personalized you want them to be. Labor typically runs $30 to $130 per hour. If you choose to install built-in shelving yourself, the cost can range anywhere from $200 to $500, depending on the material, size and type of shelves.

Built-in materials

Built-in bookshelves can be made out of a variety of materials, including veneer plywood, birch and Douglas fir. The cost of each will vary greatly. Along with price, consider their strength when planning your project. You’ll want to choose a material that can withstand the weight of your objects without sagging or cracking.

Size and design

Built-in shelves offer highly flexible design options, ranging from postmodern minimalist to traditional. Some common types are closed-door cabinets for an office, entertainment-center shelving, dining room cabinets with open and closed sections for dinnerware and decor, and bookcases in a living room or bedroom.

The typical height for built-in shelves is 8 to 10 feet. Shelving that is taller than 10 feet will require more time and resources to install and will cost more. Extra features and accessories, such as doors, drawers, accent carpentry or paint, will also add to the price.


You can usually count on built-in shelves to have a good return on investment. They add both practicality and beauty to your home, and most buyers like extra storage space.

Installing built-ins

Poorly built shelving can collapse under the weight of heavy objects. To ensure the job us done right, you can either hire a carpenter to build your custom shelves, or you can purchase premade units from a home improvement store. Premade units run between $25 and $150, while custom shelving can cost a few hundred dollars for materials alone.

Both premade and custom units can be installed by a professional. When deciding whom to hire, pay attention to their experience and contracts. Make sure the contract includes materials, payment schedule, start and finish dates and how the work will be done, so that there are no surprises along the way. Also consider hiring an interior designer to help guide you through the best possible options for your unique space.