diy concrete block bookshelf

This concrete block bookshelf that is stylish, inexpensive, and easy to make in an afternoon.  It’s a great way to add permanent or temporary storage to any space.

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Two college students in one apartment with no bookshelf in sight leaves for mass chaos.  It all started with this..  Two law students are capable of doing incredible things to an apartment during final exams.  Everything on the island was from exams, but everything on the table  had managed to find a permanent home there.  I thought I was going to lose my mind among all that clutter.  I began by clearing everything away and moving the table to the opposite wall.  I decided I wanted a shelf on the newly empty wall – a sort of “landing spot” for school supplies and books.

pictureI didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money, and I was officially cut off from making any more Ikea purchases (“I don’t want our apartment looking like an Ikea catalog.”).  I have seen bookshelves made from cinderblocks, but saw two problems with this approach.  1) Cinder blocks are 16 inches tall.  This is just too big for the kind of shelf I wanted.  2) When I think of cinder block shelves I flash back to college dorm and fraternity rooms.  So, on a cold December day, I wandered the garden department at Home Depot. I found pavers that were about 2x5x8 for the rectangles and 2x4x4 for the squares.  Perfect!

I had some pine 1x10s cut 40-inches long.  Luckily, we have been blessed with an incredibly warm winter so far in Minnesota.  I was able to stain the wood out on my patio, although I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what this crazy chick was doing.  I must admit, my setup was a bit odd.  I thought the white trash bags gave an extra classy touch.

picture 2


I used Minwax Wood Finish in Jacobean 2750 (one coat) and Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in Clear Satin (two coats).  Just follow the instructions on the can.  This was my first attempt at staining wood, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.


Next came the pavers. I rinsed them off well and let them dry.  Then I began stacking.  I used a ruler to make the pavers they were exactly 2 inches from the edge of the board.


The rectangle pavers went on the first two levels, and the square pavers finished off the third level.  I may still add more square pavers to the top shelf if I want to be able to store textbooks there as well.




Ultimately, I’m pretty pleased with the end result.  I think the total cost came in somewhere in the $40-45 range, although I could have saved a bundle by going with cinder blocks.  If I decide I need more storage space, I may buy and refinish something bigger, and move this shelf to the patio for gardening.  I have also contemplated painting the pavers.  We’ll just have to wait and see.


Did you enjoy this DIY project?  Check out these other home decor DIYs:

Not sure what to do with that old, beat-up dining set?  Give it a facelift for under $100 with some paint and concrete.  This tutorial is so simple, and will give your dining table a durable and updated look.

What and AMAZING and INEXPENSIVE craft! Using two simple supplies, turn dollar letters from the craft store into decorative soapstone letters.


  1. Irene says

    First off, I really love this look! I’ve been looking for something simple and relatively cheap that won’t look trashy. Have you had any trouble with balance or the blocks shifting/moving on their own? Is the top board loose or did you somehow secure it to the blocks beneath it…? I’m very interested in trying this and want to get all the details! :)

    Thank you!

  2. Jeannie says

    My Dad made one almost the same in 1972 and I have made one in my apartment in Tunisia but used glass for shelves as it is cheaper than wood here. Thanks….. love the dog photo.

      • Michelle says

        Love, love, love the look of this shelving unit!. Favor? Will you tell me the sizes of the pavers used; width, length, height? As there are numerous ones at the stores….and would like to build this same style; the length and depth of the wood used? That would be fantastic. Thank you for sharing this idea! Michelle

  3. Leslie says

    Thinking of making this and also a bench version. Do you think the 1 x10 are stable enough to sit on?

    • aimee says

      Hi Leslie, Thanks for the question. I would say probably not. You could double up a few boards, and consider putting a support in the middle. Otherwise, I’m afraid you would end up with a bowed bench.


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