Published on December 22nd, 2011 | by Jules Yap


Billy to built in (again!)

Materials: Billy bookcases, Billy extension units, molding, paint, vast amounts of construction-grade adhesive and caulk

Description: We have a lot of books–over eight full-size Billy bookcases worth. When we moved into our current house, I found that a nook created by the previous owner’s addition of closet was, serendipitously, exactly the width of two Billy bookcases (after prying off the baseboard). So I pried off the baseboard and wedged the bookcases in, which got the books put away but looked terrible. Plus, the ceiling was 9 feet high so there were several feet of wasted space.

So, inspired by other projects featured on this site, I decided to go up to the ceiling and transform the look of the Billys. Since the other built-ins in our c.1930 house were already painted white, I bought two white Billy extension units. I painted both the Billys and the fake wood grain beadboard on the wall installed by the previous owner white (Martha Stewart Talc, thanks to this post), and then bolted the two Billys together and then to the wall. This was the beginning of grappling with the fact that in our older house nothing was straight; I had to shim both the bottom and sides of the bolted together Billys. I then cut the shelves that came with the Billy extension units to create an extension of the extensions that went up to my ceiling, and affixed those with construction-grade adhesive.

I now had a Frankensteinian construction that covered the wall floor to ceiling, with gaps on both sides and the top because the house is old and not level. Enter the molding and caulk. I covered the base, sides, center (where the Billys are joined), and top with molding. At the top, there was nothing to nail the molding into so I used light-weight vinyl molding that could be glued to the vertical elements. I then filled all large gaps with more of my shims or my kids’ molding clay, and then caulked over that to create a seamless look. I used over a tube of caulk to fill all the gaps! I then painted all the molding and caulk to create a seamless look. At the ceiling for the interior of the shelves, I used quarterround trim, shims, and more caulk to hide the cut edges of my extended vertical elements and create a finished look.

The most time-intensive part of this project was the shimming, caulking, and painting needed to hide the fact that there are no straight lines in our funky older house. But we were able to move over an entire bookcase of books to our new “built-in”! In all, a project that would have cost almost $900 for a carpenter to do added up to about $100 (since we already owned the Billys).

~ Erin, Philadelphia, PA

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

8 Responses to Billy to built in (again!)

  1. Caroline says:

    Barbara724 – I’ve had Billy shelves sag from a full shelf of books. My solution was to flip the shelf itself upside down (turning the bow the other direction to flatten back out). I suppose I should note that I had a whole variety of shelf supports, so was not bound to any particular set of notches or whatever. Alternately, you could swap out the worst shelf for a plain piece of wood or plywood. The hardware store/lumber yard where I am usually has a bin of scrap wood (off-cuts from other customers) which they sell at a good discount.

  2. Barbara724 says:

    This may also sound like a dumb question, but do any of you have a problem with the Billy shelves sagging in the middle? I’ve had some for years, and even though I load the books (or whatever) from the sides to the middle of the shelving, because of the particle board composition, they invariably sag. This bums me out, as I had not planned to replace my shelving. If I do, I’ll feel like an idiot if I don’t just plunk down for solid wood. Maybe since you guys know all there is to know about IKEA, you’ve got some wisdom for me. Thanks in advance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chris, I ditched the cardboard backs, so what you see behind the Billys is wall paneling (1/4″ thick) that sits on top of insulation that sits on top of a masonry wall (paneling & insulation done by a previous owner). The walls on either side are plaster and lath and none of the walls have studs where I needed them. Therefore none of them are great choices for anchoring–so I anchored on all sides, multiple times, at the top of the cases, using drywall anchors. Maybe I should have used toggle anchors on the wall paneling… I’m lucky in that the width of the nook means the Billys are really wedged in there tight (and are bolted together at multiple places side to side for greater stability)–my 2 year old climbed up the finished product before there were books in it and there was nary a wobble.

  4. Chris says:


    This may sound like a dumb question, but how did you bolt the bookcases to the wall? I assume you attached it the studs in the wall, but what part of the bookcase did you attach? i.e. the back is made of cardboard so that wouldn’t hold, what exactly did you use? Thanks for your help!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! And it’s not a light switch that you see, it’s an outlet (the outlets in our house are at the same height as the old gas lines). There’s a linen closet on the other side of the wall that allows access to that outlet’s wiring, should we ever need it. And Emma, the caulking came AFTER adding trim; the house is just crooked enough that you could see little gaps on all the edges.

  6. emma says:

    I think its a shim. I would have gone with wooden beading and trims instead of caulking all the gaps, so it could be removed easily in the future if you wish. But there is nothing wrong with caulking it.

    It looks great. I wish I had a similar alcove.

  7. I was wondering the same thing anonymous said….but it looks wonderful otherwise. I need some of those floor to ceiling cases. I will have to get some next time I go to Atlanta where there is an IKEA.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Is that the light switch we see behind the bookcase?

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