Ladder Display Shelves

As you are reading this I’m on my way back from a long weekend getaway with Pretty Handsome Guy. I took loads of pictures to share with you at a later date. I didn’t want to say anything ahead of time (you know, for safety reasons), but now I can tell you that we were out of the country! Just the two of us! Yippee!

So, do you want to know where? You’ll just have to guess, but I’ll give you one clue: Nessie.

Anyway, I was under a strict no-computer policy, so I thought I’d repost an older tutorial that I created for sweet Kate aka Centsational Girl back in November. I hope you enjoy.

I know you’ve seen them, those adorable book shelves that look like ladders. I really wanted one.  But, the price tags were enough to send me running from the store with my purse gripped tightly in my hands. I mean, really? $299 for one unit!

When I saw this ladder at the Habitat ReStore for $15 I knew it had the potential to fulfill my ladder shelf dreams.

The skeptical cashier tried to persuade me not to buy the ladder, warning me not to climb on it because it was too rickety.

Who cares about rickety, I was in love with the paint splashes all over it!

So, I hauled the old ladder home (and received funny looks along the way because it was hanging several feet out the back of my car.) Little did they know that I was about to transform that old ladder.

Tutorial for Building Ladder Shelves:

Start by measuring the width of each step (and subtract 1/8″ to account for the slant of the ladder.)

Use 1″x10″ pine boards (or any depth you choose.) Lucky for me, I had some leftover shelves from my coat rack and shoe bench.

Cut them down to size on a miter saw or ask the lumber store to cut them for you. Yes, it was a total coincidence that my boards were covered in paint splotches too!

Dry fit the boards to make sure they fit your ladder. My heart was thumping now because I could really see the project taking shape!

Next cut some 1″ x 2″ strips the same width as each shelf. These are for the backs of your shelves. If necessary stain your shelves or paint them to match your ladder.

To attach the strips to the back of the shelves, use some Gorilla Glue…

…and then screw or nail the 1″x2″ pieces securely to the shelves. I chose to use a pneumatic nailer (but who wouldn’t if they have one lying around.)

Choose the depth you want your shelves to extend beyond your ladder. Then using a carpenter square or ruler, mark a line on all the shelves. I chose a 3″ overlapping depth.

Use a drill to pre-drill three holes per ladder rung.

Turn your ladder upside down and set the screws inside the holes.

Line up your pencil lines on the shelf to your ladder step.

Using one hand to support the shelf (or better yet get a helper to hold it), drive the screws into the bottom of each shelf.

Repeat the process for all the shelves.

Then flip the ladder back over and admire!

$15 for the ladder and no cost for the materials I had on hand. Much better than $299 and the best part is mine is charmingly rustic.

It looks great on my beach inspired screen porch. But, this beauty would look good anywhere in your home.

The minnow trap hanging pendant lights up my treasures on the shelves.

So what do you think? Do you like it? I bet you could build one for yourself.Oh, I almost forgot, if you are wondering what I did with the back of the ladder. Take a peek here.

Have a great week! I’ll be back soon. 😉

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Beautiful ladder shelves! What a great job recycling an old ladder!
Nessie? Loch Ness Monster. Sounds like you’ve been to Scotland! My son and his friend are planning a trip there next summer! I’d love to go!

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! You guessed it! Scotland is very beautiful. I highly recommend a day in Edinburgh and then hopefully he can get out to tour the country side. We drove up to Ben Lawers through Stirling and then circled around and back to Edinburgh through Perth. I am still awe struck by the beauty!

That turned out great! When I first started looking at the pictures, I thought there is no way that old boring ladder would turn out anything like the inspiration. I was sort of right because it is BETTER than the inspiration! Thanks for sharing.

This is beautiful…

QUESTION: is it just leaning on the wall? Or do you have it secured to the wall? If not how are you preventing it from sliding?

I always wanted one but the price is an issue for me…but I love to do this project…can’t wait to hear your response & start this project…thank you!

Tami, the ladder is not anchored to the wall. It leans against it and because the foot lays flat against the floor. It doesn’t slide or tip. Although, if you have small children, I highly recommend that you use an “L” bracket to attach the top step to the wall.

Not sure if this thread still works but I have a ladder bookshelf made from iron and timber and it is sliding down the wall how can I keep it in one place?

What a beautiful place to visit. I remember taking the train through the country to Edinburgh. I was a student and stayed in hostels (the one in Edinburgh had bed bugs). The people were amazing and totally made the trip for me. So glad you could travel with hubby.

Like Tami, I am wondering about securing to the wall.

The ladder is not anchored to the wall. It leans against it and because the foot lays flat against the floor. It doesn’t slide or tip. Although, if you have small children, I highly recommend that you use an “L” bracket to attach the top step to t

i love everything you have done…you have taught me well, master. um…i’m just like a few other people here and wonder about the sliding prevention issue. i see where it would stay put on carpet, but on a wood or tile floor…this baby would slide right about from under its contents. at least it would seem to me. i can’t wait to find out the answer to this one, then i’m all over it. thank you for such GREAT projects and teaching! btw: i LOVED edinburgh…LOVED it! too bad you didn’t get there when they perform the tattoo in september. THAT was phenomenal!

Edinburgh was amazing, as was the countryside! Wish we were going to be there for the big international festival coming up. They were building the stands near the castle while we were there.

The ladder is not anchored to the wall. It leans against it and because the foot lays flat against the floor. It doesn’t slide or tip. Although, if you have small children, I highly recommend that you use an “L” bracket to attach the top step to t

What size screws did you use to attach your shelves considering the size boards you used if I follow this plan exactly. BTW….I have my grandpa’s old ladder 😉

Donna, I don’t remember exactly, but set your screws up next to the width of the steps on the ladder and your shelf board. The screw length should go through your ladders step and about halfway through your shelf board. Make sense?

I’m so jealous that you went to Scotland. It’s a magical place. You ladder idea is great. I’m going to have to try one for my patio.

A great site. I find myself with a host of projects to be done at home and very little time to complete them efficiently. Information and advice that’s friendly to the lay person can be hard to find. Your site gives me hope and motivation.
I have looked at a number of DIY sites and found yours to be excellent.

I always love to visit this site for new creative ideas. We always think for costly furniture for interior but amazed to see a ladder can prove to be a same as buying furniture, just need some willing effort.

Your ladder looks fantastic! I was going to make one using a piece of old extension ladder. But it has round rungs and I’ve realized it’ll be much harder to balance the shelves on the rungs. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

you could attach your shelves using a plumbing bracket, meant to go around pipes, etc and screw into a wall. looks like a U with arms off the top

I came over from OMF and I’m glad I did! I got a ladder from Freecycle intending to hang antique linens on it to display, but my asthma is mad at me, so no such dust holders now. Your shelf tut was a perfect answer. Check out my blog?