Monthly Archives: July 2014

Building a Custom Cinder Block Shelf

I’m not going to go into great detail on this because a cinder block shelf is a pretty darn easy project.  It’s so self-explanatory that when I was walking out of the store with my cart of boards and cinder blocks, a friend that I ran into took one look at my supplies and said “Building a shelf?”  There’s really very little to it.  You put down some blocks, then a board, then some more blocks, and another board until it’s as high as you want it.  The only problem is that cinder blocks only come in so many sizes, so you basically get 16 or 8 inches between shelves if you get the cheap blocks, or 12 inches if you get the decorative blocks.  My problem was that I wanted shelves the correct height for my books, most of which were about 10 inches tall.  So I decided to cut the masonry blocks to the correct height.

I marked a few bricks at 10 inches and then used a carpenters square to mark a line across the brick.  I bought a couple masonry blades for my circular saw, donned eye and ear protection and wore a handkerchief over my mouth so I wouldn’t breath in the dust and started cutting.  The dust covered up my pencil lines pretty quickly so the first thing I did is score the whole line and then go back and cut all the way through the block.  Each block I cut left me with a U shaped piece that was 6 inches tall.  However, if I turned them on their side, they were 8 inches tall, just the right height for mass market paperbacks.

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One thing you’ll probably notice about my shelf is that I have small bricks under a board that the shelf is then built on top of.  This is because our room is in the basement and we’ve at times had the carpet get a bit wet from water coming in, so I wanted the first course of books off the floor.  I wish I had done wider blocks or more bricks under there, but by the time I noticed the shelf was basically built and I didn’t want to move those heavy blocks around again.  I think they’ll work out fine, I just wish I’d done it differently, for looks if for no other reason.

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This is one thing I like about masonry block shelves.  The openings in the block lend themselves to small items like little books or decorations. The U shaped pieces are suited really well for that!

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UPDATE: (3/25/15)

When I built my masonry block shelf, I was NOT planning on moving in less than a year.  My friends weren’t expecting it either.  One of them showed up when we were starting to unload the blocks and said, “So what? Now you’re just moving bricks for fun?” And it did look ridiculous.  They’re heavy, awkward, and no fun to move  .Why on earth were we bringing concrete blocks with us? To make matters worse, we originally thought that we were going to build the new shelf in the basement, so we carried them all down to the basement.  When we realized there was a better place for a large shelf upstairs, Jodi and I ended up carrying them all back upstairs.  (The books too)  Mason blocks shelves are not meant to be moved!

That said, the new shelf was still quite easy to build and it was easy to customize for the space we had.  Before we decided to put the shelf against the wall, we had set a couple chairs and a table there.  When our friend Tonya gave us the idea of putting the shelf there, we still wanted to leave the chairs and table.  The chairs would be easy to move to get at the books, but the table not so much.  So we decided to build the shelf around the table and lamp.  It ended up working out pert’near perfect.

We cut a few of our 6 foot boards in half which gave us a shelf on either side of our table and fit perfectly against the 8 foot wall.  I started out with 16” blocks because that’s what we had. Then switched to the 10” blocks I cut last time.  Because the ceiling slants on the right, we could continue with the 6 foot boards we already had.  This saved us having to run out and get 8 foot boards while we were putting the shelf together.  We decided to put a wooden crate in the open area which worked out great.

I ended up buying 2 more 6 foot planks after I had already started putting books on the shelf so I could make it a little bit taller than the last one.  Other than that it was pretty much built with the same materials as last time.  I had to borrow 4 bricks from the pile in the yard to turn a couple 8” blocks into 10” blocks, but I also have two 8” blocks left over.  One thing I added to this shelf was 3 corner brackets to attach one shelf to the wall about 2/3rds of the way up.  It probably would have been fine without, but it makes me feel more comfortable.

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