How do we solve a problem like a bookcase?

DAgent

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Okay, if like me you've been an avid reader all your life and never get rid of any books because you might get around to reading them all again, some day, you've probably got a couple of bookcases in your house.

I literally have no idea how many books I have, last time I counted was when I was around 17 and it was around 250 at that point, I'm 42 and got about three full height billy bookcases from IKEA filled up, two half height billy bookcases, and one full height half width billy bookcase, all filled up with books (and some models of various types too on two or three different shelves). I dread the idea of trying to count all the books I have now.

But this brings up the problem I'm hoping someone might have a solution for. And for once with Billy Bookcases it's not the backing sheets. I've replaced most of those with single sheets of much stronger, sturdy board, that's helped stiffen them all up, and drilling through the wood of one bookcase to another has added structural strength. But, I have lots of large hardback books, over a range of topics, and as you might imagine, it's causing the shelves to start sagging. Even the permanent middle shelves...

Obvious thing to do would be to move these biggest books to the bottom shelves to spread out the load, but there's far too many Big Books for this work.

I have thought about getting some metal supports brackets in at each end of the shelves, but I have my doubts this will work. I did pay a trip to a large National Trust property where the houses library had came up with the solution of bracing each shelf with a large piece of wood in-between each shelf, so maybe some combination of these two might work?

Then there is the idea of buying better quality bookcases, but I just don't have the cash for that right now.

So, I'm sure someone here must have come across this same, most deadly issue all book lovers must have, and hopefully came up with some sort of solution for it that works.
 

Bramandin

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As I recall, Billy shelves can't be flipped because the pins are recessed.

One thing we do with shelves here is to add a spine. It's like an I-beam but without the bottom thing.

You could also replace the worst of the saggy shelves.

If you don't move the shelves around, just putting a pillar at the back edge should help.
 

Vertigo

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I would go with the 'spine' idea just get some cheap planed baton wood, maybe around 25mm x 38mm. screw these onto the shelves you want to hold the heavy books. Screw through the shelves into the wood, not the other way round, as the wood will hold the screws better than the chipboard. Make sure the long (38mm) dimension is vertical. This will give the shelves a lot of extra strength. you may need to apply a fair bit of pressure/weight to get them flat again to screw onto the wood.
 

Astro Pen

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I replaced my lower contiplas (or whatever they are made from) shelves, for the larger books, with pine stained down to match. They don't bow.
I noted in the process that older hardback books weigh considerably more than their modern counterparts. I think this is due to the large quantity of china clay used historically in quality paper making. But I may be wrong on that.
 

hitmouse

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One problem is that it is quite hard to find anything apart from Billy bookcases. Basic rule of shelves carrying heavy loads: real wood or plywood works better than MDF.

If you live in an old house with chimney breasts in the rooms then build your own bookcases in the recess on either side. The trick is to use the correct thickness planks for the length of shelf, to avoid sag. If that data is not available online then it is in the Reader's Digest DIY book.

Or you can glue a wooden shim along the underside of the front edge of the Billy shelves (Gorilla Glue or No More Nails.) I have a feeling the Billy shelves are just plastic laminated MDF. Plywood is a much stronger replacement, and is easy to work.
 

JunkMonkey

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Because I usually massively over engineer anything I make, how about some angle iron under the back of the shelf? - something like uprights from Dexion type shelving. Would take up less space than a wooden baton.

I've posted this picture here somewhere before but can't find it.
If you have a staircase you're not planning on moving any furniture up for a while:
IMG_20220726_173038649.jpg


A spare chunk of joist gussied up with a bit of routing and beading then fixed upright to the wall with mirror plates. The lower shelves fit into slots routered into the upright. The other ends of the shelves just sit on the steps. After I while I noticed even the sturdy planks I used were starting to sag so chopped a few bits of 50 x 100 mm timber and just propped them up. Like your National Trust example. Didn't fix them in at all, just took the weight off the shelf above and slipped them in - starting at the bottom obviously. The weight of the stuff on the shelf above holds them securely in place. They ain't going nowhere.

That would be the way to go with the Billies. Just cut lengths of wood the height of the gaps between the shelves - they wouldn't have to be too chunky, the width of a book would do, and just jam them in in the middle of the shelf. If nothing else it's the fastest and easiest idea so far.
 

paeng

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I had the crew of a friend (an architect) build two large ones using MDFs with adjustable heights and prepared sliding boards, following his advice. He put a vertical board brace every foot to minimize the load on the shelves.
 

BAYLOR

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Because I usually massively over engineer anything I make, how about some angle iron under the back of the shelf? - something like uprights from Dexion type shelving. Would take up less space than a wooden baton.

I've posted this picture here somewhere before but can't find it.
If you have a staircase you're not planning on moving any furniture up for a while:
View attachment 91597

A spare chunk of joist gussied up with a bit of routing and beading then fixed upright to the wall with mirror plates. The lower shelves fit into slots routered into the upright. The other ends of the shelves just sit on the steps. After I while I noticed even the sturdy planks I used were starting to sag so chopped a few bits of 50 x 100 mm timber and just propped them up. Like your National Trust example. Didn't fix them in at all, just took the weight off the shelf above and slipped them in - starting at the bottom obviously. The weight of the stuff on the shelf above holds them securely in place. They ain't going nowhere.

That would be the way to go with the Billies. Just cut lengths of wood the height of the gaps between the shelves - they wouldn't have to be too chunky, the width of a book would do, and just jam them in in the middle of the shelf. If nothing else it's the fastest and easiest idea so far.

Impressive shelves . You've got all five seasons of Babylon 5 , Cool .:cool:
 

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