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How to Make Shelving From Recycled Laminated Chipboard Furniture

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Contiboard Shelving

Contiboard Shelving

Reclaiming ContiBoard From Old Furniture to Make Shelves

Old Laminated Chipboard Furniture Makes Great Shelving

This article shows how versatile laminated chipboard reclaimed from old ContiBoard furniture can be in making shelves and drawers around the home. My first choice of wood for making drawers, furniture and shelves is real wood, either hardwood like oak, softwoods like pine or even good quality plywood.

For many of my DIY woodworking projects I often use reclaimed wood salvaged from old furniture, pine floorboards or offcuts from previous DIY woodworking projects. However, I don't like seeing good wood go to waste so when someone (who know us) are disposing of their old furniture they usually offer it to me first; knowing that I'm often glad for the raw material and will often find a good use for it.

Different Types of Composite Wood and Wood Boards

ContiBoard, MDF and Plywood

Laminated chipboard, often called ContiBoard or particleboard is veneered chipboard; often veneered with a thin slice of real wood, barely a millimetre thick on the surfaces and around edges or sometimes the veneer maybe melamine. The chipboard being waste wood chippings mixed in with resin (glue) to form a composite wood board with no wood grain and very little structural strength.

MDF (Medium Density Board) is another composite wood, made with wood fibres with a wax added along with resin before being compressed under high pressure and temperature. MDF is denser and stronger than chipboard and it's also denser than plywood but not as strong.

Plywood is made up from several layers of thick wood veneer glued together with the grain of each layer being at 90 degrees to the layers above and below making it a very strong and versatile wood.

Laminated Chipboard

Laminated Chipboard

Shelf Pin Drilling Jig kit

To Make Adjustable Shelves

Brilliant bit of kit for easily and quickly making your own shelf supports for removable and adjustable shelves; gives a professional finish and done in a fraction of the time that it would take to carefully mark out and drill by hand.

Wood is Good

Wood is Versatile

Someone gives you an old battered Wardrobe constructed from laminated chipboard you may think it has little value. Unlike real solid wood which can be stripped down, planed, restored and reused, and then varnished, wood stained or painted in finishing chipboard can't. You can't strip chipboard down to the bare wood and you can't plane it other than the edges, and it's not easy to get a good varnish or wood stain finish; although you can reuse chipboard and if you key the surface paint it. One good reuse for old laminated chipboard is to cut it to size for shelving, or even drawer fronts.

As I previously mentioned I prefer making shelving from real wood, preferably pine floorboards for its strength. However, laminated chipboard salvaged from old furniture can make fine shelving if you take the time and care to cut it neatly and pay attention to fixing and the finishing touches such as laminate stripping along any visible edges.

Laminated chipboard doesn't have any wood grain or the strength of real wood so you can't assemble it as you would with solid wood e.g. you can't use joints. The laminated chipboard needs supporting either from underneath (shelf supports/brackets/blocks) or from the side e.g. chipboard screws, nail and glue or dowel.

As chipboard has no wood grain and therefore lacks the inherent strength of real wood chipboard shelving may need more support (dependent on the shelf's length and depth) to reduce the tendency of it to sag in the middle when heavy objects (such as books) are stored on it for any length of time. This is easily achieved by fixing a shelf support along the back for wide shelves and adding shelf dividers for deeper shelves.

However, if you follow the few simple pointers mentioned above and make a good job of it, making great looking shelves from old laminated chipboard furniture is a quick and easy DIY task; and at the very least will make a good semi-permanent solution to your shelving needs until such time as you have the time and money to remodel your shelves using real wood.

Below are a couple of comprehensive how to DIY projects using reclaimed and recycled laminated chipboard (ContiBoard).

#1 DIY Project Using Recycled Laminated Chipboard

Bedroom 1 - Bookcase, Shelves, Drawers and Cupboard

The first major DIY project maximises on the use of space by combining several mini projects into a complementary corner scheme to create a practical and functional use of space as part remodelling the main bedroom.

The corner of the main bedroom is over the stairs with the recess in the very corner originally being the airing cupboard. The airing cupboard was moved to the en-suite bathroom and fitted wardrobes built-in on the other side of the room during an earlier major remodelling of the bedroom. This left the old airing cupboard redundant and made it ideal for remodelling and reuse; so this was phase 1 of the project. Not long having moved we had a lack of bookshelves for all the paperback books so at the same time I wanted to take advantage of available space in the corner to fit a bookcase for the paperbacks; this being phase 2. The full details for this DIY project to remodel a bedroom with recycled laminated chipboard are given below.

Remodelled Bedroom Shelving and Cupboards

Remodelled Bedroom Shelving and Cupboards

Remodelling the Old Airing Cupboard

Cupboard Conversion

We had an airing cupboard in the en-suite bathroom, we had fitted wardrobes on the other side of the bedroom but what we was lacking was drawer space for underwear e.g. pants and socks etc. and space for the bedroom TV. The main building material available at the time was an odd assortment of laminated chipboard salvaged from various bits of old furniture over the years and stored in my shed.

The governing factor to 'phase 1' was fitting a shelf at the right height for easy viewing of the TV from the bed and leaving adequate space below for other associated electrical equipment; originally a video player but these days with the digital switchover the cable TV box and DVD player. Then below as many suitable sized drawers as would fit; which in this case was five. The remaining space above the TV was just ideal to fit two deep shelves for large items such as files and large books.

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As I also wanted to build a bookcase to one side so that the bookcase wouldn't get in the way of the drawers before assembling the shelves for the TV and fitting the drawers I put a false wall in on the side to match the depth of the proposed bookcase e.g. 6 inches (150mm) behind which cabling for the power supply to the socket and TV aerial are concealed. While remodelling this corner of the room I fitted a powered aerial booster at this location and fed coaxial cable behind the false wall to the rest of the house so that TVs in the other rooms would receive a proper full strength signal from the TV aerial on the roof; a system that works extremely well, even to this day of digital reception only.

Once the false wall was fitted and painted with white emulsion paint I measured, cut to size and fitted the shelf supports for the TV and its associated equipment and the two shelves above; supporting the shelves with battens around the sides and at the back screwed to the walls. Having fitted the shelves I then measured and cut the plastic drawers to size, glued them, fitted fronts using scrap laminated chipboard, added the drawer handles and screwed the drawer runners to the walls. This phase of the DIY project was then completed with ironing matching laminate stripping to the edges of the drawer fronts.

Remodelling and old airing cupboard

Remodelling and old airing cupboard

Selection of Shelf Supports

For wood and glass shelves

Ideal for kitchen cupboards and display cabinets, a good selection of shelf support which if fitted properly and used sensibly will securely support a lot of weight e.g. more weight than needs supporting in a kitchen cupboard. The secret to a secure fit for some designs, such as the plastic pegs, is to make the holes slightly smaller than the pegs so the pegs are a tight fit.

I’ve used both plastic and metal shelf support pegs in various DIY projects around the home with great satisfaction; with all doing the job they are designed for. They really come into their own when you want shelves that are removable and or adjustable, and they give a real neat and professional finish to the job.

Constructing a Paperback Bookcase

Maximising usable Space

Having constructed the corner unit for TV and Drawers the next phase was the main bookcase, filling a gap against the wall between the corner unit on one side with the window and bed on the other side.

I had plenty of small pieces of scrap laminated chipboard in the shed from old furniture that could quickly and easily be cut down to size for the shelving, but as part of my design I wanted the bookcase to go from floor to ceiling, 8 feet (2.4m), for which I didn't have a piece long enough so as ContiBoard isn't expensive I bought one long piece to complete this phase of the DIY project.

Next was making the measurements and cutting the laminated chipboard to my bookcase design which incorporates space for a glass fronted jewellery box, as shown in the photos.

The shelves are two feet wide (600 mm), six inches depth (150) with 8.5 inches (220 mm) being the spacing between shelves for the height; except for the two shelves to the right of the jewellery box space which are set at 7.5 inches as the gap (190 mm) and the top and bottom shelves. The bottom shelve being slightly higher (about an extra inch, 25 mm) to allow for reaching down and pulling books out easier and a similar space at the top for the same reason e.g. to make it easier to reach up and pull books out.

Floor to ceiling bookcase

Floor to ceiling bookcase

Plastic Chipboard Joints

For fixing the contiboard (laminated chipboard) together you could use nails or chipboard screws and glue although this doesn't usually make for a strong construction and it can look unsightly with nails or screws being visible down the outside of the bookcase. Although in the DIY project for the second bedroom I show you how oval nails can sometimes be successfully used for to great effect for shelving. Other methods of fixing shelves include drilling holes and fixing shelving with concealed dowel and glue although this requires precision woodworking to get it spot on so the shelves are perfectly straight, level and square; and therefore can be quite a time consuming process.

However, for this DIY project I chose plastic blocks designed specifically for joining laminated chipboard for making shelves and cupboards. It's an easy and quite satisfactory method for this type of shelving construction, and for making this bookcase I used one or two of these plastic blocks on either side of each shelf to give a strong construction. And provided you make the height of each shelf tall enough the plastic blocks (fitted with chipboard screws) would be positioned above the height of the tops of the paperback books and therefore not get in their way. As these shelves are two feet (600 mm) wide and made with chipboard they will need additional support in the middle to stop them from sagging. You could provide this support by screwing battens along the back as shelf supports, or screw one of the plastic blocks to the wall in the centre.

If you're building bookcases against a wall the wall should be painted first, preferably with white emulsion to reflect maximum light and give a good backdrop to the books on the shelves. And once the shelving unit is built and securely fixed to the wall any edges that are not already veneered should be finished off by ironing on veneer stripping; as the rest of the wood is already veneered no other finishing touches should be required. The veneer strips, readily available from any good DIY store, come in a roll and are pre-glued; the iron heats the glue and sticks the veneer firmly to the chipboard edge making for a neat finish.

When buying packs of plastic chipboard joints (as shown below) they are available in white and also available with covers to conceal the screws.

Plastic chipboard joints

Plastic chipboard joints

How to Make Adjustable Shelves

Fitting Shelf Supports and Joining Wood With Dowel

How to use drill and dowel in making shelves

Although in this video I show you how to use the drill in making shelf supports in real wood, and how to use dowel to join real wood together many of the techniques can be adapted to using the drill, plastic shelf supports and dowel in a similar way in laminated chipboard.

In fact the plastic shelf supports shown in this video are kitchen cupboard shelf supports and are designed to be used with chipboard so provided the side supports are solidly fixed and supported in place e.g. on either side of an alcove then fitting laminated chipboard shelves using these shelf supports shown in this video maybe the ideal option for you.

Doweling Jigs

Ideal for Joining Laminated Chipboard and MDF

Whether you wish to make edge-to-edge, T or edge-to-corner joints these doweling jigs are essential for working with fibre boards such as chipboard, laminated chipboard or MDF to give a professional finish rather than using corner joints, screws or nails and a convenient alternative to mortise and tenon joints or using biscuit joints in wood.

The jig I have is over three feet long and is great for edge to edge joining of any type of wood including chipboard and MDF but not suitable for other types of joints that these small more convenient and more versatile doweling jigs are handy for.

Inbuilt Cupboard Above the Stairs

Wall Recessed Cupboard

Between two main bedrooms is a stairwell the ceiling part of which is blocked with a false slopping ceiling. Seeing an opportunity for reclaimed wasted space I checked in the loft to see whether the bedroom walls either side of the stairwell was loadbearing e.g. whether the loft rafters ran parallel with the walls or across them. As it happened these walls are not loadbearing and therefore no worries about additional structural supports in knocking part of these walls down.

So building recessed wall cupboards in both bedrooms became a separate project that added to and complemented the corner unit project e.g. 'phase 3'. For this phase in the project I took out the bricks from the walls in both bedrooms on either side of the stairwell above the stairwell's false ceiling to make an opening as was practically possible for the space available.

Once the openings in the bedrooms walls were made I put joists across the opening and fitted a solid wood base to the top of the joists. I then made stud walls on either side an in the middle of the opening, facing the stud walls with plasterboard; the middle stud wall dividing the opening into two equal storage spaces (one for each bedroom) being insulated and sound proofed.

I finished off the newly reclaimed cupboard space in the other bedroom with a small cupboard at the top and below open shelves for TV and associated electrical equipment. For this bedroom I installed several large and deep shelves', using laminated chipboard supported by battens all-round. And to hide the shelves I fitted two doors cut to size from more of my reclaimed laminated chipboard stored in my DIY workshop.

Wall recessed cupboard

Wall recessed cupboard

Radiator Shelf and Laundry Basket

Better Bedroom Heating

The final DIY Projects to complete the use of recycled laminated chipboard in the main bedroom was to make a radiator shelf and a laundry basket.

The radiator shelf was simply made by cutting a spare piece of contiboard to length, rounded the edges, edging it with veneer stripping (ironed on with a hot iron) and fixing it above the radiator with a few metal wall brackets.

The benefits of the radiator shelf are twofold, firstly it reflects heat rising from the radiator into the room and secondly it provides additional shelving for your favourite ornaments.

The built-in laundry basket was an innovation of mine to solve a couple of issues we had with the wicker basket, the details of this and its construction will be given in a separate article on Squidoo (coming soon).

Wooden Laundry Basket

Wooden Laundry Basket

#2 DIY Project Using Recycled Laminated Chipboard

Bedroom 2 - Shelf Displays, Bedside shelf and Bookcases

The second major DIY project maximises on the use of wall space by combining several mini projects into a complementary wall to wall scheme to create a practical and functional use of space as part remodelling the secondary bedroom.

This project using predominantly recycled laminated chipboard from salvaged furniture to create wall to wall shelving as part of remodelling the secondary bedroom is in three main parts, display shelves around the door, main bookcase to accommodate both paperback books and larger books and files and finally a standard bookcase incorporating a bedside shelf, the full details of this DIY project is given below.

Wall to wall shelving

Wall to wall shelving

Door Surround Shelf Display

Displaying Your Models

Occasionally, but always, space around and above a doorway will naturally lend itself as ideal shelving, as in this DIY Project. As I was already planning to build sufficient shelving for books a further bookcase wasn't a top priority but shelving to display models was. However, to future proof and to retain flexibility rather than making the shelves less high to fit an extra shelf in I decided to keep the height sufficient to take paperback books if required.

As is my normal practice before assembling enclosed wall shelves, I painted the back wall in white emulsion to reflect maximum light and to provide a good backdrop to the items kept or displayed on the shelves.

All the shelves are six inches in depth (150mm) and apart from the shelf above the door are only a foot wide (300mm) so don't need any back support. For the shelf supports on the left hand side I used battens screwed to the wall and carefully assembled the rest of the shelving with oval nails and glue ensuring all shelves were straight, level and square.

Door surround display shelf unit

Door surround display shelf unit

Variable Depth and Height Shelving

The grand shelf display

The Grand Centre Bookcase Display Unit in this bedroom remodelling demonstrates that with a little imagination and innovative thought even laminated chipboard can be sculptured to create aesthetically pleasing and functional Dcor furniture.

The two laminated chipboard side support panels were cut with a slight curve in them so the bottom is wider than the top to accommodate different size books. Their edges were finished with a strip of pre-glued laminated stripping which is sold in rolls and just iron on with a hot iron.

The purpose of this central bookcase was to accommodate a range of books and files of varying sizes from large magazine files right down to paperbacks. The solution to me was to gently curve the two shelf unit side panels from paperback depth at the top to the large collector's magazines File size at the bottom, with the shelf heights and depths for the bottom two shelves being large enough for the large books and hardback books, and the other shelves above standard size for paperbacks but progressively getting slightly less high the further up the shelf unit you go. The difference in height and depth from one shelf to the next is marginal but the overall effect 'psychologically' is to draw the bottom three shelves in to make them appear as if they don't stick out as much as they do, as demonstrated in the photos below.

All the shelves and shelf dividers was recycled laminated chipboard reclaimed from an old wardrobe that somebody didn't want and offered to give me rather than just chuck it away. Because I wanted this unit full height from wall to ceiling I had to buy a long piece of contiboard to match, but contiboard (laminated chipboard) is quite cheap to buy so it didn't cost me much to make the whole unit.

In spite of my comment earlier about my preference for not using nails and glue, and the reasons given, on this occasion I decided to. Due to the shape and design of the bookcase unit e.g. the curved sides making the bookcase a display feature in its own right and part of the décor of the remodelled bedroom I didn't want any visible shelf supports. I could have used dowel, which would have been quite labour intensive considering the number of shelves and with drilling holes in the side panel and the shelf sides to conceal the dowel supports there is no margin of error. Therefore my solution, partly swayed by the fact that each shelf is over four feet wide (1.2m), was to use shelf dividers to take the bulk of the weight with the shelves being pinned at either end with oval nails and glue. To give a neat finish each oval nail was tapped just under the surface of the side panels so the their heads become almost invisible; it's a tactical decision which may not always work but as can be seen from the photos on this occasion it did. The shelf supports are placed slightly off centre at a ratio of 40/60 and 60/40 on alternate shelves to create a zigzag effect and to be able to glue and nail each shelf divider from top and bottom.

sloping curved shelves

sloping curved shelves

The Bedside Bookcase and Shelf

Maximising space for books

To complete the remodelling of the second bedroom with shelving all that remained was a standard paperback bookcase as a space filler to snug up against the built in 'cabin' bed with the top of the bookcase extending along the back of the bed, above and behind the headboard.

The cabin bed was a shop bought bed unit, which came in kit form, that's made from standard contiboard for the sides and cupboards and a high density flooring grade chipboard for mattress base. Originally the cabin bed was freestanding, however with major modifications to the interior and back I converted it into a fitted cabin bed unit. Part of the modification was to make a headboard from some scrap plywood, faced with furniture foam and upholstered with some furniture fabric which I salvaged from an old sofa. The cabin bed was then set just over six inches (150mm) away from the back wall to accommodate the fitted bookcase and bedside shelf.

The bookcase designed for paperback books, and top acting as bedside shelf is constructed from recycled laminated chipboard cut to size and simply fitted in place in the available gap between the main bookcase described above and the built-in cabin bed. On the left side a side panel is fitted to which each shelf is glued and nailed (the nails being concealed when the bookcase is located in position. On the right side each shelf is simply nailed and glued in place using the side panel of the main bookcase described above as the side panel for this adjoining bookcase, again the nails are concealed from view when the shelves are filled with books.

Built in cabin bed and shelving units

Built in cabin bed and shelving units

How Easy is Self-Assembly Furniture?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Arthur Russ

Your Views and Comments on Self Assembly Furniture - Modern Furniture made with Laminated Chipboard

Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 16, 2017:

Thanks all for your feedback, comments, tips, ideas, and for sharing your experiences; all is greatly appreciated.

Alonso on February 05, 2015:

I have been browsing onilne more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

Fay Favored from USA on January 28, 2014:

I have mixed feelings about them. We are abou to remove a cabinet and use parts for shelving, so this article was perfect timing. You did a great job with these pieces. Sharing this with a tweet.

ashleydpenn on October 22, 2013:

Great idea. I think too much self assembly furniture ends up in land fill these days!

anonymous on January 31, 2013:

Oops didn't realize this was the last guest book and just have to say I am impressed once again. Shelves are a good use for chipboard and I can see your family makes great use of the shelves you make for them!

anonymous on January 31, 2013:

I'd so much rather have real wood....just like you!

John Dyhouse from UK on January 24, 2013:

I made lots of furniture when I first married as I was on a post grad course. Later I reused the chipboard a number of times. I have still got some of the original material in my garage as shelves and cupboards on their 3rd or 4th time around after over 40 years. Have to say some great tips here,

getmoreinfo on January 20, 2013:

I like these tips on How to make shelving from recycled laminated chipboard furniture

Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on January 19, 2013:

I'm very impressed with how you have used the shelving to maximize space and it gives your rooms a warm cozy feel. Nice job with the projects and with the lens!

BestRatedStuff on January 17, 2013:

I am soon replacing a wardrobe that is made of some better quality plywood, so this is a lens I am going to be coming back to quite a few times in the near future. Thanks for the very detailed how-tos and ideas.

wrapitup4me on January 17, 2013:

These are wonderful ideas. I love making my own furniture.

Scraps2treasures on January 17, 2013:

This type of furniture was all my husband and I could afford when we first got married. We have been replacing it as we are able. I never thought of recycling the old pieces into shelving. That would be great for out in our shed. Blessed.

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