Easy-to-Build Modernist Cinder Block Bookshelves… That Actually Look Good


cinder block bookshelves

I’ve been meaning to share photos of my cinder block bookshelves for a long time but I didn’t get around to documenting my design until the very last minute.

This is mostly because the bookshelves were covered with books, vintage Star Wars action figures, liquor, paper and pencils, jars of seeds, baskets, lanterns, assault rifles, etc. etc. etc…

When we emptied out the house in preparation for our move, it was finally time to film a video and take some pictures for you.

Cinder block bookshelves are usually pretty ugly affairs. They often look cheap and chintzy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I built this concrete block book shelf for less than $100.00:


And I built this second one for my office:


How To Build Cinder Block Bookshelves (The Nice-Looking Way)


The big problem with most cinder block shelves is that the ugly side of the concrete blocks faces outwards. The rough holes in their centers will always look rough and cheap.

Lay them on their sides, however, and the look improves greatly.


All you need for this project are a few easy-to-obtain items and one tool. Two tools, if you decide to paint.


Cinderblocks (as many as desired, both solid half-blocks and full size)

2×8 pine boards

Paint (optional)

Paintbrush (if you decide to paint the blocks)

Miter saw (or a hand saw, if you need a workout)


If you stack two full-size cinder blocks on top of each other, as I do on the bottom shelves of these cinder block book cases, you end up with a 16″ space between shelves. This is bigger than you need for most books but is great for storing boxes or baskets that contain other items.

The block-and-a-half size shelves hold most books nicely.

Single block depth shelves are only 8″ tall and work for storing small paperbacks and CDs/DVDs.

I didn’t let any of the pine boards extend more than 6′ without support, since I believe that’s running a risk of the shelves warping over time.

At 6′ spans I’ve had them hold for years without bending downwards in the slightest, even under the weight of many gardening books and other hardcovers.

I believe I used 10′ boards on the shelf pictured above, then cut the ones that didn’t extend the full width of the shelf with my handy Hitachi miter saw. I love that thing.

You can let some of the shelves only come half way to the front by using just one board instead of two, or you can put two 2x8s side by side for every shelf. I got fancy and even cut little pieces to fit the gaps and make it look neat with insets and changes in how I stacked the blocks, but you don’t have to do that.

On my next homestead I’ll likely do this exact same cinder block bookshelf design again. They work well, save you plenty of cash, plus they’re super stable thanks to their weight.

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