Reclaimed, shelves, hardwood, repurposed, plants

DIY Reclaimed Shelves

Hi there!

I want to yell it from the rooftops, “My shelves are done!”. Oh my goodness these shelves! I feel like anyone else on the planet could have whipped these up in a day. I’m going to blame my tiny house, the weather, my kids, my indecision, my frustration, and all the bumps along the road, on this month and a half long project!!

I do have to thank my husband for these shelves though, he was doing a dump run for a client and he spotted these beautiful old hardwood planks and knew I would want to do something with them. They came out of an old building on Rideau Street in downtown Ottawa, so they are probably a good 100 years old. Who wouldn’t want to find a way to salvage them! I was squealing with excitement, thanks hun!

Reclaimed, hardwood, before picture
A before picture of the planks.

I instantly fell in love with the character of each plank, there are water stains, bare wood and layers of red and blue paint. I knew right away I wanted to use them to make shelves. We have a big empty wall in our bedroom which happens to be the only place that gets direct sunlight in the whole house, what a perfect place for my plants!

The planks themselves were in pretty rough shape, whoever took them out wasn’t gentle about it. The first thing I did was have my husband cut the torn jagged edges off. Then I had to remove the tongue, they were tongue and groove planks. For this I used an oscillating tool. Small, but still a power tool, so I would say I’m about a half check away from crossing that New Year’s resolution off my list!

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My next step was to sand the edges and backs of the planks. I did not sand the tops as I wanted to keep the unique character of each. For the sanding I used a palm sander with a 220 grit sandpaper. With all the sanding done I applied two coats of Minwax Crystal Clear Polycrylic in a satin finish.

Polyacrylic, wood shelves, sealed
Some of the shelves after they were sealed with a crystal clear polycrylic.

So this is where things started to go wrong. I had to decide what kind of brackets I wanted and I wanted to keep them inexpensive. I dragged Jay to Home Depot to have a look and couldn’t really find anything, so we headed to Lowe’s and found some beautiful wood brackets that would have cost me around $150!! Umm no, this is supposed to be an inexpensive project! So, I said let’s just get a basic L brackets, I’ll paint them. Well, of course they were completely sold out of the size I needed, not any other of the eight trillion available sizes, just the one I needed, ugh. At this point I was getting the death stare from Jay. He doesn’t mind coming shopping with me, but only if I know what I want and we are in and out quickly!So, needless to say, that shopping trip was over!

I started checking Amazon and surprisingly I found some fairly inexpensive brackets. Now that I had brackets ordered and they were being delivered the next day, I got out my painter’s tape and started playing with configurations on the wall. I marked off the studs using a stud finder, and tried to line the shelves up so they would at least have one of their brackets screwed directly into a stud, for added support, this didn’t work out at all. So, I just promised to not put any massive plants on the shelves.

Shelf placement, painter's tape
My taped out shelf configuration.

The brackets arrived the next day and even though I did measure the shelves, they were slightly too big, ugh! I was back to square one, again!

I was frustrated and just wanted to get these shelves mounted. I returned the brackets I bought on Amazon and headed back to Home Depot. I picked up L brackets and a can of Rustoleum Metallic in Satin Bronze.

Spraying the brackets went better than I thought it would. I laid them all out on their sides all bunched together, so they were a solid block and this made them much easier to paint and really helped to save on paint. Once dried, I flipped them over and coated the other side. When it came to the faces, I lined them all up side by side standing up (touching). I found it much easier and quicker to paint them this way rather than one by one. They came out perfectly.

reclaimed shelves, before and after

Now I just needed to paint the screw heads to match. My husband told me he had tons of screws to attach the brackets to the shelves but that I would need plugs to mount the brackets to the wall. When we picked up the brackets and paint, I also got my husband’s help selecting the correct plugs, he picked out a pack that came with the screws. Now that I was ready to paint them, I asked my husband to grab me the screws from the garage. I took one out of the pack to make sure they fit the bracket holes, they were perfect! Then I checked to make sure they weren’t too long and wah wah, they were too long, of course! I was so disappointed, I could see the end in sight and it was snatched away again!

The next morning my husband picked up the screws in the correct length, 1”, for me after dropping Keegan off at school, what a sweetheart. I excitedly grabbed my little cardboard box and punched them in for painting. Then I grabbed the pack with the plugs and right away I notice that the screws had a rounded head not a flat one, so they wouldn’t be flush with the brackets. I didn’t want to tell Jay, I figured he wouldn’t be to pleased with another trip to Home Depot. I decided to suck it up and use what we had, so, I opened the package and noticed that he had picked out an assorted size pack, yes!!!!! After I did a little happy dance, I shared the bad news.

He wasn’t having another trip so I headed over and bought flat headed 1 ½” screws and plugs. Then I got to painting. I let them sit for a full day so the paint was good and dry.

Screws, painted screws, wet paint
When painting screws, it’s much easier if you stick them in a cardboard box.

It was finally mounting time, woo hoo!! I gathered my screws, brackets, shelves, measuring tape, level and a ladder and got busy. The first thing I did was to attach the brackets to the shelves. This was pretty easy as I didn’t have to worry about lining them up with studs and all the shelves were different lengths so I just eyeballed what I thought looked good. If you are trying this project, make sure that before you screw the brackets in place on the shelf, hold the shelf up to the wall and place the bracket where you would like it to go, then mark off the holes. If you are not working with a partner you can use a footstool or something similar to hold the shelf up. Doing this will ensure that the self will be flush right up against the wall.


With the brackets attached it was time to drill the holes for the plugs. This was the most time consuming part. With the plugs in place, my husband disappeared, but I wasn’t waiting for him to return. I got right to it and screwed them all in on my own.

Shelves, naked shelves
The mounted shelves.

I immediately grabbed all my plants that needed more sunlight and bam, just like that, these shelves looked like they have been here for ages! I absolutely love these shelves! It makes me so happy to know that I did this project on my own (with just a tiny bit of help from Jay), that I used a power tool, and that my beautiful plants will now get the sun they need. I literally want to just lay in my bed and stare at them all day!

Reclaimed, shelves, decorated, plant shelves
My shelves mounted and full of plants!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my rollercoaster ride!! Check back soon, I have been working on a blanket ladder and will be posting a tutorial.




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