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How to Build Shelves: The Best Lumber for Shelves

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What type of lumber is best for building shelves?

If you’re looking for an easy way to improve the appearance of your home and add functionality to a specific area, adding shelves should be at the top of your to-do list. Depending on where you plan to install new shelves, be it in your garage, living room, home office, etc., you’ll have many different types of wood species to choose from. Learning how to build shelves begins with choosing the right type of building materials. To get you started, we’ve put together a list of our favorite wood shelving options:


If you’re a DIY fan with a little experience, then walnut may already be one of your favorite types of hardwood shelves. Walnut is strong and durable, making it capable of holding heavy weights. It’s also a beautiful wood that needs very little maintenance and is easy to work with for customization, despite it being a hardwood.


Given its versatility and durability, mahogany is always in high demand. This wood is both dent-resistant and scratch-resistant, making it perfect for holding heavy objects like books and memorabilia. Many people love mahogany because it changes from a reddish pink hue to a reddish brown over several years, giving it a classic and rustic appeal.


This is another wood that gets better with age, just as you would expect from a fine wine. Just keep in mind that the deep and elegant color that you may see with cherry after a few years is at least partly due to exposure to sunlight and air, so you may not want to keep the shelves hidden away to achieve the optimal effect. This is considered a soft hardwood, but it has a high hardness rating, making it great for shelves.

Red Oak

You’ll often find shelves made of oak in the bathroom and kitchen because it’s resistant to somewhat high levels of moisture. Some people prefer white oak, but red oak can give your shelves a little something extra in terms of appearance. Oak has a natural beauty and durability that makes it perfect for other home projects such as doors and cabinets, too.


Not only does the straight grain of maple give it an amazing aesthetic, but its hardness rating provides a weight capacity of up to 50 pounds per shelf. Some homeowners choose maple because it’s a more affordable choice when compared to other hardwood options, in addition to being resistant to dents and scratches.


Although many homeowners turn to birch for home improvement projects such as cabinets, doors, and kid’s toys, it’s also perfect for building durable shelves. This wood can withstand a lot of wear and tear without showing damage or sagging over time. It can also absorb paint very well, which means you can give it a new coat whenever you’d like to achieve a different look.

Douglas Fir

You’ll often find Douglas fir as a premier choice for door and window frames, but it’s a favorite for shelving, too. This softwood can handle a light-to-medium weight capacity, which makes it perfect for most uses around the home. It’s also affordable, has the highest strength rating amongst softwoods, and features an elegant aesthetic that rivals expensive hardwoods.


Given its strength and hardness level, tigerwood has become a popular choice for a variety of projects, including shelves, clocks, and many furniture pieces. Tigerwood features interlocking wood grain and dark brown to reddish gold hues, which gives it an absolutely stunning aesthetic. Some homeowners who deal with inclement weather love it because this particular wood can withstand extreme climate conditions and exposure to moisture.


Pine has often shown itself to be the ideal choice for beginning custom home builders and first-time woodworkers. Not only is it less expensive than several other options, but you simply can’t deny its cozy, rustic aesthetic that adds a bit of style to any home. It may not have the durability needed for heavy weights needed in the garage, but it’s perfect for places like your kid’s room.

Contact Peninsular Lumber to Learn How to Build Shelves

Learning how to build shelves starts by choosing the right type of wood for the project. As the most respected lumber company in Tampa and the surrounding areas, Peninsular Lumber can assist you with finding the hardwood or softwood that’s perfect for you. If you have any questions or would like to visit our lumber yard, reach out to us at (813) 875-8805 today.