How Wide Are Bookshelves?

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Jan 26, 2022

In any office space, storage is important. Whether you’re using bookshelves for book collection, filing, or knick-knacks, you need to know the right bookshelf width to fit into your home office.

Standard bookshelf width is 31 inches and roughly 12 inches deep. However, it’s not uncommon for bookshelves to be built 36 inches wide. Keep in mind bookshelves come in many different shapes and sizes. Bookshelves can be tall and narrow or short and wide. Your spatial and storage needs will determine your ideal bookshelf width. 

Many bookshelves today have adjustable shelves that give users the freedom to add or remove shelving to suit their design preferences. Read on to learn about different bookshelf options and their dimensions.

Real quick: before we get too far along here, if you want to get more great ideas for your gaming room or home office and connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.

How Wide Should Bookshelves Be?Books on Rack

There are all kinds of bookshelves on the market. However, most people purchase bookshelves that are relatively the same size and shape, no matter where they come from.

Bookshelf Style Standard Width Standard Height Standard Depth
Two-Shelf Bookcase 31 inches 32 inches 12-13 inches
Three-Shelf Bookcase 30-36 inches 41-48 inches 12-13 inches
Four-Shelf Bookcase 24-45 inches 54 inches 12-15 inches
Five-Shelf Bookcase 31-37 inches 72-77 inches 12-13 inches

The truth is, though, that there are all kinds of bookshelves that don’t fit into one of the five aforementioned bookshelf dimensions.

For example, if you work in a cramped space and don’t have an entire wall to dedicate to a tall bookcase, you can stack multiple small bookcases on top of one another.

Additionally, you might have large binders or filing boxes that don’t fit between the shelves of a typical bookshelf. In this case, you’ll need to find bookcases with deeper shelves or more distance between shelves.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of bookshelves to choose from.

LEYAOYAO 3-Tier Bookshelf Mid-Century Modern Cube Bookcase with Legs: 7 shelves, 31.5″ W x 9.45″ D x 43.31″ H

OneSpace Essentials 5-Tier Bookshelf: 5 shelves, 27.5″ W x 11.4″ D x 68.9″ H
VASAGLE Zigzag Open-Closed Bookshelf: 4 compartments, 23.6″ W x 9.4″ D x 50″ H
Ashley Trinell Signature Design Entertainment Center Pier Bookcase: 3 adjustable shelves, 17.75″ W x 12″ D x 72″ H
Sauder Barrister Lane Bookcase, Salt Oak finish
Sauder Barrister Lane Bookcase, Salt Oak finish
Cubbyhole storage for books binders framed photos collectibles and more; Accommodates ID label tags for easy organization
Sauder Barrister Lane Bookcase: 10 compartments, 53.18″ W x 12.13″ D x 47.5″ H

Standard Dimensions for Built-In Home Office Bookshelf

Brown Wooden Organizer

Those who work out of a dedicated home office usually can take advantage of a built-in bookcase or two for their storage needs. The standard dimensions for an ever-useful built-in bookcase are as follows:

  • Width: Depends on available wall space
  • Height: 84 inches or lower for ease of access
  • Depth: 10 to 12 inches deep
  • Shelf-Spacing: 8 to 12 inches between shelves

When designing built-in home office bookcases and shelving, you should keep in mind your specific storage needs. For example, if you have several large binders that you know you will store, ensure you leave enough space between each shelf to accommodate the height of the binders.

Different Uses for Bookshelves

Vintage furniture with empty frame and blank screen of netbook in light room

Bookshelves have many different uses. The name “bookshelf” indicates their main purpose: holding books. However, any bibliophile knows that books can come in all shapes and sizes.

For a bookshelf to act as a proper display space for books, it needs to be able to bear the heavy load of heavy books, larger books, and all the small books in between.

However, a bookshelf isn’t just about books. As a piece of furniture, a bookshelf is very useful for storing and displaying all kinds of things from decorative objects to bulky board games.

A bookshelf with the right dimensions can solve all kinds of organizational needs, especially those of the home office variety.

How to Strengthen a Bookshelf

Books on Shelf

If you keep filling your bookcase with books and files, eventually it can weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds. If your bookshelf is solid wood, it’s going to be even heavier. If you have tall items in your home or office (or home office!) that weigh this much, you need to reinforce their strength to ensure you avoid hazardous situations.

The dimensions of a bookshelf have a great deal to do with how strong it is. Additionally, you can take steps to strengthen your bookshelf to take on extra storage and bear heavier loads.

How to Avoid Bookshelf Sagging

Sagging bookshelves are a common issue. Once you pack too many items onto a shelf, eventually the shelf will begin to dip in the middle due to the weight.

You have a few options for reinforcing sagging shelves. First, remove everything from the shelves so they are empty.

  • You can insert vertical supports underneath the center of each shelf.
  • You can screw an additional strip of solid wood underneath each shelf.
  • Remove the insides of unwanted books and insert wood panels into them vertically that will support the shelf above like Family Handyman does here.

Anchoring a Bookshelf to a Wall

When using a tall bookshelf, you should always anchor it to the wall. Do this whether your bookshelf is solid wood or cheap plastic.

A falling bookshelf can be extremely dangerous, especially if it is full of heavy books and materials. An earthquake or any number of random incidents can send a tall bookcase toppling over.

You can also use metal brackets for a stronger hold. When using brackets, use the same area where your wall stud is.

Use Different Materials to Build a Bookshelf

Interior of room with bookshelves and table

Bookshelves come in all different materials. However, the classic bookshelf you will find in a library will almost always be made from solid wood.

Solid wood bookshelves are heavy and built to last. They also provide the beautiful hardwood designs many homeowners prefer for their home office aesthetic.

However, there are other bookcase options you can easily find on the market, such as particleboard, plywood, metal, and ABS plastic.

Sauder 5-Shelf Split Bookcase, Oiled Oak finish
GreenForest Industrial Bookshelf 4 Tier Rustic Bookcase Metal Frame for Home and Office, Walnut
Sauder 5-Shelf Split Bookcase, Oiled Oak finish
GreenForest Industrial Bookshelf 4 Tier Rustic Bookcase Metal Frame for Home and Office, Walnut
Buy Now Bookcase Material
Sauder 5-Shelf Split Bookcase, Oiled Oak finish
Sauder 5-Shelf Split Bookcase, Oiled Oak finish
Buy Now Bookcase Material
GreenForest Industrial Bookshelf 4 Tier Rustic Bookcase Metal Frame for Home and Office, Walnut
GreenForest Industrial Bookshelf 4 Tier Rustic Bookcase Metal Frame for Home and Office, Walnut
Buy Now Bookcase Material

Related Question: Is there a difference between a bookshelf and a bookcase?

Technically, a bookshelf and a bookcase are not the same things. However, most people use these terms interchangeably.

The actual difference between a bookshelf and a bookcase is:

  • A bookshelf does not have outside edges. Bookshelves are designed to hang on walls, but modern bookshelves also sit on floors as bookcases do. See an example of a bookshelf:

  • A bookcase is completely enclosed on the back, top, bottom, and sides. A bookcase sits on the floor. See an example of a bookcase:



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Robert David Orr

I'm an award-winning web designer & developer, creator, an all-around digital marketing guy and, most importantly when it comes to this site, a long-time veteran of the working from home life. My work from home life spans more than 10 years, and I've experimented with just about everything you can think of when it comes to getting the most out of my home office, how to work from home without going crazy, and found solutions to the numerous challenges that those of us who work from home run into in this life.

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