15 Gorgeous DIY Ladder Shelf Plans [Free List]

diy ladder shelf plans

If you'd like to add some decorative, vertical storage space to your living area, we've got you covered.

We've assembled a list of 15 of the internet's best DIY ladder shelf blueprints below.

Some are anchored to the wall while others merely lean against them. There are a variety of creative takes on these ladder shelves. 

#2 is a gorgeous ladder planter tray;  #6 is a down-and-dirty, purely functional option; #8 is fashioned to resemble a Christmas tree shape; and #7 is built for the outdoors.

Whatever your fancy, scroll through the various projects below. Click the 'View Plans' button to access the free blueprints.

15 DIY Ladder Shelf Plans

1. Simple Ladder Shelf Plan

Making functional home decor out of ladders is a very popular trend and stores are trying to capitalize on this. If you follow this DIY project, you can make your own in a few hours. You’ll need medium density fiberboard, wood glue, clamps, wood paint, sanding paper, and screws. Each shelf is the same length though they gradually get deeper in width, providing you with more space on the bottom and less space on the top. This project is doable by any crafter, though cutting out the exact sections of the MDF can be challenging. You can also paint this before or after cutting and assembly.

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2. Inexpensive Ladder Shelf Idea

This versatile storage solution costs around $15 to build and only a few hours of your time. Materials required include some 2×4’s, pallets, paint, and screws or wood glue. Simply cut the uprights, prepare supports for the shelves, cut them, prepare the pallets, mount the supports, and paint it. Make sure to assemble this on a flat and level surface once the paint has dried completely. Depending on what you will be displaying, you might want to mount the middle and sides to the wall with an L bracket for added stability.

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3. Horizontal Ladder Shelf DIY

This DIY idea gives a unique twist to the usual shelving set up. Perfect for those with large living rooms, this project should probably be tackled by a builder with some experience. This designer used a vintage ladder that cost him around $100 though you could get one from Craigslist, eBay, or your local area for much cheaper. You’ll also need short and long brackets, a belt sander, tenon saw, and a power drill. Sanding the wood will probably take you an hour or two but is a super important step. Once everything is ready, you and a few helpers can start mounting this to the wall.

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4. Mini Ladder Shelf Plan

This display is perfect for those lacking space. This only has two shelves though you can modify these design plans to create more. Materials required include planks, hinges, screws, a power drill, paint, and a sander. To create, make the legs from two equal size planks, join them with hinges, place the shelves accordingly, and paint. Spray painting this would make things a lot easier though you can also paint the wood before putting it all together. This is a great way to recycle old wood and cut down on costs to make this quick and easy rack.

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5. Ladder Bookshelf DIY

A simple and easy DIY project, this is a great way to upcycle an old and rickety ladder. To make this, you’ll need brackets, wood glue, braces, sandpaper, wood glue, a jig saw, braces, a power drill, and wood screws. To keep everything steady, install some cross-bars and reinforce the shelves with a wood of your choice. This builder used red oak, which is on the pricier side. If you’re looking to save money, you can use pine or even medium density fiberboard. This is a unique way to display your favorite novels and can be painted any color or left unfinished for a rustic look.

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6. Industrial Ladder Shelf Blueprint

Perfect for storage in the garage or den, this DIY idea used an old and forgotten ladder. All you need is some leftover plywood, a sander, screws, wood glue, and a circular saw. Simply paint the hinges, cut and fit the shelves, then assemble everything. If you really want this to be rustic, you can stop here. However, you can also add a coat of polish or wax and paint this a different color. This builder stored his power tools here and everything was perfectly sturdy.

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7. Planter Ladder Idea

A solution to organizing your patio or garden area, this DIY project can easily be tackled by a beginner in a few hours. Materials needed include wood, a power drill, decking screws, and a saw. Of course, the measurements given are based on the designer’s own plants and pots. You should measure yours beforehand to see if this will work or if adjustments need to be made. To make this, cut all of the wood, mark lines for the shelves, drill pilot holes, and assemble everything. You can fix this to the wall or add additional supports on the ground.

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8. Ladder Christmas Tree DIY

If you can’t have a real tree in your apartment, consider this DIY idea. You’ll need paint, pine boards, wood glue, a hand saw, measuring tape, and a sander to make this at home. Figure out the dimensions you want and how you long you need to cut each plank. Then sand each shelf until they’re all even and level. You can also cut out grooves to hang ornaments and paint the whole fixture green if you’re feeling extra festive. This could be used as a regular display all throughout the year but filled with gifts and string lights when the holidays come.

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9. Chic Ladder Bookshelf Idea

If you know how to use power tools and have some building experience, this is the perfect blueprint to follow to make a professional looking bookcase. You’ll need supplies like a miter saw, wood glue, brad nails, wood screws, and some plywood. This builder gives exact measurements for everything, including each cut you need to make on the wood. Creating this yourself costs around a quarter of the price most furniture stores would sell this for. You can also play around with the finish — you can paint the whole unit black or add an accent color on each shelf.

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10. Space Saving Storage Ladder Plan

A great storage solution for small spaces, this can be placed in any area of your home. All you need is wood glue, trim screws, a sander, wood of your choice, a miter saw, and plywood. Simply cut the wood to size, construct the legs, and begin assembling the shelves with the top and back. Make sure the space between each shelf is even and that they’re all level. This builder painted this bright orange for a pop of color in the bathroom. Toilet paper, towels, and grooming products can easily fit on this without taking up real estate in the room.

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11. “Leaning Tower of Shelves” Idea

This DIY project can be made at home for around only $30 and completed in an afternoon. You’ll need a miter saw, pipe clamps, hammer, oak plywood, wood glue, brad nails, and a circular saw. After all the wood is cut, assemble the uprights, then the shelves, then apply finishing touches. This needs to be fixed to the wall — this is how it is able to have stability while looking whimsical and lightweight. You can get creative when it comes to painting and staining. You can also use a more expensive wood if you plan on not painting it.

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12. Basic Ladder Shelf Project

If you’re worried about other designs not being sturdy enough, this is the right DIY plan for you. Materials required are a circular saw, wood putty, sandpaper, clamps, varnish, whatever wood you want, a power drill, and head screws. Simply cut the wood, attach the side rails and shelves together, then install the shelves. Painting or staining this the same color as your other furniture is a great way to seamlessly blend this into your current design scheme. That’s what this builder did in his home office. He stores books, a printer, old files on this with no problem.

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13. Ladder Display Shelf Idea

This DIY plan shows you how to upcycle an old and used ladder. Depending on the size of the wood planks that you use, you can have three different sections on each shelf. This is a great project for beginners, as you only need sandpaper, a power drill, sealing wax, wood screws, and paint. You can buy wood and cut it yourself using a miter saw or have the lumber store cut it for you. Then you can paint or stain the lumber, attach the shelves, add finishing touches, and start displaying your possessions.

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14. Ladder Drawer Shelf DIY

This is the ideal storage solution if you need to store a lot of things but want to maintain an open feel to the room. This builder used a miter saw, wood screws, power drill, old drawers, plywood, and a few coats of paint. Simply take some measurements to figure out the space between each shelf, attach the wood planks on each side, and add any finishing touches. This builder added some decorative knobs and painted the legs gold. If you’re going to store extremely heavy things, consider reinforcing the shelves with more support.

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15. Detailed Ladder Bookcase Idea

This professional looking bookcase isn’t difficult to build and can be completed in one day. This builder used oak though you can use any wood like cherry, ash, walnut, or pine. You’ll also need bar clamps, a jigsaw, wood screws, a hammer, and power sander. Simply make the rails, cut the wood, make the bottom of the shelves, layout pivot points, glue each shelf together, attach the backs and sides, sand and paint, then assemble everything into one. This DIY blueprint is very detailed and great for beginners to easily follow.

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What is Reddit Saying? 


In our research, we found a bunch of different styles and colors you can employ to build your own: white, black, espresso, industrial, decorative, vintage, short, narrow, oak, and 3/5/7-tier shelves.

A Polar Birch Living Room Idea

One user submitted a Poplar Birch plywood ladder shelf that he built for his living room.

He used SketchUp to create a three-dimensional PDF model so that the plans would be a space and design fit for his living area.

Because he didn't own jointer, planer or table saw, he had Lowes do all of the final dimension cuts.

In terms of the tools he did use, he used a miter saw, a benchtop disc sander, nail gun, a random orbital sander and a chop saw.

For the shelving, he used plywood sheets built from 3/4" birch plywood project board.

The shelves were assembled using 18 gage, brad nails, and glue- and he also used the benchtop belt sander to make sure all of the white ladder shelves were flush across their backs.

For added security, he installed some shelf screws for enhanced weight support. The shelving units were then stained using general finishes.

He helpfully listed out the order process of the staining-used stain pre-conditioner, a vintage cherry dye stain, then an amber dye stain and then finally an antique cherry wood stain.

Woodworkers were pretty impressed and the original poster says that it took about three months to complete with him working on it sporadically whenever he had sometime in the evening and on weekends.

If you had more dedicated time and ambition he says that you could do all of the cuts and assembly in eight hours, do the staining in three hours and assemble the whole thing in two hours.

A Zero Dollar Build

Another builder posted his lost latter bookshelf that cost zero dollars.

He salvaged the lumber himself- but some users were unimpressed and complained that regardless there is cost associated with the time spent constructing his DIY blueprint.

The original poster defended himself saying that his intention was to encourage novice woodworkers without a lot of money to use scrap wood for their projects- that they don't need to buy a bunch of fancy lumber to make something that looks gorgeous.

In fact, as a part of his tiny house project, he found a lot of the recycled lumber from the side of the road and on construction sites.

Other posters wondered about its structural integrity, saying that it looks unstable. As well, some noted that pallets are not the best design options in terms of being loadbearing structures.

The builder says that he used wood brackets that would attach to the wall studs at each ladder step- as well the shelf supports are actually notched into the latter, which sits on top of the individual brackets.


Outdoor Plant Trays?

Another attractive ladder shelf plan we saw comes from makingitinthemountains.com.

DIY Ladder Shelf – making it in the mountains

Today, I am SOOOO excited to share with you our very last DIY project for the Outdoor Makeover Challenge! If you missed anything, you can catch up on all of the details here.

As part of an outdoor makeover challenge, this would work or spend a weekend constructing a gorgeous eggshell blue ladder shelf to sit in the vacant corner of a courtyard deck.

Because this corner of the deck gets lots of natural sunlight, she was inspired to build a plant stand and use Pinterest for design inspiration to construct a potting bench style ladder table.

They added some custom modifications to the PDF plans they followed so that the shelving would all sit in line.

What they ended up with was progressively larger top to bottom plant trays that rest up against the aluminum siding of the courtyard dining space. Many commenters asked the exact color and according to Christie she says that it is Benjamin Moore origin sweet turquoise OR-368.

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