Inset Bookshelf Doorway

| Print this plan

Build your own bookshelf doorway - like a secret passage behind a door!

When Brooke wrote me asking to draw up plans for a bookshelf inset inside a door, I couldn't wait to draw plans.  How exciting, a secret door, a door behind a bookshelf!  Or just adding extra storage to a room with rarely used doors.

Yep, that's a door!
And the door opens!
Here is from Brooke:
Good Afternoon!
My husband and I have finished up the bookcase and cannot be happier with the result. It's absolutely perfect! A couple of modifications we made to the plans are:

- Replaced decorative hinges with the original door hinges

- Added trim along the outside edge to hide the unsquare gaps and the hinges (we routered the outer edge of the trim where the hinges go, and they are completely hidden! 

I think adding trim to the plan would be a great addition, because it allows you to hide the hinges if you like, which was the appeal to the "secret bookcase door". It could even be a plain 1x3)

- Added one extra shelf with the scraps of the 1x6, so it has six shelves

- We only bought a half sheet of 1/4" plywood. We ripped the sheet down to 17", joined it up on the back so the seam is hidden behind a shelf. This saved us a lot on project costs. 

- The fit is snug enough that you wouldn't necessarily need a catch to keep it closed, but since this is going to be gun storage we added in a deadbolt so little hands can't easily access them. 

So that's what the funny block in the side view of the open doorway is. We drilled a hole through the side for the deadbolt install and to get access to it, but it could also work if a builder would want to install a simple hook and eye latch, public-bathroom-style. The hole would give them access to the latch, and can easily be hidden by decor or a book.

The price for materials was $51.26, and doesn't include the trim, since that was optional. 

I think that's it! I apologize for the less-than-stellar images, this room is a converted garage so has absolutely no natural light, and a dim ceiling fan to work with. Plus I've learned that Polyshades stain is a nightmare to work with and won't be using it again! Thank you so much for the amazing plans, I doubt we would have attempted this on our own. Can't wait to see it up on the blog!


Thanks Brooke!

If you would like to also build this bookshelf doorway, the plans follow with instructions on modifying the plans to fit your doorway.  



Shopping List

Standard width doors up to 36" Max - you may need stronger hinges or caster wheels to support wider width doors with heavy weight loads.

2- 2x4 @ 8 feet or stud length
1 - 2x6 @ 8 feet or stud length
At least 3 - 1x6 8 feet long - more for shelves as desired and depending on the width of your bookshelf
1/4" plywood for back
Hardware including heavy duty hinges, locks, clasps, and optionally caster wheel for added support

Common Materials
Cut List

Cut boards to fit your doorway.

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Start by measuring the overall doorway opening. Then subtract 1/2" from height and width for a door that will have 1/4" clearance on all sides.

Step 2

Once you have these measurements, you can determine the length of your door rails and stiles as shown in diagram. Remember that most 2x4s are 3 1/2" wide - so subtract 7" from the width of the door to get you 2x6 cuts.

Step 3

Now build the doorway out of 2x4s and 2x6s as shown above. Use 1 1/2" pocket holes and 2 1/2" pocket hole screws. Do not use glue at this step because it is very likely you will need to adjust the door.

Take the door frame and fit inside the door, making sure it opens and closes easily and the gap is enough. Adjust as fit. If you are satisfied, see step 4 for drilling pocket holes before you reassemble the door frame.

Step 4

You will need to drill pocket holes around all edges of the door frame inside set for 3/4" stock to attach the bookshelf. This is easier done when the frame is not assembled.

When reassembling the frame, use glue for the best joint.

Step 5

Step 6

Add the back with 1/4" finish nails and glue.

Step 7

Attach bookshelf to frame through predrilled 3/4" pocket holes using 1 1/4" pocket hole screws and glue.

Step 8

Install the door in the frame.

You can add trim, or door stop moulding behind the door frame to give your door a clean spot to close. Add gate hardware to close door.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.



Thu, 12/15/2011 - 18:11

I've been trying to figure out what to do with all my books since we got rid of the bookshelves in our living room. This will be great! I'll turn the hall closet door, that's visible to the living room, into this!

Thank you!!!

Guest (not verified)

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 07:38

Great idea, and it looks pretty simple! Thanks for putting up new plans to keep us all inspired :) (now if only I had time to get to the wood waiting for me in the garage!)

Jessica Loftus (not verified)

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 08:58

Way to go Brookie! Looks great!


Fri, 12/16/2011 - 12:58

But, how do you keep the items on the shelf as the door opens and closes? Some of them look like breakables. Personally, I would have put a dowel rail about 2 inches above each shelf. But, then again, I'm a klutz. :)

I have to agree with Brooke about Polyshades. I used it on an unfinished cabinet and it streaked, pooled, and blotched. Never again.

thecraftyford (not verified)

Wed, 12/21/2011 - 11:28

The best solution to keep things on the shelf is called "museum gel". It is a clear gel like substance that you put on the bottom of the breakables and it holds like rubber cement - but does NO damage to the item or the shelf! I use it everywhere because of a curious/clumsy cat - keeps everything on the mantle no matter what the cat is up to! LOL!

Here is a link:…



Fri, 12/16/2011 - 18:33

Cool hidden door! I wish I had a spot for one!

It's funny that Brooke and khteague both disliked Polyshades (I'm assuming this is the Minwax All in One Stain and Varnish). I actually just used it to smooth out the finish on my Ana White Benchmark TV Stand (hoping to post pictures soon!) and it worked quite well. I had used a water-based stain and found it very hard to get a nice even finish with it. It dried so quickly that on such a big piece, I couldn't apply and then wipe quickly enough to make it smooth. After 2 coats of that, I topcoated it with the Polyshades and it evened the colour out nicely. I also picked a darker colour which gave it a richness it hadn't had. My guess is that this stuff works better on wood that has already had some kind of finish applied than on unfinished wood.

And Brooke, it still turned out great!.


In reply to by storchinsky


Sat, 12/31/2011 - 11:56

Thanks Sherry! I think the problem was that I live about 15 minutes from the coast, so the humidity made it a nightmare. It was so blotchy and impossible to smooth out. I think you're right about using it as a "finisher" though. I had stained our Farmhouse Bed with a water based stain, and didn't like the color. I used the polyshades over it, and it turned out pretty well. It was just on the raw wood that it messed up so much

Jessica H (not verified)

Mon, 12/19/2011 - 08:13

I laughed out loud when you mentioned Polyshades, Brooke! I hate that stuff. I tried it on more than one project and then asked the guy at Lowe's about it. He said there wasn't anything I could do to make it work, that it just "sucks" (his words!). Sherry, you might be onto something about using it on a piece that it already finished.
Brooke, can you explain a little better the deadbolt? It looks like it latches sideways. I love the idea of it being a gun closet and being locked! You did an amazing job!!! I was so excited to see this, I almost screamed! We have been wanting to use this idea to hide some doors in our hallway.
Thanks Ana and Brooke!


Wed, 12/21/2011 - 13:44

Most commercial stains stink on ice. You might have some luck with the stains from General Finishes, but you either have to find a woodworking store or mail order it.

My dad and I gave up on commercial stains and switched to embedding pigments directly into a finish. We got better open time to work with the stain and a lot more control over color.


Thu, 12/29/2011 - 08:31

ive been looking for something like this for a while now. just need to persuade hubby to help as im new to all of this

ChantelleJ (not verified)

Fri, 12/30/2011 - 13:21

In regards to the stain used, did you use a wood conditioner before you applied the stain? Wood conditioner conditions bare wood to accept the stain without blotches or streaking or smearing - it creates a uniform surface for the stain to penetrate. Might be why the stain turned out the way it did?


Sat, 12/31/2011 - 16:55

Even on sealed wood I've not been happy with any commercial stains. You can improve the open time by diluting with a thinner. Mineral spirits for an oil based finish, water for a water borne finish. Recent experience with water based polyurethane suggests that you probably never want to use it without some thinning.

I did get some good results today by using water based poly with some paint and water, and applying it to a desk top with a wide knife, like venetian plaster. Smoothest desktop I've ever made, and nice even color.


Thu, 01/12/2012 - 06:46

Use a bigger, more durable hinge, make sure the frame is solid (less screws, more traditional joinery) and load the shelves lightly.

Kandis (not verified)

Sun, 08/12/2012 - 10:56

This looks perfect for replacing the door to the water heater with in my kitchen. I would add a lip to shelves edges to keep thing from falling off when the door is opened though. I finally have a bit of extra storage in my tiny kitchen XD


Wed, 03/27/2013 - 20:45

I would love to do this on a closet that has a pocket door. Could I attach it to a pocket door frame?