Why Are Bookshelves So Expensive? {Explained}

living room with bookshelf

I looked at the prices of those fancier ready-made bookshelves and took a deep breath! I had never imagined bookshelves could be so expensive. 

What can make bookshelves that expensive? After a series of further research, this is what I realized.

Bookshelves made from high-quality strong woods are very expensive, especially when you have to buy a ready-made one. Their superior structure and durability make them so expensive that you will have to think twice before buying. 

Actually, the quality of such bookshelves is the reason book lovers still make the investment despite the inflated prices. 

How Expensive are We Talking About Here?

The average cost for built-in bookshelves ranges between $1,500 and $5,000 with the majority of homeowners spending around $3,000 for 5 linear feet of solid wood bookshelves when professionally installed.

The minimum you may spend is $1,500 on a 4 linear foot MDF bookshelf. 8 linear feet of solid wood bookshelves featuring glass doors and lighting, may cost $5,000 or more to install. 

The price per linear foot usually factors in the type of material and labor. That said, the material is one of the most important factors that will determine the overall cost of the bookshelf. 

In terms of materials, you get some cheaper options like MDF and more expensive options like elegant solid wood or metal wood combination. 

The table below shows the cost of some common bookshelf materials and their average price per foot.

MaterialPrice per linear foot
MDF$300 – $400
Metal$450 – $800
Solid wood$500 – $100
Glass$750 -$1,200

You can have a combination of this material so that you reduce the cost and still have a great bookshelf. For instance, a combination of solid wood and metal can give you something a little cheaper than going for solid wood alone. 

Is it Cheaper to Build or Buy a Bookshelf?

Unless you are a carpenter, you will not build a bookshelf by yourself. It requires some expertise and therefore, you will have to look for a professional. All you can do is to have quotations done and budget for the material by yourself. 

Buying materials and having the shelf done by a professional should be cheaper than purchasing a prefab. All you have to ensure is that you do everything right the first time so that you don’t redo things. 

Once you purchase the material, you can hire a handyman that will install it for $30 to $130 per hour, depending on the charges of the professional and extent of work. 

Some professionals will charge it per linear foot, especially for high custom work. In such cases, expect to spend $150 to $1,200 per linear foot.

Purchasing an already installed book shelving will definitely cost higher than installing the same size by yourself. This is because the seller will have to factor in all the expenses from materials, labor to finishing. 

All the customization expenses will all be included in the price, whether you like them or not. 

Though buying a ready-made self comes with the disadvantage of increased cost, it has some advantages too. Buying your shelving saves time since you can hang them immediately without requiring serious construction. 

Which Woods are Best for a Bookshelf?

When buying material for building your bookshelf, there are a number of factors you will have to consider. Among them is the type of wood you would want for your bookshelf. Just which wood is strongest for a bookshelf?

Well, putting aside the cost of the wood, woods like African Padauk, Koa and Mahogany are considered the best for bookshelves. These woods guarantee the durability, strength, and longevity of your bookshelf.

These high-end special woods are hard to find in your local hardware center and you may buy them expensively should you come across one. Unfinished solid mahogany wood costs somewhere between $6 to $28 while Koa can cost somewhere in the range of $15 to as much as $140. 

You can visit a nearby lumberyard that caters to woodworkers to inquire about the cost of an African Padauk. 

If you don’t want to go that expensive way, maple, oak, and cherry plywood will still offer durability at a lower price point. The good thing is, they are readily available and easy to find. They are also the best choice where the grain and the color are an important part of the design.

Are IKEA Bookshelves Strong?

Not all bookshelves are expensive though. IKEA has once again stepped up to produce budget-friendly bookshelves that are highly customized. But the big question is, are they strong?

IKEA bookshelves are sturdy, but cannot be used in a commercial setting. They were not designed for heavy-duty use and therefore, may last long if used in home settings, not public bookstores.

IKEA bookshelves are made out of particleboards. These materials are not as strong as pure wood or other material. Commercial bookkeeping will be too much weight for this material to bear and therefore, the self will start sagging. 

Why Are Bookshelves So Important?

Having a bookshelf articulates the reading habit in the kids and other family members. Even the family member who never loves reading may eventually enjoy it because they will be around books all the time. They can spend their leisure time reading books and therefore stay around the home. 

Besides, bookshelves allow you to arrange your books in a specific manner so that you easily get them when you need them. This will save time you would have spent going from one book to the other when looking for a book. 

Bookshelves are today part of decoration and add to the beauty of your house. Apart from neatly arranging your books, you can arrange other items too. These include even your flower ports and that will add aesthetic value to your kitchen. 

Having a bookshelf is important because it saves a lot of space in the house. If books are kept here and there they take up a lot of space in the room. You can purchase a suitable bookshelf that suits the available space in your house. This would definitely save space as the books and files will no longer be scattered.


Not all bookshelves are expensive but the expensive ones are worth more investments than the cheaper brands. This is because they will never sag no matter the weight of the books. This makes them last longer. As they say, cheap is expensive, I would recommend expensive bookshelves since once bought they will last forever.