Home Improvement Project: Built-In Bookcases — are they worth it?

Building Built Ins

In past posts, I have published a series of blogs about valuable home updates and upgrades. I covered kitchens, bathrooms, and general updates — all worthwhile and all important for resale value. In this article, I want to share a particular project from my own home because it has been the single best home improvement we have done.  I think it will be a major factor someday when we sell. We completed this project about three years ago, and even now I look at the finished product and am thrilled with the transformation it has provided.


We decided to do a major upgrade and added built-in bookcases and a ventless gas fireplace in our living room, along with crown molding throughout the entire main level. It was a big investment, but it has been a wonderful addition to our home and as you will see, it completely changed the look of the living room and added wonderful storage and display space.


Typically, we see beautiful built-ins with a lot of character in older homes. If you’re renovating one of these types of homes, please do your best to keep these gorgeous features! In markets all across the country, built-in cabinets in all areas of the home are hugely popular right now. Not only do they add style and originality to the home, but they provide tremendous (and attractive!) storage options.


Take a look at this project and see if you think our time and financial investment was a smart move to add value to the home.


Here is what the wall looked like “before” — just an empty wall that always seemed awkward and was difficult to decorate. When we looked at large entertainment centers for this space, the prices were almost as much as our construction project. We thought a valuable addition to the house was a better move long-term.

Now, here is the picture (found on Pinterest — awesome resource for home projects!) we gave to our contractor to design the addition.


I did not want the lights on the sides of the mantel, and we added bead board in the background of the bookcases to give a more “finished” look. The construction on the bookcases and crown molding was done by a local builder and the ventless gas fireplace was purchased from and installed by Bassmeier’s, a local business that specializes in many types of home and garden work. If you’d like more information about our resources, please email me directly.


Another consideration in a project like this is electrical work. We hired a local electrician to drop several outlets in the bookcases. One is behind the television, mounted directly to the studs placed behind the drywall, and the others are on the sides of the bookcases on the bottom shelves and can be connected to lamps or additional technology without long wires creating an eyesore. Think about how this space will be used upon completion. Do you have a cable box? Do you need to plug in lights around the holidays? Those small things make a bigger difference than you might realize. If you’re on the builder side as an investor, clients will notice if you’re thoughtful about the use of space.


Our contractor drew up plans and got to work. The planning stage of this project lasted about six weeks, while the project itself took about a week to construct in the home. Since the work was done during the month of February, there was not a long waiting time for the construction team to get started. That is one benefit of tackling a project like this during the off season for contractors. However, be prepared for the house to be freezing for a few days because the crew members have to leave doors open to transport tools and materials.



The slight inconveniences during the week or so of construction completely paid off. Here is what the finished project looks like now. Pardon the party decorations and poor photography. These are just quick snaps! Major difference though, right?


Generally, an upgrade like this project costs anywhere from $5,000 ̶ $10,000 depending on the design and whether the space has an existing fireplace. Plus, if you only add crown molding in one room, that will cut down on costs as well. As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a pretty reasonably priced region, so if you’re in a big city or on one of the coasts, the price could be substantially higher. However, this type of upgrade gets a very high return on investment when it’s time to sell. So, in my opinion, this project is definitely worthwhile.


What other projects do you think are most valuable in a home? As investors and smart homeowners, we are always thinking ahead and trying to be smart with our money. I’d be interested to learn what is most valued in your market.

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