Best Wood for Shelving

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Flimsily made closet shelves can be annoying, particularly when they sag under the weight of the contents. They may even break, causing a whole load of inconvenience.

It is always worthwhile spending a little extra money to buy the shelving material that will take the load that you apply to it. You will soon forget about the extra money you paid, but the strong shelves will remain a legacy to your wise decision.

Solid wood is usually sufficient to make moderately strong shelves. When it comes to solid wood, you have a wide variety of choices. Spruce, for example, is a softwood that costs less.

Although not as strong as many hardwoods in the market, it serves as a good material for making a shelf for a closet or alcove.

You can use pinewood planks of one-inch thickness with moderate success as well. The long and short of it is that whatever solid wood is used, it usually makes good shelves strong enough to withstand whatever load you might place on them.

Best Wood for Shelving

wood types

In this post, take a close look at some of the types of wood that best serve for making wooden shelves for shelves and alcoves. There are a few basic considerations that you need to make while making this type of shelf.

If you factor in these requirements, you will surely meet with success in your projects. Let’s jump right in!


set of plywood, industrial illustration

The manufacturing process for making plywood is to combine three or more thin layers of wood.  We call each layer a veneer which also plays a vital role in woodworking, and we discuss it in another interesting post of ours.

The arrangement of the veneer grains is such that they lie perpendicular to each other, which imparts a tremendous mechanical strength to the material. Further strength comes from the adhesive, which binds the layers of veneer together.

An added advantage of plywood is that we can treat it to make it resistant to termites, weather, heat, and water. Because of plywood’s mechanical strength, you will find it almost impossible to crack or split, and it makes strong and durable shelves.

The only major downside of plywood is that this surface does not have a perfect finish, so you may have to cover it with some laminate, veneer, or paint.

Plywood is one of the most stable woods that you can get. The laminated layers ensure that it doesn’t sag easily like solid wood. Another advantage of using plywood is the cost factor. Plywood costs relatively less than most solid woods.

It can cost as much as half the price of solid woods. You will also find plywood easier to cut and drive Nails and screws into. Plywood in the thickness range of ½” to ¾” serves best for making shelves and alcoves.

Economy Fir Plywood

Particleboard is economy material for a furniture.

It is quite common for builders to make shelves out of economy plywood. This type of plywood is both light and resilient. You will find it easy to work with as it is quite a versatile form of wood.

However, issues that emerge from time to time are holes in the plywood edges and surface defects. But you can eliminate the flaws by filling the holes with putty. Once the plywood is painted over, it can last a lifetime.

Pine Lumber

Pine Wood Texture

Solid pine lumber occupies a prominent role in making shelves. The added advantage of pinewood is that it looks good when finished mainly if you apply stain or lacquer to it.

You get pinewood planks already cut to the required widths from the lumber yard. You only have to cut it to the required lengths, finish and install it.

The only precaution that you need to make while selecting pine lumber for shelves is that it should be straight. You don’t have to worry too much about knots because you can cut them off or even keep them if you like the rustic look.


a piece of particle board on a white background

Particleboard is a shelf material that often gets overlooked. There is a school of thought that warns against using particle board for shelves or alcoves.

However, with the right kind of load and reinforcement, particleboard works out as one of the cheapest solutions for shelf materials.

It works out less expensive than plywood. Moreover, because there is no grain pattern, you can cut it in any direction, ensuring complete material utilization. You will also find it easy to paint, stain or lacquer this wood.

Medium-Density Laminate (MDL)

board chipboard cut parts

Another popular option for making shelves, particularly for alcoves and closets, is medium-density laminate (MDL). It also comes under the category of engineered wood.

The main difference between MDL and other varieties of engineered wood is that there are layers of laminate on either side of the wood.

You will find this type of wood to be an excellent all-around material thanks to the durable plastic-like finish. MDL Comes with a bright, white, smooth, and attractive, sleek finish. You can also cut and install it more easily in comparison to other types of wood

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF).

Fragment of a wooden panel made of fiberboard in workshop. Mediu

Medium-density fiberboard is another wood composite that bears similarity to particleboard but with a much higher density and mechanical strength. MDF consists of compressed wood fibers made into a rigid sheet that we can cut into required shapes and sizes.

MDF does not have a wood grain and comes under eco-friendly or green materials thanks to its manufacturing process.

You may not be able to paint MDF very easily, and it does not take stain very well either. You can enhance the looks and durability of MDF by adding a layer of veneer or laminate on the outer surface. Although MDF is not as mechanically strong as many other types of wood, it makes light shelves that will perhaps not bear heavy loads. Further, you will find it quite suitable for using to make alcove shelves.


As a woodworker, you will find yourself in a position where you have to make various types of items and structures in wood. A general requirement is making shelves for closets and alcoves. As you have seen in this post, there are various types of wood that you can use for this purpose.

You can use any wood to make shelves. However, you have to keep in mind the load that the shelf will have to bear and choose your wood accordingly. Hence, we can say that some types of wood are more suitable than others.

We hope that you will find this information useful in making wooden shelves for closets and alcoves. Creating wooden structures in this niche area of woodworking is a desirable attribute of any woodworker. This information should enable you to make some of the best wooden shelves for closets and alcoves.

Happy woodworking!