I always find myself looking at the different ways people revamp those old wooden ladders you always see on Pinterest. I’ve wanted to do a DIY ladder to Farmhouse Style Shelf project for while now, so I’m excited to be able to share this project with you. A couple months ago, my husband Bob and I made a trip to the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. You can find the store closest to you here.
Ladders aren’t something you see a lot at thrift stores or yard sales in our area. So, as you can imagine, I was really excited to find not just one, but three ladders against a wall at the back of the store. And to top it off, they were in pretty good shape! We snatched up the two smaller ones paying $15 for the five-footer and $20 for the six-foot ladder. Christine has been looking for a ladder shelf on Amazon for the last year but hadn’t found one she liked. I knew we could make a ladder shelf she would love and it would make a great Christmas present.
Select the right ladder for your space.
We brought the ladders home and I kind of forgot about them. Last week, Bob reminded me they were still in the garage and I reminded Bob that we had to get Christine’s ladder finished for Christmas. He’s such a great guy! I make all these project plans and he gets to carry them out and he does it without complaint. We decided on the smaller ladder for Christine since her place is only about 400 sq. ft. and space was a consideration.
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide where you want to place the ladder once you’ve completed it. Because of its shape, it isn’t going to fit just anywhere. We knew that with Christine’s space, the ladder could be no more than three feet wide and two and a half feet deep.
We also wanted the back legs to stand straight up and down not it’s normal angle, so it would sit flush with the wall. Bob thought it might take cutting the legs down either in the front or the back, but luckily, it stood straight without any adjusting.
Measure carefully before building the shelves.
Bob found that the legs in the back were a tiny bit closer together than the front legs. That meant he couldn’t just build the shelves nice and squared. Living in a hundred-year-old house has made Bob an expert on things that are never square and never level so this was a piece of cake for him! We always try to use any leftover material on projects we are doing. Since we had enough 1/4 plywood from a recent project, we decided to use it to make the shelves for this project. However, since it was only 1/4 inch thick, Bob was afraid it would bow if anything heavy was set on it.
To make it sturdy Bob cut four pieces of 1 x 2 pine to make a sort of frame to attach the plywood to stabilize it. I think it made the shelves look nice and hefty. If you want to skip this step, just purchase a thicker plywood or a heavier solid wood piece. It will be a little more expensive to make but will save you time.
I thought we could just put the shelves on the steps and there would be corresponding braces on the back legs. Nope! Not even close. So Bob added a small square of wood to the insides of the back legs for the shelf to sit on. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to see them once the shelves are in place.
Leave the ladder as it is for a rustic look or paint it for a farmhouse style shelf.
Once Bob had the shelves finished, we sanded them and cleaned up the ladder as best we could. I didn’t want to take all the scuffs and paint blobs off the ladder because I think it would take away the purp0se of using an old ladder. Once it was sanded to my satisfaction, I painted it with chalk paint I had left after a small project I had done a while ago. I picked it up in the craft section at Walmart. This is the one I used.
Be sure your Farmhouse Style Shelf is sturdy and level.
Before we had painted them, Bob attached them to the ladder to make sure everything was level. At first, he only attached them to the back legs thinking we could still fold up the ladder to make it less cumbersome to move it or store it. But once we had all the shelves attached, we realized it wouldn’t be stable enough. So, we leveled the shelves and made sure the back legs were straight up and down to stand flush against the wall.
Once that was done, Bob attached the third shelf to the front legs with a screw on the outside of both legs.
I gave it a day to dry well and then took sandpaper and scuffed the ladder legs and front of the shelves. You can’t really see it on the pictures because I really didn’t do it much at all. I figured Christine could do more distressing to make it more to her liking if it wasn’t enough.
And the Farmhouse Style Ladder Shelf is Finished!
Christine’s Farmhouse Style Shelf is finished! It looked so good I couldn’t help but set it up and see how it would look with something on it. Now, I can’t wait for Bob to finish my ladder!