How to Turn a Bookshelf into Rolling Cart

Do you have one of these? Old White Book Shelf, or Black, or whatever cheap color it was? They are literally a dime a dozen in the Dumpster World.

After they have served their purpose, they are often unceremoniously thrown out with the trash. Wait! You can give that ugly old thing a new life. Turn that Cheap Bookshelf into a Vintage Industrial Rolling Cart!

All you need is a little patience, a Wood Filler, a pile of Scrap wood, old fence boards, Pine Boards, or whatever you happen to have on hand.

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Filling Holes and Making minor repairs to your cheap bookshelf

My bookshelf needed some repairs and I am sure yours will too. Start by tightening the existing screws left in it. Don’t worry it is wobbly. You are going to be framing it out with upcycled or new wood and it will reinforce the old bookshelf, making it solid and sturdy. I needed to fill some of these gouges with Wood fillers. A junker’s best friend! I like Elmer’s Wood Filler. Dries super fast, and is easily sandable. I like to use and you get some Elmer’s Wood Filler HERE.

Adding Wood to your Cheap Bookshelf Turned Rolling Cart

*NOTE This section contains information on cutting wood. You can easily have someone at your local Lowes or Home Depot cut the wood for you. They have a section of smaller precut panels. You just need to ask (hunt down usually) a clerk who can cut the wood to the right size for you on the panel saw.

Now that you have your Bookshelf somewhat together (it’s not falling apart), turn it over and measure the bottom. I got lucky and had a piece of scrap wood that was very close to the correct size. I just had to cut it down a bit. I like to use a piece of wood that is at least 1/2 thick. This will be the bottom, where you will also screw in casters, or if you prefer, add some fun little legs. This piece of wood on the bottom will also help sturdy your old bookshelf.

Drill pilot holes around the perimeter of the wood, and secure with good construction screws. I like SPAX brand, they don’t break, they are always good quality and I know whatever I am building will last a long time.

**word of warning, be sure to drill straight down into the bookshelf. You don’t want to create more work for yourself by accidentally going at an angle have a screw coming out the side. Not that this happened to me or anything.

It’s tempting to dig in now to the painting, but wait! You will be so much happier if you get all your framing boards cut, sanded, and ready to go. I used old fence boards for the top and old chippy picket fence boards for the sides.

Painting Your Cheap Bookshelf to Make it a Rolling Cart

Now it’s time for Paint! If you really want your paint to stick and want the best, then I would highly recommend you use Debis Design Diary DIY Paint. You can pick some up for yourself HERE.  DIY Paint is 100% Natural and will stick to virtually any surface, no priming necessary. Remember, this bookshelf was shiny Melamine! I used DIY Paint in Bohemian Blue and Blended it with Mint Chip.

I removed the back of the bookshelf earlier. It was cardboard and falling apart. I cut two separate boards to cover the back.

The middle will be covered up by my upcycled Fence Board framing. It’s much easier to paint the back of your bookshelf before you put it back on!

Paint done! You are ready to give your bookshelf-turned-rolling cart a new top. Because I had already premeasured and cut my Fence Boards for the top, it was easy to just arrange them until I like the order they were in. I secured them with my favorite cordless Ryobi Cordless Nail Gun, I bought mine HERE on Amazon. It’s so handy to easily upcycle stuff!

Stop messing around with an air compressor for a nail gun or a hammer and nail.  The Cordless Ryobi Nail Gun is my favorite tool!  Seriously, it was a game-changer. I have been amazed at how easy it is to use and how many things I can make with it.Get yourself one HERE.  

Got the top on! Finish your piece off by adding decorative Framing all around the edges. I left my old fence boards very rustic. I love the chippy paint on the old boards. I didn’t want them to chip any more. I sanded them until they were mostly smooth, then sealed them with 3 coats of DIY Paint Big Top Brush on Sealer. No smell, no VOC, super durable. 

Here’s a shot of my bookshelf turned rolling cart as it was just finished in my garage! 

I wanted this top to be very durable. I sealed the top the same as the sides with 3 coats of Big Top. I added a layer of DIY 100% Natural Clear Wax. This creates a soft, watertight, and super durable finish.

I painted the back with DIY Paint in Bohemian Blue as well.  DIY Paint makes great chalkboard paint too!  You can easily write on it again and again.

Can you believe this Vintage Industrial Rolling Cart started out as a Melamine Dumpster Bookshelf?

I love the rustic look of the boards against the DIY Paint. I purposely used pieces of old boards that had nail holes in them.

Wondering about the baskets? I found a carload of them for a steal at Urban Ore in Berkeley, California. If you are ever in the Bay Area and love to Junk, Urban Ore is a must-stop.

Now let’s see what you can do with your old bookshelves! You can follow this tutorial and take your old bookshelf and turn it into a Rolling Cart.



If you would like to see more examples and how-to’s of Bookshelves turned Carts and other Bookshelf makeovers, please check out these projects:

Dumpster Bookshelf Turned Rolling Island


















  1. Fonda

    Great makeover!

  2. Ihsan

    GTC, thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.

  3. Anna

    I love this! I was just thinking of throwing out a couple of old shelves like this but now I’m going to reconsider. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • GTC

      Thanks Anna! It’s such a great way to use an old cheap bookshelf 🙂

      • Cheryl rAtkinson

        Hi Karen!! This was an amazing upcycle and you saved it from the dump. I for one don’t have scrap wood laying around but I sure wish I did. Thank you for sharing. I love it!!!

  4. Jeannie

    I love your redo items and your inspiring attitude. Thanks for sharing what you do with the world.

    • GTC

      Ah, thank you so much for such a sweet comment Jeannie! That really made my day.



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