built-in bookshelves - on top of flooring or not?


It may be a dumb question, but I don't know the answer so I'll ask it anyway.
I'm planning on building floor-to-ceiling bookshelves completely covering one wall (at least). The room is currently carpeted, subject to change to hardwood in the future.
Do I build these shelves directly on the carpet, or do I go to the subfloor and trim the carpet to match?
If it were a hardwood floor, same question: on top of the hardwood or not?
thanks, -j
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I'd build it on top of hardwood, but I'd cut and remove the carpet. Hardwood floor is part of the structure and will help support the shelves. Carpet is decoration and will be changed at some point. It is also not as good a support because of the compression.
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If the bookshelves are going to be permanetly attached to the wall,I would go ahead and rip up the carpet and build directly on the subfloor. Otherwise the pile of the carpet will crush with the weight and the bookshelves will be left hanging from the wall, which is probably not what you intended.
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Take the carpet back and then trim the carpet to the bookshelf. If hardwood, run hardwood up to the bookshelf. Then, for a nice built in look, you can run the baseboard around the front of the unit and everything will be at the same height.
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Chances are that there are carpet tack strips that would interfere with leveling the unit anyway, cut it back.
Knothead
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Take up carpet. If Harbwood is already in, build on top of it. If not, build on sub floor.
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I agree with removing the carpet. You should also set the case(s) on a box or stand. Likely the floor is not completely level. A box underneath will all you to get "straight" with the wall and shim up the box to assure a level base for your cases.
RVH
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If you a certain that you will later install hardwood flooring (an you know if it will be, say, 3/4" thick), you might want to remove carpet and substitute plywood (or whatever) in the same thickness of the intended hardwood flooring. Moreover, if you let the front edge of the bookshelves overhang (by an inch or so) your plywood platform, it will make for a neater and easier installation of you hardwood flooring. Rather that having to make intricate cuts, so that you hardwood butts up to the bookshelves, the hardwood flooring can be slipped under the fronts of the shelves. In the short term, the carpet can fill this gap at the front and when hardwood is put in, it will go much faster. I've done this with kitchen cabinets, in order to spend less on flooring and speed up the installation of flooring.

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Plus, unless you jack the cabinets up, the dishwasher will not go under the counter tops.
Mike O.
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wrote:

I agree with the majority here who suggest taking the carpet up and cutting it back to the bookcase one they are installed. If you go to a wood floor later you can always cover any space left (between the new floor and the bookcase) with a base board or if you have a toe space you could use base shoe. BTW, if you are going to build these on the floor and stand them up, be sure they are short enough to turn up in the room.
Mike O.
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Mike wrote:

LOL. I've already thought of that one. I've probably spent more time thinking about ways to do it wrong than I have actually planning the design. I'll probably go with short base on the floor (6" to 10" maybe), then shelves then a single top trim piece that fits flush against the ceiling.
I want to build (and finish) it in the shop and then install. I suspect there'll be several trips from the shop to the house for "dry fits".
thanks for all the advice.
-j
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Let me add another for you to think about: DON'T assume that your walls are straight. Make any piece that butts up against a wall oversize so that it extends beyond the body of the shelves. And rabbit the back of that piece so that you have wood only about 1/4" to 3/8" thick as a "flange" extending beyond your shelves. Then when you install your bookcase, move it as close as you can to the walls, and use a compass to scribe a line parallel to your wall on this flange. It will be easy to cut the flange leaving only the need for a small bead of caulk (assuming you are painting, or small piece of trim if that is your preference) to make it really "built-in".
Don't know where I saw that advice, but it saved me on my first bookcase--the plaster walls in my circa 1945 house at the time bowed almost a full 1" between floor and 8' ceiling!
--
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.

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Gotcha beat.
I had to install some bookshelves in an office once that had an outward bow of four inches over about ten feet. Luckily, I was able to measure ahead of time. I ended up building a cabinet to cover the high point. With enough custom cutting covering and moulding, we covered it all up.
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alexy wrote:

A buddy bought an old house and was redoing one of the walls (forget exactly what he was doing; plaster to sheetrock, maybe?). The ceiling was several inches lower on one end of the wall than where he started.
My house is in pretty good shape, as far as bowing and so forth. Existing freestanding units seem to indicate fairly flat walls (but I'll check 'em anyway).
-j
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wrote:

Sometimes we build them with a toe space of about 4" and install and level the toe first. You can do the same thing with your base unit. Then you can build the cabinets about 1/2" short of the smallest measurement between the leveled base and the ceiling. It takes two guys to lift and slide the cabinets between the toe and ceiling without marking up the ceiling. Then you can use cove or small crown at the top. If you use a large enough crown at the top, you can build the entire unit and turn it up. Side to side can be another problem. If the walls are fairly good (plumb and straight) you can build the unit(s) slightly undersized and use a molding on the sides too.
Mike O.
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