Rain Gutter Book Shelves: Tutorial

rain gutter shelves in hall nick

I have seen these rain gutter bookshelves several places online and have always thought they would be wonderful to have in our book loving home.  Then I saw them at my friend Heather’s house, asked if she liked them, how easy they were to clean, etc. and I finally decided to take the plunge.

Colby's raingutter book shelvesThe theory behind these rain gutter book shelves is that they encourage children to read more because they can see the fronts of the books and are intrigued, rather than just seeing the edge of the book and not being able to tell what it is about.  Our children have always read a lot, but the little ones are reading even more since we installed these shelves.

The first day that the shelves were in, my two year old, upon waking from his nap, grabbed a book and came running out asking me to read it to him.  All the children are reading more of our books and several of the older ones were heard saying, “Oh, I forgot we had that book, it’s one of my favorites” about a book that had rain gutter book shelves girls roombeen on the book shelves in their bedroom for the past year or so!  These rain gutter book shelves also make it easy for little ones to put the books back away properly and that makes mommy happy!

Rain gutter shelves won’t hold a ton of books, not nearly as many as the same space used for traditional shelving.  However, they certainly are prettier and much easier for young children to help themselves without making a mess.  Plus, our children are reading the books that are on the rain gutter shelving more than they ever read them when they were  shelved more traditionally in their bedrooms.

I installed rain gutter shelves by each child’s bed to give our room-sharing children some space to keep their favorite books and stuffed animals.

Since Mark has been so amazingly busy with his job and since I was too impatient to wait until he had some free time, I installed the shelves myself.  They were quick and easy to install.   I did both of the children’s bedrooms in an afternoon and did the shelves in the hall (top picture) in a couple hours.

Here are my perfectionist, not-very familiar-with-power-tools instructions for installing your own rain gutter book shelves.

Items needed:

  • Vinyl rain gutters – Our rain gutter shelves are all 5 feet or 2 1/2 feet long and the gutters come in 10 foot lengths.
  • Brackets for the rain gutters – I used either 2 or 3 brackets per 5 feet of shelving depending on how much use I thought the shelf would get.
  • End caps for the rain gutters. Be sure to get the appropriate number of right and left end caps.
  • Wood screws that will fit through the hole in the brackets.
  • Hack saw
  • Sand paper
  • Sharpie marker
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Marking pencil
  • Stud finder – unless you are good at the whole hammer tap/listening thing
  • Spackle and paint – You only need this when you mess up. :)

marking to cut rain gutter shelves

1. Decide the length that you want your shelf to be.  Measure and mark this length on the shelf with the Sharpie. Since I’m one of those perfectionist types and not so handy with a hack saw, I measured and marked six different places around the gutter and then connected the dots so that I had a solid line to cut on.cut rain gutter shelves2. Cut the rain gutter with the hack saw. I did this part on our stairs. The carpet held the gutter still and I had space to saw between the steps.  It worked for me!sand rain gutter shelves3. Sand the cut edges smooth. Yes, you could probably skip this step since you will be covering the ends with an end cap, but it’s that perfectionist thing again.   Good thing Mark does most of the projects around our house.stud finding4. Decide where you want to put the shelves and find and mark the studs. Find a stud that is close to where you want one end of the shelf  to be and that will be within the shelf area.  Mark with your marking pencil.  Now find the studs within the next 5 foot  area (if that is the length of shelf that you are installing) or just find the stud on the other end of that 5 foot stretch. (HINT: Typically studs should be every 16″.)

5. Determine the height that you want the top of the shelf to be and mark that point on one of the studs that will be close to the end of the shelf.

screwing bracket for raingutter shelves 6.  Using the wood screw and the drill, screw a bracket into the point that you just marked. HINT:  If the screw will not drill all the way into the wall and you think that perhaps you hit a nail head (it is possible), well, before you drill another hole a little higher than the first and it still won’t go in and certainly before you drill a third hole and still can’t get the screw to go into the stud,  have your 12-year old daughter check to make certain that the drill is set to screw things IN rather than to screw things OUT.

Not I would know anything about that, I’m just thinking that it is excellent that I know how to Spackle and paint! :)level rain gutter shelves

7. Level the shelf. Place the gutter onto the bracket that is already screwed into the wall and place another bracket onto the opposite end of the gutter.  Now balance or hold a level on the gutter and adjust until everything is level.  Then mark where you will screw your next hole on the stud that is closest to the other end of your gutter.

8. Screw the bracket into the stud at the marked height.  Tuh duh!  You should have a shelf on your wall.  Now depending on where you’ve installed the shelf or how long it is, you may want to put on additional brackets.  If so…

9.  Install additional brackets for stability. This is simply a matter of sliding them onto the gutter and making sure that you hit a stud when you screw them in.

10. Glue on the end caps.

11.  Repeat steps 1-10 for additional shelves.  I found that 12″-16″ from the top rim of one gutter to the top rim of the other was sufficient for even our tallest books, but measure for yourself and see what looks good to you.rain gutter book shelves boys room
I added close up pictures of the brackets and end caps here.

You may also like these tutorials: 

Did you hear what Colby (4 yrs) said to the stranger in the supermarket or about the time he wanted someone  for dinner? I thought I had learned how to parent by the time Colby came along, now I know better.


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182 Responses to Rain Gutter Book Shelves: Tutorial
  1. Cam D.
    October 5, 2012 | 1:44 am

    I am not a bookworm myself but my kids are. I should probably try this rain gutter book shelves. I can already picture out my son’s smile if I install this in his room. I think one good thing about it is that it doesn’t seem to take too much space.


  2. Val
    December 8, 2012 | 11:43 am

    What a great tutorial! I’m thinking of installing these in my son’s room and have a quick question… Looking at Home Depot’s website, the gutter brackets all look to me like you use a nail, not screw to install. Did you run into this problem or am I not looking at the right things? (Entirely possible!!!)


  3. Homeschoolin' Dad of 4
    January 11, 2013 | 8:54 pm

    Love your website and appreciate the tutorial on the bookshelves! Blessings to you and yours in Jesus’ name. btw…found this page via LifeHacker.


  4. Travis
    January 13, 2013 | 2:02 pm

    Please be cautious about which materials you use for the gutters. Most plastic gutters are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), aka vinyl, which may not a form of plastic you want to introduce in to your child’s bedroom.


  5. Kathy
    January 24, 2013 | 7:13 pm

    Hmm…love this idea. I bet I can get these cheap at the ReStore. With just a little more “hacking” this could easily be used as a cheaper version of picture ledges. If the gutters aren’t sturdy enough for actual picture frames, matted prints could be displayed sans frames.

    Thanks for posting (ps…referred by lifehacker)


  6. D
    August 14, 2013 | 10:28 am

    So I was wondering if you think you can do this with command strips?


  7. Annie
    February 2, 2014 | 10:37 am

    We did it! I bought the supplies at Home Depot (confusing all the sales folks in the rain gutter dept) and gave my hubby your DIY tutorial as a guide. It came out great, took 1 night to finish and is the talk of the town, so to speak. My favorite part is that we used a previously dead space behind a door and made it useful. We only needed to modify the door stopper to ensure it didn’t hit the shelves – easy! Thank you!!


  8. Raia
    April 23, 2014 | 12:12 pm

    Genius! We have been trying little bookshelves for years with our kids (all 7 and under) and they just don’t work. :p Definitely showing this to the hubby! :)


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