Classic Ways to Finish Library Shelving

Library shelving is definitely the central accessory in a library room. As a result, it is important to maintain the shelving in good condition. There are various ways to finish shelving units, as this article will explain below.


The most common option is to paint the shelving. Paint can not only vary in color, but also in texture and gloss. Paint will provide a protective layer to the wood and prolong its life. If there is already a coating of paint on the shelves, but you want to refinish them, it is best to choose a darker color for best results. Make sure to clean the surface well before to ensure that the paint goes on smoothly and adheres well. Spraying the paint may be better than using a paintbrush at applying a smooth coating.


From time to time, it is best to apply a coating of varnish or wax to your shelving. This will help to make them look nice and polished.

Distressed Finish

You can also opt to apply a distressed finish to your library shelves. Simply prime the shelves, and then sand the surface to provide a distressed look. Afterwards, apply a coating of glaze and clear polyurethane for a better result.


You should apply a coating of sealant to the shelves to provide a protective layer to the wood or the paint.

Decorative Elements

You could also add some creative decorative elements to your library shelves. Common ideas include hanging a curtain to conceal part of the shelving unit, or stencilling certain parts of the shelves. You could also add lights to highlight the books.