Old Wooden Ladder Shelf, Simple Upcycled Ladder Idea

2 Materials
90 Minutes

When we moved into our home, we found this old fashioned, somewhat rickety wooden ladder in our basement.

So, what can we do with an old wooden ladder?

At first, Jason used the ladder as a makeshift storage area to hang his Army uniforms in the basement. Once we made a designated closet for his uniforms and gear, it was time to upcycle it into something new!

My favorite idea for decorating with a wooden ladder is also a practical one: make shelves!

There are so many inspiring ideas out there on how to turn a ladder into a shelf. The way we fixed up this one is about as basic as can be!

Easy Wooden Ladder Shelf

Since our ladder does not have steps on both sides, we opted to make our shelves only along one side, installed over each step.

We created a rustic wooden ladder shelf in just one afternoon with this fun and simple DIY. This post may contain affiliate links.

1. Paint the Ladder

First, I put the ladder outside on a drop cloth. I gave it a thorough cleaning with a degreasing cleaner and let it dry.

Next, I spray painted the entire ladder with two coats of Rustoleum Farmhouse Black. The ladder has both wood and metal parts, and spray paint adheres great to both!

2. Make the Shelves

To make the shelves, we purchased a piece of 1″x10″x6″.

We measured each step, and cut the pieces just a hair (about 1/16″) less than the width of the step.

I wiped on a quick coat of Minwax dark walnut stain with a sock rag. Once the stain dried, I applied a coat of satin polyurethane.

To mount the shelves, we used 1 1/4″ wood screws to attach the shelves from the underside of each step.

Here is the finished ladder shelf!

We are using it in the corner of of the basement family room. The lighting was so dim there, that I pulled it out to take a photo.

If you love a good upcycle, you might love this free hutch top turned laundry wall cabinet!

Or, upcycle a silver tray for your fridge in the post linked below!

Resources for this project:

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Joy Elizabeth
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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3 of 6 comments
  • Linda Abate Linda Abate on Oct 01, 2021

    WOW, so love this idea of displaying items that mean a lot to you. I have seen plants displayed on these ladders along with some favorite bric a brac items, but displaying items such as you have to perhaps honor a family member, such as a dad, mom, or child is truly a wonderful idea. Love, Love, Love this way you chose to use your ladder.

  • Lydia Lydia on Oct 01, 2021

    This is truly lovely! Nice work! Best ladder upcycle that I have seen. Thanks for sharing your vision!