Bookcase Door

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The Story

In the process of finishing my basement I decided I wanted to hide my unfinished spaces behind some nice, fancy, secret bookcase doors. You can buy these from companies, but they're expensive. Plus, where's the fun in that. Here's how I set out to make my own.

Swing In or Swing Out

The first choice to make was swing in or swing out. With a swing in door you can get a clean look using pretty much standard door hardware. This cuts down on costs, but may not be an option in some places. I have three spaces I'll be hiding. My unfinished, workshop area is a larger room allowing the space for an easy swing in door. The sump pump and water shut-off areas however, are small rooms and will require the doors to swing out to allow any real access to the space. These Swing Out doors require a special pivot hinge that connects to the top and bottom of the door to allow it to swing out cleanly. Either design requires a bit of geometry do determine the maximum width of the bookcase that can cleanly swing open and still be concealed while closed.

Swing In

I'll start with what I consider to be the easier of the 2, the Swing In door. My, fairly simple, design for this type of door involves adding extra hinges to a bookshelf hung almost just like a normal door would be. The geometry of this design is much simpler than the pivot hinge. As the door swings on the hinge it creates a right triangle with the frame depth, drywall, and hinge radius making up the height and the frame width, hinge thickness, and buffer space making up the width. Using these numbers you can calculate the length of the face of your bookshelf. "a" equals the frame depth including drywall and the hinge radius. "b" equals the frame width minus the hinge thickness and the buffer space. a^2 + b^2 = c^2.

Bookcase Right Triangle

Alternatively you can use the calculator below.

Enter the values below and click calculate to find out how wide your Swing In bookshelf should be.

Door Frame Opening Width:
Door Frame Opening Depth (including drywall):
Hinge Thickness (including hinge spacer):
Minimum Buffer Space:

Bookcase Width:

Since the bookcase extends past the butt hinges adding a hinge spacer to the side of the bookcase might make it easier to hang. Something like a 1" x 4" board would work well, since it would be the same depth as the 2" x 4" frame and add 3/4 to the hinge width. Of course this will reduce the allowable width of the bookcase, but it makes the mounting a lot simpler. I went the hard way and used a dremmel sanding wheel to cut a groove in the bookcase so the hinge would fit flush to the bookcase. Make sure to leave enough room at the bottom of the bookcase for it to sag a little on the hinges and swing freely at the top. Here's some pictures of my Swing In door mounted.

Swing In Door Mounted

Swing Out

I found the Swing Out design slightly more complicated to design, but just as easy to install. In order to get a clean look with a Swing Out book case you will need to use a pivot hinge.

Instead of the bookcase swinging on butt hinges it will pivot somewhere inside the dimensions of the bookcase on posts mounted to the top and bottom of the bookcase. In order to get the dimensions and spacing right you will need to complete the same geometry problem as the Swing In door, but you will need to do it twice to determine the the spacing to the right and left of the pivot point. On the short side "a" equals the pivot point depth into the frame plus the drywall thickness and "c" equals the moulding overhang plus "a" plus your buffer space. On the long side "b" equals your bookcase depth minus the "a" from the short side and "c" equals the frame width minus "c" from the short side minus your buffer space.

Swing Out Door Triangles

Or you can use the calculator below.

Enter the values below and click calculate to find out how wide your Swing Out bookshelf should be.

Door Frame Opening Width:
Door Frame Opening Depth:
Drywall Thickness:
Trim Moulding Overhang:
Minimum Buffer Space:
Shelf Depth:

Bookcase Width:

Since my Swing Out doors hide smaller, service spaces I mounted them to swing above the baseboard trim. This cuts out on the trim that will have to move with the bookcase simplifying things a bit. Here's some pictures of my Swing Out door mounted.

Swing Out Door Mounted

More to Come!

Enjoy and feel free to report any problems or suggestions to