Fix It: Brilliant bookshelves

There is no such thing as a Jewish home with enough bookshelves.

bookshelves 888 (photo credit: )
bookshelves 888
(photo credit: )
There is no such thing as a Jewish home with enough bookshelves. Even if you dedicate a whole room as a library, the piles of books just keep growing and spill over onto every available surface. What else would be expected of "the people of the book"? So, what can you do to keep up with the growing collection of religious books, paperbacks and more? There is a huge array of bookcases out there - from the simple white melamine adjustable-shelves with the little holes on the sides to the top of the line glass-front oak, teak or mahogany bookcases that are custom-built. One option is to build your own, especially if you have some odd spaces that could use a shelf to fill in. There are plenty of better solutions than the old plank and cinderblock creations that students always build. Here are a few suggestions: • Melamine - There are many variations and fancier trims available for the trusty laminated melamine board bookcases. Sometimes a touch of wood trim makes them a lot classier. Pre-cut shelving units will be the cheapest, but you can also build your own using some of the custom-cut melamine available from building material suppliers in the industrial area of each city, for the price of a little time and energy. They can cut full sheets to your specs, and glue on edge trim as well (I prefer Aaron and Sons in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem). • Particle board - One step down the price ladder from the finished melamine, plain old particleboard has two advantages: you can make nice, deep shelves and you can paint particleboard to match the room, with a few coats to cover the texture. • Board shelves - Good lumber is expensive in Israel, which is why so many shelving units are usually made of melamine or wood veneers over composite boards. However, for making built-in shelves that can really dress up a room, quality lumber that is straight and well-dried can be worth the extra expense. Here are some other basic tips: • Place your vertical dividers or supports fairly close together. This not only gives you less sagging shelves, but more interesting combinations of shelf spacing. Melamine comes in various thicknesses. For standard books and paperbacks you can use 2-cm shelves. If you are storing heavy books (like a set of Talmud and the like) use shelves that are 2.8 cm to avoid sagging. Also be sure to have some kind of backing or cross-bracing to keep stand-alone shelves from swaying. Sometimes you can make a set of shelving more interesting by applying some simple trim to the uprights or fronts of the shelves. This can also help stiffen the unit. • It is also important to secure the bookcase to the wall. Children often regard a bookcase as a ladder. Unfortunately, this has led to many injuries, and even deaths. Simply mounting the bookcase to the wall using correct anchors suitable for your type of wall can prevent an accident. (Once, I installed for myself some shelves for "just a few weeks" until the "real cabinet was ready to install." A few years later they were still there, until one night they all fell down. The noise and vibrations caused not only my family to be frightened of an earthquake, but the neighbors, too. The moral is: don't put up any "temporary" shelves, do it right from the start. Whatever you build, enjoy filling it up with all your favorite reading and reference books! Zelig P. asks, I moved into an apartment this summer and there is a bit of mold on the ceiling that I have not yet attended to. However, it rained over Succot, and I noticed that the area was a little damp. What needs to be done? It is important that the cause of the dampness be resolved. Most likely it is a result of water leaking in from outside. It may be caused by a blocked drain on an upper porch and needs to be cleaned, or some moisture proofing needs to be done to stop water from getting inside. If you cannot see the cause of the problem, you should have a professional come and look at it. Once the cause of the dampness is located and resolved, it is also important to clean the mold with auto dishwasher detergent and water, and then seal it with an anti-mold primer and paint. Mold can lead to serious health risks and should be cleaned and treated, especially in bedrooms used by infants, pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly. (Further information on the health risks of mold can be found via and the SEARCH feature.) The authors can be reached via (02) 585-9559 and at
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