Straighten And Strengthen – IKEA BILLY Bookcase Hacks for the Lazy

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ikea billy bookcase hacks

HomeFixated deals with DIY on all levels – from the people with the skills to make their own Trundle Beds and Adirondack Porch Swings to those folks like me who might mistake an Angle Grinder for a pizza cutter. But even us novices have our projects and problems – like my recent one when my blessed IKEA furniture appeared to be falling apart. After we moved, we noticed a fair number of our BILLY bookcases were standing a bit like the Tower of Pisa – supremely slanted. Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for that which will leave your IKEA bookcases looking better than new!

The Ikea Billy Bookcase and Its Achilles Heal

The problem with the BILLY and most IKEA furniture of the highly affordable variety is the low quality “back piece” that you slap onto them. As IKEA fans have quickly come to realize, it’s nothing more than fancy-looking cardboard. Unfortunately, this means that the nails you hammer into it can fairly easily come out – and that’s when your bookcase starts to get more wobbly than David Hasselhoff after a night on the town.

It’s also about the time you start searching for IKEA hacks online. If you want to rescue this furniture, you have two choices: replace the back cardboard piece with something more sturdy like a thin piece of plywood (which you’ll need to cut to size and finish), or – more easily – reinforce the backing better. Let’s go with the latter (and lazier, cheaper) option.

Ikea Billy Bookcase Hack

To correct and strengthen your BILLY, all you need is a few more nails (consider using double the nails as suggested in the original instructions) and some wood glue. Place the flimsy backing piece back on your bookcase as directed, but use more nails hammered more closely together. Before you start nailing, get your BILLY nice and square, and be sure you have plenty of  appropriately sized nails along the top, into the middle permanent shelf, and along the bottom. Go nail crazy. You’ll notice that your BILLY will already be standing much sturdier.

If you’d like to take it to the next level, apply a thin line of wood glue preferably to the edges of the furniture that will be covered by the backing before you start nailing. Or, if you already went nail-crazy, you can try applying a thin bead along the inside seams of your BILLY where the back piece and the sides connect as if you were caulking it (smooth out the glue and get it right into the crevices with a flat tool or even your finger. It all pretty much does the job). Let the bookcase sit for half a day to allow drying before adding your shelves.

Editor’s Note:
Gorilla Glue has a little how-to on their own strategy in the video here. Spoiler Alert – they recommend a couple Gorilla Glue products to do it!


And voila! No more swaying bookcases! You and your BILLY can finally stand tall once again.

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About Jen

Jen (but never “Jenn”) Byck, aka the Fix'n Vixen, is a Toronto-based freelance writer and communication consultant who is undoubtedly home fixated (she is also TV fixated, really bad TV fixated and donut fixated). Her approach to home improvement has been rather trial and error, the latter of which is evidenced by the amount of spackle she buys on an annual basis.

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14 thoughts on “Straighten And Strengthen – IKEA BILLY Bookcase Hacks for the Lazy”

  1. How do you square the book cases. I think that’s what’s wrong with mine. And it’s so bad to the point they are out by about a cm by the time you get to the top sometimes more … No idea why they are that bad 🙁

  2. No need for all this malarkey, Ikea supply a bracket to fix the top to the wall. Or put wedges under the front corners and this will press the Billy hard against the wall.

  3. My back piece molded a bit (I find thin cardboard-like composites like that often do where I live). I would like to find a piece and cut it to fit so I can replace it.

    What is it actually called? Where can I find it? How can I cut it myself?


  4. I would use the back, but cut some holes in it, maybe even putting some small fans in to draw air through. Another possibility would be to cut either the supplied backing, or something thin like hardboard into strips, the width of the back and maybe a foot or so wide. use those with liberal glue & nails to reinforce the top & bottom at the corners, the maybe 1 or 2 in the middle. That should give you plenty of airflow while helping keep it rigid.

  5. Any tips on what to do if you dont want to use the backing? I dont have a Billy, but I have the bigger Besta shelf. I keep my computer and printer in there along with some other electronics, so I need ventelation going through there. The best solution is to remove the backing all together, but then the shelf becomes wobbly without it.

  6. Good technique, my HS shop teacher always said that glue makes things 25% stronger. You could also avoid this by buying way better quality…aka real furniture instead of helping the landfill top off, but that’s jut me.

    • I’m with you on the better quality angle. Well-crafted solid furniture can last generations rather than months. But we still thought the strengthening tips would be of value to the masses! Thanks for your comment Charlie and hope to hear from you again here.

    • I have several Billy bookcases that were left in storage for 4 years with most of the removable shelves out. Apparently, the sides have warped, because the shelves will no longer fit. Has anyone else had this problem? It seems like the same thing would happen with the shelves in place, only they would become too tight to move. This has not been the case with the ones I have been actively using.

  7. I do this every time. I use the same technique with the upper kitchen cabinets.

    Polyurethane glue works best for me, just be sure not to apply too much.


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