How to Build a Free Library Box With a Living Roof

Little free libraries are popping up in neighborhoods everywhere. Sharing your favorite books is a great way to connect with your neighbors and encourage kids to read.

September 13, 2021

Related To:

This modern version of a library box is also a planter box. The neighbors are sure to be impressed. If your house is near the school bus stop, entice the kids to read by filling the box with their favorite books.

Tools and Materials

  • miter saw
  • table or circular saw
  • power drill
  • staple gun (optional)
  • drywall knife
  • shovel/post hole digger
  • 1x12 x 10’ exterior-grade wood
  • (2) 1x4 x 6’ exterior-grade wood
  • 24” x 18” plexiglass
  • small hinges
  • cabinet latch
  • cabinet knob
  • wood glue
  • galvanized screws in assorted lengths
  • wood filler
  • sandpaper
  • exterior paint/wood stain
  • foam weather stripping
  • silicone caulking
  • plastic sheeting (such as Visqueen) (optional)
  • pebbles
  • potting soil
  • sedum and succulent cuttings
  • 4x4 wood post or 1-1/2” galvanized pipe with flange
  • concrete

Step 1: Cut Back, Sides and Base

Use a miter saw to cut the 1x12 into the following lengths:
- 25 inches for the base (bottom)
- 25 inches for the back
- 15 inches for the taller side
- 13 inches for the shorter side.
Cut the top edge of the two side pieces at a five-degree angle.

Step 2: Assemble

Attach the side pieces to the outside edges of the base. Pre-drill the screw holes and apply wood glue before screwing the pieces together. Repeat with the back piece.

Step 3: Make Wedge Piece

Measure, cut and then attach the back wedge. Lay the library on its back and place a 1x4 board where there is a missing wedge. Draw on the board where you need to cut in order to fill in the gap. Use a circular or table saw to make the cuts. Attach in the same manner as the previous step.

Step 4: Cut Top Piece

Keep the miter saw set to the same angle (five degrees) as you cut the top of the side pieces, cut the roof piece to span the top of the library box (26-3/4 inches). Attach the roof as you have attached all prior pieces.

Step 5: Make Frame Around the Top

Measure and install the frame for the living roof. Hold the 1x4 board up to the front of the box and mark where you need to cut it to create a frame around the box. Make sure to account for a 3/4-inch overhang on each side to accommodate the side pieces. Cut two of these and two side pieces that are as long as the short sides of the library are wide (11-1/8 inches).

Step 6: Nail Frame to Top Piece

Attach the frame to the top piece so that it creates a planter space that is 2-1/4 inches deep.

Step 7: Make Door Frame

Measure, cut, and assemble the door pieces. Using a circular or table saw, rip a length of the 1x4 in half, creating two 1x2 pieces. From those, cut a frame that will fit the front of the library box. Determine the size of your cuts by holding the 1x2 pieces up to the box and marking where they lay flush with the sides. Once measured and cut, assemble your door by screwing the pieces together.

Step 8: Install Upper Door Jamb

Install an upper door jamb. From a scrap of wood, cut a small piece to fit the top edge of the opening of the box (1 x 25 inches) and attach it to the roof behind the planter frame.

Step 9: Prep and Paint

Fill all the small holes where the screws were installed with wood putty. When they’re dry, sand the entire library inside and out. Paint or stain the entire library, including the door, and inside the planter box. We used a wood-protecting stain outside and exterior-grade white paint on the inside.

Step 10: Add Plexiglass

Measure, cut and install the plexiglass window inside the door frame. Lay the plexiglass over the door frame and mark it where it needs to be trimmed. Cut the plexiglass by first scoring it deeply on both sides with a drywall knife. Lay the edge you want to remove over the side of a table and with a forceful whack, hit it so that it breaks along your scored line. Attach it to the inside of the door frame by pinching it under large-headed screws or short screws with small washers added to them.

Step 11: Attach the Door

Install the hinges on the taller side of the door first. Hold the door up to the box and start by tacking one screw into each hinge. Test the door and make adjustments before adding and tightening all the screws.

Step 12: Install Latch and Knob

Test the finished seal of the door and install foam weatherstripping either along the top edge or all the way around to ensure a tight seal and a nicely closing door.

Step 13: Prepare Roof for Planting

Apply silicone caulking around the inside, bottom edges of the planter. For extra protection, you can line the top with plastic sheeting and staple it into place. On the side of the roof that is the lowest, drill three small holes on the sides to allow for drainage.

Step 14: Fill Planter Box

Fill the roof with a thin layer of pebbles and top that with potting soil. Plant your roof with sedum and succulent cuttings.

Step 15: Install Post

Dig a hole where you want to install your library. Place your post in the center and fill the hole with concrete, make sure your post is level before the concrete sets.

Step 16: Add Books

Attach the library box to the post, fill it with books to share and wait for the neighbors to cheer!

Next Up

How to Make a Kids' Mud Kitchen + Activity Table

Keep the kids entertained for hours with this outdoor play bench where they can cook up muddy creations, build sand castles or play with tractors all day long.

How to Make Wire Shelf Covers That Look Just Like Floating Shelves

This renter and homeowner-friendly hack transforms tricky wire shelves into stylish, faux floating wood shelves.

How to Build a Covered Sandbox

This weekend, build a covered sandbox for the kids. The roof on this DIY sandbox will keep the play area well-shaded and free of leaves, twigs and rain.

How to Build Banquette Seating With Built-in Storage

Optimize seating and storage with an L-shaped bench that will turn any corner into a cozy destination.

How to Make an X-Shaped Wood Magazine Rack

X marks the perfect spot for your stack of must-reads.

How to Build a Vertical Book Tower

Short on space to display your books? You’ll certainly be able to fit this DIY bookshelf into your life.

How to Make a Barrister Kitchen Organizer

Upcycle flea market finds to create exciting new pieces courtesy of the DIY experts at HGTV Magazine.

How to Build a Ledge Bookshelf

Learn how to build narrow floating shelves that are perfect for a kid’s room or living area, or any small space.

How to Refinish an Antique Bookcase

Skip the furniture-store sticker shock. Instead go thrifting to find sturdily built furniture with character. Our instructions and tips make it easy to give new life to an old bookshelf that needed just a bit of freshening up.

How to Build a Floating Shelf With Hidden Charging Station

Don't let unsightly cables and cords clutter your living space. This DIY floating shelf has a built-in power strip tucked away in a drawer — the perfect spot to charge your phones, tablets and other gadgets out of sight.

What's New in Handmade


House Hunters

6:30am | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30am | 6:30c

House Hunters

8:30am | 7:30c

House Hunters

10am | 9c

House Hunters

11am | 10c

House Hunters

12pm | 11c

House Hunters

1pm | 12c

House Hunters

1:30pm | 12:30c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30pm | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30pm | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30pm | 4:30c

House Hunters

6:30pm | 5:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Renovation Aloha

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

4:30am | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30am | 4:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.