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5 tips when deciding to build or buy

a bookcase door

Should you Buy or build a bookcase door?

Ah, the age old question that every warm blooded woman, man or child should ask themselves.

Ever since I saw the Secret bookcase Murphy Door at a friends house I was enamored.

I loved the look of the bookcase but couldn’t justify to cost of a Murphy Door. I read up on bookcase door installations but a lot of what I found on the internet was smaller attic door conversions and I needed a full-size outswing door. 

I went back and forth between building my own swinging bookcase door or purchasing the pre-made Murphy Door options. It took me over six months of research to come to my decision. These five tips for someone looking to build or buy a bookcase door reflect all of that research and I truly hope that it helps you make your decision.

In the end, I decided to build my own secret door and I couldn’t be happier with the result. This was the first step into what became an entire speakeasy bar arcade.

Below are our top 5 tips when deciding to build or buy a bookcase door.


Do you want to check the bookcase door build out first? Click below to see free detailed instructions on how we built our bookcase door. You can also browse around to see how we built the rest of the things in the speakeasy. From Bookcase doors to bars to virtual pinball machines. 



Hey my text based friends. By popular request, I have posted a video to YouTube walking through my top 5 tips when deciding whether to build or buy a bookcase door. I am typically a website (text) based guy but jumped into youtube to hopefully help more people. Click below to learn more and support the channel!

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Tip #1 – Price

Let’s face it, for most people the feasibility of having a bookcase door comes down to price. With cost comes convenience. Convenience sacrifices character. Whether you need an outswing bookcase door or inswing bookcase door, the costs are virtually the same. Keep in mind that our pricing assumes that you already have a wall and a doorway. 

Murphy Doors – $1016 + $300 shipping + $200 installation (estimate) = $1,516

A lot of people want to know what the cost of a Murphy Door is. The sticker price doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Murphy Doors are sold in a variety of ways but the simplest is a pre-hung door. Keep in mind that even pre-hung doors require some knowledge on how to install a door and you may have to pay a few hundred dollars for the bookcase door installation. This is the quickest way to get the door of your dreams, but it comes at a price. 

Building is not for everyone. If you have decided to purchase a Murphy Door then I have good news. Murphy Door and I have partnered. Yes, a weird marriage on paper but not really. We both want you to create an awesome space in your home but understand that the approach is very different. 

Click the link below and use code THECRAFTYCATSMAN for 15% off your order! 

Click here to purchase a Murphy door and get 15% off.

DIY Bookcase Door – $350 

One of the most frequent questions we get is “How much does it cost to build a bookcase door”? I know it’s hard to believe but my entire setup cost less than $300, that includes the light up book light, hardware and decorations. 

Building a bookcase door from scratch gives you time to plan out features that are important to you. I have seen people install all sorts of cool levers and personal touches to handmade secret doors. My door is constructed mostly of plywood which helped keep my costs down. 

Hidden doorway bookcase - light up book latch (2)
DIY Hidden Doorway Bookcase - finished outswing bookcase. Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Tip #2 – Aesthetics

Murphy Doors come standard with a sold sealed door that opens when pushed or pulled. This clean look is nice and simple. Book latches, fingerprint scanners or any other opening method would be an add on.

Custom built doors can feature any sort of opening mechanism that you want. My bookcase door has a book latch that lights up when I tell google a secret code. 

Either door allows for customization on the back. Just keep in mind that any design enhancements on the murphy door will result in additional costs. Below are some side by side pictures of a Murphy Bookcase Door and my DIY Bookcase door.

Secret Door options: Design Comparisons

Murphy Door Front

Murphy Door Paint Grade Bookcase door - product photo

DIY Bookcase Door Front

Hidden Bookcase Door. Hidden entrance. Hidden Door ideas. Top secret doors, murphy door alternative, hidden door speakeasy, hidden door arcade

Murphy Door Back

murphy door back product photo white door back

DIY Bookcase Door Back

rustic wall diy, different color aged wood, bookcase door back, dartboard, hook game, air hockey, corrugated metal roof and patio lights

Want to build a bookcase door?

Were the first two tips enough to convince you to build your own bookcase door? Curious to see the steps required to build your own secret door? Click here to see our full (free) guide on how to build your own bookcase door.

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Tip #3 – Space

TheCraftyCatsman headquarters regularly has hammers, drills, compressors and other fun tools laying around the house. Not every household is so forgiving. Thankfully, building a bookcase door can be done cleanly and without making too much of a mess. Most of the build can be done in a workshop. Regardless of how long it takes you to build a bookcase door, the worst that you will see inside of the house is an open doorway. We cased our doorway in and left it that way for the duration of the project. 

That being said, you will need a place to work on building the bookcase – if you do not have a workspace (like a garage, workshop or like we did in the early years a fire escape) then the limitation of space should be heavily considered. 

Also, weight in the location of the secret door. If your door leads to a staircase and you have kids – you are risking safety (unless you put a gate up)!

Our secret door was in the basement, having an open and clean doorway was no problem to anyone. 

Want to Purchase a Murphy Door?

Does building a bookcase door seem a little too overwhelming?

Want to explore your other options?

Click here to see your Murphy Door options via Amazon

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Tip #4 – Are you interested in Woodworking?

Okay, we gave you two outs already – you could have clicked straight to the DIY Bookcase Door build instructions or you could have went to Amazon to review your Murphy Door options. Heck you might have did that and came back because you need to finish a list….

If you made it to tip #4 then the thought of building a secret door intrigues you. Maybe you have always wanted to get into woodworking. If you are new to the hobby then this project is a great springboard, if you have dabbled in woodworking then this is a great way to expand your skillset. 

One of the most important tools in building a bookcase door is a miter saw. You could get away with a circular saw, but a miter saw really speeds and cleans things up. 

You could purchase our favorite Dewalt DWS715 Miter Saw and even throw in our top pick in table saws (DWE7491RS) and still build the bookcase door for cheaper than buying a Murphy Door. 

These aren’t tools that you should buy for a single project. Keep in mind that Home Depot will make some cuts for you at no charge. However, if you want to grow into your woodworking hobby then this is a great way to grow your tool collection  and still “save” some money!

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Tip #5 – Overcome the fear of building the door.

A swinging bookcase door? Hidden doorways are enticing but in truth they sound a lot more complicated than they really are. 

When you break it down, you need to decide if your capable of the following things:

1. Building a bookcase – If you follow my site, you might have heard me say that it starts with a planter. Meaning, that most of everything can be broken down into simple shapes. Learning to build a rectangular planter taught me that important lesson. A bookcase is no different, it is a giant rectangle. Sure, there are steps to make that rectangle look cool and be sturdy but remember, it’s just a rectangle. My (free) instructional page walks you step by step through this process. In the end, I found building the bookcase to be easier than I imagined.

2. Hanging a Door – Turning a bookcase into a bookcase door follows the same fundamentals as hanging a new door. You will need to familiarize yourself with how top plumb and square a door. Have no fear, we walk you through this on our instructional page (how to build a bookcase door). Go take a look at the section on how to plumb and square a door. 

3. Precision – A lot of projects can handle some missteps in precision. This is not one of those projects. The standard measure twice cut once rule is in full effect here. It is critical that you are prepared to take your time and measure carefully. Missteps will not ruin the project, but it will force you to step back and redo some steps. I got myself comfortable with this when I realized that even if I needed to retrace a step and buy more wood, it would still be cheaper than buying the door pre-made. 

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:


There is no right or wrong decision here. It is subjective and depends on your skill set and what you want to do. I built my bookcase door during my free time, which with a 3 year old is usually before the family wakes up and after everyone goes to bed. The best part about the build is that you can set it aside and work on it in pieces. It really never got in our way. 

I truly hope my “5 Tips when deciding to build or buy a bookcase door” helped you make your decision, if you are still on the fence PLEASE share your thoughts in the comments below or send me an email – , I am happy to help in any way that I can.

If you decided, let me know in the comments which route you decided on and why. 

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:


Question: What materials are typically used for building a bookcase door?

Answer: Common materials include plywood, MDF, hardwood, and metal. The choice of material depends on the desired appearance, budget, and strength requirements for the bookcase door.

Question: How much does it cost to build a bookcase door?

Answer: We covered this above but directly, DIY project typically ranges from $300 to $1000, while a professionally built custom bookcase door can cost several thousand dollars.

Question: What are the key measurements and dimensions to consider when designing a bookcase door?

Answer: First, measure the height and width of the doorway. Next, consider the depth of the bookcase and the number of shelves desired. Account for the thickness of the materials and any additional space needed for the bookcase door to swing open. View our full and free step by step instructions Right here.

Question: What type of hardware is required to install a bookcase door?

Answer: Essential hardware includes hinges (pivoting or hidden), a latch system, and support brackets. Choosing high-quality, heavy-duty hardware is crucial for ensuring smooth operation and long-lasting durability.

Question: Can I build a bookcase door with an existing bookshelf?

Answer: Yes, you can convert an existing bookshelf into a bookcase door. However, you will need to make structural modifications and ensure that it fits the doorway properly. Additionally, you’ll need to install the necessary hardware to support the bookcase door.

Question: How do I choose the right hinges for my bookcase door?

Answer: Heavy-duty pivot hinges or hidden hinges are the best choices. Pivot hinges can handle more weight, while hidden hinges offer a more discreet appearance. Consider the weight, size, and swing direction of your bookcase door when selecting hinges. We recommend the Tambee Hinge: Check Price Here

Question: What are some common latch systems for securing a bookcase door?

Answer: Popular latch systems include magnetic locks, sliding bolts, and electronic locks. The choice depends on your security needs, desired level of concealment, and budget. We chose a light up book hinge. Check it out on out instructions.

Question: Can I add lighting to my bookcase door?

Answer: Absolutely! Installing LED strip lights or battery-operated puck lights can enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your bookcase door. Be sure to consider the available power sources and any necessary wiring when planning your design.

Question: Where can I find inspiration and tutorials for building a bookcase door?

Answer: Glad you asked! Right here!

Tips when deciding to build or buy a secret bookcase door:

Fun Facts


Famous places with Secret Bookcase Doors: 

The Palace of Versailles: The Palace of Versailles in France has several hidden doors and passages, including a secret bookcase door in the King’s Chamber that led to a hidden staircase.

The Winchester Mystery House: The Winchester Mystery House in California, USA, was built with many secret passages and doors, including a secret bookcase door that leads to a hidden room.

The Secret Annex: The Secret Annex in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where Anne Frank and her family hid during the Holocaust, had a secret bookcase door that led to the hiding place.

The Library of Congress: The Library of Congress in Washington D.C., USA, has a secret bookcase door that leads to a hidden room behind the shelves.

The National Palace Museum: The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, has a secret bookcase door that leads to a hidden room filled with treasures.

Secret Doors have been around for a long time:

One of the earliest recorded examples of a secret bookcase door comes from ancient Egypt, where the Pyramid of Giza, built around 2580 BC, has a secret passage that was hidden behind a movable stone block. The passage led to a secret chamber inside the pyramid that contained the tomb of the Pharaoh Khufu.

Another example comes from ancient Greece, where the famous philosopher Plato wrote about a secret door in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The door was hidden behind a statue of the god, and led to a secret room that contained a large treasure trove.


The story of King Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 is one of the most famous uses of secret doors in history. After his defeat in the battle, King Charles II was on the run from Oliver Cromwell’s forces, who were determined to capture him and end the Royalist cause.

To evade capture, the king disguised himself as a servant and fled to the countryside with a small group of loyal supporters. They eventually made their way to Boscobel House, a remote hunting lodge in Shropshire, England.

At Boscobel House, the king was hidden in a small attic room known as the Priest’s Hole, which was accessed through a secret door hidden behind a wooden panel. The Priest’s Hole was a tiny space, just seven feet long and two and a half feet wide, with a sloping roof and a small window for air.

The king spent several days in the Priest’s Hole, while Cromwell’s soldiers searched the area for him. Despite coming close to being discovered several times, the king managed to evade capture and eventually escaped to France with the help of loyal supporters.

Today, Boscobel House is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can still see the secret Priest’s Hole where King Charles II hid during his escape. The story of his daring escape has become a symbol of the resilience and determination of the Royalist cause during the English Civil War.


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TheCraftyCatsman - Speakeasy Arcade

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