How Much Does it Cost to Build a Free Little Art Gallery?

One of the questions I’ve been asked recently is, “how much does it cost to build a Free Little Art Gallery?” and also, “how long does it take?”

The price ranges from free, if you build it yourself from scavenged materials, to around $300.00 to purchase a completed Little Free Library online.

The lowest cost ready to go structure that could serve as a FLAG that I could find was this one:

Sold to serve as a “sharing library,” you’d need to cover the built in sign.

Folks also purchase old newspaper boxes, which are available painted or unpainted. These metal boxes run to almost $400.00. A small unpainted LFL on Etsy is $189.00, while a two story, unpainted one can be as high as $560.00.

If you have building skills, you can save a lot of money by building your FLAG yourself. The pieces of wood needed are not very large, and you may be able to tap into your local network to request leftover bits of roofing shingles and other supplies. Try your local Buy Nothing group, or Freecycle. And check the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, if there’s one near you.

What about Roofing for your Free Little Art Gallery?

The options for roofing include:

• Cedar Shingles, either full size or miniature.

• Asphalt tiles, with roofing felt under it.

• Copper or other metal, hammered around the edges.

For my outdoor micro-gallery, I went with dollhouse miniature cedar shingles.

Close up of the roofing job in process on The Angelica Kauffman Gallery, which has 690 cedar shingles.

That’s right, glued on 690 individual cedar shingles! The glue I used was also a waterproof layer, so I had to ensure that each row of shingles had a good coating of glue below it.

When all the shingles were on, I added an L shaped piece of trim at the top edge and I sealed the shingles and side pieces of wood with a special Juniper-infused wood sealer from Gardener’s Supply.

How Long Does it Take to Build a Free Little Art Gallery?

This one really depends on your level of experience as a builder and how complex your build is. If you’re modifying an existing box or cabinet, your main tasks will be waterproofing and adding a roof.

The Angelica Kauffman Micro-Gallery, in the process of being built.

Here’s my outdoor micro-gallery, The Angelica Kauffman Gallery, a view-only gallery. Shown here with the plastic film still on the windows. This one took 40 hours to build, before the roofing shingles went on, but a standard FLAG shouldn’t take that long. This one took longer because of the hidden door and windows on three sides.

What’s it made out of? The upright pieces are hardwood molding/trim pieces, sold in 3 foot segments. The plastic windows are Optix brand plexiglass. Everything is from a standard home improvement center, except the dollhouse shingles.

The total cost in supplies for this build was about $250.00, not including any labor.

The completed roof of The Angelica Kauffman Gallery, as installed for the Terrain Biennial, in 2021.

Here’s the gallery, as installed. The roof is sealed, the structure is painted with exterior paint, and everything has been caulked. It withstood rain just fine; the art stayed nice and dry.

Most of the tutorials out there to date have been for Little Free Libraries, but now, FLAG host Gabriele Teich has published instructions, with measurements and drawings, for her to build a FLAG! There’s even an option to download the free pdf. It’s here:

What about you? How did you build your FLAG? Did you use a kit or design your own? Feel free to share in the comments! New and prospective FLAG hosts want to know!

Published by Elaine Luther

Artist and writer blogging at I make art about loving pockets, that I hate housework. I curate a series of micro galleries (1:12 scale) called the Angelica Kauffman Galleries.

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