Floating shelves how to build: DIY Floating Shelves for Easy Storage

DIY Floating Shelves for Easy Storage

In this tutorial for DIY floating shelves, we’re outlining the simple steps of building wall to wall wood shelves in our workshop space. This tutorial was originally published in April 2015, and we’ve included updated photos. Enjoy!

Without a doubt, the most important component of our workshop will be – scratch that, is – the ability for heavy-duty storage. For almost two years, our workshop has been a mess. We’ve been tripping over power tools and our bulky air compressor. We’ve been wading through paint cans and digging through cardboard boxes. All to find the fine grit sandpaper. It’s a miracle anything was ever accomplished in this house at all!

Finally, we have some shelves! Some really big, really hunky, really strong DIY floating shelves!

After making a list of all the easy access items we’d like to store in the workshop (vs. what’ll end up going in the garage), we calculated and re-calculated how many shelves we’d need, how high they’d go and how much space they’ll allow. We measured our big bins, the height of two paint cans and checked inventory on all the glues, tapes and things that allow us to complete any given project. The prep and planning was a good week’s worth of work alone. And then, we got to work work!

For anyone who wants to take on this same project, your shopping list will vary depending on the width of your shelves, but here’s what we bought for four 6′ wide, wall-to-wall DIY floating shelves:

Supplies for 6′ shelves

  • 4 – 1/4″ sheets of plywood
  • 12 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′
  • 12′ of 1″ x 6″ aspen planks
  • 2.5″ wood screws
  • 4″ wood screws
  • Wood stain in Special Walnut
  • Wall color touch-up paint (Stratton Blue, Ben Moore)

Tools Used

  • Miter saw for small cuts
  • Circular saw for long cuts
  • Table saw for ripping down alpine planks
  • Drill + right angle adapter (or right angle drill)
  • Nail gun
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Sandpaper
  • Mallet
  • Paint brush (our favorite!)
  • Rags for stain

1| Locate the Studs

First, we took a minute to locate the studs behind our drywall. Jack likes to get involved, too, which always helps.

2| Create a Ladder Support System

We needed to ensure that our shelves are strong, so we needed to build a support system that we would ultimately hide beneath the plywood sheets. We cut our 2x4s to the widths of our wall – two per shelf. To create a ladder-like support structure, we also made 14″ cuts from the remaining 2x4s, which was enough for 7 supports, end to end.

To save time and avoid needing to make any pocket holes, we used 2.5″ wood screws to create 3 sides of our internal structure, with about 12″ between each support. Note: Measure each shelf independently, as drywall is rarely (if ever?) square. For example, some of our wall widths varied by a 1/2″. The more precise your cuts, the better your outcome!

drill | speed square | framing square 

3| Attach Shelving Supports to the Wall

We attached our ladder support system to the wall, putting two 4″ screws into each and every stud along the way. The level became our best friend at this point, and as is typical with inexpensive 2x4s, we did have some less than perfect twists in the wood. A good tug while keeping things level was necessary to get our support in place, and a right angle drill adapter was used for the studs to the left and right of the main wall; it was a tight squeeze.

level | tape measure

The remaining 2×4 was screwed on to the front, and again, we made sure to level, level, level.

We continued up the wall, allowing for different heights between the shelves, starting with 18″ at the bottom, two at 16″ and one at 14″. These shelves aren’t going anywhere!

4| Touch Up Paint with Wall Color

I added a light coat of our wall color along the 2x4s, but only where the 2x4s meet with the wall. My thought was more preventative than anything; any imperfect cuts in our plywood would hopefully blend into the wall.

5| Add Plywood Sheets to Top and Bottom of Supports + Stain

Now, let’s talk about those plywood sheets! We had all four sheets cut down to 17″ strips at the hardware store, which was the perfect depth to skin our ladder supports. (Think: 1.5″ 2×4 + 14″ support + 1.5″ 2×4 = 17″)

This meant that we only needed to use the circular saw to cut down the 6′ widths. The edges got a gentle sanding, and I stained everything using Special Walnut. (We opted to nix polyurethane altogether, since these shelves will be holding All the Things that’ll just scratch it up. It feels less precious this way, somehow.) Once the plywood was ready to go, a mallet helped to ease the boards into place – top and bottom – and we used a nail gun to secure the sheets along the ladder support.

6| Add the Front Face to the Shelving + Stain

With everything in place so far, we had a height of exactly 4″ for each shelf, and although we initially planned on using the leftover 1/4″ plywood to create the false fronts, we figured that for the amount of work we’d already put into these shelves, we should make it count. And so, we picked up 1×6 aspen planks, ripped them down to 4″ on the table saw, stained them, and, finally, popped them on with our nail gun. It was absolutely worth it!

7| Enjoy!

You guys! We love them. The project turned out way better than we imagined it would, and we both joked that they were too nice for the workshop! In any case, the goal was to make them super strong (check!) and durable (check!), and we can’t wait to load them up.

We have a few more finishing touches for the room that we’d like to finish up this week, but it’s so close to being complete! These DIY floating shelves will change the way we’re able to use the space! And once we’re organized in the workshop, maybe – maybe – we might be able to finish the kitchen. Word on the street is that our back door will be here mid-May, I say, as I knock on wood.

Upate October 2021:

PS: All links have been updated to reflect our current tool recommendations, or you can also see how to build your tool library! Find all our workshop updates, organizational tips and blog posts right here. For other floating shelves we’ve created, see these corner floating shelves, DIY beadboard shelves with brass rails, and open shelving made from stair treads.

Thank you for following along!

Easy DIY Floating Shelves in a Nook or Alcove

Create more storage by adding simple floating shelves to an niche in your home.

Have a nook, niche or alcove in your house? Use it to create more storage and display space with some beautiful floating shelves.

This DIY is so easy! In just an afternoon, you can transform any 3-sided spot into the perfect place to store things.

Use bins or baskets on floating shelves to hide away things and keep the focus on your beautiful shelves. Or use them for displaying objects like books, towels, linens, toys and more.

What Alcoves Can you Build Floating Shelves In

Any 3-sided nook is a perfect place to add some DIY floating shelves.

Here are just a few places I have found alcoves to add shelves to in my homes:

  • Above the toilet
  • In a closet
  • Above a washer and dryer
  • In the mudroom
  • Between built in bookcases

I love turning a messy closet into a beautiful space by removing the door and adding floating shelves. This is great for linen closets, entry ways and more.

And I find it is way easier to keep a closet like that organized. Maybe it is because it is more visible or maybe because it is seen more often.

If you do not remove a closet door, you can still make your closets beautiful with chunky floating shelves. Even if no one sees it but you!

How to Build Floating Shelves

Tools needed:

  • Miter saw
    • I recently upgraded to this larger sliding miter saw (watch for it to go on sale), but all my projects before were built with this inexpensive miter saw that I loved.
  • Jig saw
  • Pocket hole jig
    • I use the Kreg 720 since I do a lot of builds, but their less expensive 520 jig or 320 jig are great jigs for beginners or small spaces (and I use them in my shop too).
  • Drill
  • Impact driver (optional, but I love not having to switch bits with the drill)
  • Brad nailer
  • Flush cut saw
  • Sander
  • Level
  • Measuring tape


  • Wood products
    • 2×2 boards
    • 1/2″ thick plywood
    • 1×3 boards or 1/4″ thick boards
    • Optional: 1/4″ thick plywood
  • 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws
  • 1 1/4″ brad nails
  • Optional: drywall anchors

STEP 1- Build the frame

Locate the studs in your wall and mark them.

Make sure the back support is secured into at least 2 wall studs and each side support is into 1 stud.

Determine where you want the shelves in your nook/closet/alcove. Mark those out.

Measure at these marks the full width of the back wall. Measure the wall at every shelf line because walls are not perfectly straight.

Cut a piece of 2×2 to this measurement. Cut 1 piece for each shelf (with their own unique measurement).

Attach the board to the back wall. Put one screw into each stud on the back wall ensuring it stays level.

Countersink the screw into the 2×2 and secure with a 2 1/2″ or longer screw.

Don’t forget to account for the thickness of your drywall when determining screw length. You want the screw to go into the stud at least an inch, so you need to countersink the 2 1/2″ screw 1/2″ so it deep enough into the stud.

Determine the length of the side boards. They should be the total depth you want your shelves minus 3″ for the front and back frame boards minus the thickness of your front board.

Cut the boards and drill 2 pocket holes set for 1 1/2″ thick material in each end.

For my shelves, I didn’t want them very deep and would not be able to anchor the sides into a stud. So I used a wall anchor behind it.

I would only recommend this for smaller nooks where you will not be using the shelves for heavy items.

To install the wall anchor, I first drilled the countersunk hole for the screw. Then lined it up on the side where it would go.

Drill through the countersunk hole into the drywall to mark the location for the anchor.

Remove the board and install the anchor.

Attach the side piece first to the back frame board with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws.

Then secure it to the wall into the stud (or the anchor). Make sure it stays level as you attach it to the wall.

The pocket holes into the back frame piece will help give more stability to the sides that would otherwise only be attached to the wall with 1 screw because studs are 16″ apart and most shelves will not be deeper than that.

Once both side pieces are attached, measure for the front frame board.

Again, measure each shelf frame individually because your walls will likely not be straight.

Cut the board and attach it to the sides with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws.

STEP 2- Cut the shelf top/bottom

Because the walls are probably not very straight, you cannot just measure and cut a straight piece of wood to fit on the top and bottom of your frame.

If you do, you will have large gaps and a lot of frustration trying to get it to fit.

Instead, the easiest way to get a board to perfectly fit the space is to create a template. You can use thin (~1/8″) pieces of wood, strips of cardboard, or even cardstock.

I ripped thin strips of wood off a scrap of 2×4 to make my template.

Cut or break the pieces into smaller pieces so you do not have large gaps against the wall and hot glue the pieces together.

Create a complete frame of the sides, back and front.

Transfer the shape of your template to the piece of 1/2″ plywood.

Make sure the template is oriented so the pretty side of the plywood is the top.

I like to like the front (which should be completely flat) up against the front of the plywood.

Use a jigsaw to cut the plywood out to the right shape.

Be aware that your pencil mark is slightly on the outside of the template. So cut the line off with the saw or your piece of wood might be too big.

Test your piece of wood on the shelf frame to see if it fits. Adjust as necessary.

For the bottom of the shelf, you can use another piece of 1/2″ plywood. This is convenient because it creates a 2 1/2″ thick total shelf. This means the front board is a standard 1×3.

Or you can use a 1/4″ thick plywood to create a slightly thinner shelf (2 1/4″). This is what I did to use up scraps of plywood instead of having to cut a new sheet.

With a thinner shelf, you will need to rip the board for the front down to the width of your shelf on a table saw.

STEP 3- Cover the shelf frame

Once the plywood pieces are cut, they are easy to attach to the top and bottom of the shelf frame with 1 1/4″ brad nails.

Ensure the front of the plywood is flush with the front of the frame.

Measure the front of your shelf and cut your front piece.

You can use a standard 1×3 board which is 3/4″ thick. Or if you want a thinner front profile use a 1/4″ thick board.

The home improvement sells 1/4″ thick boards sometimes labeled as hobby boards. I usually find them next to the hardwoods or dowels.

The thinner front board almost disappears into the plywood making the shelf look like 1 solid piece of lumber.

You can attach the front with no visible nail holes by glueing it into place.

Add a good amount of glue to the back of the board. Line it up and tape it into place with blue painters tape until the glue dries.

STEP 4- Finish the shelves

Sand and finish your shelves.

For my floating shelves, I used birch plywood with a pine for the front board. They are stained with Early America stain by Minwax.

You may also have to do some touch up painting on the wall if you scraped the walls while installing the shelves (I know I did).

Now you are ready to load up your new shelves.

I just love how they fit so nicely into the small alcove in my bathroom. There are no unsightly gaps.

They were made to fit perfectly. And it was all done in an afternoon!

Build Your Own Floating Shelves – Zrobi Do It Yourself

DIY shelving without brackets is a stylish and budget-friendly way to decorate your home with accessories. Here’s our simple guide on how to make your own.

Who needs built-in wardrobes when you can create your own storage? A terrific way to display books, photos, or personal items, floating wall shelves not only look beautiful, but don’t take up a lot of space. This is a winning idea for rooms with limited space – you can use the vertical space. These floating shelves will help you add personality and interest to a room by allowing you to display your favorite books, interesting items and plants.

Floating Shelves is an easy woodworking project for those who are comfortable with power tools, but don’t worry. Our floating shelves offer practical advice and reliable materials to help you create a truly custom piece of decor at an affordable price.

Materials Needed

While it may be tempting to buy floating shelves from a big box store like IKEA, Home Depot or Lowes, you may end up with a less personal look. The lack of variety in colors and sizes – not to mention the wider, overly boxy shape – really limits what you can buy off the shelf. For almost the same price, or even less, you can create your own version to match your home and color scheme. Use the materials below to make your own floating wood shelves.

  • 2 x 10 inch pine plank
  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Hand or table router with dado milling cutter
  • ½-inch paddle drill
  • Drill (optional)
  • Sandpaper (medium grit)
  • Fabric (2 or 3)
  • Stain or paint
  • Polyurethane (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • BIGTEDDY Adjustable Blind Floating Shelf Invisible Brackets
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Level

How to build floating shelves

The steps below will teach you how to build floating shelves with minimal effort. With the exception of drying time, this project can be completed in half a day, giving your walls a custom and quality look.

Step 1: Cut the board to size and gather the materials

The most economical way to make your own floating shelves is to buy a large piece of wood and cut it into smaller pieces using a miter box or a circular saw. Obviously, you’ll want to size them up according to where you plan to hang them. We cut our boards 25 inches into a shelf.

Step 2: Cut the back of each shelf to accommodate the hardware

Using a router, cut a notch so that the hardware fits into the back of each shelf. If you are using our recommended fittings, the notch should be 1/2″ deep, as per instructions. If you are using other parts, please follow these instructions. The notch is needed so that when you hang the shelves, the mount does not create a gap between the wall and the shelf.

Step 3: Drill the mounting holes

This can be done in several ways. If you are using a hand drill, use a bladed drill to make holes for the fittings to be inserted into. The holes here are 4 inches deep, but follow the instructions on the hardware. If you’re unsure about making straight holes, start drilling with a blade drill and finish drilling with a press drill. Using a blade drill will make it easier to accurately start each hole.

Step 4: Sand and paint (or paint)

Sand rough edges on each shelf in a well-ventilated area. Wipe off excess sawdust and then apply your favorite stain or paint. Depending on the aesthetic of your home, you can opt for white floating shelves or something more rustic like wooden floating shelves. The beauty of do-it-yourself painting? You’ll get a more personalized look than if you bought pre-made shelves from the store.

Get creative and use reclaimed wood or make floating pallet shelves for a weathered look. If you are applying stain, be sure to wipe off excess and let each coat dry until you achieve the desired finish. If you want your painted shelves to be glossy, finish them with polyurethane varnish. Let all parts dry completely.

Step 5: Hang the shelves

Once the shelves are dry, it’s time to install the fasteners. While you can find instructions online for making wood poles, these hardware make the process a bit easier and allow your floating shelves to carry more weight. Making your own wood supports can take a long time and go horribly wrong – a lack of precision can cause you to get to this step and the shelves won’t fit.

Decide where you want to place the shelves, mark and measure where you want to mount the wall mounts, following the instructions on the package. Use a level to make sure each shelf is level. After the fittings are fixed to the wall, insert the shelves (through the holes drilled in them) into place.

How to build simple floating shelves – Home ideas

DIY floating shelves.
Jennifer Bridgman

Floating shelves are a simple solution for adding extra wall storage while maintaining a clean, minimalist look. They also add interest to an empty wall and can be used to display framed paintings or decorative items.

Although the shelves may appear to be floating in the air, there is actually a hidden support that holds the shelf in place. In this tutorial, you will learn how to build a floating shelf using a support bracket that is finished on the top and sides to hide the support piece underneath.

Items You’ll Need

This material list is for two floating shelves, each about 36″ long:

  • (2) 2″ x 2″ x 3′ pine board
  • (2) 1″ x 4″ x 6′ Poplar Plank
  • (1) 1″ x 6″ x 6′ Poplar Plank
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • 1 1/2″ finishing or pin nails
  • Wood filler
  • Sanding block
  • Paint or stain
  • Miter saw
  • Search for stud
  • Construction gun
  • Electric screwdriver

Step 1. Select wood

Wood species.
Jennifer Bridgman

To make the floating shelves you will need three different types of wood: one for the base, one for the shelf itself and one for the front and side. Pressure-treated pine was used for the poles because it is strong and inexpensive. Poplar was used for shelves, facade and side cladding. If you’re going to be painting the shelves instead of painting them, you might want something with a more pronounced wood grain, such as oak.

Step 2: hang the supports

Attach the supports to the wall.
Jennifer Bridgman

Cut the 2″ by 2″ pine to your desired length – the pine was 36″ long, which is the length used in this project. Use a stud finder to locate the studs behind the wall and mark the locations. Position the pine board on the markup and drive 3-inch wood screws through the pine, being careful to go into the posts to secure it to the wall.

Step 3: Attach Shelves to Supports

Attach the shelves.
Jennifer Bridgman

Cut a 1″ by 6″ poplar exactly the same length as your pole. Place it over the wall support and attach by driving 1 1/2″ nails through the top of the board into the support piece below. Space the nails 6 to 9 inches apart along the entire length of the shelf.

Step 4: attach the side trims to the shelf

Attach the sides and front.
Jennifer Bridgman

Measure the sides and front of the shelf and cut the 1″ x 4″ boards to length. Use a miter saw to cut 45 degree corners. Remember that the length of the shelf must correspond to the length of the facing elements by inside the beveled corner, not the outer, more pointed side. Attach to shelf with 1 1/2″ nails or nails.

Step 5: Fill in the nail holes and paint

Paint the finished shelves.
Jennifer Bridgman

Fill nail holes and corner gaps with putty or putty. Let them dry, then sand and apply two coats of paint. This project used white semi-gloss latex paint.

Step 6: Decorate the shelves

Stylized shelves.
Jennifer Bridgeman

Once the paint is dry, it’s time to decide how you want to use your new shelves! Here are some inspirations: Bathroom: is great for storing extra rolls of toilet paper, towels or soap.