DIY Floating Shelves | Christene Holder Home
How to Make Easy Plywood Wrapped Floating Shelves For Your Home
Floating shelves are a great design solution for any home because of their simple and functional design. They allow you to add storage to small spaces, where floor space might be lacking, while still looking beautiful.
Floating shelves get their name because they look like they’re floating on the wall. Unlike traditional wall shelves that use visible brackets, the supports for floating shelves are hidden inside of the shelves.
This gives floating shelves a more modern, streamlined look. And because of their simple design, they can fit in with almost every decor style.
You can find a reason to add a floating shelf to just about any room of your home.
Ben’s office was lacking in storage space. He had an existing small bookshelf in the room that he was using for storing his books and displaying meaningful items.
But his bookshelf was starting to get pretty full, and just wasn’t working in the space anymore.
I’ve always loved the look of floating shelves and knew that I wanted to include them somewhere in our home.
When Ben said he wanted some more storage in his office, I knew floating shelves would be the perfect solution!
If you want floating shelves in your home, you can buy pre-built versions from different home improvement stores or even big box stores.
However, if you want to cover an entire wall with shelves, buying pre-build ones can get really expensive.
The best, and most budget friendly way to get whole wall of floating shelves is to build them yourself.
We added floating shelves to our home in Ben’s office for under $150 total!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Materials & Tools for Building Floating Shelves
Materials for Floating Shelves
- 8’ 2×4 wood studs
- 1/8” thick 4’x8’ birch finishing plywood sheets
- wood glue
- 2. 5” Kreg pocket screws
- 3” drywall screws
- 2.5” drywall screws
- Minwax grey tinted stain
- Minwax satin finish polyurethane
Tools for Floating Shelves
- Miter Saw
- Brad Nailer
- Kreg K4 Jig
- Razor saw
- Measuring tape
- Stud Finder
- Combination square
- Block plane
- #0000 Steel Wool
- 220 Grit Sandpaper
- Foam brushes
How to Make Floating Shelves
Floating Shelves Design Plan
Before starting our DIY project, we created a design plan for the space. In order to maximize the storage space, we decided to build a full wall of floating bookshelves.
Ben sketched an initial design plan on graph paper to get a general layout for the wall shelves.
Graph paper is so helpful when creating a project design plan because you can draw your ideas to scale. Each of the squares in our design plan was 3″.
Using this reference point, we could see how large each of the shelves would be on the wall.
How to Determine the Number of Floating Shelves
To figure out how many shelves will fit on a wall, you need to measure the entire wall and divide the space accounting for the thickness of the shelves you plan to build.
We planned for our shelves to be 3″ thick. The overall wall measured 8′ x 6′.
Using these measurements, we decided there would be 6 shelves, each 12″ apart. There would also be 9″ below the bottom shelf and above the top shelf.
We decided that our shelves would be 9″ deep. This would give us enough room for books, collectibles, and other decor without taking up too much space in the room.
Designing Floating Shelves
Ben wanted to leave space for his 3D printed in the bottom left section of the wall, so we shortened the overall length of the bottom 3 shelves.
To keep everything looking balanced, we also shortened the 5th shelf and created a 2’ space on the right side. We decided that this would be a good place to put taller decorations and add some visual interest to the wall.
Cutting Wood for Floating Shelves
Using your design plan, you can determine how large each floating shelf will be. Then you can create a cut list for your shelves.
A cut list is just a list you create of all the sizes of pieces you need for your project. For the shelves, you will want to list all of the shelf lengths that you need.
Once you have the measurements on your cut list, you can use a miter saw to cut the wood studs to the correct sizes.
Cut a quantity of 2 of each shelf length from the 2×4 wood studs. One of these pieces will be the back board for the shelf and the other will be the front board.
Preparing the Wall for Floating Book Shelves
After we had a finalized layout for the shelves, we used a measuring tape and a pencil to mark the location of the top and sides of each shelf location on the wall.
Can You Hang a Shelf Without a Stud?
Next, we used a stud finder to locate the wall studs and mark the location of each one.
I recommend hanging floating shelves from wall studs for the most secure installation.
Some websites like Wikihow claim that you can install floating shelves without studs, however I never recommend this. Especially when your shelves are spanning a whole wall like this without side supports.
Without installing directly into studs, you run the risk of your shelves sagging over time. And if you plan on using your shelves to hold heavier items like books, they might not be able to support the weight.
I recommend that each of your floating shelves should span at least 2 studs.
Installing the Back Board for Floating Shelves
With the wall prepared and marked for the shelf locations, the next step is to start installing the back boards.
The back boards are pieces of the 2×4 wood studs that you cut previously to the length of each shelf.
Start at the bottom and hold each shelf back board piece up to the pencil marks on your wall. Make sure they line up with your shelf locations according to your plan.
Using the marks you made for the studs as a guide, mark each stud location directly on the wood back board piece.
Then, take the back board piece and drill pilot holes into the wood where you marked the stud locations. Pilot holes are just smaller holes drilled through the material to act as a guide for installation later.
Next, use 3″ drywall screws to attach the back board shelf pieces to the wall. Make sure to use a level when lining up your back board piece, and double check that the shelf location matches your pencil marks on the wall.
Repeat this process until all of your back board pieces are installed on the wall.
Floating Shelves Support Pieces
Once all of the back boards are in place, it’s time to start installing the support pieces for each floating shelf.
These supports are necessary to get the floating shelf look without needing visible brackets.
We decided that having a support piece located every 8” was enough to support our shelves.
How Many Shelf Supports Will You Need?
To determine the number of support pieces needed for your floating shelves, first measure the length of each shelf. Then, divide the shelf length by 8 to get the number of support pieces needed for that shelf.
To determine the depth of your support pieces, you need to do a little bit of math.
Since the back board of the shelves is 1.5″ thick, and the front board will also be 1.5″ thick, you need to cut your support pieces to be 3″ less than your overall shelf depth.
Because we had decided earlier that the shelves would be 9” deep, we needed to cut our support pieces to 6” in length. This is taking into account the 3″ for the thickness of the back board and front board.
Cutting Wood for Floating Shelf Supports
Once you have the measurements for your support pieces, and the quantity needed for all of your shelves, you can start cutting.
Using a miter saw, cut each shelf support pieces from the 2×4 wood studs.
For our shelves, we cut 34 support pieces.
Pocket Holes Using a Kreg Jig
To attach the support pieces to the back boards of your shelves, I recommend using pocket holes. Pocket holes allow you to join two pieces of wood together in a clean, and strong method.
Pocket holes are ideal for floating shelves because they create a strong joint between the two wood pieces, adding durability to your wall shelves.
You can easily drill pocket holes using a Kreg Jig. This tool will guide you for the placement of the pocket hole and help you drill it correctly.
If you aren’t familiar with this tool, you can read all about how to use a Kreg Jig here.
The Kreg Jig seems like a complicated tool, but it comes with really easy instructions and only took us 5 minutes to setup.
The best part about it is how quick and easy it makes drilling pocket holes. We were able to drill pocket holes in all 34 support pieces in 20 min!
Follow the instructions for the Kreg Jig and set it to a 1.5″ wood thickness. Then drill your pocket holes in each of the shelf support pieces.
After drilling your pocket holes, each support piece should look like the piece in the picture below.
Installing Shelf Supports for Floating Shelves
To attach the shelf supports to the back board pieces you will need to use the Kreg pocket screws.
Line up each shelf support piece with the back board on the wall. Then use a drill to drive the pocket screws through the support piece and into the back board.
Install your shelf support pieces every 8″ along the back board piece that’s attached to the wall.
Installing the Front Board for Floating Shelves
The final step to complete your floating shelf frame is to install the front boards.
The front boards were cut earlier and are the same length as each back board.
To install the front boards, you will need 2.5″ drywall screws. You will use 2 screws for each support piece along the length of the shelf.
First, mark the location of the edge support pieces onto your front piece. To do this, measure 3/4″ in from the edge of the front board piece and draw a line using a pencil. We used a combination square for this step.
This line is the center line for support piece that will be behind the front board.
Drill 2 pilot holes through the front piece along that line.
Repeat this process for the support piece at the other edge of the shelf.
Then, attach the front board to the edge support pieces using 2.5″ drywall screws.
Once the front board is held in place by the screws on either end, you can then to attach the front board to each of the middle support pieces.
Use a combination square to draw a pencil line at the center of each intersection of the front board and the support piece.
Then drill two pilot holes through the front board but make sure you stop right before the drill goes into the support piece.
You don’t want to drill all the way through to the support piece because the screw won’t have anything to grab onto.
Next, attach the front board to each of the middle support pieces with 2. 5″ drywall screws.
Repeat this process for each of your floating wall mounted shelves. Now you have a completed frame for each shelf.
To clean up the shelf frames, trim and flatten all of the joints with the block plane, razor saw, and sandpaper to make everything level.
Plywood Wrap for Floating Shelves
Next, it’s time to cover the installed shelf frames. This will hide the support pieces and create the look of floating shelves.
To create this look, you will wrap each of the shelves in plywood.
We purchased large plywood sheets for this project from our local home improvement store. These pieces were very large, so we started by cutting them down into more manageable sized strips. Each strip was slightly larger than our shelves, measuring about 8′ long and 12″ deep.
Once you have your plywood ready, you will need to mark the exact size of your shelves.
Use a measuring tape to measure each shelf. Then, use a pencil to mark a link on your plywood at that length.
Use a razor saw to cut the plywood sheet to the overall length of your shelf.
After the plywood sheet is cut to size, use wood glue and a brad nailer to attach it to the top of your shelf frame.
To get a perfect fit, you should cut the depth of the plywood after it’s attached to the frame.
After your plywood sheet has been attached to the frame, use a razor saw to flush-cut the plywood against the front board of your shelf.
Repeat this process the wrap the bottom of each shelf frame with plywood.
Again, use a razor saw to flush-cut the plywood to the correct depth once it’s already been installed on the shelf frame.
Use this same method to wrap the sides of each shelf frame with plywood.
Finally, wrap the front of the shelf frame with plywood using the same method.
Make sure to wrap the front in plywood last. You want the front piece to cover all of the other plywood edges and create a more seamless look.
Repeat this process for all of your shelf frames until everything has been wrapped in plywood.
Finishing the Floating Shelves
After all of the floating shelves are wrapped with plywood, you will want to sand everything down so there are no sharp edges. Make sure all of the plywood is smooth.
Use 220 grit sandpaper for a super smooth finish.
After sanding, wipe all the shelves down with a damp cloth to get rid of the dust.
Staining Floating Shelves
To finish your floating shelves, you can either stain or paint them.
For Ben’s office bookshelves, we decided to stain the shelves so that we could still see the wood grain.
We tested a few stain samples using some scrap plywood that we had leftover. We eventually settled on a grey tinted stain from Minwax.
Tinted stains are great because they have a variety of different color options. But if you want a more natural wood look, use a regular wood stain.
To stain to your floating shelves, use a foam brush and brush on thin coats of the stain. Then, use a paper towel to wipe away the stain.
Work on one side of each shelf at a time, coating the entire surface, and then wiping off the stain. This will allow enough time for the stain to soak into the wood without getting too dark.
When you are staining wood, it’s important to wipe off excess before it dries. This is why we recommend working in sections instead of staining all the shelves at once.
Once the stain has dried, lightly sand everything again in preparation for the polyurethane. Make sure to use a damp cloth again to wipe off all of the dust.
We chose a satin finish polyurethane because we didn’t want a high gloss look.
Using another foam brush, apply the polyurethane in one thin coat over all the surfaces and let it dry for 3-4 hours.
After the first coat is dry, lightly sand all the surfaces again and Use a damp cloth to remove all of the dust.
Then, apply a second, final coat of polyurethane using a foam brush.
Let your floating shelves dry completely overnight.
After the second coat had dried, there were some areas of our shelves that looked a little glosser than we wanted.
To tone down any glossy spots on your shelves, use some #0000 steel wool to lightly buff some of the gloss away.
Finally, touch up any wall paint around your floating shelves.
Decorating the Floating Shelves
To decorate the floating book shelves in Ben’s office, we used a mix of books and meaningful items.
Ben needed storage primarily for books, and extra space to add more books in the future. So we arranged his existing books around the different shelves.
Then to balance the books, we added in collectibles, and memorable items to add a personal touch to his space.
Now that Ben has shelves covering the entire wall, there is so much more storage. It feels less cluttered because nothing is crammed together on his desk or small bookshelf anymore.
He finally has room for all of his books and can actually access them easily now.
Final Thoughts on DIY Floating Shelves
Floating shelves are a great way to add storage and style to any room of your home. By creating a full wall of shelves, we were able to give Ben much needed extra space. As well as a way to display personal items as well.
You can make floating shelves for any room of your home on a budget. They can completely transform a space and create a huge impact.
These shelves made such a difference in Ben’s office and I was surprised at how much storage we got for how much we spent on the materials. For under $150 we were able to create completely custom wall mounted shelves.
I hope that this project inspires you to add some floating shelves in your own home.
Related Floating Shelves Posts
- IKEA Lack Floating Shelves in the Living Room
- Updated Wall Book Shelves Ben’s Office
Cheap DIY Floating Shelves
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
- 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).
- Impact driver (optional, but I love not having to switch bits with the drill)
- Brad nailer
- Flush cut saw
- 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!
Do-it-yourself floating shelves
One day my wife needed shelves in her shared bathroom. I didn’t really like the plastic and metal items that were offered in the stores, so I decided to rummage through my stock in the garage. I liked a few scraps of wood, which were quite useful for simple work. The material was well dried and strong enough for the manufacture of a supporting structure. A little ingenuity and imagination, a good tool and hands familiar to carpentry work – all that was required to fulfill the request.
Making the shelves
According to my idea, it took something like a narrow hollow box, which had to be securely attached to a concrete wall. To do this, I took two identical boards for the sides of the box, which were supposed to play the role of the upper and lower surfaces of the shelf. I inserted two bars on the sides, and closed the structure with a suitable rail from the end.
Then I needed a secure fixing to the wall. For this, a long bar came up, which had to be attached to the wall. I screwed four blocks to this part, which played the role of small consoles. To prevent the blocks from splitting, I drilled guide holes in them for self-tapping screws.
Installing the wall mount
The next step required a hammer drill with a concrete drill bit and a screwdriver. I made markings on the wall for drilling holes for dowels. First, I drilled the guides so that the tool would not move to the side. With one of the sides secured, I used a spirit level to make sure the hole for the second dowel would be drilled in exactly the right place. Important! The dowel must be paired with a screw, and the diameter of the drill is such that the plastic enters the hole tightly with its edges after a slight blow with a hammer. Do not forget about the depth of the hole, which should be a couple of millimeters deeper than the length of the dowel.
Installing the shelf
It remains to put this long thin box on the mounting structure. The shelf should be put on the frame tightly enough, but without excessive force. When the structure fits on the frame with difficulty, carefully work out the consoles and the horizontal bar with sandpaper or a needle file. If possible, it is allowed to do this with the inner surface of the box. If any of the consoles is too long, you will have to remove the excess, and when the wall in the bathroom is fairly even, the edge of the shelf will fit very tightly with it. To hide the trim nail heads that were used to hold the main planks and other pieces together, I used a special wood glue mixed with fine wood dust. So I made two shelves and placed them one above the other. Previously, my wife and I discussed the distance between the shelves so that it turned out to be optimal. It remains to screw the bottom shelf to the mount from below, and the top shelf – from above, so that the heads of the screws are not visible. As a result, the shelves turned out to be exactly the same in size, and the arrangement turned out to be symmetrical.
Before installing the shelves, I sanded and polished them with a special beeswax compound. This gave the products the most natural look. There was a little bit of wood left, so using L-brackets, I attached one piece over the toilet paper holder to keep it from unwinding.
A minimum of time and materials spent – and a completely acceptable result was obtained. Of course, not a masterpiece, but I know for sure that my wife was pleased.
Original article in English
Floating shelves can be easily installed on a tiled wall without special equipment. The method is perfect for the bathroom or kitchen | Lifestyle
When it came to designing our bathroom, I thought about where to store flowers and interior decorations. I didn’t want to spoil the view with regular shelves, so I turned my attention to open ones. The so-called floating shelves do not have visible fasteners and seem to “float” in the air – it looks very beautiful from the side.
Floating shelves are very popular these days and there are many different ways to install them. If you don’t plan to put something heavy on them, then the method described in this article is perfect for you.
We have already used it in our apartment when we installed a floating shelf above the bathtub. In that case, there were no tiles, but we used other tricks to hide the seams and create an attractive look.
Materials and tools you will need
- Wooden shelf as wide as your wall. If it is too short, then you can connect several parts.
- Extra strong sealant.
- Latikret waterproofing or equivalent.
- Wet sponge.
The wood we used for our floating shelf was 2.5 x 10 cm. Don’t use a shelf that is too wide as it will be more difficult to attach with sealant alone.
How to install floating shelf
- Glue the tiles to where you want to place your shelf.
- Prepare the wood by cutting it to the desired width and thickness, then painting it in your favorite color. I used a shade of dark walnut.
- Add a layer of adhesive to the top edge of your tiles and to the back of the shelf that will be attached to the wall.
- Place the wood on the desired area and press firmly. Follow the instructions on the package. For greater strength, it is better to support the shelf with beams for another day. You can do this without equipment, but if you have special tools, then the work will go faster.
- Use waterproofing to fill any gaps along the top edge between wood and tile. Good advice – use your finger to properly fill in all the gaps. A spatula can also be used, but is usually less effective.
- Wipe wood and wall with a wet sponge to remove excess material.
- Finish the tile by laying the next row straight on top. In our case, the bathroom was conditionally divided into two parts by a shelf, so we decided to choose tiles of different colors.
- Add another coat of sealant where the tile meets the wood, if necessary. This will give the surface a cleaner look after you’re done.
Interior Floating Shelf
As you can see, it’s actually quite a simple process. But this won’t work on floating kitchen shelves if you have to put plates and other heavy things on them.
This is a great option if you want to add more accents to your space but don’t want to waste your time drilling through the walls. We put a framed poster and houseplant on our shelf, their weight was never a problem. Once everything is dry, pull the tree down – and you will understand how safe the design is. It will never fall off if you handle it right.
How to Install Heavy Duty Kitchen Floating Shelves
Installing floating kitchen shelves requires more than just sealant. The secret is simple: you need to purchase hidden floating shelf brackets. They are not cheap, but advantageously transform the space of the room. The brackets have hanging rails, and you need to position the shelf supports in the wall.