Build Floating Shelves Like a Pro

Need a weekend project? Look no further than these DIY floating shelves. We've broken the process down into small steps to make building floating shelves easier than ever.

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Simple and chic, floating wall shelves are a timeless trend. They appear to "float" on the wall with no support, and they bring smooth, straight lines into any room. Try a floating shelf in the kitchen to support glassware, or opt for one in the bathroom to store extra linens. 

Floating shelves can also be DIY-ed. It may take some time, but the end result is well worth it. The following tutorial introduces you to DIY shelving and shows you how to build a floating shelf. 

Cute Floating Shelf Ideas

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What You Need

  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Nail gun
  • Carpenter square
  • Drill with screws
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • White paint
  • 4" paint roller
  • Wood putty
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Pencil

Cut List

  • (6) 3 x 9-1/2 x 1/2-inch MDF
  • (6) 10 x 36 x 1/2-inch MDF
  • (3) 3 x 36 x 1/2-inch MDF
  • (12) 2-7/8 x 8 x 3/4-inch Pine or Poplar
  • (6) 2-7/8 x 34-7/8 x 3/4-inch Pine or Poplar

How to Make Brackets

Step 1: Build Bracket Frame

Lay out two 2-7/8 x 8-inch boards and 2-7/8 x 34-7/8 pine boards to make a rectangle shape. Glue and clamp the 2 shorter boards to the ends of one of the long boards. Use a carpenter square in the corner to make sure the corners are 90 degrees. Let dry and then nail together.

Step 2: Finish Rectangle

Glue the final long piece to the "U" shape you just made, making sure to align the edges. Use a carpenter square to make sure it is square. Clamp, let dry and nail.

Step 3: Insert Support

Measure 10-5/8 inches from the inside of the short edge and then place 2-7/8 x 8-inch board. Place the final short piece 10-5/8 inches from the edge of the piece just placed. Glue pieces, clamp, let dry and then nail.

How to Build Shelves

Step 1: Build Shelf Frame

Take one 3x9-1/2-inch MDF piece and glue to end of 3x36-inch MDF piece to make a an "L" shape. Make sure the edges line up and put a carpenter square on the inside of the "L" to make sure it's a 90 degree angle. Clamp pieces together—shifting boards if necessary to make sure the edges stay aligned and maintain a 90 degree corner. Let dry for about 15 minutes.

Step 2: Finish Shelf Frame

Glue another 3x9-1/2-inch piece to the opposite end that you just worked on. Repeat the process of clamping and squaring up. 

Once the boards have had 15 minutes to set, put a nail at top and bottom of each end to secure the boards together. 

How to Turn Cabinets into Floating Shelves

Step 3: Attach Top of Shelf

Put a little glue on top of the short sides of the "U" just created. Place one of the 10x36-inch boards on top of the "U" shape. Align the edges of the boards and make sure the angles stay 90 degrees. Clamp and let sit for 15 minutes to tack, then put a nail through the top corners into the side boards below to attach. 

Step 4: Attach Bottom of Shelf

Flip over structure and repeat the above step. Once done, the shelf cover should be completed. 

Step 5: Sand and Paint

Sand whole shelves and sand any edges down that aren't quite aligned. Dust off all sand dust and prime and paint. Wait recommended time to dry completely before installing shelves. 

How to Hang Floating Shelves

Step 1: Mark Shelves

Look at your wall and plan where you want your shelves to go. Once you have an idea, use a level to mark a straight line across your wall. Make sure the line is the same length of the shelves and each line is spaced evenly. 

Step 2: Find Wall Studs

Use a stud finder to locate the nearest wall studs. Wall studs are traditionally 16 to 24-inches apart and are easy to find with the right tools. Mark on your line where the wall studs are located. 

Step 3: Drill Pilot Holes

Measure on the wall where the studs are in relation to the line. Transfer that measurement to the shelf bracket and mark where the screws should go. Use the power drill to make pilot holes at the location of the studs. 

Step 4: Attach Bracket

Hold the shelf bracket up to the wall at your marked line. You may want a partner to help with this step. Drive nails through the pilot holes you created on the bracket and into the wall studs. 

Step 5: Insert Shelf

Finally, slide the floating shelf onto the wall cleat. If built correctly, the shelf should slide right up to the wall and stay put without any extra nails or glue. 

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