DIY Floating Shelf Tutorial
One of the easiest and most impactful projects I've done for my home (and others' homes) is built my own floating shelves. They are beautiful, functional, greatly increase storage and add decor to a space, and are really inexpensive to make, especially when you compare them to the cost of store bought shelves!
Let's take a look at what you will need to make these kinds of shelves. Note that these shelves are wedged in between 2 walls, so we are not building a box to fit over the braces. Instead, we are just sandwiching the braces between the pieces of plywood and then putting a face cover over the front it.
First, gather your materials for your braces you will be building.
In addition to these materials, the tools I recommend for this project also include a miter saw, and if you are unable to have your plywood cut at the store then either a circular saw or table saw.
To make your brace pieces you will need to cut a 2x2 to the measurement you want for the length of your shelf. My shelves were 34" long, so I cut my 2x2 brace 33.75" long. When you know the depth you want your shelf to be you will cut the support pieces that length minus 1.5". For example, my shelves are 12" deep, so I cut my support pieces to be just a hair under 10.5". This is to make sure your plywood shelf pieces will fit completely over the brace.
Be sure when you are using your Kreg jig your settings are for 1.5" thick wood and your collar (on your drill bit) is also set for 1.5". Drill down until the metal collar hits the top of the jig.
Drill your pocket hole. Add wood glue. Clamp your brace and screw it together.
When you are done building your brace it should look like this (specific to your dimensions though).
Based on the length I wanted my shelf I decided to give my brace 5 supports on it. Always put 2 on the very ends so you can secure those into the wall as well from the side. This helps keep your shelf level as well. Then I even spaced the other three braces out. My suggestion is have a brace every 12 inches or less for your shelf.
You've successfully built your brace! That's the hardest part! NOTE: if you do not have a Kreg jig you can also make these using wood glue and countersinking your wood screws. The Kreg jig is useful at making the connection between the two pieces of wood stronger by screwing in at an angle rather than separating the grains of the wood and screwing straight in with a regular wood screw. If you can, try to angle your wood screw slightly for a better grip on the wood.
Now you can move on to the shelf part. For these shelves I use two pieces of 1/2" maple plywood and a 1x3" piece of premium pine. Fortunately Lowe's was able to cut the plywood into the EXACT measurements I needed, so I didn't have to cut anything at home. If I had to cut my own plywood I would use either a circular saw or my table saw for it.
Lightly sand each piece of plywood with 220 grit or higher sandpaper before staining. Choose the color stain of your choice and use a rag, stain pad or moist sponge to apply the stain. I highly suggest wearing gloves for this. You'll also want to stain your premium pine pieces, these will be the front face piece of your shelf.
*NOTE: Do NOT cut your face pieces (the 1x3's) exactly the same length as your plywood pieces. These are the covers and you want them to be as snug to the wall as possible. I guarantee your wall isn't straight and some shelves may be + or - 1/4" than in others in certain spots. You'll want to cut these face pieces to be about 1/2" longer than your plywood. For this I use my miter saw. When I go to install the face pieces I measure and cut them each individually for one shelf at a time.
If you feel like you've got a lot of momentum at this point you can install your braces while your shelf pieces are drying. I know personally I feel SO accomplished when I can actually start and finish something in the same day!
To install your braces I suggest a stud finder, or knocking on the wall to listen for the stud if your stud finder randomly stops working, like mine did. You'll also want at least 3" long screws, preferably NOT countersinking screws, your drill and a level.
It is easiest to start drilling your screws into your wood brace piece while it's still on the ground. Just get it started enough that they don't fall out when you hold it up. Then, finish screwing your first screw into the stud. Check to make sure it is level, then add your second screw to the other side. You'll want to screw in the two side braces on the ends as well for extra stability and to keep the shelf from tilting downward. Always check for level after each step!
Once your brace is secure and shelf pieces are dry you are ready to add your top shelf piece on using a brad nailer. *Make sure your nails are 1 1/2" long or less. Nail along the outsides, back, and middle brace pieces. Once the top is secure clamp the bottom shelf piece to the brace and continue brad nailing it on just like you did the top piece.
Once both the top and bottom shelf pieces are attached you are ready to add your face trim piece. Here is where I like to measure again to make sure the piece is EXACTLY the width between the two walls. Cut your piece using a miter saw and attach it to the front of your shelf. Nail this piece into the five 2x2 brace pieces.
I use clamps for this step as well. Clamps are amazing. They act as an extra set of hands and bring your pieces closer and tighter together when you nail them in place. I highly recommend using them if you have them!
YOU DID IT! YOU BUILT A FLOATING SHELF!
If you are making more than one floating shelf make sure you have enough room above or below to nail your top and bottom boards onto it. For these shelves I did for my inlaws I had to nail the top board on before putting the brace in place because my nail gun was too big to fit in between them. It worked out, but it was definitely a little more difficult to do it this way.
Look at how much more useful this nook became once I added shelves in here! And, they look so good too!
These are the shelves I made for my bathroom and I LOVE them! They are so much more functional than the small little cabinet I had in here before.
I hope this tutorial is helpful to you. I know it's a lot, but I am always here if you have questions!
Thank you for being here! Make sure to follow my Instagram @Erilee.Designs where I show these tips in my stories and save the to my highlight reels!
Love Your Home,