My family has been after me to get these floating shelves made for quite some time, but it gave me an idea.
What if I scale up each of my shelf designs to show you what that looks like so you know what you’re getting into.
So, what I’m going to do is show you 4 different ways to build a floating shelf ranging from the most basic DIY version all the way to custom built in shelves that you might design into a kitchen or pantry.
OK there’s a lot to do, so let’s get going.
Tools and Materials
Amana Countersink Drill Bit – https://amzn.to/44kJlv3
Stud Buddy – https://amzn.to/3DX4L6S
Shepherd Bracket – https://amzn.to/3qw2nRB
Wood Owl Bit (18”) – https://amzn.to/45dafX2
Right angle drill adapter – https://amzn.to/3OxTq22
Circular saw – https://amzn.to/456P5dc
Speed square – https://amzn.to/3OxSMSa
Palm Router – https://amzn.to/3QHWVpf
Round over Bit – https://amzn.to/3OZ6UVS
Chamfer Bit – https://amzn.to/44euD98
Level – https://amzn.to/3YFAvXy
Laser level – https://amzn.to/44sGv7H
12” f style clamps – https://amzn.to/45AzjqZ
Nail gun – https://amzn.to/3OFlZKR
LED Light strip – https://amzn.to/44dgJE7
LED Aluminum track – https://amzn.to/44emZvi
LED Jumper cables – https://amzn.to/44fLFDy
LED FCOB Controller/Dimmer – https://amzn.to/3P0ncOe
On/off button – https://amzn.to/3QFDBsT
12v Power Source – https://amzn.to/3QElfZe
Patch cable – https://amzn.to/3QJCvwg
AV cable management cover – https://amzn.to/3QHAb8U
Fish tape – https://amzn.to/3QKlTUV
8” pipe – https://homedepot.sjv.io/VmBNbA
Pipe cap – https://homedepot.sjv.io/g1gGAr
Flange – https://homedepot.sjv.io/XYONLo
*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.
Floating Shelves: Basic DIY Version
No matter your skill level or available tools there is a floating shelf you can make.
So, the first example of a floating shelf is going to be the most basic and accessible example requiring the fewest tools or special skills.
We’re going to start with our board. I’m using a 1×8 common pine board, this is about as cheap as you can go.
You can also use a 2×8 if you want a little bit beefier look or you can use a hardwood board like oak or maple if you want but those will be more expensive.
And the first thing I need to do is cut this to the size I am looking for.
You can use whatever method you have available to cut your board to the size shelf you want.
A miter saw will make the quickest work of this but a jig saw or circular saw and a square for a guide if that’s what you have.
And if you know your measurement going into the purchase, most home improvement centers can cut it for you right in the store.
OK, now I need to prep the board for finish which means sanding.
It’s a good idea to sand, even if just a little bit to remove any surface marks or factory markings from the board.
I would at least use 80 grit sandpaper and then move up to 120 grit, you may even want to go to 180 for an even smoother feel.
And If your board has sharp edges you may want to knock the front edges off the board so you don’t scrape yourself when you take things on and off the shelf and it gives it a little bit cleaner look.
The easiest way to do this is you can use your sander and take 3 to 4 quick swipes across the edge.
Keep the sander moving especially on soft pine otherwise you will sand a divot into the edge.
A little better way to do this is with a palm router and a round over bit.
This is a bit quicker and gives a more consistent edge but it’s OK if you don’t have a router just use the sander.
To attach this shelf to the wall we are going to use simple galvanized pipe fittings.
Each shelf bracket will be made of a flange an 8 inch length of pipe and a pipe cap and these just screw together like this.
This is all made from ½” hardware, you can go even thinner with 3/8” hardware or even up to ¾ or 1” if you want a beefier look, but they all go together the same way.
If you want to leave them as-is that’s fine but I suggest painting them, my daughter wanted gold, so that’s what I’m doing.
OK with our board cut and sanded now’s the time to add whatever finish you want.
I’m painting this one white, but you could stain it, clear coat it, whatever look you want.
Installing Basic Floating Shelves
To attach this to the wall, you’ll need at least 2 of these but depending on the length of the shelf you may need additional supports to keep it from sagging.
The main thing you’ll need to be able to do when installing any of these shelves is you’ll have to locate the studs in your walls.
This is a stud buddy and it works by using magnets to locate the screws in your drywall.
Wherever you find a screw, that’s where a stud will be because the drywall screws are always go into the studs.
You can mark your stud location and then repeat that finding all the studs that are located behind where your shelf will be going.
These flanges have 4 holes, you’ll want to use the top and bottom holes to fasten for the best chance making a solid connection with the stud.
Then use a level to make the next bracket the same height.
nd repeat with the rest of your brackets.
One tip here is to try and make use of all the studs located behind the shelf, especially if you plan on adding heavier items.
This will do the best job of supporting the shelf.
One thing that can happen with these cheaper pine boards is they can be a little wonky.
To solve for that, add these U shaped straps to fasten the shelf to the supports.
This will keep the shelf from sliding off the brackets and keep the shelf flat and looking nice.
That’s it! One basic floating shelf DONE!
Floating Shelves: Hidden Bracket Version
So that is the most basic kind shelf.
BUT, you may not like the look of the braces under the shelf. What if we move the braces from under the shelf to INSIDE the shelf and make it look like a true floating shelf.
To get this done we need to make a couple modifications and a couple new tools. Check this out.
For this version we need to abandon the thin shelf board and go with a board at least 1.5” thick like a 2×8
I’m actually going to be using ahard maple board because I like the look better.
I’ll do the exact same prep work that I did on the first shelf, cutting it to length sanding and softening the edges.
Now comes the new part
This is going to be our shelf bracket. This is my favorite type from Sheperd Brackets.
It has all these places where you can add screws along the length of it so you can hit all the studs behind your shelf no matter where they are.
These bars are welded on this whole thing is super strong.
And these bars are going to need to go inside the back of the shelf which means drilling some pretty deep holes.
To drill these I need to use a pretty large drill bit.
My favorite is this one from Wood Owl.
First, I need to locate where these holes need to go and I’m just going to use the bracket to mark them out.
I can mark the center line of the board and then drop my bracket on top and mark those locations.
And to help the bit get started straight the bracket comes with this guide.
I’m just taking my time and drilling these out little by little.
I have a piece of tape on the bit to act as a flag so I know when I reach my desired depth and don’t risk blowing through the other side.
This maple is pretty hard. If you’re using a 2×8 or other pine board this’ll go much faster.
Once I have all my holes drilled, I can test the fit.
It’s OK if there’s a little resistance because the braces may not be perfectly square to the bracket but it should fully seat like this with a couple taps from a mallet.
So, I could attach this to the wall as is, but if I did that there would be a small gap left between the shelf and the wall.
To get a seamless look where the shelf butts completely to the wall I need to create a recess in the back for the bracket to hide in.
The best way to create this recess is to mark out around the bracket and use a router bit or table saw to cut it out.
Now when I add the bracket back it sits in that little pocket and the shelf will be flush to the wall.
Installing Hidden Bracket Floating Shelves
OK, to install, use your favorite stud finding method to locate the studs, anchor the bracket to the wall using at least a 2 inch screw and a level to make sure everything is well, level.
Then just slide your shelf onto the brackets.
A little persuasion may be needed here so use a mallet and a scrap of wood to protect the shelf from damage.
For extra safety, it’s a good thing to add some screws to the least visible side of the shelf.
That will lock the shelf to the bracket and keep it from sliding off.
Now that is a truly seamless floating shelf!
Floating Shelves: The Basic Box Shelf
Those two styles of floating shelves are pretty easy to do and work really well for small-scale accent stuff like books or plants.
But sometimes you might want to build something even more beefy to cover a larger area or hold heavier items.
And what works really well in those cases is a box style floating shelf.
Like the name says these shelves are made by constructing a hollow box rather than relying on a single board.
The hollow box then slides over an inner framework which you attach to your wall to support the shelf.
If you’ve watched even a handful of floating shelf videos you’ve probably seen this done by cutting bevels on all these edges and gluing the whole thing into a seamless looking box
At least in theory that’s what will happen.
My personal experience with using this method is that it’s very frustrating and more times than not you’ll end up patching lots of gaps in the joints, especially these long ones. Using this method is very difficult to cut perfectly.
So I’ve got another way to do it that I think looks just as nice but is much less a headache to pull off and you’ll only end up mitering these two short sides.
The key to this method is to create the front facing edges out of solid wood and create almost an edge banding effect but with this little spacer in the middle that helps you define how thick your shelves will end up being.
Then you can use a cheaper material like plywood for the top and bottom and those plywood edges will be hidden from sight.
To make the front edge, I used my table saw to create a rabbet along each edge like this
I made the exact same cut on both sides.
On the last pass, I tilted my blade 2 degrees and that creates this slight angle which does 2 things for me.
It makes sure that this top edge will make contact with the plywood without interference.
Also when I go to glue this up it will encourage most of the glue to go down into this small pocket and not squeeze out all over the outside of the shelf.
Next I need to mark out where to cut these miters.
And those are easy enough to cut at the miter saw.
These miters are cut on both the front and side pieces.
And then they fit together like this.
But before I glue this up I’m going to show you how to make the bracket that goes inside.
This is really pretty simple.
I’m just going to cut a 2×4 into one long strip and 5 smaller support pieces.
Now I can fasten each short piece at even spacing to the long piece using 2 screws in each one.
One thing to keep in mind for this whole thing to work is that the thickness of this bracket needs to match the width of the spacer on the front trim that way everything fits properly.
and I can use the bracket as a support when I glue up the box.
to do that Just add glue to both rabbets and set the rabbet on the edge of the bottom plywood piece.
Then line up the mitered edges.
The box top should now fit into the rabbet at the top.
Once I have all sides in place I can add clamps. Lots of clamps.
Once the glue is dry I can clean up these edges.
If the front edge is proud of the surface, or has glue squeeze-out, hit it with the sander to make everything flush.
I make sure everything is sanded smooth and those edges look crispy crisp.
Once the glue is dry I can clean up these edges
If the front edge is proud of the surface, or has glue squeeze-out, hit it with the sander to make everything flush
I make sure everything is sanded smooth and those edges look crispy crisp.
Installing a Basic Box Shelf
Installing this bracket is exactly like installing the metal shepherd bracket.
Just find the studs, level it and anchor the bracket to the wall.
For this shelf I’m using 4” screws with washers since I have to go through the bracket, through the drywall and into the stud.
This will help make sure this stays nice and secure.
Once that’s done I can just slide the shelf over the bracket.
And secure it to the bracket with screws.
One tip for attaching these screws is If the shelf is up high like this one, add the screws to the top, if it’s down low then add the screws to the underside. Whichever side is the least visible is where you should add the screws.
And that’s one box shelf done!
Floating Shelves: Custom Built-In Box Shelves
Now that you’ve seen the basics for building a box shelf I’m going to turn things all the way up and show you how to do this in a custom built in application.
Here in my pantry, I’ve been slowly remodeling and adding storage options and I’m down to the final part of the project which is adding a set of wrap around shelves above this countertop.
Not only do they wrap around this whole side of the pantry but they are full 11” wide shelves that will need to hold a decent amount of weight.
I also added some bling and put LED lighting on the bottom of the lower shelf to brighten things up.
To make this happen I just need to add a couple more tricks to what I’ve already showed you.
So far in this video I’ve surface mounted my floating shelf brackets through the drywall and into the studs.
And that’s perfectly safe for shelves of that size, but as your shelf gets deeper and more things are stored on it you can create a good deal of leverage which can cause the shelf to begin to crush the drywall and the shelf can sag over time.
To get around this and create the strongest possible connection I’m actually going to remove a thin strip of drywall all the way around so I have direct access to the studs.
This is a fairly easy task but it can get quite messy with drywall dust so make sure to cover anything below so you don’t have to clean up that mess later.
I’m going to use a laser level to establish where my first cut needs to be and just use a utility knife, multi tool or a drywall saw to slowly work my way across the room.
Next I’m going to raise my laser line by 1.5” and repeat.
And then do that again for the second level shelf.
While I have this opening in the wall it’s a really good time to go ahead and fish the power cable for the LEDs.
I added a low voltage wall panel down here next to the power outlet which is kind of hard to show you but here’s what it looks like.
This way I can use the outlet that’s down here to power the lights.
These don’t need a stud and can attach directly to the drywall.
Building Sturdy Box Shelf Brackets
To build the support brackets for these shelves I’m upgrading from a 2×4 to hard wood.
This red oak will give the bracket more strength and rigidity.
Everything is still 1.5” and I’m building them the exact same way.
One tip here is to predrill all these holes because this wood is so much more dense.
Installing Built In Brackets for Floating Shelves
OK back upstairs these brackets should just slip into the cuts I made in the drywall and touch the studs.
Then I can make a mark on the brackets where the studs are so I can pre drill and then sink the screws.
I’m doing the brackets on the sides first because it makes sense where the studs in the wall are located.
Your situation may be different and you can adjust how these brackets go together and connect to the studs in the wall.
Once I have the middle bracket screwed in I can tie it to the side brackets.
That way everything is one solid structure and I’m allowing all the studs to work together to hold this up.
Also I made sure to drill a hole in the back to let the power cable come through and into the shelf.
OK, so the shelves themselves will be built using the same method that I used in my previous example but this time I’m going to assemble everything right in here on the brackets piece by piece.
The long top panel gets fastened to the bracket using screws or brad nails.
The bottom panel will be the same but first I need to add the LED strips.
Floating Shelves: Adding LED Lights
My LEDs are held inside these aluminum tracks that fasten to the underside using clips.
These tracks will protect the LEDs from damage.
Now I can lay the first LED strip into place.
These have an adhesive backing so this is pretty easy.
Because this LED strip was 16 ft long, I cut it to length right at these copper terminals.
That allows me to run a second row of LEDs for even more light.
To reconnect the strips they make these jumper wires with plastic clips that clamp onto the terminals so its like this is one long strip of LEDs again and can still be run off of one power source.
Putting a bend in LEDs is not good for them so this is a much better solution.
After testing that my splice works I can add these diffusor strips which will soften the light and protect the LEDs as well.
There needs to be a hole on one end to allow the power connector to go inside the shelf.
As well as a hole for a touch pad on/off switch.
Once I have the bottom installed, I run the power connector through the hole into this cavity in the shelf.
Then I can add the control unit that provides all the functionality of the lights
Now I can add the on/off switch.
I love how all this is plug and play, no soldering or wire nuts needed and it’s super quick.
Then I can grab the power extension cable from the back and run it to the switch.
After I test that everything is working correctly, I can continue on with the install.
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
Installing the Remaining Shelves
The side shelves go on next and I pre-assembled these in the shop.
These are made the same way I made the first box shelf the only difference being one of the sides is open ended so it can connect to the back shelf seamlessly.
Those just slide over the brackets and get nailed into place.
I made sure to pay attention to these seams before I added the nails so everything was tight and flush.
The last step is to add the front edge banding to the middle.
I’m making this a friction fit install because I want to have access to the electronics inside the shelf in case something goes wrong down the road and something needs replaced.
Then I can repeat that entire process minus the LEDs to create the second level of shelving.
Well these definitely look amazing but lets check their strength.
Oh yeah this is going to be great.
And the LEDs will provide some good light over the counter.
AMAZING addition to my pantry storage!