How to build the easiest floating shelves

Beginner level DIY project tutorial

Floating shelves are such an easy was to add function and flexibility to any space, and they are so versatile. I can see these work in a closet, a pantry, an entryway or an office to display books. They would be perfect the bathroom for small storage or in a kid’s room above the bed! They are easy and inexpensive to recreate, making it the perfect project for any level of DIY skills!

Our basement had this blank space above the sink in the bar area, that was a perfect spot for some floating shelves.

This space is a little awkward and hard to reach, so the purpose of the shelves would be mostly decorative. Also, since this is a bar area, right would be a good spot to keep things away from little hands.

I started by marking the location of the shelves, making sure I had enough space both off the counter and between the two of them to store bottles, glasses and decor items.

Materials needed

  • 1/2″ plywood
  • 1″x2″ boards (for brackets)
  • Circular saw or table saw
  • Wood glue, wood filler
  • Sanding paper and sander (optional, sanding can be done by hand)
  • Level
  • Screwdriver and wood screws (to secure the brackets to the wall studs)
  • Stain (if staining) or paint and favorite top coat

Once the location was decided, I grabbed some 1×2 scrap wood from the garage and built the brackets for my shelves. The size of these will depend on the space you have available and the depth of the shelves you want. I went with 23″ in length and 7″ wide, planning to have my shelves extend about an inch past the brackets in each direction. I cut each piece using my miter saw (can definitely be done with a hand saw) and attached with some 2″ wood screws.

Next, mark the wall studs and make sure the brackets are attached right into the studs. I used 4″ wood screws, two for each wall stud, to make sure my brackets were as sturdy as possible.

After that, it was time to build my shelves. I used one sheet of 2’x4′ plywood. I decided t go with 1/2″ thickness to keep the shelves on the lighter side. My measurements were 24″ long and 8″ deep. I cut the plywood using my table saw, first with straight cuts just to fit the measurements. Next, I beveled, or cut at 45 degree angle, the sides that will come together to make the corners of the shelves. This can definitely be done with a circular saw, if that is what you have. I’ve used my circular saw to make 45 degree cuts and felt like it was relatively easy and gave me enough control and precision.

Here are the sides and the from of the shelves, lined face up on my kitchen counter, since this is the most flat surface I could think of.

Next, tape along and across the seams to make sure the pieces stay together, and flip the whole assembly over.

It will look like this on the other side after it’s turned upside down. See those beveled cuts? They come together to make nice crips edges of your shelves!

Use wood glue across the mitered edges, and then fold the whole assembly to make a shelf, just like you see me doing in the next photo!

Painter’s tape will help hold the pieces tightly together. Run your finger inside the seam to clean up excess glue. You may need to use a small finishing nail if you find that the pieces are not staying tightly together. I didn’t have that problem, and just using the glue was enough to keep everything together. Let the glue set over the next several hours, or up to overnight.

I added the side piece using the same technique – beveled edges, glue and painter’s tape to keep in place. Depending on your placement of the shelves, you may need two side pieces. In my case, there was only one side that is visible, since the other edge of the shelves comes up against the wall.

Next, let me show you this little trick I wish I knew sooner! If your boards are not fitting perfectly and you’re finding small spaces between them, just run the edge of a screwdriver right over the seam. After you sand it lightly, the space closes right up!

After your shelves are glued and dry, it’s time to finish them up! But first, let’s try them out to make sure they fit on the wall brackets.

Next, wood fill any gaps or nail holes you might have, sand, stain and apply topcoat to finish your project! I used this wood filler, then sanded everything down with 80 Grit then 220 Grit sandpaper. I’ve shared this stain product before, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s water based, so you can use it inside the house, it doesn’t have the same heavy smell as the oil-based products. The results are always reliably good, and there are so many colors to chose from!

Finally, the shelves are ready to be installed!

They slide right over the brackets, and I secured them with a couple of finishing nails.

And here is the finished product! I can’t wait to style them and find just the right pieces to display here to make this corner or our basement come to life!

I hope you give this DIY project a try! It’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to add function, personality and style to a boring corner or wall, it requires minimal equipment, beginner level skills, is inexpensive and so rewarding!

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