Everything You Need to Know to Build Your Own Floating Shelves

DIY bracketless shelving is a stylish and budget-friendly way to accessorize your home. Here's our easy guide for how to building your own.

DIY floating shelves with plant, artwork, books
Photo: Caylin Harris

Who needs built-ins when you can create your own storage instead? A stunning way to display books, photos, or personal items, floating wall shelves not only look good, they don't require much space. It's a win for rooms that are short on square footage—you can utilize vertical space instead. These floating shelves will help you add personality and interest to a room by allowing you to show off your favorite books, curios, and plants.

DIY floating shelves are an easy woodworking project for someone who feels comfortable using power tools, but don't worry. Our floating shelves DIY offers practical tips and reliable supplies that will help you create a truly custom décor piece affordably.

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Supplies You Need

DIY floating shelves with plant, artwork, books
Caylin Harris

While it might be tempting to buy your floating shelves from a big box store like IKEA, Home Depot, or Lowes, you might end up with a less custom look. A lack of variety in color and size—not to mention a wider, overly boxy shape—really limits what you're able to buy pre-made. For almost the same price or less, you can create your own custom versions that are tailored to your home and color scheme. Use the supplies below to craft your own floating wood shelves.

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How to Build Floating Shelves

The steps below will teach you how to build floating shelves with as little pain as possible. Excluding drying time, this project can be completed in half a day, giving your walls a custom, high-quality feel.

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Step 1: Cut your board down to size and gather materials

Supplies to start building floating shelf (pine board, drill, brackets)
Caylin Harris

The most cost-effective way to create DIY floating shelves is to buy a larger piece of wood and cut it into smaller sections using a miter or circular saw. Obviously, you'll want to customize the size to fit the space you plan to hang them. We cut ours to 25 inches per shelf.

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Step 2: Notch the back of each shelf to accommodate the hardware

Pine board shelf with notch in back to accommodate hardware
Caylin Harris

Create a notch using a hand router so that the hardware will fit in the back of each shelf. If you use the hardware we recommend, the notch should be a 1/2 inch deep per the instructions. If you use different pieces, follow those instructions. You'll need the notched back so when you hang the shelves the hardware doesn't create a gap between the wall and the shelf.

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Step 3: Drill the holes for the hardware

Drill bit entering pine wood shelf
Caylin Harris

There are a few ways you can do this. If you're using a hand drill, use the paddle bit to create holes where your hardware will slide into place. The holes here are 4 inches deep, but follow the instructions on your hardware. If you're nervous about creating straight holes, start them with the paddle bit and finish drilling with a drill press. Using a paddle bit will make it easier to accurately start each hole.

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Step 4: Sand and stain (or paint)

Mid-process, staining pine wood shelf walnut brown
Caylin Harris

In a well-ventilated area, sand any rough edges on each shelf. Wipe off any extra sawdust, then apply your favorite stain or paint. Depending on your home's aesthetic you might want to choose white floating shelves or something more rustic like wood floating shelves. The beauty of painting them yourself? You get a customized look than if you'd bought floating shelves premade from a store.

Get creative and use reclaimed wood or make pallet floating shelves for a weathered look. If you're applying stain, be sure to wipe off excess stain and let each coat dry until you reach your desired finish. If you want your stained shelves to be glossy, cover with a coat of polyurethane lacquer. Let all pieces dry completely.

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Step 5: Hang the shelves

Hardware to hang DIY floating shelves
Caylin Harris

Once the shelves are dry, it's time to install your hardware. While you might see tutorials online with wood framed supports, this hardware makes things a little easier and allows your floating shelves to handle more weight. Building your own wood supports can be time-consuming and can go horribly wrong—a lack of precision could get you to this step only to have your shelves not fit.

Figure out where you want to place your shelves and mark and measure where you'll need to install the hardware on the wall following the packaging instructions. Use a level to make sure each shelf is straight. Once the hardware is on the wall, slip your shelves (via their drilled holes) into place.

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