How to Install Floating Shelves

You had to know that a DIY desk in this space wasn’t the only thing that was going to cut it, right?! It was still bare as can be. Luckily, floating shelves came to mind!
My thought process went as follows: it’s such a cute little corner that needed a little pazzaz and something to break up the wall. Art was not going to work since computer monitors would be filling up half that space. But something to put some decor on would be perfect! Floating shelves it was! A place to elegantly add some decor, that was entirely out of the way. My next thoughts included doing two floating shelves. Turns out, I only had space for one which was entirely the right move because, well, you can see this space!!!! I still swoon over it each time I walk by.

DIY floating shelf painted dark black with plants and art on top and a computer desk below.

Tools and Material You Need to Build Your Own Floating Shelves

Here’s what you need to make your own floating shelves:

Amounts all depend on the size of the shelves you’re hoping to building.

  • Sheet of plywood (3/4″ for the top and 1/2″ for the bottom is sufficient)
  • 1X2 for the frame (a piece long enough to cover the length of the wall and minimum of 2 pieces for the depth that you’re looking for – longer shelves, I would keep adding support pieces)
  • 2″ piece for the front of your floating shelf (you want to make sure it’s wide enough to cover the plywood (top + bottom) plus the frame)
  • 2″ wood screws
  • Sanding block and paper (220 grit)
  • Paintable caulking
  • Paint or stain of your choice (I used Benjamin Moore – Soot)

Tools you need:

  • Circular Saw
  • Drill and Impact Driver (impact driver optional)
  • Nail Gun (+ 2.5 inch nails)
  • Level
  • Speed Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Clamps
  • Straight edge or circular saw guide
installing a floating shelf - the frame
installing a floating shelf - the frame, top and bottom
installing a floating shelf - the frame, top, bottom and front.

How to Install Your Own Floating Shelves

My shelf was four feet wide so I added a support in the middle because I felt better about it – I could also anchor this shelf into the side of the wall. If you didn’t have the ability to anchor the sides (aka another wall), I would recommend following a tutorial similar to this one. Basically you attach the end pieces to the back brace, but you’d need something in the front (in addition to your decorative front piece) to fully secure it as well.

Also, while you’re purchasing your wood, make sure you’re considering how wide your front cap is and that it’ll cover the two pieces of plywood as well as the frame.

1. Once you have your measurements, make your cuts. I started with my mitre saw and made the frame cuts. As pictured above, I did one long piece for the back, and three shorter pieces as the supports coming out.

  • I did straight 90 degree cuts for every piece.
  • I added wood glue and counter sunk a wood screw attaching the middle piece.
  • I then found the studs in my walls where I was hanging the shelf and secured that back piece of the frame into the studs by drilling through the frame using 2.5 inch wood screws.
  • I made sure it was level during the install. And proceeded to install the side pieces in the same fashion (finding the studs and leveling them)

2. Cut you plywood to size using a circular saw and a guide. I used clamps and a straight edge as my guide. 

3. Once your plywood is cut to size, attach the top piece using a nail gun and 1.5″ nails. I attached it to the back, side, and centre of the frame. Attach the bottom using clamps to hold it in place to start and then nailing it in the same way you did the top.

4. Cut your front piece to size using the mitre saw and nail it on the front, covering the plywood and frame.

5. Using wood filler, fill the nail holes and sand.

6. Caulk around the sides.

7. Prime and paint.

8. Decorate! You did it!!!

DIY floating shelf painted dark black with plants and art on top and a computer desk below.