Without a doubt, the most important component of our workshop will be – scratch that, is – the ability for heavy-duty storage. For almost two years, we’ve been tripping over power tools and our bulky air compressor, wading through paint cans (only to realize the can we need is at the bottom of a 10-can stack) and digging through cardboard boxes to find the fine grit sandpaper. It’s a miracle anything was ever accomplished in this house at all!

Finally, we have some shelves! Some really big, really hunky, really strong shelves!

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After making a list of all the easy access items we’d like to store in the workshop (vs. what’ll end up going in the garage), we calculated and re-calculated how many shelves we’d need, how high they’d go and how much space they’ll allow. We measured our big bins, the height of two paint cans and checked inventory on all the glues, tapes and things that allow us to complete any given project. The prep and planning was a good week’s worth of work alone. And then, we got to work work!

For anyone who wants to take on this same project, your shopping list will vary depending on the width of your shelves, but here’s what we bought for four 6′ wide, wall-to-wall floating shelves:

SUPPLIES USED FOR 6′ SHELVES:
4 – 1/4″ sheets of plywood
12 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′
12′ of 1″ x 6″ aspen planks
2.5″ wood screws
4″ wood screws
Wood stain in Special Walnut
Wall color touch-up paint (Stratton Blue, Ben Moore)

TOOLS USED:
Miter saw for small cuts
Circular saw for long cuts
Table saw for ripping down alpine planks
Drill + right angle adapter
Nail gun
Measuring tape
Level
Sandpaper
Mallet
Paint brush (our favorite!)
Rags for stain

WHAT WE DID. First, we took a minute to locate the studs behind our drywall. Jack likes to get involved, too, which always helps.

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We needed to ensure that our shelves are strong, so we needed to build a support system that we would ultimately hide beneath the plywood sheets. We cut our 2x4s to the widths of our wall – two per shelf. To create a ladder-like support structure, we also made 14″ cuts from the remaining 2x4s, which was enough for 7 supports, end to end.

To save time and avoid needing to make any pocket holes, we used 2.5″ wood screws to create 3 sides of our internal structure, with about 12″ between each support. Note: Measure each shelf independently, as drywall is rarely (if ever?) square. For example, some of our wall widths varied by a 1/2″. The more precise your cuts, the better your outcome!

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We attached our frame to the wall, putting two 4″ screws into each and every stud along the way. The level became our best friend at this point, and as is typical with inexpensive 2x4s, we did have some less than perfect twists in the wood. A good tug while keeping things level was necessary to get our support in place, and a right angle drill adapter was used for the studs to the left and right of the main wall; it was a tight squeeze. The remaining 2×4 was screwed on to the front, and again, we made sure to level, level, level.

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We continued up the wall, allowing for different heights between the shelves, starting with 18″ at the bottom, two at 16″ and one at 14″. These shelves aren’t going anywhere!

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I added a light coat of our wall color along the 2x4s, but only where the 2x4s meet with the wall. My thought was more preventative than anything; any imperfect cuts in our plywood would hopefully blend into the wall.

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Now, let’s talk about those plywood sheets! We had all four sheets cut down to 17″ strips at the hardware store, which was the perfect depth to skin our ladder supports. (Think: 1.5″ 2×4 + 14″ support + 1.5″ 2×4 = 17″)

This meant that we only needed to use the circular saw to cut down the 6′ widths. The edges got a gentle sanding, and I stained everything using Special Walnut. (We opted to nix polyurethane altogether, since these shelves will be holding All the Things that’ll just scratch it up. It feels less precious this way, somehow.) Once the plywood was ready to go, a mallet helped to ease the boards into place – top and bottom – and we used a nail gun to secure the sheets along the ladder support.

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With everything in place so far, we had a height of exactly 4″ for each shelf, and although we initially planned on using the leftover 1/4″ plywood to create the false fronts, we figured that for the amount of work we’d already put into these shelves, we should make it count. And so, we picked up 1×6 aspen planks, ripped them down to 4″ on the table saw, stained them, and, finally, popped them on with our nail gun. It was absolutely worth it!

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You guys! We love them. The project turned out way better than we imagined it would, and we both joked that they were too nice for the workshop! In any case, the goal was to make them super strong (check!) and durable (check!), and we can’t wait to load them up.

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We have a few more finishing touches for the room that we’d like to finish up this week, but it’s so close to being complete! And then maybe – maybe – we might be able to finish the kitchen. Word on the street is that our back door will be here mid-May, I say, as I knock on wood.

104 replies on “DIY Floating Wood Shelves!”

    1. We hear you! Building the shelves left no time for wrangling the tools this weekend. We’re hoping to tackle a little at a time over this week.

  1. These are gorgeous! I covet your workshop like whoa, and I just love that it’s off the kitchen — and so, so pretty.

  2. At the end of this post, I actually said aloud: “those are some sexy shelves”

    Nicely done!

  3. those shelves are lovely. man, when we get a new house i want your help!!!

  4. Kim, The room and shelves look great. I don’t know how you have the time to do all the projects you have accomplished thus far.

  5. these look great! would you mind sharing how long you let the special walnut stain sit and how many coats you used? thanks!

    1. Hi Abby! I only used one coat on the plywood, and I put two on the aspen planks to match as close as possible. We allowed it to sit for a couple hours before installing, but I’ll admit they were slightly tacky upon installation. By Monday evening, they were dry and ready for loading up!

  6. Love these!
    Just wondering if you could give a ballpark for your total wood cost.
    :)

    1. Sure thing! We did choose a slightly pricier aspen plank for the front edges, but 2x4s could also do this trick. For these 4 shelves at 6′ each, we came in around $100-$125.

  7. love this. like super super adore it! I am also in LOVE with the wall color, what is it, if you don’t mind me asking!

  8. I have an odd nook which I put wire shelves but am going to change that as I need something that will cover the linens in there. This will look great there. Thanks.

  9. The shelves are amazing and I want them in my family room but I also want that paint to go with them. Any chance you remember the brand and name of it? These are just gorgeous!

  10. I really like the look of these shelves and I’m thinking about doing something similar; However my space doesn’t allow me to have three walls do you think these would be strong enough for lots of books if only attached to two walls?

    1. Hi Cade, this would definitely work if only attached to 2 walls, but I’d keep the length and depth to a minimum. The ladder structure we’ve hidden beneath the surface is super strong, but I wouldn’t load a ton of paint cans on it if it was only on 2 walls. What are you hoping to stack on the shelves? How much depth will you need? Keep these things in mind before building!

  11. These are amazing! Thanks for posting step by step, I might just attempt something similar.

  12. Just made these last night for a couple of corner floating shelves and they were super easy. Thank you for the tutorial!!

  13. Love love your floating shelves. I’m planning on doing some
    In my kitchen and you have the best plans I have come
    across!
    Thanks so much for all the instructions and the shelves
    are just beautiful!!

  14. Question: How do you account for a wall that is not perfectly straight? I want to build something similar to this but I am worried that the wall it will be going up against is not totally straight. Is it easy to get the veneer to be flush against a wall that isn’t so straight?

    1. Hi Mike! Our walls are the farthest thing from straight. We measured each and every shelf individually – from the ladder-brackets to the veneer. Some veneers had to be longer than others, but with such a short depth, it really won’t make a huge visual difference. Especially when you load the shelves up with whatever your planning – you won’t even notice!

  15. What is the wall color in this room? I have been looking for a color for my master bedroom and I think this is the one! Thanks!

  16. Just finished my floating shelves and they turned out great! Thanks for the wonderful idea.

  17. Would love to do this in my dining room. The nook is a little
    Over 12 feet…do you think that is too long for these types of shelves?

    1. I think you can still do it! You’ll just need to build a wider ladder structure, obviously, and you’ll need to secure it to the wall about every 16″ (screw into every stud if you can!). Assuming you can secure the shelves on the sides, too, you should be fine. I wouldn’t go much deeper than a 16″ shelf though for that stretch.

      Would love to see photos when you’re done!

  18. I have completed two sets of floating shelves and we are thrilled with the outcome! Thanks for a great set of instructions!

  19. What colour is the walls and the shelves look amazing with it thanks

  20. Will these work as garage shelves? I’m wanting to do this on a long wall, would I need extra support in the middle and ends since I would store heavy bins?

    1. How long is the wall? I don’t know if I’d go too much longer than this, depending on the weight of the shelves for safety reasons. We were able to go not only in the back wall, but also the walls to the left and right as well, and hit every stud along the way! These shelves are SO STRONG, but I’d be careful with ‘floating’ shelves much wider thank these.

    1. I’d recommend keeping the width to a minimum, no longer than, say, 2-3 feet, and make sure to hit at least 2-3 studs from the back.

  21. Hi. What kind of plywood did you use for this project? The wood looks very smooth vs the standard plywood sheets they sell in most hardware stores.

    1. Hi, Ted! It’s a tiny bit more expensive, but we bought a more finished plywood sheet, as opposed to the chip board you might be referring to.

  22. Love these shelves! Also love your paint color!! What color and brand is that?

  23. I thought this was so awesome I went ahead and did it myself in our laundry room! It turned out great! Though it was a little more work since the distance was almost 10ft which is longer than the 8ft plywood sheets. I’d post pictures but I don’t see any option to do that…

  24. Hi,
    Great job – We gonna build some for our bedroom soon and was wondering, as we don’t have a nail gun, what size of nail do you recommend?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Greg! A nail gun or brad nailer will make the job a LOT easier, and I’m almost positive you can rent one from Home Depot or Lowe’s for a day. If that’s not an option for you, you can just finish nails, but it will be a bit more labor intensive. Either way, it can be done! Good luck!

  25. Hi. If I were to put heavy storage bins on these shelves should I upgrade to the 1/2″ plywood?

    1. We have heavy storage bins and countless paint cans, and we’re okay using what we did! It’s the ladder support structure underneath the plywood that’s the most important and provides the strength. However, if you’re still unsure, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to go with the 1/2″ plywood skin, but it may be overkill.

  26. What’s the spacing between top of one shelf and bottom of the other.

    1. They’re a bit different! From the post: We continued up the wall, allowing for different heights between the shelves, starting with 18″ at the bottom, two at 16″ and one at 14″.

  27. Hi guys! What hardware store did you visit to purchase the materials? I am a local Chicagoan (River North), and the wood at my nearby big box hardware stores doesn’t look that great. Thanks!

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