Floating Shelves (Beginner Tutorial)

Submitted by Ana White on Thu, 09/12/2019 - 14:11
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Want to build your own floating shelves?  We can help!  Our floating shelf tutorial is designed for beginners, and uses only a drill and a brad nailer (no pocket holes).  You can build and finish it before you hang it - and hanging the floating shelves is easy too!  Step by step plans with diagrams, shopping and cut list.

floating shelves

Reader submitted by KNOLLGF

Floating shelves add an architectural element to your home, and also give you space to store and display favorite things. We love wood floating shelves, white floating shelves, kitchen floating shelves - whether your style is modern or farmhouse, floating shelves can work in your home!

In this tutorial, we make floating shelves as easy as possible to build.  You won't need any special tools or a ton of building experience to whip these floating shelves out.  And you can build right in your garage, paint or stain in your garage, then just hang on the wall.

How to Make Floating Shelves

how to build floating shelves
Dimensions for floating shelves
We recommend floating shelves between 2 and 4 feet long.  They can be made longer, but you may need to add more support (depending on what you are putting on top). We don't recommend making the floating shelves shorter than 2 feet, as it may be hard to find studs in your wall to hang the shelf on closer than 2 feet apart.


Shopping List

Shopping List is for 4 foot long floating shelf

  • 1 - 1x6 @ 8 feet long (pine or whitewood boards)
  • 1 - 1x4 @ 10 feet long (pine or whitewood boards)
  • 1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long (furring strips, pine or whitewood boards)
  • About (10) #8 2-1/2" self tapping wood screws (like these from Home Depot)
  • 1-1/4" brad nails
Cut List

Cut List is for 4 foot long Floating Shelf

  • 2 - 1x4 @ 5-1/2" long (make sure this matches the width of your 1x6 in step 1)
  • 2 - 1x6 @ 46-1/2" long (or 1-1/2" shorter than desired shelf length)
  • 2 - 1x4 @ 48" long (or cut to desired shelf length)
  • 2 - 1x2 @ 46-1/2" long (or 1-1/2" shorter than desired shelf length)
Tape Measure
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander


Step 1

diy floating shelves

Cut two 1x4s to equal to the width of your 1x6 boards (should be 5-1/2").

Use 1-1/4" brad nails and wood glue to attach 1x4 to 1x6 ends, bottom edges are flush.

Step 2

diy floating shelves

Attach 1x2 insde the shelf, set down 3/4", with 1-1/4" brad nails and glue.

Step 3

diy floating shelves

Attach 1x4 to front and backs of the shelf, use glue and 1-1/4" brad nails about every 6".  

On the back side, use two 2-1/2" screws to attach.

Also glue and nail to the 1x2s.


Fit the remaining 1x6 board in the top and make sure it slides in easily.  Remove and stain or paint the shelf and the top 1x6 board.

Step 4

diy floating shelves

Find the top height that you want to hang your shelf on the wall, and draw a line using a level on the wall with a pencil.

Locate studs that will be behind the shelf.  You need at least two studs to hang this shelf.  Mark the studs above the level pencil line.

Place the shelf with the top on your level pencil line and screw through the 1x4 into the studs in the wall.  Two screws per stud are recommended.

Step 5

Place the 1x6 board inside the top of the shelf.

You can screw down to the 1x2 board, every 1-2 feet, but we don't recommend nails as this would make the shelf next to impossible to remove (you'd have to cut it open to remove).

You can use the 2-1/2" screws, but they are overkill and smaller screws (1-1/2" to 2" length) would be more desirable.

Help Improve This Plan

We apologize if there was an error in this plan. Please help us out and report any errors here.


GreenerLinen (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 05:21

So cool! I love crossovers! I'd already devoured the YHL post when this showed up in my RSS feed. Keep up the good work!

Chelsea (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 05:22

Thank you so much for these plans, Ana! I've been wanting some big floating shelves like that for awhile now, but don't live anywhere near an Ikea. So thank you!! They look awesome!


Mon, 07/01/2013 - 06:18

I agree with you Chelsea, the plans are amazing. Floating shelves look very modern and don't take any space on the ground which is very important if you have a small apartment as I do. Great tips.
opciones binarias


Mon, 07/01/2013 - 06:19

I agree with you Chelsea, the plans are amazing. Floating shelves look very modern and don't take any space on the ground which is very important if you have a small apartment as I do. Great tips.
opciones digitales

Susan (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 05:50

LOL! I've only just now realized that you are several time zones away from me and not just a night owl! I hope I'm not this dense once I start actually trying to follow your plans ;)

Cheryl (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 06:13

I'm so happy the youngsters featured you on their blog again! I started following your blog after YHL posted something about Knock-Off Wood back in January. Thank you for doing all of this, Ana! You are so inspirational.

EmileeHope (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 07:42

I am in love with the adorable wood elephant on your top shelf! Too cute!! (Oh, and great job on the shelves too!)

Shanna (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 08:11

I absolutely love your blgo! Especially since you're so skilled at SketchUp! Kudos to you! Keep up the amazing work! You're an absolute inspiration to me!

Lizzy @ Lizzy … (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 08:41

So great! I have never done any carpentry, but one day I might just try these shelves, thank you! :)

Nichole (not verified)

Wed, 04/14/2010 - 09:21

YES!!! I was just about to visit Ikea and buy a set of floating shelves for my dining room. But when I opened your website today and saw this, I changed my mind. Looks like I'm going to make a trip to Home Depot instead :-)