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How to Build Floating Shelves

There are a lot of ways to hang a shelf, but the appeal of floating shelves is that there’s no hardware visible above or below the shelf. Watch this video and follow these steps for building your own DIY floating shelf.

Floating shelves are made up two parts; a simple cleat that’s attached directly to the wall, and a hollow box that slides snugly over the cleat.

Cut List for this Project

Watch the video above, or get my cut list below and view the step-by-step instructions on how to make a floating shelf.

Steps for Building a Floating Shelf

For this DIY floating shelf project, I’m using stock boards from the home center, a miter saw to cut them to length, and a drill/driver to assemble the pieces with screws and wood glue. I’ll also be using a sander to smooth my edges, but you can also just use a sanding sponge.

Step 1: Cut the shelf to length

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Cut two pieces from the 1 x 8 boards to the width of the shelf, which for this project is 24 inches.

Step 2: Size the Spacers

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Using the cut list above, cut the 1 x 2 front and side pieces to length.

Step 3: Prep the 1x2 Spacers

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

With the shelf piece cut, we’re ready to assemble the shelf box. First assemble the 1×2 pieces by drilling two pilot holes through the longer piece into each shorter pieces.

Step 4: Apply glue

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Apply wood glue to the ends of the shorter 1×2 pieces.

Step 5: Secure the spacers

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Drive 1¼-inch wood screws through the longer 1×2 pieces and into the ends of the shorter 1×2 pieces to hold the pieces in place.

Step 6: Layout the shelf parts

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Sandwich the assembled 1×2’s between the 1×8 top and bottom of the shelf.

Step 7: Drill pilot holes

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

To hold the layers together, first drill pilot holes through the shelf’s top and bottom pieces and into the 1×2’s.

Step 8: Apply the Glue

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Apply a coat of wood glue between the layers.

Step 9: Assemble the Shelf Parts

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Using a drill/driver, drive 1¼-inch wood screws through the shelf’s top and bottom and into the 1×2’s to hold the layers securely in place.

Step 10: Cut the cleat pieces

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Lastly, to make the cleat that will attach directly to the wall and hold the shelf in place, cut the 2×2 pieces to size (see cut list above).

Step 11: Prep the cleat for assembly

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Attach the 2×2 legs to the cleat by first drilling two pilot holes through the cleat and into each leg.

Step 12: Assemble the cleat

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

Apply wood glue to the end of each leg, and then drive 2½-inch wood screws through the cleat and into each leg.

Step 13: Mount the cleat on the wall

Building a floating shelf Jenn Largesse

To hang the shelf, first mark its location. It’s best to screw the cleat into a wall stud, which can be found using a stud finder. If that’s not an option, drywall anchors can also be used to add strength. Position the cleat on the wall. Use a small level to adjust the placement. Screw through the cleat and into the wall with 2½-inch screws.

Step 14: Place the shelf box on the cleat

Building a floating shelf

Slide the shelf box over the cleat. Drive one final screw or finish nail through the shelf and into the cleat to hold it in place. Now step back and admire your new wooden floating shelf!


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