How to Build Floating Shelves

DIY: Floating ShelvesFloating shelves are an elegant way of displaying collectibles, photos, travel mementos, or other decorations. This project is great for any DIY beginner because it’s simple, inexpensive and doesn’t take very long to make!

Floating shelves are useful for displaying items in your living room, bathroom, or just about any room of the house.

This easy DIY guide will show you how to build these floating shelves. Just follow the simple step-by-step instructions!

To start building simple floating shelves, determine whether the type of wood you’re going to start with. For this DIY, we’re going to use a hollow core door.

Materials Needed

  • 1 – 2 x 4 x 8
  • 1 – 18-in. wide hollow core door
  • 1/4-in. x 3-1/2-in. lag screws
  • 1-in. brads
  • Masking tape

Tools Needed

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw
  • Stud finder
  • Level
  • Glue
  • Straightedge
  • Table saw
  • 40-tooth carbide blade

Steps to Building Floating Shelves

Step 1: Mark the shelf position on the wall

Trace the horizontal location for each shelf using a 4-ft. level as your guide. Using a stud finder, you should mark the locations of your studs and lightly press masking tape over each one.

Step 2: Cut the door

Clamp a straightedge guide to the door, and then cut the hollow core door lengthwise. Be sure to use a 40-tooth carbide blade for a better and more smooth cut.

Step 3: Measure to determine cleat thickness

Measure the space between the outer veneers of the door and cut cleats from a 2×4 to this thickness. Use dry lumber for cleats.

Step 4: Screw the cleats to the wall

Pre-drill 1/4-in. diameter holes at the stud locations after you cut the cleats to length by holding the cleat to your line on the wall and drilling into the stud with a 1/8-in. bit. Using a wrench, install one lag screw into each stud until it’s tight. Use 1/4-in. x 3-1/2 in. lag screws. Each cleat must be straight.

Step 5: Test fit the shelf

Make sure the hollow core door fits over the cleat. Use a sander to remove material from the back edge for a proper fit.

Step 6: Install the shelf

Apply glue to the top of the cleat and the inside bottom edge of the hollow core door blank. Slide the shelf over the wood cleat.

Step 7: Secure the shelf

Nail the shelf to the cleat using a square as your guide. Start at the middle and work your way to each end. You should use 1-in. brad nails spaced 8 in. apart.


And you’re done!

Now that you know how to create beautiful, inexpensive floating shelves, get to work! For all the lumber and tools needed to build these custom shelves, visit your local GNH Lumber location.

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