DIY Floating Shelves

10 Materials
$50
4 Hours
Easy

This DIY was a relatively easy woodworking project and it's made a huge impact in our space. Check out the full blog post HERE.


We built these chunky, rustic-looking DIY floating shelves wayyyy back in September of last year to fill a weird entryway space in our house .

They look amazing and really give that empty area some character, plus they tie in perfectly with our DIY fireplace mantel on the other side of the room.

BUT, we had some issues.

When we made them, we didn’t have a lot of the tools and knowledge we do now, so they weren’t as structurally sound as they could be and sagged forward a little too much for comfort.

It was always on the list to fix them now we own a table saw and pocket hole jig, but getting our house ready to sell is really the kick we needed to get it done.

They’re so sturdy now and I feel confident being able to leave them for the next owners to enjoy without someone putting a voodoo curse on our name when they crash in the middle of the night.

Here's how to build the shelves (the right way):

Basically, you'll make supports and sleeves

So first you’ve got to understand the basic premise of how these guys work (I’m a very visual person so understanding how something works before actually doing it really helps me).

Basically the 2x4s will be ripped down in half lengthwise and will be pocket-holed together in an E-shape (with the longest line drilled into the wall and the three smaller pieces sticking out) then the rest is made into an open-sided box that fits over that support like a sleeve.

Cut inner supports

I won’t go into detail about the absolute dumpster fire our inner supports were the first time, so let’s just forget that whole lopsided year ever happened and move right onto the correct way to go about it.

First, you’ll use your table saw to rip the 2x4s in half lengthwise, so you’ve got two long, 1.75-inch thick pieces from each one.

Next, make the cuts for the back, long part of the E, and 12 cuts for the smaller, branch parts of the E shape. See the full cut list here.

Make cuts for the boxes

Take your 1×12 and make eight cuts for the top and bottom of the four shelves.

Take your 1×4 and make the cuts for the front of each shelf, and eight cuts for the sides of each shelf.

You could miter the edges of these front and side panels if you’d like for a smoother-looking finish – we didn’t, because we didn’t know how at the time – but if you do just remember to adjust your measurements.

Assemble the boxes

This part is really easy, it just probably takes another set of hands.

Lay down one of the 1×12 pieces for the bottom of your shelf, then put the two side pieces on either end, butting up against the long piece, not on top of it. Add a line of wood glue along that seam, then shoot a couple nails in from the outside of the end pieces into the long bottom piece of the shelf.


Do the same thing with the front piece, then flip the whole thing upside down and slide the other long piece between the two end pieces on the open bottom-end and do the wood glue/nail combo again.

Now, you should have a big, long box with one open end!

Repeat that whole step another three times to make your four shelves.


Wood fill, sand, and stain in your favorite color.

Find your wall studs

Okay, so with your trusty stud finder ( we use this one because it’s magnetic and catches on the nails in your studs) find where your studs are and mark them vertically with some painters tape. This is important to do before assembling the supports because you want those long screws to go directly into a stud for added support, which may mean the three branches of your E-shaped structure are not evenly-spaced.

It’s more important for those big screws to go into the stud than it is for the inner support to be spaced out. Trust me.

So, once you’ve got your studs marked, figure out where you want the shelves to go. Here’s a handy trick: use another piece of painters tape the same length as the back support piece and hold it up on the wall where you want the shelves to go. Make a mark with a pen everywhere that the vertical stud markers intersect with the horizontal shelf placement marker because that’s where you’ll want to make sure the branches of the E shape do not go.

Hold that piece of tape that’s been marked up against each of the long 2×4 pieces and make another mark so you know not to put the branch parts there.

Assemble the inner supports

Okay, now it’s time to assemble the supports for your DIY floating shelves.

Add two pocket holes into one end of each of the 12 smaller support pieces.

Hold three of the 9-inch pieces up against one of the 46-inch pieces in that E shape I talked about, making sure none of them are too close to the marks you made to indicate where your studs will be in the final product.

Using a clamp if you’ve got them, or brute force if you don’t, drill your pocket hole in, preferably securing one smaller support piece at each end of the long piece, and one roughly in the middle.

Attach the supports to the wall

So, starting with the one that’ll be closest to the floor, hold up your support piece vertically (with the stud marker pieces of tape still on the wall), make sure it’s level and then drill your 4-inch screws through the support and into your stud as many times as you can which will depend on your walls. For us, it was three screws for each shelf.

Slide on your sleeves

By now, you should have your support pieces secured to the wall, and your shelf sleeves should be nice and dried. So, hold your breath and slide one of the shelf pieces over the support structure.

You should have a nice, tight fit and a sturdy-feeling shelf! Repeat it three more times so all the shelves are in their place.

You can add some wood glue along the top of that back support before you slide it on if you’re wanting to make it permanent. We wanted to be able to remove them if needed, so we just slid the sleeve on and added one little screw right at the back of each shelf going down into that long support piece up against the wall so it wouldn’t slide.

Now time to decorate!

And there you have it – custom, expensive-looking DIY floating shelves on a budget! If you like this post, make sure you  subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date on our next projects!

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • KateyV
    on Aug 28, 2020

    Not sure what you meant by adding the screw to stop the sliding.

    Is there a pic of this?

    Thanks for posting.

    • Emma @ Shoe Makes New
      on Sep 2, 2020

      Hey Kate,

      sorry I didn’t see this until now! You could put on wood glue onto the brackets as you slide the boxes on to keep it in place but because we wanted it all to be removable, we just used a screw.

      Since the box just slides on and off of the brackets, we added a screw in the very back of the shelf going down into the support system. You can see it here!

      I hope that helps 😊

Join the conversation

2 comments
  • Lisa West
    on Aug 23, 2020

    I love floating shelves. So happy you put the little screw in to make sure they don't slide off. Many people forget that very important piece. You did a great job. Now you will have to make new ones for your next place. Do share when that time comes. Good luck. Thank you for sharing.

    • Emma @ Shoe Makes New
      on Aug 26, 2020

      Thank you! We went with a screw rather than wood glue so it wouldn't be so permanent in case the next owners wanted to take them down easily.

      We were actually just discussing how we might need to recreate these at our new home!

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