DIY Floating Shelves

11 Materials
4 Hours

Easy, sturdy, and affordable floating shelves!


We had this little nook to the side of our kitchen and after taking our the upper shelving in the kitchen and installing a range hood, we needed a new spot for our microwave. So we decided to use this nook as a microwave and coffee spot by building floating shelves to finish the space.

This project uses the combination of wall cleats and braces to build strength into the shelves enabling them to support quite a bit of weight.

Step 1: Install Back Cleat

For the first step you will want to measure the length of your back wall and cut your board to size. Then attach it using 2-3" wood tapping screws into studs if possible. If you do not have enough studs in the correct. places, use heavy duty drywall anchors.

To place drywall anchors, while holding the board in place, predrill holes, making sure to go through the board and into the drywall. Remove the board, screw drywall anchors into the wall in the drill marks.

For our shelves we used 1x2 boards. These will create a narrow shelf. However, we had three sided support. If you are placing your shelves where there is no way to support them on the sides, you will want to use larger boards to increase the sturdiness.

Step 2: Install Side Cleats

Measure and cut the side cleats so together with the back cleat they equal the shelf depth you want to achieve.

Using a Kreg Jig, create pocket holes to attach the side cleats to the back cleat. Then using the same process as above, screw the side cleats into the wall.

Step 3: Add Braces

Measure and cut braces so that combined with the back cleat and the front brace they will equal your shelf depth. (In our case we built 18" shelves, minus 3/4" for the back cleat, minus 3/4" for the front brace, leaving us with braces that were 16.5" long).

Using a Kreg Jig, create pocket holes to attach the braces to the back cleat.

Step 4: Add Front Brace

Measure and cut your front brace to fit inside the two side cleats.

Using a Kreg Jig, create pocket holes to attach the brace to the side cleats.

Then screw the front brace into the interior braces using 1.5" screws. We used our Kreg clamps to hold the interior braces flush with the front brace while securing them together.

Step 5: Add Top, Bottom, and Front Pieces

Measure and cut plywood to fit your shelf depth and width. One piece for the top, a matching piece for the bottom, and a front face piece that will finish off the shelf. Attach using finish nails with a nail gun. We used 1 1/4" brad nails.

We used 1/4" birch plywood for this. Birch plywood has a nicer finish than the cheaper alternatives. If you are building shelves not supported on the sides you may want to use 1/2" to 3/4" plywood for strength.

Step 6: Fill Holes + Smooth Edges

For the front face piece, we ripped our 1/4" plywood to fit. Plywood has a raw edge, but since ours was so thin we were able to cover the raw edge with wood filler. If you are using thicker plywood for your top and bottom pieces, you may want to use a 1x3" piece of wood as your front face piece to eliminate an exposed raw edge.

Use wood filler to fill nail holes and smooth raw plywood edge. Then sand to prep for staining.

Step 7: Stain

Tape off your shelves to protect the walls, then use wood conditioner to prep your shelves for staining. This is optional, but we find it helps to achieve an even, blotch free stain application.

Apply two coats of stain using a brush or cloth. Remove tape while stain is wet. Allow to dry overnight.

Step 8: Enjoy Your New Shelves!

You can find this project and more on my blog The Barn Collective and my Instagram account here!

Resources for this project:
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Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Sharon kelsey Sharon kelsey on May 03, 2020

    Where did you put your microwave? Would this support the weight of it?

  • Ellen Ellen on May 09, 2020

    Thanks for such a clear guide to super-sturdy yet stylish shelves. I’m curious about the two globe lamps in the foreground, and even checked your blog, but don’t see any mention. Could you say where you got them?

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