Earlier this week I showed you the new DIY floating shelves that we installed in our living room. I’ve been so excited to get these installed and share them with you, and I’m so glad the project is finally done. I had lots of questions on my Instagram stories as I was working about how we put these together, so I wanted to share a quick tutorial to show you exactly how it’s done.
A project like this might look intimidating, but I promise it’s actually surprisingly easy to build DIY floating shelves. Plus, they’ll change the look of your entire room!
This post is sponsored by Wagner and contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own!
I mean, I can’t be the only person who goes all heart-eyed every time I look at them.
If you read the tutorial for our DIY fireplace mantel, you might notice that it’s basically exactly the same concept. We simply built small boxes for the shelves (with mitered edges, so you don’t see the seams), then mounted them to the wall using a ledger board. The main difference between the two projects is that the shelving has support boards built into the ledger board – nobody likes a saggy shelf, so we wanted to be sure everything stayed nice and secure.
Read on to find out exactly how we built these floating shelves – plus get a look at my new favorite trick for staining wood.
How to Build DIY Floating Shelves
Note: Since every space is different, I’m not including exact measurements or supply amounts for our shelving. You’ll need to measure the space where you’d like your floating shelves and go from there!
- 1×12 pine boards (for top and bottom of shelves)
- 1×3 pine boards (for front and sides of shelves)
- 2×4 common boards (for ledger board & supports)
- Painter’s tape
- Wood glue
- Table saw (for mitering the edges of your boards)
- Miter saw (learn how to use a miter saw right here!)
- Nail gun
- Wagner FLEXiO 3000
Preparation and Planning
Your first step to adding DIY floating shelves to your home is to figure out how large you want them to be. I’ve seen similar tutorial all over the place that use 2x4s for the supports and then build the entire shelf around them. This means that the finished shelf ends up being 4 (or more) inches thick. I really wanted something a little less chunky, so we decided to rip the 2X4 boards in half (using the table saw).
Once we decided how thick the shelves would be, we measured our space to figure out exactly how long we wanted them. And, to keep things simple we planned to just use a 1X12 board, which ends up making them approximately 11.5″ deep.
Making Your Cuts
Once you have all of your measurements, cut your shelf boards to size. Cut all of the top and bottom boards to the appropriate length, along with the side and front boards. Once your boards are cut, angle your table saw to a 45-degree angle and miter the edges of your boards. This isn’t a vital step, but it will create a much more finished look in the end! You’ll miter all four sides of the front piece, and 3 sides of the top, bottom, and sides (since one side will need to be flush against the wall).
Assembling the Floating Shelves
To assemble the shelves, start by laying out your side and front pieces all in a row with the mitered side facing up. Take a minute to line them all up perfectly so that they’ll fit together without any gaps. Corey took the extra step of numbering each piece as he cut it, so he could be sure that the grain lined up. To do this, he made sure the front and sides of each shelf came from a continuous part of a single board. This absolutely isn’t necessary, but it makes it look more like one solid piece! Once you’ve lined those up, grab the top and bottom pieces and line them up with the front piece, like so:
Once you’ve ensured everything is as lined up as it can be, you’re ready to begin taping. Grab your painter’s tape and tape all of the boards together. This will basically act as your clamps to hold everything together as the glue dries. It should look something like this when you’re done:
After you’ve got it all taped up, it’s time to flip the entire thing over so you can begin gluing. Carefully grab the boards and slowly flip it so that the mitered side is facing up. Then, add your wood glue and use a small brush to spread it to all of the seams.
Once you’ve applied your wood glue, you can carefully lift each of the sides and fit them together like a puzzle. Use strips of tape on each of the corners to help hold the sides and top together while it dries. Here’s a quick visual of what that sequence of events looks like:
Patch, Sand, & Stain
Once your glue has fully dried, you’re ready for the final touches! Use wood putty to fill in any small gaps, sand the shelves thoroughly (be sure to pay special attention to the corners and edges!), and choose your paint or stain color. I chose to go with a mix of 1 part Golden Oak stain and 1 part Dark Walnut stain.
To stain the shelves, I decided to take a new approach that I haven’t done much before – I used my paint sprayer!
Theoretically, I’ve always known it was possible to use your paint sprayer to apply stain or sealant. Heck, the very first time I used it was to apply the top coat on our DIY bar cart! But, I tend to only pull out my paint sprayer for actual painting projects for some reason. I decided to change that with this project, and am I ever glad I did!
Using a Paint Sprayer to Stain Shelves
For this project, I used my FLEXiO 3000 paint sprayer. It’s generally my go-to (I have a few different sprayers!) for projects like this thanks to the different nozzle options and the range of settings when it comes to the amount of material being sprayed.
When you’re using your paint sprayer to apply stain, I found that it works best to have everything set to the lowest setting. I used the detail nozzle, then I shifted the power dial down to the minimum setting and I adjusted the material flow control so that it would spray less stain at a time.
First, I covered the area I was working in to keep everything safe from any overspray, then I got to work. I knew it would be faster to stain my shelves using the paint sprayer but I didn’t realize how much faster. For comparison’s sake, I stained a shelf by hand – it took me less than a minute to fully cover the entire shelf using the sprayer, and it took me about 7 minutes to stain it by hand.
That’s a big time-saver, y’all!
To stain the shelves with my sprayer, all I had to do was spray the shelves with one light coat of stain, allow it to soak in for 5-7 minutes like I normally would, then wipe off the excess. It was the exact same process, only minus the annoying step of wiping it all on by hand.
I may never stain anything by hand again.
Cleaning the Paint Sprayer
One thing I know you may be curious about is how to clean a sprayer after you’ve stained something. When you’re working with plain latex paint you can easily clean it with water, but stain is a bit different. The most effective way to clean the sprayer after using stain was with mineral spirits – I just poured it into the paint bucket, swirled it around, and then rinsed the whole thing with my hose. For the other pieces, I just soaked them for a minute or so in the mineral spirits and the stain came right off.
It was almost even easier than cleaning up after paint!
I applied polyurethane after the stain dried. I didn’t use the sprayer for this part, since I like to use Varathane’s Triple Thick Poly, which is much too thick to be applied via sprayer. Afterwards, I let the shelves dry overnight.
Next up? It was (finally) time to hang them!
How to Hang Floating Shelves
The basic principle of hanging the shelves is very simple: build a frame to support the shelves, then mount it to the wall. The process was surprisingly quick!
Here’s how it all came together:
Build E-Shaped Frame
First, Corey built E-shaped supports, using the 2x4s he had ripped in half earlier. The dimensions for the supports were about 1-2 inches shorter than the shelves (on both the back board and the boards that extend out). He assembled them by applying some wood glue, then drilling from the back of the ledger board directly into the supports, as shown above.
Here’s my little model showing you what the supports looked like at this point:
Then, in order to provide some extra stability for the shelves, he also added in diagonal supports on either end. This just ensures everything is extra sturdy, there isn’t any sagging, and the shelves can support whatever weight we need them to.
To add the diagonal supports, he just grabbed some extra long nails and drilled directly through the sides of the supports and into the back ledger board.
Once again, here’s our cute little model demonstrating the supports.
Hanging the Shelves
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your brain around how this all fits together, basically, the shelves act like a sleeve that fits around the support boards. The opening in the back of the shelves is slightly larger than the supports (to allow for some wiggle room when you’re installing them) and the support simply slides right into the hole.
To hang it, you just locate the studs in your wall (here’s my favorite stud finder) and use extra long screws (4-5 inches is ideal) to drill the support directly into the wall. Then, you slide the shelf over it and nail it into place from the top!
And then, you’re ready to fill ’em up! If you missed my post earlier this week, I did share some tips for decorating shelves, so be sure to check that out if you need ideas!
I really love how these shelves fit into the room! They actually make the space feel bigger, and they add a ton of functionality as well.
And my biggest lesson from the whole project? Staining is much faster, easier, and more fun when done with a paint sprayer. Who knew?! If you haven’t gotten yourself a paint sprayer yet, be sure to check out Wagner’s options. I promise if you do any painting ever, you won’t regret it!