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DIY Custom Floating Shelves

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When I decided I wanted to build custom floating shelves in our powder room I, of course, quickly went to search how to’s online.  I did find several different step by step tutorials but the issue I kept running into was the floating shelf width was just too substantial.  

Most plans I found worked with 1×2 boards for the framing and then 3/4″ plywood for the shelf box.  I knew there was a way I could get creative and make my shelves have a smaller width but still be floating!  So that is just what I did through this DIY! 

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Step 1: Decide on Custom Size & Buy Material

custom floating shelves

For my shelves I settled on a length of 21″ and I wanted a depth that was less than 6″.  Other than that I really didn’t have much of a plan, which is not normal for me! 

I headed into Home Depot and straight to the lumbar department.  I figured I would just take a look around and see what I could find.  As I wove through the aisles I stumbled on these 1/4″ width oak boards.  I had not planned to use oak boards but I was very excited to find these.  I was also very excited about the 1/4″ width.   The boards were also 5 1/2″ depth. 

Step 2: Cut the Boards to Size

I used my miter saw to cut all the boards. 

For the frame boards I cut two 1″x1″ boards at 9 inches and six 1″x1″ boards at 4 1/2 inches. 

For the face boards, I cut four 6″x1/4″ boards at 21 inches. 

Then lastly I cut the 2″x1/4″ board – I cut these at a 45 degree angle to create a finished corner look.  I cut two at 21 1/2″ to the far angle and four at 6 3/8″ to the far angle. 

custom floating shelves

Step 3: Build the Shelf Frame

custom floating shelves

The 1″x1″ board I had found were only available in 12″ lengths, so I decided to make my frame in two parts.  I used two of the 12″ boards with one cut down to 9″.  Initially I thought I would attach them together with a pocket screw but after playing with it for awhile I found it was easier to level the frame and just attach to the wall in two parts.  

custom floating shelves

To build the frame, I used my clamps to set and hold the frame arms into place.  I drilled a pilot hole and then used a 2″ screw to screw through the back board and into the arm board.  I started by trying to hold the arm board in place while drilling.  This proved to be very difficult since my arm boards were so short in length; I would definitely recommend using clamps if you have them!

Step 4: Attach the Frame to the Wall

custom floating shelves
custom floating shelves

Since my shelves are only 20″ long, I knew I would only be able to hit one wall stud.  I was not too concerned with this because these shelves were not meant to support too much weight.  However, I planned to use some wall anchors to provide a secure fit to the wall.  I messed this up more times than I’d like to admit, but at least twice!  Make sure you use the correct anchors, not just what you have on hand. 

To attach the frame to the wall, start by drilling a pilot hole through the back board on the frame.  I also started my screws through the pilot holes.  Place you wall anchors into the appropriate place and make sure to go slow.  Then grab your level to make sure you attach your fame is level and then drill into your stud and wall anchors. 

Step 5: Attach the Shelf 'Face' Boards

To attach the shelf face boards I decided to use glue rather than nails.  Since the boards were only 1/4″ wide and I wanted a clean natural finish I didn’t really want a lot of nail holes.  So I searched for a few different glue types and settled on the Gorilla Glue Max Strength Adhesive. 

I started by applying the glue on the top of the frame and then set one of the 6″x1/4″ boards, I repeated this step for the bottom side.  Then I placed four clamps at each of the corners.  From there I applied the glue on the edges of the top and bottom boards and then put the front board in place using the clamps on the two front corners to help hold it in place.  Then I added glue to the two short side pieces, set them into place and again used the corner clamps to hold it into place.  I left the clamps on and allowed the glue to set for 6 hours.  Then I repeated this for the second shelf! 

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Step 6: Apply a Finish the Boards

Since I was building the shelf around the frame, I decided to stain/finish my boards after the shelf was fully built and attached to the wall.   I started by taping around the shelf so that I didn’t get any stain on the walls.  Then I used a fine sanding block to lightly sand the wood boards and to sand off any glue that had squeezed out.  Then I used a 2″ disposable paint brush to apply the stain, I let the stain sit for about 3-5 minutes and then used a dry cloth (old ripped up t-shirt) to wipe away any excess.  I allowed the stain to dry overnight before placing any décor.  But with that they were done! 

custom floating shelves
custom floating shelves

Tips/Lessons Learned

While [in my humble opinion] my selves ended up coming together perfectly, this project did not necessarily come together easily! So, here’s a few lessons learned – 

  • Use clamps to hold your frame in place while attaching the arm boards.
  • When putting wall anchors into drywall, take your time! My anchors popped through the wall so quickly. 
  • Run out and get the correct wall anchors! I spent more time than I should have on wall anchor and had I just ran to the store I likely could have saved myself a lot of time! I used the self drilling wall anchors but the toggle bolts would have been a much better option & much less of a headache! 
  • Having no plan is okay! Have fun and learn as you go! 
custom floating shelves

Like the way these DIY Custom Floating Shelves turned out?  Check out my other bathroom DIYs on Shiplap Panel Installation and How to Make a Recessed Toilet Paper Holder

DIY Custom Floating Shelves Links

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Home Depot: Weaber 1/4 in. x 6 in. x 4 ft. S4S Oak Board
Home Depot: Weaber 1/4 in. x 2 in. x 4 ft. S4S Oak Board
Home Depot: Weaber 1 in. x 1 in. x Random Length S4S Oak Board
custom floating shelves

DIY Custom Floating Shelves

Build Time 6 hrs
Dry Time 1 d 6 hrs
Units 2

Equipment

  • Miter Saw
  • Clamps
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Sanding Block
  • Cloth/Rag
  • Tape

materials
  

  • Gorilla Glue Max Strength Adhesive
  • Weaber 1/4 in. x 6 in. x 4 ft. S4S Oak Board
  • Weaber 1/4 in. x 2 in. x 4 ft. S4S Oak Board
  • Weaber 1 in. x 1 in. x Random Length S4S Oak Board
  • Minwax Natural Wood Finish Oil-Based Wood Stain
  • Drilling Drywall Plastic Anchors with Screws
  • Toggle Bolt and Wing Nut Kit
  • 2" Screws

Instructions
 

  • Decide on Custom Size & Buy Material
  • Cut the Boards to Size
  • Build the Shelf Frame
  • Attach the Frame to the Wall
  • Attach the Shelf 'Face' Boards
  • Apply a Finish the Boards
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