Build It With Ana: How To Make Floating Shelves

We could not be more thrilled to introduce Ana from who’s swinging by with an amazing build-it-yourself project for everyone to take on at home. For those who don’t already know about Knock-Off Wood, it’s a site full of amazing designer-lookalike furniture plans that will save you hundreds- even thousands- if you’re willing to break a sweat and put in a little elbow grease to whip things up on your own.

And you know we love that Ana proves that woodworking isn’t only about guys in overalls. Ladies can totally make the sawdust fly just as well. So without further ado, let’s get down to business with the first project that Ana is exclusively bringing to all of our lovely readers. And don’t worry, she promises it’s a super easy and affordable undertaking, which is why we thought it would be right up your alley. Let the fun begin…

YHL: Hey Ana, so happy to have you dropping in to share a project with us. What are we building today?

Ana: Youngsters, I want to hack your entire house. Everything. From Burger’s closet to the bean’s crib. If I could, I would write a blog called Young House Love HACKED. So the stalking starts today with my favorite feature in your home, those floating shelves in your dining area.

YHL: Sounds like fun. What level of difficulty would you say this project is?

Ana: Beginner. You, yes YOU, can do this project! No, not the Youngsters, they already have shelves. YOU at home.

YHL: And how much money should someone expect to spend to build all three 72″ long shelves?

Ana: For three 6′ long shelves, it will cost about $50-$60, less if you have some basic supplies like paint, screws, sandpaper and wood filler. In fact, the lumber is only going to run you about $30 (which means you’ll save around $60 as opposed to buying them). Bonus: You’ll have enough leftover scraps to make three 24″ shelves for free!

YHL: And about how long should this project take?

Ana: It will take a couple of hours to construct all three shelves, and then you’ll need to paint ’em. If you start in the morning, you can have these hung by night. I did!

YHL: Nice. What would our shopping list look like?

Ana: Here’s all you’d need to get ‘er done:

  • 1 sheet of 1/4 plywood, sanded on one side or lauan ($15)
  • 10 1×2 pine boards ($1 Each)
  • 1″ brad nails (think the little tack nails that you use to put the back on an IKEA bookcase)
  • 2″ screws
  • 3″ screws (for mounting to the wall, you will only need about 10 of these)
  • wood filler
  • sand paper
  • paint (I used high gloss white)

YHL: And what tools would we need?

Ana: Nothing too complicated. Here’s the list:

  • measuring tape
  • drill with countersink and drill bits
  • saw (or get the hardware store to cut your boards for you)
  • hammer
  • sander
  • paint brushes
  • stud finder
  • level

YHL: Sounds simple enough. What would our cut list look like?

Ana: When you buy your plywood, have Blue or Orange cut it into strips that are 7 3/4″ wide, and 8′ long. I will refer to these as “plywood strips.” By having the store cut your plywood into strips, you can haul it in just about any car and it will be easier to work with to create the exact cut list below when you get home. And you may even be able to get the store to make the exact cuts in the list below, which will save you from any at-home sawing! Here’s that exact cut list for ya:

6 – Plywood strips @ 72″ (tops and bottoms of shelves)
3 – 1×2 @ 72″ (fronts of shelves)
6 – 1×2 @ 69″ (shelf frame)
12 – 1×2 @ 7″ (ends of shelf frame and shelf)
21 – 1×2 @ 5 1/2″ (shelf frame studs)

YHL: Ok, we’re ready. Hit us with your plans.

Ana: Alright. Let’s get down to business.

1.  General Instructions. Work on a clean level surface. Have your plywood cut into 7 3/4″ strips by the hardware store. Then make all of your cuts as directed in the cut list. Always use glue and countersink your screws. Keep outside edges flush unless otherwise directed. Use proper safety precautions and equipment. Click plan to enlarge.

2.  Frame. Set aside the frame, now let’s drill the sleeve. Predrill with a countersink bit pilot holes for your screws in the frame sides. Then use glue and the 2″ screws to fasten the frame supports to the frame sides. Keep edges flush. Click plan to enlarge.

3.  Shelf Trim. Build the trim for the shelf by screwing the trim ends to the trim face. Click plan to enlarge.

4.  Shelf Surfaces. Just like you would add a back to an IKEA bookcase, tack the plywood to the tops and bottoms of the shelf. Keep your outside edges flush. The better job you do, the less sanding later!

5.  Test Fit. Your floating shelves should look like the above photo (except I made two that are 48″ long, and you’ll probably be making three that are 72″). Dryfit your frames with the sleeves to ensure the frame fits into the sleeve. You may need to sand the frame in areas to get a better fit. You do want the sleeve to fit tightly on the frame to keep it in place.

6.  Wood Filler. Fill all holes on the sides and face with wood filler. Fill any and every hole if you want that shiny finish! Overfill your holes and let dry.

7.  Sand. Sand extremely well, making all edges flush and even. If you need to, add more wood filler, let dry and sand again. The better you do at sanding, the shinier & smoother your finish will be.

8.  Painting. Vacuum your shelves with a soft bristled brush. If you are using paint with primer, you can skip the primer. Otherwise, apply a coat of primer first. Let dry, and begin adding coats of high gloss white paint. I used three coats.

9.  Hanging On The Wall. Locate the studs in your wall and mark where your shelf will be placed. If you cannot locate a stud, then you will need to use drywall anchors to hang your shelves. Then fasten with 3″ screws as shown above into the stud or anchor in the wall. Screw in a downward direction, as shown above. This will not just give you room for your drill, but it will also create a hook, or a stronger joint. Use at least 6 screws, in at least 3 different locations or studs. Use a level as shown below to keep things looking straight.

10.  Shelf Sleeve. Slide the shelf sleeve over the frame, as shown below. The sleeve will fit snugly. If it’s too snug, you can sand down the frame a little – just a bit will make a big difference. You want the sleeve to fit tightly, as we will not be screwing the sleeve to the frame.

*And now for the Knock-Off Wood disclaimer: This plan has not been tested for weight or safety. Build at your own risk. Knock-Off Wood (or Young House Love) are in no way responsible for any loss, damages or injury resulting from this post.

Onward to the after picture. Check out Ana’s amazing shelves. We can’t believe that she actually whipped up a pair for herself (she wanted to be sure that the plans that she provided were as accurate and detailed as possible). And we also can’t believe how great they look in her home.

So a big thank you to the amazing Ana for whipping up such a fantastic make-it-yourself shelf tutorial. What do you guys think? Will any of you be creating some sleek floating shelves anytime soon? Do you love as much as we do for the amazing (and free) plans and inspiration that it provides? Let’s shower Ana with praise for stopping in. And of course, we’d love to see photos from anyone and everyone who decides to take these babies on. Happy building to one and all!


  1. says

    I HEART this post!!!! I am totally game for Young House Love Hacked – all your furniture is so cute – and you usually stick to reasonable prices, but how fun would it be to build it!!!! Loved the interview from both YHL and Ana!

  2. says

    I love this!! Perfect timing. We’ve recently shoved an extra bed into our office and I’ve been wanting to put up shelving to help with the space issue. I can’t wait to build these!

  3. Loren says

    I’m so excited about this KoW post, it’s like a crossover from the comics. This would be a Wonderwoman (that’s Ana) and the Fantastic Four crossover(that’s Sherry, John, Burger, and Bean)

    Someone asked the question ‘Why not just buy these at Ikea?’ Well for me the 8 hours it took Ana to build this I could just barely make the drive to an from the nearest Ikea. So if you add in the gas money it would save me closer to 90$.
    Also I think it’s fun to build things :) I think it’s great Ana can provide simple plans for projects like this.

  4. says

    Thank you so much Ana and YHL! I’ve been wanting some large floating shelves like yours forever, but don’t live anywhere near an Ikea! Now we can whip some up ourselves for 30$ because we already have the other supplies. Thank you!

  5. says

    I have added to my shopping list- I have been wanting to figure out how to make my own floating shelves for awhile now. Thanks!

    Also, I spotted you too on my DIY Ideas Newsletter emailed to me this morning. Fun, fun, fun! Congrats!

  6. says

    I love it! I love how these shelves look and how sturdy they are. I had my cabinet guy build a couple for my kitchen in lieu of cabinets on one spot. I may have to build these for my craft room!

  7. Elizabeth says

    Okay! Seriously! I have been trying desperately to talk my husband into floating shelves for a very long time. But since we live in South Africa- and the aesthetic is oh-so different- we can’t find the darn things anywhere! And of course no IKEA to fall back on. :)

    These plans might just be just the answer! Thanks! xxoo

  8. Sara says

    For whatever reason, the white lack floating shelves (43 inches) are not available at ANY of the ikeas on the east coast, and you can’t order them online. So this post is very timely! Thanks!

  9. travis says

    We love Ana and her website! Thanks for the tutorial!

    By the way, one of the most frustrating things about store bought floating shelves is the mounting hardware provided. They tend to be very unforgiving and inflexible. I just put up some small store-bought ones and they were clearly not meant to hold much or very heavy objects. Her plans are meant to be sturdy and can easily be adapted to fit any situation. Way to go Ana!

    Happy building everyone!

  10. Juliet Robinson says

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been considering trying a KoW project but was a little intimidated… this one seems like the perfect first-project to try.

    Another Ana fan here. I’ve been inspired to enroll in a beginning woodworking class at the local community college because of her!

  11. kate says

    I actually have a few of these Ikea Lack shelves waiting to be hung in my dining room, but I haven’t yet because I’m stumped on the height.

    Yours look fantastic in your dining room. Do you have any tips on how high to hang them?

    • says

      Hey Kate,

      Good question. Our shelves are hung 17″ apart, and the bottom one is 23″ from the floor. We just held things up (while one person stepped back to see what looked best) and decided that with our standard height (8 ft) ceilings that specific arrangement fit the bill. Hope it helps!


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