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. Allison says

    This is awesome!! I looked online for a good floating shelf tutorial awhile back and I like this design so better than anything I found (we even gave up on building floating shelves because those designs just didn’t seem sturdy enough). Now, I’m going to revisit the idea! I know you have a disclaimer on the weight capacity of the shelves, but if you could ball-park-it (with no committment to accuracy, of course) how many lbs. would you guess one shelf could support? Thanks & love the new segment!

  2. erin pearce says

    Thanks for this tutorial Ana and YHL! we have some ikea lack shelves but my hubby always gets frusturated that they don’t work with the studs at every 16″, and the fact that they don’t seem to hold a lot of weight.

    i’ll definitely be bookmarking this and will go this route when we plan on putting in more shelves, i love the fact that we can customize these now that we know the process!

    yes, more YHL HACKED please!

  3. says

    These are exactly what I have been looking for! And please, I beg you, tell me where you got your dining room light–I’ve been hunting for one like that and can’t find one ANYWHERE (for under a grand at least!.

  4. says

    I was just thinking about doing floating shelves! This is great. YHL, what do you think of doing a combination of a low buffet with a floating shelf or two above? I know I don’t want a buffet with a hutch and I don’t think floating shelves on their own will suit because I would like to store some things out of site. Thoughts? You guys are the best!

    • says

      You could definitely do two floating shelves above a buffet for a ton of concealed storage. We didn’t have a lot of wall space to spare (between where the table and the walls was) so slimmer shelves were our choice… but we love the added function of a buffet! If you have the room, definitely go for it!


  5. Jennifer says

    I had never heard of Knock Off Wood until this post. I have 3 of those Ikea shelves (two hung to make an L, one yet to find its home) and am nervous about putting anything on them. I have bookmarked SEVERAL of Ana’s projects already. Kitchen table? Craft closet? Headboard? Check, check, check! Thanks for the introduction to her blog.

  6. says

    Allison, the beauty of these shelves is that you can make them sturdier to fit your needs. How you build is going to greatly affect how much weight. The easiest way to beef up your shelves will be to use good screws and glue when build the frame, and then attach the frame to the wall using lag screws (also referred to as lag bolts). Make sure you get into the meat of the stud.

    My shelves were attached with regular ole wood screws (because I live 100 miles from the hardware store) and I just put 40 pounds on mine without issue. Since my shelves are 4′ long, that about 10 pounds per square foot. With the 6′ long shelves, you should be able to put 60 pounds up without issue.

  7. Laura says

    Oh, so awesome! Two of my favorite blogs come together in one post? SWEET! Our new granite counters are going in today, and I think we will be putting in new shelves next!

  8. Briana Easter says

    I know this wasn’t the point of this tutorial, but the gold glasses in the last picture are GORGEOUS (and I’m in the middle of building my wedding registry). Where can I find them? Thanks!

  9. Becky G says

    I’m so glad you posted these. I love the look of these shelves, but the Ikea versions not only don’t come in the size I need, but are a 3 hr. drive from my house. :(

    I love that two of my favorite blogs have joined forces!

  10. keri says

    could my day get any better?! I’ve been studying KOW and have been wanting to try my hand at something…this may be it! I’m a little intimidated, don’t want to mess it up…
    being a copycat and doing three long shelves over my dining room table (which is pushed up against the wall as well, except we have a cathedral ceiling…) would look awesome!

  11. Brianne Buskey says

    I’m wondering if there is a way to make the shelves a little more flush with the way, they seem to be sitting away from the wall a little bit. Either way they’re gorgeous!

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