Build Easy DIY Floating Shelves Fast and Cheap

August 18, 2022

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Easy DIY floating shelves are both functional and pleasing to the eye. Today I’m sharing with you the simple way to build and install floating shelves. Want beautiful, West Elm inspired floating shelves? But don’t want to pay the West Elm price tag or wait for them to be shipped to you. Then this post is for you! Keep reading for the full DIY floating shelf tutorial!


Having installed floating shelves in several place in my home, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to make them. Here’s a quick look at a few of the spaces I’ve added them…

After tearing out a dated corner cabinet that used to house a big ‘ole box tube TV, we were left with an empty alcove next to our fireplace. These Golden Oak stained floating shelves were the perfect addition to this space. I love how they look like built ins that were always meant to be there….

Built ins next to fireplace with floating shelves

One of the first places I added a floating shelf was this wall next to our huge picture windows in our family room….

View of a family room with very neutral furniture and decor

These easy DIY floating shelves in my newly remodeled butler’s pantry, are all of the proof needed that floating shelves can hold a LOT of weight. They haven’t fallen yet…Haha! I made sure I went into as many studs as possible for these heavy duty floating shelves…

Girl standing in front of butlers pantry with easy diy floating shelves

There are a few things to consider, before we jump into how to build these easy DIY floating shelves.

Floating Shelves-What to Consider

  • How to mount the shelves
  • How much weight can a floating shelf hold?
  • How much does it cost to make a floating shelf?
  • Are floating shelves here to stay?

How to mount the shelves:

A few different ways floating shelves can be mounted are:

  1. Using a floating shelf bracket. Purchasing a floating shelf bracket and attaching a solid wood slab to it, is a more expensive option. But the brackets are strong, therefore this is a great choice if you’re wanting to go with a thick solid piece of wood (for example a 2×12) to hold very heavy items.
  2. A less expensive route from the one above, but still providing a way to use a solid wood slab, is the pocket hole floating shelf. First cut your board to the size you want your shelf to be. Then find the wall studs and mark where these wall studs will match up to your shelf. Drill pocket holes in each of these marked places on your shelf. Attach the board (shelf) to the wall studs using pocket hole screws. Or for a stronger hold, use 4″ wood screws.
  3. The last and I believe most secure way to mount a floating shelf, is the method I’m going to share with you below. The Cleat Method. This technique will provide a much stronger shelf than method two.

How much weight can a floating shelf hold:

A floating shelf can hold 50 pounds per wall stud the bracket is attached to. For example, a 2-foot floating shelf attached to two wall studs can hold 100 pounds. A 3-foot floating shelf attached to two wall studs will hold the same as the 3-foot shelf. The length of the shelf doesn’t matter when it comes to strength. It’s all dependent on how many studs your bracket is attached to.

How much does it cost to make a floating shelf:

As low as $25 for a 24″ shelf. This amount is for the wood and the screws. It does not include other materials you may not have on-hand. For example, paint or stain or sandpaper. This amount is also based on the tutorial below. Other methods of floating shelves may be less (pocket hole method) or more (purchased floating shelf bracket).

Are floating shelves here to stay:

Floating shelves are timeless. They have been around for centuries and are used in kitchens and other spaces all around the world. A great way to add style, ease and function, floating shelves are here to stay!

Ok, now that we have answered the key questions, let’s jump into the floating shelves plans.

How to Build Easy DIY Floating Shelves

This easy floating shelf tutorial will walk you through the materials, tools and wood needed. Along with the easy-to-follow step-by-step floating shelf plan.

If you would like to achieve the same look as my shelves below, you’ll want to first measure out a block of space on your wall and mark it with painters tape. My black color block is 19″x36″…

Painters tape around a rectangle on a white wall

Then you’ll simply paint this area…

Blue painters tape around a black color block wall

While our color block wall dries, let’s build the shelves.

In these, how to make floating shelves plans, I will share how to build one shelf. If you would like to build three, like I have, simply triple the amount of materials needed. I have spaced my shelves 11 1/2″ apart from one another…

Three raw wood shelves hanging above one another on a black color block wall

Instructions are based on one 15″ long x 5″ deep x 2 1/4″ wide (thick) floating shelf. If building a different size, be sure to adjust measurements accordingly.

Wood Needed for Floating Shelves:

  • 2x6X8 pine board (1)
  • 1/4″ x 2ft x 2ft sheet of PureBond Maple Plywood Project Panel
  • 3/4″ x 2ft x 4ft sheet of sanded plywood project panel

(Note: These plywood sheets will be enough to make three shelves) (Another Note: You can find these smaller sheets of plywood in the project panel section at your local big box store…i.e. Home Depot).

Materials Needed:

Tools Needed for Floating Shelves:

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Step One: Build the bracket and bottom of shelf

Rip your 2x6x8 down the middle of the length of it. This will give you two 8 foot boards at 2 3/4″. We’ll use these thinner boards to build our cleats and stretcher.

Cut one of these 8 foot boards to 15″ using your miter saw. This is the length of the floating shelf. We call this 15″ board the stretcher. Shown below, I have three of them cut to 15″, since I built three shelves…

3 pine wood boards cut into 2" strips

Now you’re ready for the cleats….Using your miter saw, cut three 2 3/4″ boards from your 2x6x8 (the one you ripped down the middle).

Cut out the top of your floating shelf…Using your table saw, rip your 2×4 plywood sheet into a 4 1/4″ x 15″ board. You should now have these materials that you’re ready to put together….

Long pine wood board; pine wood strip 2"; 3 2x2 boards cut to 3"

Attach your 15″ stretcher to your ripped 4 1/4″ x 15″ plywood sheet…Use wood glue and drill 1 1/2″ screws to attach these two boards together….

Support and top shelf of easy diy floating shelves

Attach the cleats….Using wood glue and 1 1/2″ screws space the cleats out and attach to the top board of the floating shelf. I used my Bessie Clamp to keep it all lined up….

Bessie clamp holding a shelf, support and cleats in place

Step Two: Attach stretcher to the wall

Now you’re ready to attach your stretcher to the wall. Find the studs and be sure to drive at least one of your screws into a stud. Use a level to make sure your stretcher is straight and use 2 1/2″ wood screws to attach to the wall….

Support, cleats and top board on a black color block wall

Step Three: Face the remainder of the shelf

Cut the bottom board for your floating shelf….Using your table saw rip your 1/4″ plywood sheet to fit the bottom of your shelf. Should be the same measurements as your top shelf. (4 1/4″ x 15″) Using wood glue and clamps, attach this thin plywood sheet to the bottom of your already attached to the wall floating shelf…

Two easy diy floating shelves clamped together to hold all the pieces in place

Face the rest of the shelf….Rip the 3/4″ plywood sheet to fit the front (should be 2″x15″) and the sides (should be 2″x4 3/8″). Attach these pieces using wood glue and 1 1/2″ wood screws. Your shelves should now look like this….

Three raw wood shelves hanging above one another on a black color block wall

Step Four: Paint or stain

Fill in all of your nail holes with wood filler. Let dry and you’re ready for stain. I chose my favorite stain–Varathane Golden Oak. I protected my walls with painters tape, so as not to get stain on them while staining the shelves….

3 easy diy floating shelves on a black color block wall with one stained golden oak

Having finished these around Christmas time, it was so much fun to deck them out with all things festive….

Floating shelves decorated for Christmas

For summer, I went with a simpler, lighter feel….

Easy diy floating shelves stained Golden Oak

I love how narrow these floating shelves are. This allowed me to place them in a walkway area and not have to worry about them getting bumped.

Sliding modern door with easy diy floating shelves stained

The warmth these stained easy DIY floating shelves add to my all white kitchen is a breath of fresh air. They really break up the space and bring in a new element of texture and color. Be sure to go check out the before and afters of the kitchen, in this post! They are quite incredible!

I hope you’ve found this Easy DIY Floating Shelves post to be very helpful and informative. Have you found the perfect spot for one or a set of three maybe? Are you ready to go build your own? As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I love helping you turn these building plans into something tangible.

Until next week,

Happy Building, Friend!!

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Family Room:

Accent Chairs

Tripod Floor Lamp

Large Wall Art

Super Soft Black & White Throw Blanket 

More Great RL Posts:

7 Easy Accent Wall Ideas That Are Affordable

4 Easy Steps to DIY a Wood Slat Accent Wall

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