Easy How to DIY Floating Shelves Next to Fireplace

October 25, 2023

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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Last week I shared the changes I made to our dated corner cabinet space. After having the cabinet removed, I added new flooring, new trim and shiplapped the walls….oh, and I went a little crazy painting everything black. 🙂

Corner cabinet removed and black painted shiplap walls added. A full view of the entire open space

Now to make this space pop! Let’s add some DIY floating shelves. A floating shelf is so simple to make…Let’s get started….

First and foremost, I measured the space and determined I wanted 5 shelves evenly spaced from one another. I also knew I wanted them all placed within the black shiplap wall area. Now onto the build!


How to DIY Floating Shelves

Materials Needed:

NOTE: I used sanded pinewood plywood for my shelves. However, you can of course use any type of wood you would like. It’s really personal preference.

Power Tools and Other Supplies Needed:

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Be sure to check out my Floating Shelves video for a more visual look at this easy project…

Step One: Build Supports for your DIY Floating Shelves

I chose to rip my 2×4’s down to 2×3’s, but this step is not necessary. All of your supports will be covered with plywood, so they will not be visible.

Cut a 2×4 (for each shelf) the length you’ve chosen for your shelf. This will be your stretcher.

For example, my shelves are 61 inches long. Therefore, I cut a 2×4 to 61 inches long. This is my stretcher. Easy!

To determine the length we need to cut the 2×4’s for the depth of the shelf, we need to do some simple math.

I’ll use my shelves as an example:

  • My shelves are 19″ deep.
  • But I need to account for the thickness of my stretcher 2×4. Which is 1 1/2″.
  • Therefore, I need to subtract 1.5 from 19″ …
  • Which gives me 17.5 Now I’m ready to cut all of my 2×4’s to 17 1/2″ (These will be your cleats).
  • Spacing my cleats out by 12″ each, means I need to cut five 2×4’s at 17 1/2″ each.
  • Now drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes to one end of each cleat.

When finished, they will look like this…

2X4's cut down to shorter boards with pocket holes on one end

Attach each cleat (using 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws) to the 2×4 stretcher, spacing each cleat out about 12″….

Supports for floating shelves

Step Two: Cut Spacers

Once you’ve figured out the spacing for each shelf, cut scrap wood to serve as your spacers between each shelf. These will be used to place your supports on top of, so that gravity doesn’t work against you and you can easily screw the support into the wall….

Spacers to put supports on top of

Step Three: Attach Supports to Wall

Now you’re ready to attach your supports to the wall. Use a stud finder to mark the wall studs in the space your DIY floating shelves will be attached.

Use your spacers to set the support on, as you work your way up the wall. Attach each support with 2 1/2″ wood screws. Make sure you’re attaching your screws into the wall studs…

Spacers and Supports for diy floating shelves

Be sure to use a level to ensure each support is straight…

Girl using a level to check the supports for diy floating shelves

Here’s a look at all 5 shelf supports attached and ready for the pieces of plywood to be attached.

Supports screwed into a wall

Step Four: Face Supports with Plywood

This leads us to our next step. Using your table saw or circular saw, rip a plywood sheet to fit across the full span of your bottom support.

Repeat this for each support.

For example, I ripped five 61″ by 19 ” plywood sheets to serve as the bottom pieces for my floating shelves. And five 61″ by 19″ plywood sheets to serve as the top pieces for my floating shelves.

Supports with one plywood sheet on it

Cut your spacers just enough to fit the bottom sheet of plywood to the underside of the support. Once again, this is to help you work against gravity and will make it easier to attach the bottom of the shelf plywood, while the spacer is holding it up for you.

Use 1 1/2″ wood screws to attach your plywood pieces….

Spacer holding up a sheet of plywood on a support

Work your way up the wall, facing the top and bottom of each support, using 1 1/2″ wood screws to attach.

NOTE: If you don’t have access to a table saw or circular saw, Home Depot can make your cuts for you. In this case, you’ll want to buy your plywood after you’ve attached your supports. Once your supports are attached, measure the plywood dimensions you’ll need and take that cut list to Home Depot for them to make your cuts.

DIY Floating shelves faced with tops and bottoms plywood

Step Five: Face Front of Supports with 1×4’s

Rip 1×4’s to cover perfectly the fronts of each support. While the dimensions of each of these should be very similar, you will want to cut them to fit. This will ensure that they are the exact measurements needed.

Attach each front piece with 1 1/2″ wood screws…

DIY floating shelves all faced with tops and bottoms

Work your way up the wall, adding a front board to cover each support…

DIY floating shelves all faced front, top and bottom

Step Six: DIY Floating Shelves Finish Work

Before moving on to the finish work, the first thing you’ll want to do is, fill in all of the nail holes with wood filler. The most important ones to fill are the ones the eye will most likely see.

Pay close attention to the front of the shelf. Making sure all of these holes are filled. Once the wood filler dries, sand down each of these spots with a 220-grit sanding block.

And now, here comes the fun part. You’re ready for stain! The stain color I chose was Varathane Golden Oak stain! It’s my go-to stain for everything! So Good!! It has a rich natural color that beautifully shows off the wood grain…

DIY floating shelves stained

This whole project can easily be done in a day or two. Such an easy DIY!

It’s amazing how much weight these DIY floating shelves can hold.

The final step is decorating your built-in shelves. I have to say, long shelves can be a little bit trickier to decorate.

I knew I wanted some baskets for extra storage. And I had some decor pieces already picked out that I knew I wanted to add to my new living room shelves. So, after a few attempts at decorating…

Shelves styled

Nope! That’s not it!

Corner space styled

That’s better! But still not the look I wanted.

Working at it a little more, I finally found the look that was visually appealing…

DIY floating shelves with a seating area

I love how these floating shelves open up the space and just make the room feel bigger. To finish the look, I ordered a couple chairs to create a new sitting area in front of our huge picture windows. Such a cozy space….

Sitting area with two cream color chairs, a modern floor lamp and large picture windows

These soft, cream-colored chairs are the perfect addition to this space. And my little Fiddle Leaf Fig…

Cream color chair with a fiddle leaf fig behind it, large windows and diy floating shelves

Isn’t so little anymore…

Fiddle Leaf Fig next to floating shelves

I hope you found this DIY floating shelf tutorial to be very helpful. Are you ready to try your hand at this shelf project? Ready to go build your own brand new wall shelves? Such a great way to fill the space of a blank wall you’re unsure of what to do with.

DIY Floating Shelves FAQ’s

How much space should I have between each floating shelf?

There’s really no hard fast rule. However, 12 inches is a good amount of space between each shelf to ensure plenty of room to display decor.

What is the rule of three for shelves?

Shelves can be tricky to decorate. If you’ve heard of the rule of three, you know that placing items in groups of three is more pleasing and calming to the eye.

When decorating shelves, it helps to keep the rule of three in mind. Group 3 items together, take a step back to observe. Make adjustments as needed.

I like to add in a substantial, larger item here and there too. These items make a statement when standing alone. No need to add any other item to this space.

What’s the best way to decorate shelves without feeling cluttered?

  • Add large baskets to the bottom shelf or two
  • Be sure to add in greenery
  • Group books together
  • Stack 2 or 3 books on top of one another and place a larger item on top of them
  • When adding smaller items, remember the rule of three

Are DIY floating shelves hard to make?

Hopefully after reading this post, you feel confident to go make your own DIY floating shelves. I hope you find them easy to make. They truly are a great beginner woodworking project.

How much weight can floating shelves hold?

Floating shelves can usually hold 20-50 pounds per linear foot. The strength of the shelf is dependent upon the material the shelf is made of and how the shelf is mounted. Shelf brackets can reinforce the shelves to be able to hold more weight.

Can I install floating shelves without studs?

Yes, you can use wall anchors or toggle bolts to install them on drywall when studs aren’t available.

How deep should floating shelves be?

Shelf depth varies, but common depths are 8-12 inches. Choose a depth that fits your storage needs and space.

What’s the best finish for bathroom floating shelves to resist moisture?

Use water-resistant sealants or paints to protect bathroom floating shelves from moisture damage.

How can I add lighting to my floating shelves?

You can incorporate LED strip lights or battery-operated puck lights for added ambiance. A great way to bring in a cozy feel to any living space.  These Puck Lights from Amazon are so good! And so affordable!!

What’s the minimum thickness for floating shelf boards?

The thickness can vary, but it’s generally recommended to use boards at least 1 inch thick for stability.

What’s the difference between floating shelves and bracketed shelves?

Floating shelves lack visible brackets, giving them a sleeker appearance, while bracketed shelves rely on visible supports.

How do I prevent floating shelves from warping over time?

Choose high-quality materials, finish them properly, and ensure they are securely mounted to prevent warping.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

Until next week,

Happy Building, Friend!!

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More Great D2B Posts:

Another Easy Floating Shelves Tutorial

Easy How to Build a Bench Seat with Lockers

How to Build a Faux Wood Beam Mantel

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  1. Joyelle

    Do you have a posit of the whole view with the fireplace in the middle and the shelves? Thanks!

    • Nicole Nigg

      Hi Joyelle,
      I’m not sure why I never included that view to begin with. Thank you for pointing this out to me. I’ve updated the post with a picture of the entire fireplace wall. I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions.
      Thank you. Have a great day!



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