How To Build Floating Shelves | DIY Australian Guide

The design of a floating shelf is to eliminate the need for any support brackets that can often be an eyesore. Floating shelves are a great way to enhance and add a bit of modern style to any room in your house.

I hope that you watch the video and read the article on how to build floating shelves, then make your own diy floating shelves with the easy to follow steps included below.

Floating Shelves with no brackets produce a nice clean finish. It’s been a fantastic project and also a fun way to spend my weekend. Originally there was a large bookshelf here which I really liked for all my books. The issue was that it took up quite a lot of room and we have a toddler in the house who loves to pull out all the books and climb the book shelf.

Removing the bookshelf and installing floating shelves have helped us utilise some extra space, keep the house safer and add some extra style. As we live in a small house every extra bit of floor space makes a big difference.

Creating floating shelves in your home is a fun DIY project that can have a lot of different uses, such as storage, interior design, and presenting family photos. Floating shelves don’t cost much at all. All you’ll need is some timber, screws, paint, and dowel.

Keep following as I’m going to show you the complete process in which I created these floating shelves from start to finish.

How to make DIY wooden shelves - Break down

Before we go too much further. I’ll give you a quick breakdown of the method and materials I used to create these easy diy floating shelves.

Im using 138mm x 42mm pre primed timber for the easy floating shelves. The timber will be ripped into 2 sections. I make the inside piece to be 45 mm and this piece gets attached to the wall. As the timber width size is 138 mm, once I rip the 45mm section from the material, this leaves me with the outside section at 91 mm. 

I use 16mm diameter pieces of dowel to connect the 2 sections. Therefore I will drill 4 squares holes through the backside of the timber shelve lengths. The 16 mm pieces of dowel will attach the 2 sections of the shelves together. All the materials are easy and cheap to buy from your local supplier.

Ok now you know the basic process, let’s get stated on the step by step guide. 

Step 1 - mark the shelve and timber stud locations onto the wall

The first step is to go through and mark the heights and positions of the shelves onto the wall with a pencil and 2-meter spirit level. I mark the exact locations of the shelves onto the wall. This set out is what I will use to measure the stud locations, and install the shelves onto. It’s important to mark the set out correctly.

The width of my shelves is 1800 mm. The wooden floating shelves are centered on the wall and the wall is 2600 mm wide. This leaves a space of 400mm on each side of the shelves to the wall and the door. Learn how to install a door here!

The first ( bottom shelf ) will be installed 1100 mm from the floor to the top of the shelf. I have openings of 500 mm between the next 2 shelves. This allows for plenty of space to place a picture or ornament on.

Next, I go through and mark out the positions of the timber frame wall studs onto the wall. We will use these lines when we come to fix the strong floating shelves to the wall. 

I place an electronic stud finder on the wall and move it from one side to the other, marking the center of each timber stud location onto the wall. I then use the level to mark a plumb line up through all 3 shelve locations.

This is where I will use the 100mm bugle-headed screws to attach the first piece of the floating shelves to the wall. I hit a nail into the positions to double-check the framing locations are solid for installation. The timber frame location is the structural support for the floating shelves. So Its important to be sure about the locations.

Step 2 - Cut the shelving & the dowel

Next, I need 3 lengths of 138mm x 42 mm timber cut at 1800mm long. I use a  miter saw to cut the shelving to the correct length. 

If you don’t have a miter saw, you can use a circular saw or hand saw. Let’s cut the timber to length and prepare the shelves for installation. 

The timber dowel will protrude through the inside 45 mm section and protrude about 70 mm past the first section. Therefore I need to cut 12 pieces of dowel at 115mm long for my three shelves. Once I’ve cut my shelves and dowel to length its time to move to step 3. 

Step 3 - Mark and drill the Dowel positions

Before I go any further, I label each shelf A-B-C to avoid any mix-ups. Also, mark which side is going to be the top of the shelve and which is the outside face. Then I clamp my shelves together on a workbench. 

Mark 50 mm from each end of the timber. Then mark 425mm centers for the inside set out of the dowel locations. Make the dowel spaces no more than 500mm apart. Each shelf will have 4 pieces of dowel connecting the 2 sections together. 

I’m using a 16 mm speed bore on an extension driver to drill the dowel holes. It helps to use a piece of tape on the drill bit to give me a guide on how deep I need to drill. The length of the dowel is 115 mm, so I’ll drill my holes 120 mm. This will give me plenty of room to fit the dowel into the hole after I’ve ripped the timber down to size.

Next, I label the shelves backside so I know which side to drill from. The holes need to be drilled as squarely as possible. I like to clamp a square onto my timber as a guide to help me drill squarely. Drill to the position of the tape on the speed bore. I’ll repeat the continue the process until all 16 holes are drilled and cleaned out.

Step 4 - Rip the timber to width and install the dowel

To get started I use my combination square to mark a 45mm line along the timber. I then set up my circular saw to the correct depth and set the guide to the correct width. 

I rip the timber all the way along the 45mm line. This will leave me a piece of time at 45mm x 38 mm and a piece at 91 mm x 38 mm.  I’ll repeat this process until all 3 wooden shelves are ripped to size.

Rip the timber with a circular saw

For safety and ease of use Its best to clamp the timber to work stools while ripping the timber. I recommend wearing safety glasses, ear muffs, and a dusk mask.

The next step is to label all the timber shelving sections in the correct order to avoid any confusion.

label the timber sections

To help with the ease of installation it’s a good idea to lightly sand the 70 mm protruding section of the dowel. This will help when we attach the 2 sections together.

Sand dowel

I add some PVA wood glue onto the dowel and hit the dowel into the 45mm section of the shelve from the backside. Have a damp cloth handy to clean off any excess glue. Repeat this process until all the dowel is attached to the first section of timber.

Glue the dowel
Hit the dowel into position

I like to go through and make sure the shelving sections fit together correctly before the installation. I’ll test everything fits  together tight, Then I sand the shelves to a smooth finish. I start with 80 grit sandpaper and finish with 120 grit sandpaper.

Place two sections together
Sand two sections together

I then clamp the 2 sections together firmly, mark the positions of the dowel, and pre-drill and install a 30 mm screw into the dowel to hold the 2 sections together. 

Drill bit and screw
Screw in 30 mm screw

Step 5 - pre-drill the frame & Screw the first section to the wall

I now transfer the center stud positions, from the wall set out onto the inside piece of our shelving. Measure from the wall where the outline of the shelving is marked. Measure from one side of the shelf to the timber frame set out. Take those measurements, then transfer and mark them onto the inside section of the shelving.

Pre drill for frame

I’ll pre-drill 5 mm holes in the timber frame locations, as a pre-drill to screw the inside section of the shelve to the wall with 100 mm 14 gauge bugle-headed screws. Once all the wooden floating shelf preparation is finished. I can screw the inside section of the shelf to the wall. 

Install the first section
Install the inside section of diy floating shelves

To install the diy floating shelves to the wall, all I need to do now is hold the inside section of the shelves to the lines I marked earlier on the wall. I will then screw the inside section of the shelf to the wall using my pre-drilled holes. The pre-drill holes are lined up with the center of the timber studs in the wall frame from the earlier set-out.

Installing the strong floating shelves
Screwing the shelf on the wall

Once the inside section of the shelves is screwed into position the next task is to slide the second section of shelving into position over the dowels. Match up each floating shelf pair as marked A, B, or C. The second section should slide into position smoothly and fit against the first section tight.  Be careful to make sure the shelves are in the correct order and the right way up,

Step 6 - Attach the second section of floating shelving

I now install the second section of the wooden floating shelve to the first. The second section slips over the dowel which is connected to the first section which is connected to the wall. 

Slide on the second section of shelving
Fit the outside section of the shelf

Once the second sections are installed and fitting tight. I go through and screw a 30 mm screw through the second section of timber into the dowel to hold the sections together firmly.

Screw 30 mm screw
screw final screw into dowel

Due to the imperfections in the plaster, I had to give a light sand to the wall behind the bottom shelve, then go through then apply a skim coat of plaster to achieve a smooth finish.

Sand the plaster
Set imperfection of the plaster

Step 7 - Paint the Floating Shelves and the wall

Ok great, now the strong wooden floating shelves are installed looking fantastic! They are very strong and can take up to 70 kg or 140 pd. We are almost finished. Now all that’s left is the painting which is still a big job, so let’s get going.

The first step to the painting and the most important is preparation. I use a “Spak Filler” to cover the screws holes in the shelves. I apply the filler proud to allow me to sand smooth. 

Fill the top screw holes with poly filler

Now I’ll move on to the fun job of sanding all the plaster patching and to be smooth. I always wear a mask as all dust is terrible for your lungs. I’ll also sand the Spak Filler and give the timber shelving a light sand also. 

Once all the sanding is finished I’ll give a quick vacuum to clean up the dust.

Vacuum dusk from shelvess

Next, I apply a bead of caulking between the intersection of the shelf and the wall. This will give me a real nice finish when it’s painted. Use a plastic guide and a damp cloth to finish smooth.

Caulking the gap between the shelf and the wall
Clean caulking and finish smooth

I spend a lot of time on painting preparation to save time when I start to paint. To achieve a high-quality finish you need to spend time on the painting preparation.

Ok, now it’s time to paint. I begin with an undercoat primer on the plaster patches and 1 coat of primer on all 3 of the floating shelves.

Paint primer paint on the shelves and walls

Next, I paint the walls behind the floating shelf the same color as the rest of the house. The color is a white shade called “Greyscale” It’s white with a tint of grey in it. 

Paint the wooden shelves with a roller
Finish coat of paint

The last step is to paint the floating shelves with 2 coats of semi-gloss acrylic water-based enamel paint. This is a hard-wearing finish that looks nice. I use an angled brush to cut in against the wall and then finish off with a small roller. 

Cutting in the final coat of paint on the diy floating shelves
The easy floating shelves with ornaments

Ok that’s the end of the project. It’s been a fun DIY project with a big result. the diy floating shelves changes the energy and design of the room in a positive way. I hope you now have enough information and confidence to build your own strong wooden floating shelves.

Feel free to send me a message with any questions or suggestions regarding the project. I would like to hear from you.

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