In this tutorial for DIY floating shelves, we’re outlining the simple steps of building wall to wall wood shelves in our workshop space. This tutorial was originally published in April 2015, and we’ve included updated photos. Enjoy!
Without a doubt, the most important component of our workshop will be – scratch that, is – the ability for heavy-duty storage. For almost two years, our workshop has been a mess. We’ve been tripping over power tools and our bulky air compressor. We’ve been wading through paint cans and digging through cardboard boxes. All to find the fine grit sandpaper. It’s a miracle anything was ever accomplished in this house at all!
Finally, we have some shelves! Some really big, really hunky, really strong DIY floating shelves!
After making a list of all the easy access items we’d like to store in the workshop (vs. what’ll end up going in the garage), we calculated and re-calculated how many shelves we’d need, how high they’d go and how much space they’ll allow. We measured our big bins, the height of two paint cans and checked inventory on all the glues, tapes and things that allow us to complete any given project. The prep and planning was a good week’s worth of work alone. And then, we got to work work!
For anyone who wants to take on this same project, your shopping list will vary depending on the width of your shelves, but here’s what we bought for four 6′ wide, wall-to-wall DIY floating shelves:
Supplies for 6′ shelves
- 4 – 1/4″ sheets of plywood
- 12 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′
- 12′ of 1″ x 6″ aspen planks
- 2.5″ wood screws
- 4″ wood screws
- Wood stain in Special Walnut
- Wall color touch-up paint (Stratton Blue, Ben Moore)
- Miter saw for small cuts
- Circular saw for long cuts
- Table saw for ripping down alpine planks
- Drill + right angle adapter (or right angle drill)
- Nail gun
- Measuring tape
- Paint brush (our favorite!)
- Rags for stain
1| Locate the Studs
First, we took a minute to locate the studs behind our drywall. Jack likes to get involved, too, which always helps.
2| Create a Ladder Support System
We needed to ensure that our shelves are strong, so we needed to build a support system that we would ultimately hide beneath the plywood sheets. We cut our 2x4s to the widths of our wall – two per shelf. To create a ladder-like support structure, we also made 14″ cuts from the remaining 2x4s, which was enough for 7 supports, end to end.
To save time and avoid needing to make any pocket holes, we used 2.5″ wood screws to create 3 sides of our internal structure, with about 12″ between each support. Note: Measure each shelf independently, as drywall is rarely (if ever?) square. For example, some of our wall widths varied by a 1/2″. The more precise your cuts, the better your outcome!
3| Attach Shelving Supports to the Wall
We attached our ladder support system to the wall, putting two 4″ screws into each and every stud along the way. The level became our best friend at this point, and as is typical with inexpensive 2x4s, we did have some less than perfect twists in the wood. A good tug while keeping things level was necessary to get our support in place, and a right angle drill adapter was used for the studs to the left and right of the main wall; it was a tight squeeze.
The remaining 2×4 was screwed on to the front, and again, we made sure to level, level, level.
We continued up the wall, allowing for different heights between the shelves, starting with 18″ at the bottom, two at 16″ and one at 14″. These shelves aren’t going anywhere!
4| Touch Up Paint with Wall Color
I added a light coat of our wall color along the 2x4s, but only where the 2x4s meet with the wall. My thought was more preventative than anything; any imperfect cuts in our plywood would hopefully blend into the wall.
5| Add Plywood Sheets to Top and Bottom of Supports + Stain
Now, let’s talk about those plywood sheets! We had all four sheets cut down to 17″ strips at the hardware store, which was the perfect depth to skin our ladder supports. (Think: 1.5″ 2×4 + 14″ support + 1.5″ 2×4 = 17″)
This meant that we only needed to use the circular saw to cut down the 6′ widths. The edges got a gentle sanding, and I stained everything using Special Walnut. (We opted to nix polyurethane altogether, since these shelves will be holding All the Things that’ll just scratch it up. It feels less precious this way, somehow.) Once the plywood was ready to go, a mallet helped to ease the boards into place – top and bottom – and we used a nail gun to secure the sheets along the ladder support.
6| Add the Front Face to the Shelving + Stain
With everything in place so far, we had a height of exactly 4″ for each shelf, and although we initially planned on using the leftover 1/4″ plywood to create the false fronts, we figured that for the amount of work we’d already put into these shelves, we should make it count. And so, we picked up 1×6 aspen planks, ripped them down to 4″ on the table saw, stained them, and, finally, popped them on with our nail gun. It was absolutely worth it!
You guys! We love them. The project turned out way better than we imagined it would, and we both joked that they were too nice for the workshop! In any case, the goal was to make them super strong (check!) and durable (check!), and we can’t wait to load them up.
We have a few more finishing touches for the room that we’d like to finish up this week, but it’s so close to being complete! These DIY floating shelves will change the way we’re able to use the space! And once we’re organized in the workshop, maybe – maybe – we might be able to finish the kitchen. Word on the street is that our back door will be here mid-May, I say, as I knock on wood.
Upate October 2021:
PS: All links have been updated to reflect our current tool recommendations, or you can also see how to build your tool library! Find all our workshop updates, organizational tips and blog posts right here. For other floating shelves we’ve created, see these corner floating shelves, DIY beadboard shelves with brass rails, and open shelving made from stair treads.
Thank you for following along!