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!
The shelves are stunning. You are right that they are much too nice for a workshop, but it will make the room much more useful. I was hoping to see them all loaded up with tools.
We hear you! Building the shelves left no time for wrangling the tools this weekend. We’re hoping to tackle a little at a time over this week.
I looove that pocket door.
This looks amazing!!!! Wish I had a nook I could do this in :)
I love the stain!!!
I love how this room is turning out!
They look fantastic!!
These are INSANELY awesome, guys.
Wow. This just looks amazing! Also, are you guys constantly on B12? Because I do NOT know how you have this much energy!
Ha. I could USE some B12. Excuse us while we nap. ;)
NEVER in a million years would I have imagined that these shelves were made with plywood. They look soo good!
Josh – The Kentucky Gent
These are gorgeous! I covet your workshop like whoa, and I just love that it’s off the kitchen — and so, so pretty.
It really is the heart of our home. It just looked TERRIBLE until about a month ago, ha!
At the end of this post, I actually said aloud: “those are some sexy shelves”
those shelves are lovely. man, when we get a new house i want your help!!!
Kim, The room and shelves look great. I don’t know how you have the time to do all the projects you have accomplished thus far.
It’s a mystery to us, too. (Hi, mom!)
Looking good! When I saw your teaser on Instagram, I definitely thought the colored socks (and feet) belonged to Kim ;)
these look great! would you mind sharing how long you let the special walnut stain sit and how many coats you used? thanks!
Hi Abby! I only used one coat on the plywood, and I put two on the aspen planks to match as close as possible. We allowed it to sit for a couple hours before installing, but I’ll admit they were slightly tacky upon installation. By Monday evening, they were dry and ready for loading up!
Oh you make it look so easy! Well done.
Just wondering if you could give a ballpark for your total wood cost.
Sure thing! We did choose a slightly pricier aspen plank for the front edges, but 2x4s could also do this trick. For these 4 shelves at 6′ each, we came in around $100-$125.
That price includes the 4″ wood screws we picked up, too! :)
love this. like super super adore it! I am also in LOVE with the wall color, what is it, if you don’t mind me asking!
Thanks, Katie! It’s Stratton Blue by Ben Moore: https://yellowbrickhome.com/2015/04/14/workshop-color-function/
I have an odd nook which I put wire shelves but am going to change that as I need something that will cover the linens in there. This will look great there. Thanks.
The shelves are amazing and I want them in my family room but I also want that paint to go with them. Any chance you remember the brand and name of it? These are just gorgeous!
Hi Donna! It’s Stratton Blue by Ben Moore.
I really like the look of these shelves and I’m thinking about doing something similar; However my space doesn’t allow me to have three walls do you think these would be strong enough for lots of books if only attached to two walls?
Hi Cade, this would definitely work if only attached to 2 walls, but I’d keep the length and depth to a minimum. The ladder structure we’ve hidden beneath the surface is super strong, but I wouldn’t load a ton of paint cans on it if it was only on 2 walls. What are you hoping to stack on the shelves? How much depth will you need? Keep these things in mind before building!
These are amazing! Thanks for posting step by step, I might just attempt something similar.
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Just made these last night for a couple of corner floating shelves and they were super easy. Thank you for the tutorial!!
[…] Big, Hunky and Strong Shelves: 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, we’ve been tripping over power tools and our bulky air compressor, wading through paint cans (only to realize the can we need is at the bottom of a (via Yellow Brick Home) […]
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Love love your floating shelves. I’m planning on doing some
In my kitchen and you have the best plans I have come
Thanks so much for all the instructions and the shelves
are just beautiful!!
Shelves look great. Any idea what the wall color is?
Thanks! It’s Stratton Blue by Ben Moore.
Question: How do you account for a wall that is not perfectly straight? I want to build something similar to this but I am worried that the wall it will be going up against is not totally straight. Is it easy to get the veneer to be flush against a wall that isn’t so straight?
Hi Mike! Our walls are the farthest thing from straight. We measured each and every shelf individually – from the ladder-brackets to the veneer. Some veneers had to be longer than others, but with such a short depth, it really won’t make a huge visual difference. Especially when you load the shelves up with whatever your planning – you won’t even notice!
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What is the wall color in this room? I have been looking for a color for my master bedroom and I think this is the one! Thanks!
Stratton Blue by Benjamin Moore!
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Just finished my floating shelves and they turned out great! Thanks for the wonderful idea.
Awesome! Enjoy your handiwork!
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Amazing shelves. Love it!!
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Would love to do this in my dining room. The nook is a little
Over 12 feet…do you think that is too long for these types of shelves?
I think you can still do it! You’ll just need to build a wider ladder structure, obviously, and you’ll need to secure it to the wall about every 16″ (screw into every stud if you can!). Assuming you can secure the shelves on the sides, too, you should be fine. I wouldn’t go much deeper than a 16″ shelf though for that stretch.
Would love to see photos when you’re done!
I have completed two sets of floating shelves and we are thrilled with the outcome! Thanks for a great set of instructions!
So happy to hear!! :D
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What colour is the walls and the shelves look amazing with it thanks
Hi Maria, it’s Stratton Blue by Ben Moore.
Will these work as garage shelves? I’m wanting to do this on a long wall, would I need extra support in the middle and ends since I would store heavy bins?
How long is the wall? I don’t know if I’d go too much longer than this, depending on the weight of the shelves for safety reasons. We were able to go not only in the back wall, but also the walls to the left and right as well, and hit every stud along the way! These shelves are SO STRONG, but I’d be careful with ‘floating’ shelves much wider thank these.
I love it. They look so chic…but what if I wanted to do something that is “not” in between 2 walls.
I’d recommend keeping the width to a minimum, no longer than, say, 2-3 feet, and make sure to hit at least 2-3 studs from the back.
Hi. What kind of plywood did you use for this project? The wood looks very smooth vs the standard plywood sheets they sell in most hardware stores.
Hi, Ted! It’s a tiny bit more expensive, but we bought a more finished plywood sheet, as opposed to the chip board you might be referring to.
Love these shelves! Also love your paint color!! What color and brand is that?
It’s Stratton Blue by Ben Moore. All colors and items in our home can always be found right here! https://yellowbrickhome.com/shop-our-house/
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I thought this was so awesome I went ahead and did it myself in our laundry room! It turned out great! Though it was a little more work since the distance was almost 10ft which is longer than the 8ft plywood sheets. I’d post pictures but I don’t see any option to do that…
Would love to see! Feel free to shoot us an email: team at yellowbrickhome dot com
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Great job – We gonna build some for our bedroom soon and was wondering, as we don’t have a nail gun, what size of nail do you recommend?
Hi Greg! A nail gun or brad nailer will make the job a LOT easier, and I’m almost positive you can rent one from Home Depot or Lowe’s for a day. If that’s not an option for you, you can just finish nails, but it will be a bit more labor intensive. Either way, it can be done! Good luck!
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Hi. If I were to put heavy storage bins on these shelves should I upgrade to the 1/2″ plywood?
We have heavy storage bins and countless paint cans, and we’re okay using what we did! It’s the ladder support structure underneath the plywood that’s the most important and provides the strength. However, if you’re still unsure, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to go with the 1/2″ plywood skin, but it may be overkill.
Sounds good, thanks!
What’s the spacing between top of one shelf and bottom of the other.
They’re a bit different! From the post: 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″.
Hi guys! What hardware store did you visit to purchase the materials? I am a local Chicagoan (River North), and the wood at my nearby big box hardware stores doesn’t look that great. Thanks!
We just went to the Home Depot on Elston in Logan Square!
Thank you for sharing!
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Wow, those shelves look fantastic!! I think I’m going to do the same thing with my floating shelves. Hiding the 2 x 4s inside the shelves is genious! I made floating shelves without them and they are floating… and a little droopy in the middle lol
PS – I agree with you, that is way too nice to be a workshop! :)
LOVE these and want to do the same in our bathroom, actually. However, where do you buy Aspen planks?
I just finished mine today and they looks fantastic. Prepping for our first baby, what a great addition to the room in what would be unused space. Thanks so much for the help.
So happy to hear it! Please tag us @yellowbrickhome if you share on socials. We love to re-share!
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Hey! These look amazing! Was wondering what would be the cost for material/labor to perform this type of job?
We tackled this project ourselves a few years ago, but If I had to guess, I’d say we spent around $100 or so? Hope this helps!
WOW! My wife & I recently purchased a home that was built in 1905, and with that pocket door, these shelves will look perfect in our kitchen, THANK YOU for these.
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I love these shelves – thank you so much for the detailed tutorial! I can’t wait to make our own and we will definitely tag you! I was curious if the finishing nails show through on the aspen plank fronts? Or are they pretty camouflaged and you didn’t need to do anything to cover them up? Thanks! :)
Thanks for the kind words! We chose to leave the nail holes as-is. It wasn’t worth the effort to fill them since the stain is on the medium-dark side.
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These shelves look great! we are going to try to tackle this for a nook in our den to create shelves for all of our cards/games! Did you drill pilot holes for attaching to the wall and when attaching the ladder structure to the long 2×4?
We ALWAYS drill pilot holes!!
Hi! This is amazing! What was your process to cover the nails after you installed the stained ply and aspen wood?
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Nothing is toooo nice for a workshop, treat it as your sanctuary!
What is an aspen plank? No one at Home Depot knows….
It’s a type of common wood, but depending on where you are, it could vary by region.
We just finished making these in our family room and thanks to your blog, they turned out awesome! I even got a picture of me standing on them as well just because, why not! We’ll be enjoying these shelves for many, many years.
Hi! What’s the brand of the stain? I assume Special walnut is the name. Thanks!!
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The shelves are awesome! Do you think you could produce a strong shelf using 2x2s instead of 2x4s? I’m trying to reduce the thickness of the shelves, while preserving the unique look.
You can, and we have! But we don’t store paint cans or anything TOO heavy on them. Here’s a post and video tutorial about those: https://yellowbrickhome.com/diy-floating-shelves-kitchen/
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This was perfect for what we needed. They came out beautiful! Thank you!
If i don’t have a wall to mount it to on the ends, would you do this same process? Do i need more support? Looking to do true floating shelves around my tv
Hi Brittany, these floating shelves are built utilizing three-sided support. For true floating shelves, we’d recommend brackets like these.
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Hi. This looks amazing. I have two spots I want to put them. Both have three sides. In the first location I have studs on each end as the shelves will be 24″ deep, but the other location – where I’d put a 15″ deep shelf – has no studs along the sides adjacent to the shelves. I have three studs along the back across ~58″.
Any suggestions? Drywall anchors? Or am I better off modifying with vertical supports at each end? Maybe 2x2s? Obliviously this changes the look, but it’s better than the shelf collapsing.
Hi Marc! Depending on the amount of weight you’ll be storing on the shelves, you could consider toggle bolts or hidden shelf support brackets like these. Hope this helps!
I can’t find aspen plank in my area. I was just going to use the plywood to use as the face cover but in your write up you said using aspen plank was a much better choice. I’m new to diy so I’m trying to figure out what the big difference would be between the two to see if I should continue searching for the plank or if plywood will work just as fine.
We used aspen since it take stain well and is reasonably priced. Plywood would also work for the front finished edge, but you’d likely want to use plywood banding to cover the raw edges.
Hi, my dad was more fascinated by your drill!! Which drill are you using here?
Hi! It’s a standard drill with a right-angle adapter. There are also right-angle drills available. Hope this helps!
What size nails did you use on the nail gun?
For this project, I believe we used 1 1/4″ 16 guage.
thanks so much for your amazing plans and all of the info! for the framing/bracket, I decided to use 2x2s instead as I wanted it to be a bit thinner and didn’t need it as heavy duty. my wall isn’t completely flat and protrudes towards the center where one of the studs is – do you know how I can account for this so its flush to the wall and is still relatively strong?