5 Tips for Building Easy, Affordable Floating Shelves

When it comes to classic decor, a basic floating shelf is at the top of my list. Whether your style is more rustic, modern, or classic, adding a floating shelf (or two) is doable and beautiful. We have 5 tips for building easy and affordable floating shelves with just 3 boards!

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 3 Decorated

Love building? Be sure to see this $10 Antique DIY Crate or our 20 Things to Build from 2x2s Post! My neighbor asked me to make him floating shelves to give to his wife for her birthday. They were simple and looked so great, so I thought I’d share them with you! To show you how, we also installed one here in our office/studio.

Easy Diy Floating Shelf Building Plan And Tutorial #remodelaholic

This is definitely a one day project start to finish! Watch the video tutorial and click the link below for the free printable floating shelf building plans.

5 Helpful Tips for Building Affordable Floating Shelves

Click Here to Get a Printable Version of This Building Plan

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Makes one 3′ floating shelf.

  • 1  –  2 x 4 x 92 5/8 framing stud
  • 1  –  1″ x 6″ x  72″ Knotty alder board (actual measurements 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ x 72″)
  • 1  –  1″ x 4″ x 54″ Knotty alder board (3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 54″)
  • Glue
  • Wood filler
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner
  • Gel wood stain
  • 2 1/2″ Wood Screws
  • 3 1/2″ Wood screws
  • 1 1/4″ Wood screws


  • Table saw
  • Sander
  • Finish nail gun with 1 1/2″ nails
  • Air compressor
  • Clamps
  • Drill

Tip #1: Use a Table Saw for Precise Cuts when Building a Floating Shelf

Cut List

     Because there is less tear out and the cuts are more precise, I used my table saw for all of my cuts . You could ask your home improvement store to rip the 2×4 down, and use a miter saw if you don’t want to use a table saw.

Rip down 2×4 stud to 2″

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 2x4

Then, cut

 (1) @ 34 1/4″ and (4) @ 3 7/8″

We also used a 1×6 and a 1×4 (Alder).

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 2x4 Supports

 1″ x 6″ x 72″ (2) @ 34 1/2″

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 5.5

 1″ x 4″ x 54″ (1) @ 36″ and (2) @ 5 1/2″Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 3.5

Tip #2: Create and Assemble Support Bracket for Floating Shelf

Attach the 3 7/8″ pieces to the 34 1/4″ piece cut from the ripped down 2×4. Make sure that two of the pieces are flush with the outside.  You will want to measure the space where the shelf will hang to make decide where to place the other two supports.  Some open space is required to secure the shelf support to the wall.

Use 2 1/2″ wood screws to attach pieces together.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf 2x4 Attach

So, that the wood wouldn’t split, I clamped the pieces in place, and pre-drilled for the screws.

Clamping the pieces of the Floating Shelf Bracket


Next, I clamped, pre-drilled, and attached the middle supports.

Predrilling holes for Floating Shelf Bracket


Tip #3: Assemble Floating Shelf Shell Using Glue and Nails

As you assemble your shelf shell, use the support to ensure it will fit inside the pocket. I laid one of the 5 1/2″ alder pieces beneath the support, placing one of the 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ pieces along the side.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Assemble Step 1

Clamp the face to that piece. Then set the other side piece in place, and clamp in place while you nail the pieces together.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Assemble Step 3

You will secure the pieces together with 1 1/2″ finish nails from the face into the side pieces.

Place the other 5 1/2″ piece on top of the support after running a bead of glue along one 34 1/2″ side, and both 5 1/2″ sides.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Glue Top

By nailing through the face and sides into the top piece, secure the top in place.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Assemble Step 5

Make sure you hold the nail gun very straight so the nails don’t come out of the top. I also used clamps to help hold the top piece flush with the face as I nailed it.

 Floating Shelf Clamp And Nail Top

Turn shelf over, and run a bead of glue along the other 5 1/2″ piece.

 Glue Bottom of shelf

Using clamps, secure with finish nails through the face and sides into the bottom piece.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Assemble Step 4

Allow the glue to dry, and then remove the support from inside the shelf shell. The two pieces should fit snugly together.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Assemble Step 7


Fill all nail holes, and any gaps or cracks with wood filler. Sand.

Sanding Floating Shelf



Tip #4: Use Wood Conditioner Prior to Staining for a Beautiful Finish

Using pre-stain wood conditioner will help the wood grain to accept the stain evenly. Therefore, don’t skip this step! Trust me. You will regret it if your stained finish is uneven!

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Prestain


I love gel stain!  If you are nervous about getting a nice finish, this is the perfect product! It goes on thick, and it’s impossible to miss a spot!

See what I mean?

 Floating Shelf Stain


Allow the stain to set as per manufacturer’s instructions, and then wipe off excess. This is the down side of gel stain. It gets pretty messy!

Wiping Off Gel Stain Floating Shelf


Tip #5: Attach Floating Shelf Bracket to Wall

While the stain dries, install the shelf support.


Measure and mark where you want the center of your shelf. I was lucky and the center point landed on a stud! If yours doesn’t, find your stud locations, and measure their distance from the center of your shelf bracket.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Measure

Transfer the measurements to your support, and predrill holes for mounting screws. If your center doesn’t land on a stud, be sure to mark where it is on your bracket.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Install

Match your center point on your shelf to the center mark on the wall. It’s easier to mount the support if you start the screw before you place the support on the wall.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Install Support

With the one screw holding the support on the wall, check for level.

Check For Level of floating shelf bracket

Set the shelf with a screw in a second location.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Set Second Screw

Then, secure with the remaining screws. I used two screws in the center point to reduce twisting.

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Interior Installed

Now slide on the shelf shell.

Slide Floating Shelf Shell On Support

The fit should be tight enough that you don’t need to secure it further, but if you’re a worrier like me, place one 1 1/4″ screw in the bottom of the shelf into the support.

Secure With Floating Shelf Shell with Screw

Now load up that empty shelf!

Remodelaholic Floating Shelf Installed

In conclusion, this is the perfect project for a newbie or someone more experienced. With just a few supplies, you will have a beautiful floating shelf in very little time. And also check out this 20+ 2×4 Shelving Ideas post and our Useful Tips for Customizing Ikea Floating Shelves post!

Diy Floating Shelf Building Tutorial #remodelaholic


Don’t forget to Pin this project!

Customizable Floating Shelf

More DIY shelves:

Shelving 20 Beautiful DIY Shelving Ideas Remodelaholic diy shelving ideas from Remodelaholic.com #diy #shelves #organize #storage #buildit



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One Comment

  1. Great information and plans! Curious what is the name of the wood pusher used in the video?