If you know how to install floating shelves, you have the key to adding a chic, streamlined feature to your home’s decor. But how do floating shelves actually stay up, and how many knickknacks can these bracketless wonders actually support?
This relatively easy DIY project requires just a few tools: a stud finder, drill, screws, and anchors. And once you hang these shelves, you’ll love the clean floating look for heavy-duty bookshelves, spices on a backsplash, or kitchen shelves above a countertop.
These open shelves, whether they’re made from simple DIY plywood or a fancier beveled look, are also smart in a bathroom to hold small products. Ready to build—no brackets required? Read on to learn how to install floating shelves.
How to hang floating shelves
Don’t just bang away at your dream shelf before making sure you know what’s behind your walls.
“Floating shelves should be installed where there are wall studs—a framework of wood behind the wall—to give more support for the shelf,” explains J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, in Ann Arbor, MI.
Use a stud finder to locate them. If you don’t have wall studs, skip the stud finder—you’ll need anchors instead. Buy hollow ones for plaster walls or drywall anchors. These devices (or studs) are strong enough to support shelves without brackets.
Step 1: Measure twice when you install floating shelves
Installing floating shelves requires a level and a pencil. Place the level on the wall where the shelf will hang, and make marks with the pencil on both ends or use a bit of tape. Holding the level as your guide, draw a light pencil line across the length of the area to make sure the floating shelf will be straight on the wall.
Step 2: Drill, baby, drill (and then screw)
Place the bracket on the wall and mark little pencil holes where you find the studs to determine the correct placement for the anchors (that’s right, nails are not recommended for floating shelves).
To get them in, make it easy on yourself and power up a hand drill with a drill bit to pierce the wall. The bracket should be aligned with the pilot holes.
“Follow the directions on the package to insert them into the wall,” says Sassano. Next, align the bracket with the holes and screw in the anchors with a regular screwdriver to attach it to the wall.
Step 3: Place the shelf over the bracket
After drilling and screw placement, the last step is to insert the floating shelf over the bracket. Before arranging your shelf display, make sure you’re within proper weight range.
Most of the weight factor has to do with the anchors themselves. Each one is labeled according to how much weight it can hold, but it’s best to stay on the lower end of the maximum load. Overdoing it, especially on a lightweight plywood shelf, could mean the studs may rip out and your shelves will come crashing down.
Finally, consider beautifying your new wood shelf. You might consider a natural wood look, a Minwax stain, or a coat of paint for your built-in floating shelves.