How to Hang Solid Wood Floating Shelves

Floating wood shelves are a sleek, modern way to showcase beautiful wood while providing a very utilitarian way to display and store items. Featuring hidden shelf brackets that fit snugly and securely into a wall stud and holes drilled into the shelf, floating shelves are relatively easy to install with a few common tools and some accurate measuring.

Start with a piece of solid wood at least one inch thick and five inches deep. Here at Bingham Lumber we have plenty of beautiful, reclaimed lumber from old barns and houses that would make ideal floating shelving that’s practical and attractive for any room. Depending on the length of the shelf, you’ll need at least two floating shelf brackets, available in just about any hardware store for less than ten dollars a pair.

Other tools and materials needed include:

  • Jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw
  • Drill bits: at least 1/8”, ¼” and ½”
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Clamps
  • Stud finder (optional)
  • Carpenter’s square (recommended but not required)

If you plan on finishing your wood shelves, consider these other optional items:

  • Light to medium-grit sandpaper
  • Orbit sander (optional)
  • Wood sealer, stain, or paint
  • Brush
  • Tack cloth

If you’re using live-edge lumber for a more interesting, natural look, be sure to cut it using a table saw or circular saw so one edge is flat for mounting to the wall. A jig saw can be used in a pinch, but you’ll need to do some squaring up and clamping to ensure a steady, even cut.

Next, drill the wall holes, preferably on-center on a stud for maximum security and weight-bearing. Start the hole with the ¼” bit then switch to the ½” bit to finish it, making sure you drill to the right depth for the bracket by marking off the drill bit at the appropriate length with a piece of tape. Insert a bracket and use the level to ensure that the additional bracket(s) are perfectly level with the first.

To secure a bracket, insert it and turn until you feel resistance. Continue turning until it tightens. If you don’t feel resistance and it just keeps turning, pull it out, hold the wall end and turn the shelf clockwise end until you see the plastic sleeve around the wall end start to expand. Insert it back into the wall, turn, and repeat the above step if necessary until it’s secure.

Now measure the distance from the center of the bracket to the wall or other reference point such as a piece of furniture or a wall fixture. Also measure the distance between brackets – and check all your measurements several times, just to be sure. Now you’re ready to drill your holes in the shelf.

If you’re using a hand-held drill, you may want to build a jig (basically a small wood frame that sits snugly over your shelf to hold the wood securely, with a reference hole drilled to guide your drill bit straight into the edge of the shelf) to ensure that your holes are straight and accurate.

Mark your drill bit with tape to ensure proper depth to match the length of the bracket and make your holes. Get as much of the dust and wood shavings out of the holes as possible and slide your shelf onto the brackets. Check to make sure it’s level. Perfect!

If you’re finishing your shelf, take it off the wall and proceed with sanding, cleaning and sealing, staining, or painting. Once dry, reinstall. You’re done!

To read more about how another DIYer went about selecting wood and installing a shelf in her home, check out this article.