How to Build Floating Display Shelves (in Your New Home)

Kim Wilson

Article Posted By: Kim Wilson

of Sand and Sisal

How to Build Floating Display Shelves

Moving into a new home can be an exciting time. The best part is being able to customize and personalize the space to reflect your style. You can transform a boring builder-grade bathroom into a customized-looking spa retreat by adding DIY Floating Display Shelves, which are perfect for showing off art and accessories. But preparing for move-in day is important and the task can be easier with a few helpful tips.

Cleaning a ceiling fan with a Swiffer Extender 360 Duster

First set your sights high! Don’t forget to remove all that built-up dust, dander and allergens from your ceiling fans easily with a Swiffer Extender 360 Duster.

Deep cleaning bathroom grime and germs with Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle multi-purpose cleaner

Deep clean away the previous owner’s bathroom grime and germs easily from the floors, sinks, counters, showers, tubs, and toilets with Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle multi-purpose cleaner. No rinsing needed, just dry with Bounty paper towels for quick cleaning.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

And before you start building those fabulous floating display shelves, remove any residual hair spray build-up or scuff marks on the wall with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Let’s build some shelves!


DIY Floating Display Shelves

Supplies Needed


Step 1

Use a stud finder and mark the studs with a small square of painter’s tape.

Cut the  painter’s tape into three separate lengths. I chose 18 in., 30 in., and 36 in. Place the tape horizontally on the wall where you would like the shelves. Use a level to make sure the tape is level.

Note: You need to make sure that each strip of tape is somewhat centered over at least two wall studs.

Marking the location for three floating display shelves in a bathroom


Step 2

Cut the 1-in. x 4-in. x 8-ft. primed finger joint pine board into your desired shelf lengths (18 in., 30 in., 36 in.) with a miter saw.

Cut the square dowels to the same lengths, except subtract ¼ in. from each dowel (17¾ in., 29¾ in., 35¾ in.).

The square dowels will be the cleats that the shelves will rest upon.

Wood cut to build DIY floating display shelves


Step 3

Cut the trim with a miter saw. Be sure to stand the trim up flat against the saw fence as pictured below.

The first cut will be a 45° angle to the left. This trim piece will eventually be placed on the right side of your shelf.

Cutting trim for floating shelves with a miter saw

The second cut will be a straight 90°. That straight cut will be flush against the wall when installed.

To find where exactly you need to make the cut, I found that the easiest way was to place the inside edge of the newly cut trim right against the right side of the shelf board and mark with a pencil where that board ends (see pic above).

Be sure to cut the trim board on the right side of your marking.

Finding where to make a cut in a DIY floating shelf project

Repeat Step 3 again for the left side trim piece, but in the opposite 45° direction. And for the front trim piece follow Step 3, but instead of straight cuts, you will be making opposing 45° cuts.

Pictured below are all the pieces for one shelf, lying flat.

The pieces for one floating shelf, lying flat

Here is a view from above to help you visualize how your three trim pieces need to look.

Image showing how the pieces of a floating shelf project will fit together


Step 4

Nail the trim to the shelf board using 1¼-in. trim nails, or you can use wood glue. A combination of both is even better!

Fill in any nail holes with white wood filler.

Nailing trim to a floating shelf board using 1¼ in. trim nails


Step 5

Paint the shelves (tops and bottoms) and dowel cleats with Behr Premium Plus Paint and Primer in One.

Allow the shelves to dry.

Paint floating shelves and dowel cleats with Behr Premium Plus Paint and Primer in One


Step 6

Align the dowel cleats directly under the tape. Nail the cleat into the studs (two nails for each stud) with 2-in. nails and your nail gun.

Add a few nails in between, also. They won’t be going into wood, but it will help.

If you choose to use a drill instead, then be sure to pre-drill first before drilling in the screws to prevent possible splitting.

Nailing shelf cleats into wall studs


Step 7

Place your shelves onto the cleats and nail the shelves to the cleats with the 1½-in. nails or screws. I nailed every 2 inches.

If the shelves flex at all then add more nails into the cleats.

Nailing floating dispaly shelves to cleats


Step 8

Fill the nail holes with wood filler, and then wipe the shelves down with a wet Bounty paper towel to remove any wood filler dust.

Touch up the nail hole areas with paint.

Wiping DIY floating shelves down with a wet paper towel to remove any wood filler dust


Step 9

Time to celebrate and decorate! Add bottles of bubble bath, or bath salts, candles, folded towels, flowers, art… whatever expresses your style!

Floating display shelves with bubble bath, cotton balls, star fish and original art

How to Build Floating Display Shelves

How to Build Floating Display Shelves

What was once a boring blank wall feels now like a special and serene spa oasis, and best of all, you made it!

Welcome home!

Kim Wilson blogs at  Sand and Sisal.

Upgrading your bathroom with high-quality floating shelves doesn’t have to be difficult. Hire a local contractor with The Home Depot to help you remodel your bathroom like a pro! Check out more DIY projects and ideas here on The Home Depot Blog, and follow our Easy DIY pinboard on Pinterest. Browse The Home Depot’s Cleaning Department for everything you need to keep your home clean.