Easy to Pro: Floating Shelves Options

Floating shelves are a great invention! Not only do they provide much-needed storage space, these shelves also add dramatic flair to your home decor and can be a design focal point for any room. No matter how big or small your room is, there’s always a spot for floating shelves.

To help you determine how they can work for you, and what’s best for your own do-it-yourself style, here are five methods for installing floating shelves in any home.

#1: Install Using Thumbtacks

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Plenty of renters or homeowners who don’t feel too handy want an out-of-the-box solution. That’s where a floating shelf kit comes in handy. Kits typically come with hardware, a level built-in to the shelf (or included in the kit) and everything else you need. No additional tools required! In some kits, you can install the shelves simply using your hands.

Keep in mind that the ease these kits offer also bring some drawbacks. From a design perspective, the kits are limited to a small range of colors (typically, white, black and brown, although you may find a few other colors or treatments if you’re lucky). Another drawback is that the shelves and brackets in these kits may hold only a small amount of weight, such as 15 pounds. But if you’re looking for more of a design update and want a quick and easy solution, then floating shelf kits may be the ideal choice.

Best for: Renters or those who don’t feel super-handy.
Not good for: People looking for floating shelves that will hold heavier weight.

#2: Big box store options

We all know that when it comes to home organization, big box stores, such as IKEA, tend to crowd out the market. People come to rely on solutions offered at these types of stores because they are unfamiliar with what else might be available. Still, it’s good to understand how these floating shelves measure up to other options.

For the most part, IKEA or similar floating shelves are relatively easy to hang and generally require few tools (certainly no tools that the average homeowner wouldn’t readily have on hand). Shelves come in standard sizes and colors and can be paired with brackets or mounted without.

Keep in mind, however, that like the floating shelf kits, these big box floating shelves generally won’t hold a great deal of weight.

Best for: Homeowners or renters who don’t mind a bit of DIY.
Not good for: People looking for floating shelves that will hold heavier weight or those looking for a wider color or size selection.

#3: Check out your local hardware store

Instead of fighting for parking at a big box store, consider shopping for floating shelves at your local hardware store.

You can generally find ready-made floating shelves at your local hardware store similar in price, style and color to the options offered at big box stores. One difference is that you will probably get much better advice. For a more customized look, your local hardware store expert can give you suggestions for specific needs.

Best for: Homeowners or renters comfortable with some DIY but appreciate expert insight.
Not good for: Those looking for floating shelves that can hold a great deal of weight.

#4: Get out the power tools

The next option isn’t as hard as it sounds and anyone with a bit of DIY skills can finish the task in a few hours. It will require the use of power tools.

This method will require the ability to find wall studs, secure anchors and to drill hardware holes into the floating shelves. Once you’ve done this, it’s just a matter of installing the floating shelves on the hardware and making sure you don’t exceed the maximum weight limit.

Best for: Homeowners comfortable with using power tools and finding wall studs, and who want a lot more flexibility when it comes to length, width and color.
Not good for: Anyone uncomfortable with DIY tasks that require stud-finding or making sure anchors are secure.

#5: Looks like a pro did it

The final option is the ‘wow’ option — the floating shelf that makes everyone think a pro did the installation. Keep in mind, this method goes above and beyond attaching a solid shelf to anchors secured in the wall.

There are two methods for this type of floating shelf.

The first is to notch out a channel in the back of the shelf. This notch is how you attach the anchor and, because it runs the entire length of the shelf, helps to create a secure floating shelf that can withstand some serious weight. This option will require a level, drill, chisels and sandpaper.

The second option is a long box that looks like a shelf (with all its sides) except it’s hollow and is missing the long side that is against the wall. On the wall, a self-made wooden frame is installed. You then slide your box onto the frame to form a “shelf.” This option will require a variety of supplies such as wood glue, a drill, and a pocket hole jig.

This last installation method isn’t for first-time do-it-yourselfers. For the experienced DIYer who opts to tackle this project, the results are fantastic! Not only can you create the exact shelf you want — the perfect material, color, size and width — but this floating shelf system is the sturdiest of the lot.

Best for: Experienced DIYers or those who want to challenge their skills. Particularly good if you need the shelves to carry heavier weight loads or to fit into challenging spaces.
Not good for: Inexperienced handy-people or those who struggle to figure out how to solve build-problems that are not out-of-the-box.