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How to Make Floating Shelves for a Dining Room


Make and Install Lightweight Shelves that Seem to Float on the Dining Room Wall without Any Visible Means of Support

Sandwich wooden stringers between pieces of 1/4-inch plywood to make hollow-core shelves that are lightweight but strong. Face the edges with strips of solid wood. Paint the assembled floating shelves for a clean crisp look before mounting them over ledgers fastened to the wall studs for strong but hidden support. Your handiwork is now ready for your artwork!

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using painters tape to represent the shelves
Step 1

Determine the Layout for the Floating Shelves

Experiment with painters tape to determine the desired number of floating shelves, their positions relative to each other and the wall, and their lengths. Our free-form shelves have different lengths but identical widths.

estimating the required floating shelf width
Step 2

Measure and Record the Chosen Dimensions for Each Floating Shelf

Designate each shelf/tape with a letter to identify it from the others. Measure and record the chosen length and width for later use in making a cut list and positioning the constructed floating shelves. These shelves are 10-inches wide.

ripping plywood skins for the floating shelves
Step 3

Rip 1/4-Inch Plywood into 10-Inch Panels of Proper Length

Use a table saw to rip 1/4-inch plywood into 10-inch wide strips that will form the top and bottom skins for all the hollow floating shelves. Cut the skins/panels to length with a chop saw.

cutting stringers to construct the floating shelves
Step 4

Cut Stringers to Support the Top and Bottom Panels

Cut solid 1- by 2-inch strips to sandwich between the panels and form the floating shelves' hollow core. Each shelf will need two short strips for the sides and one long strip along the front. The back will be open.

stapling the plywood skin
Step 5

Secure Pairs of Top and Bottom Panels to Stringers

Glue the front and sides of a top panel/skin to stringers and secure the skin with staples. Secure a bottom skin in the same way, leaving the backs open. Repeat for each floating shelf.

gluing the mitered trim on the floating shelves
Step 6

Conceal Edges of the Floating Shelves with Mitered Wooden Trim

Edge the floating shelves with solid wooden strips mitered to make neat corners. The trim covers the seam where the stringers join the plywood skins. Apply glue and align the miters perfectly before securing them with finishing nails.

filling holes with spackling compound
Step 7

Fill Nail Holes and Gaps with Spackling Compound

Use a putty knife to fill nail holes and gaps along the edge trim with spackling compound. Sand the dry spackling and clean the surface before priming and painting each floating shelf with a small roller.

securing cleats for floating shelves
Step 8

Attach Cleats to the Wall Studs for Floating Shelves

Use an electronic stud sensor to locate and mark the wall studs. Pre-drill pilot holes in the cleats and drive screws through them into the studs for maximum support. The cleats will be covered by the hollow floating shelves.

driving screws through floating shelves and cleats
Step 9

Install the Floating Shelves over Their Respective Cleats

Slide the open back of each floating shelf over its respective cleat. Use a power drill equipped with a flexible shaft and bit holder to drive screws through pilot holes in top of the shelf and into the cleat.

arranging artwork on floating shelves
Step 10

Arrange the Art Objects along the Floating Shelves

Array your collectibles on the floating shelves, trying different arrangements until you arrive at the perfect balance of size, shape and color.


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