Ever since I was a kid, I have loved reading and owning books. That’s why I could totally relate to my oldest daughter’s request for book shelves. In our previous house, I had built her a recessed bookcase we both loved. As this Christmas inched closer with the expectation my daughter would be gifted more books, it was time to buckle down to give her a way to organize all the book stacks she had lined up on the floor. Although, I love a recessed bookcase, I didn’t want to dive into wall cutting and shelf building while caring for a newborn. That’s how I came to constructing easier and time effective floating book shelves. If you’re looking for a way to organize your own stacks, follow along below!
Floating Book Shelf Basics
Many of the floating shelves out there are quite thick for the elevated look of it and/or the hardware that is likely needed to support the shelf. Generally, I like the look of those shelves more than a thin wood shelf. As I was looking at examples of floating book shelves on Pinterest, I saw a post about L brackets, which really sparked for me. While considering how many shelves were desired in combination with the height of the wall and the cost, I ended up using a 1 in width instead of 2 in. After purchasing 1″ boards from Lowes, I was slightly concerned the boards would bow from the weight. After doing a quick test of the board strength by sitting on it while propped on two saw horses, I was confident the board would be fine.
The other decision I had to make was the size of the brackets to get. L brackets are definitely cheaper than a decorative shelf bracket, which was part of the draw for me. I wanted to be sure the shelf had enough support while keeping cost down, so I ended up choosing the 6″ x 6″ brackets.
- 1″ x 8″ x 8″ appearance pressure treated lumber
- 6-in x 1.125-in x 6-in Zinc-plated Steel Corner Brace
- #8 x 2 1/2″ wood screws
- #8 x 3/4″ wood screws
- Spray paint
- Wood stain
- Rag or staining brush
- Measuring tape
I determined the amount of length I would need for 9 shelves would be three 8′ boards or two 10′ boards. Lowes apparently doesn’t sell 10′ boards as a 1″ x 8″, so I had to get three 8′ boards. Then, I cut the boards the same width as the wall space, roughly 29″. A word to the wise, it’s worth measuring the wall space several times. This is my second project using wall space to find that they weren’t exactly square. This meant the width at the top of the wall was 1/4 in wider than the bottom of the wall.
The prep steps for this project were quite minimal, spray painting and staining. I used Rust-oleum Oil Rubbed Bronze I had from my Live Edge coffee table project. The screws should likely be sprayed as well to match. I should have sprayed them at the same time but didn’t. I ended up leaving the screws silver, because my daughter was hard pressed to get the shelves up.
From there, it was just a matter of staining the shelves. I used a stain I already had on hand, Minwax Chestnut. I tend to like the darker colors better for most of my projects. When it comes to staining, you can use either a clean rag or a foam brush. I learned long ago from my mom to save disgarded white t-shirts for staining projects. Free is always fabulous. After many a stained hand, I have decided it’s worth buying a box of gloves for easier clean up.
The shelves were hardly dry before my daughter was carting them to her room for me to attach to the wall. This made for a very pungent upstairs since the smell lasts for days. I toggled between attached the brackets to the shelf first or to the wall first. I ended up attaching to the wall first with the thought I wouldn’t be able to screw in the bottom screw with the shelf attached. The easiest method, is to place the bracket against the wall, then draw the holes onto the wall. With the bracket off the wall, drill a hole into the stud. I didn’t necessary want to put the brackets at the end of the boards, but that’s where the studs were in the wall. Using anchors in the drywall wouldn’t be a good way to support the amount of weight books would create.
After the first bracket was secured to the wall, it was important to level the shelf to ensure the right bracket would be in the correct spot. For me, the right bracket was so close to the connecting wall that the inner screw hole was just outside of the stud. Given I had two screws secured into the stud, I felt okay about one of them going into a drywall anchor.
With the brackets secured to the wall, it was just a matter of screwing in the shelves. Wood screws are self drilling, which means you usually don’t have to pre-drill the hole. I didn’t want to risk creating a crack so close to the end of the board, so I opted to drill a hole prior to placing the screw.
A Floating Book Shelves Must: Book ends
I would venture to say that floating shelves aren’t the first choice for books simply because there’s nothing to keep them from falling off the end. With this being the case, you either buy some book ends or you can go the cheap route of using the extra wood to make sliding book ends. I cut into the wood with the radial saw to knotch out a 13/16″ width. Then using a router, I cleaned up the cut, leaving about and inch or so at the end.
That’s all it took to keep the books from falling off the shelves.
That’s all there is to creating your very own Floating Book Shelves! Go ahead and give it a try this weekend! It’s a given you will feel great for accomplishing a project and creating a way to organize your space. As noted in Can organizing impact your mental health?, “Your disorganization, unfinished projects, and piles of “to-dos” may be contributing to your stress and depression. As you work hard to clear away the piles and never-ending projects, your brain will rest easy and make it easier for you to feel relaxed and happy.” For this particular organization, you may also enjoy the chance to organize the books in a particular way. My daughter was excited to organize her books by author’s last name. Whatever floats your boat!
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