Floating shelves are currently a design staple for modern interior design, especially if you want an open-plan aesthetic.
It is a great way to add a bit of style and storage to a space. Its low cost and easy installation make it an ideal choice for homeowners who want to spruce up their space with just a small budget.
However, floating shelves are limited in that they cannot support a lot of weight and will need to be structurally sound in order to work well. That’s why the first step you will need to take is to consider the dimensions, as well as the type of wood.
What’s the ideal thickness for floating shelves? If you are making a floating shelf, your wood plank should be around 2 inches thick. This thickness is perfect for keeping the shelves stable and functional, but it doesn’t look too bulky.
Aside from the wood’s thickness, other factors such as the type of material that you’re using and the measurements of the shelf should also be considered. In this article, let’s take a look at how you can build the ideal floating shelf for your space.
Things To Consider When Cutting Wood For Floating Shelves
A floating shelf can add storage to a space without closing it off or bulking up the space. Its simple design makes it an ideal addition to any wall, and it’s also quite simple to make with just a small budget.
Although it’s usually made out of wood, floating shelves can also be made using various materials such as metal, concrete, and steel. This allows homeowners to create their own unique designs.
Of course, wood is the simplest option to DIY, so that’s what we’ll mainly be talking about. If you want to make your own floating shelf, below are the most important consideration.
What Will Your Floating Shelf Hold?
Before you decide to install a floating shelf, it’s important that you know how much weight you want the shelf to hold. This is especially important if you’re planning on adding storage to various areas in your home, such as your kitchen or bedroom.
Why does it matter? Since floating shelves are only supported by brackets, they are not typically able to hold as much weight as other types of shelves. As a result, you’ll have to choose the right type of wood, brackets, and the right sizing for your shelf to be able to make a structurally sound floating shelf.
Knowing how much weight your shelves are expected to hold will help you decide the right material and size, as well as the right brackets to support your shelf.
For example, floating shelves that are designed as storage should be able to support substantially more weight than floating shelves that are only used for decoration.
That means floating shelves installed in your laundry room, kitchen, or pantry, should be able to hold at least 50 lbs per stud.
That’s because these storage areas can bulk up very quickly, and the jars of pasta sauce or laundry detergent jugs can weigh a lot, especially when there are a lot of them!
If you want to put more stuff up on the floating shelves, you should also be mindful of the shelf’s weight capacity so that you don’t bend or even break the shelves.
Similarly, books can also add up quickly. You may not think so when holding just a small paperback, but the stacks of books can really take a toll on your shelves. That’s why floating shelves designed for books really need to be structurally stable.
On the other hand, floating shelves designed for decor items don’t need to support a lot of weight and, therefore, can be a little thinner, around 1.5 inches thick.
This thickness makes the shelves look a bit more elegant, and with the right brackets, the shelf can still support around 10 – 15 lbs of weight.
Another thing that’s taken into account when it comes to choosing a floating shelf is its practicality and how that affects the shelves’ design.
A floating shelf can be a great design focal point for space and adds storage without consuming visual space. However, it’s not very practical.
Floating shelves tend to be smaller than regular shelves, especially with regard to the shelves’ depth. This means they cannot hold a lot of things.
If you’re just using a plank of wood for a floating shelf, the storage is also not very secure. Things can fall out of the shelves quite easily.
Many DIYs fix this problem by adding a small railing, either with wood or a metal rod, to keep your things from falling off the floating shelves. However, this does make the DIY project a bit more complicated, and you’ll need extra material and tools to add these details.
While floating shelves are great design elements, they definitely won’t work for every single space, especially if you want them to hold weight.
This is because floating shelves get their main support from the shelf brackets in order to achieve the ‘floating’ appearance. Without the right brackets and the proper installation, your floating shelves won’t stay up.
The first thing you need to know is that floating shelves will need to be installed directly on your wall studs. Wall studs are wooden structures inside the wall itself and are protected by a layer of plaster or drywall.
Since plaster or drywall is not very structurally sound, if you don’t install your shelves directly on the studs, you can easily rip out a piece of your wall because the plaster won’t be able to hold the brackets or support the weight of the shelves.
So, the first thing you need to do if you want to install your floating shelves is to find where the studs in your wall are and see how many studs to which you can anchor your shelves. You’ll want to install your brackets on as many studs as possible, but at least two at each end of the shelf.
Without the studs, the shelf won’t be able to support any weight, so it’s best to do this step first before making your floating shelves.
If you find that your space has enough wall studs to support your floating shelves, you can continue to get the right brackets for the shelves.
The brackets are what anchor your piece of wood to the wall to make it a shelf, so if the brackets are strong and sturdy, your shelves will be strong and sturdy.
Besides making sure that your brackets can support the weight, you should also make sure that the length of the bracket is at least half the width of your shelf.
You can get longer brackets for more support, but if your brackets are too short, they won’t be able to support the weight of the shelves.
Brackets for floating shelves often have pegs that are designed to be inserted into drilled holes on the side of the shelf to create a ‘floating’ appearance.
However, if you don’t want to drill holes in the wood or if your piece of wood is too thin, you can also get brackets that can add support at the bottom of the shelf or brackets that can become a design element themselves.
Ideal Floating Shelves Size
Once you’ve decided on the purpose and design of your floating shelf, you can start considering the dimensions of your shelf. Let’s take a look at some ideal measurements below.
Floating Shelf Thickness
As we’ve mentioned, the ideal thickness for floating shelves is about 2 inches thick. This is the size that you can most commonly find in home improvement stores, and this thickness would be able to support most applications.
However, if you want to make a thinner shelf just to hold light decor items, and you are using a bracket that doesn’t require drilling big holes for the pegs, you can also use 1.5″ thick pieces of wood. We don’t recommend using a thinner piece since it can affect the structure of the shelf.
You can also use a thicker piece of wood for your floating shelf, but keep in mind that you should account for the wood’s added weight when thinking about the weight capacity of the brackets.
Floating Shelf Length
The length of your floating shelf will largely depend on your space and how many wall studs you can find. The length of the shelf can range anywhere from 10 inches to 30 inches, depending on your space.
Keep in mind that the longer the shelf, the more brackets you’ll need to use, and the more wall studs you will need to support the shelf. Without proper support, longer floating shelves can dip in the middle, especially after some use. You definitely don’t want that as a design element!
Floating Shelf Depth
Another important factor that’s taken into account when it comes to making a floating shelf is its depth. Having the proper depth can help distribute the weight across the entire shelf and give it more room to fit heavy items.
The most common shelf depth for floating shelves is from 12 to 16 inches, and that’s because the most common size brackets you can find are 6 inches and 8 inches.
As we’ve mentioned, you’ll want your brackets to be at least half the depth of your shelf, so if the shelves are too deep, the brackets may not be able to support them.
Floating Shelf Weight Capacity
A floating shelf should not be able to support as much weight as other types of storage. In most instances, you can expect the shelves to support from 10 to 50 lbs of weight, depending on the type of wood you’re using, and how many wall studs to which you’ve attached the shelves.
When making floating shelves, it’s important to know the weight capacity of your brackets as well as your type of wood so that you can have a structurally sound and functional floating shelf.
Proper installation to the wall studs can also add some weight handling capacity to your shelves.
Best Types Of Wood For Floating Shelves
Not all types of wood are created equal. Some types of wood are stronger than others, and strength is definitely what you want when it comes to making a shelf that needs a lot of support, like a floating shelf.
Below is a comparison between the strongest types of wood and the weight of a 12″ by 9″ by 2″ shelf. The strength of wood is indicated by specific gravity, which tells you the wood’s density. The higher this number is, the stronger the wood is.
|Type of Wood||Weight (12” x 9” x 2”)||Specific Gravity (Strength)|
|Cherry Wood||4.50 lbs||0.47|
Keep in mind that stronger wood also means heavier wood. The heaviest type of wood on this list is oak, which is quite hard to work with because of how heavy it is. You will need to account for this weight when thinking about what kind of brackets to get.
If you want ot use a heavy piece of wood for your floating shelf, make sure to use the proper brackets and install your brackets on a lot of wall studs to support the structure.
Let’s take a look at each type of wood below.
Pinewood is a type of softwood that has a natural pale yellow or white color. Its open grain and sometimes knotty appearance make it an ideal choice for staining. This type of wood is known to have a distinctive grain pattern that varies a lot, so no two pieces of pine look the same.
Although pine wood is softwood, it’s still highly durable and suitable for a floating shelf. It’s a lightweight and not very dense type of wood, which means it’s suitable to make shelves for decor items.
Poplar is a type of hardwood, but it’s considered not as strong as other types of hardwood. However, it’s still a highly durable type of wood that can support a lot of weight, suitable for decor.
Poplar is known for its almost-white color with black grains, and it absorbs stain beautifully for a smooth finish.
Maple wood is another hardwood option for floating shelves that need to support weight because this type of wood is very strong. The strength of the wood allows you to use heavy objects without worrying about the shelf’s stability.
Maple wood also stains nicely. You can use any type of stain on maple, including oil-based and water-based stains. These are both easy to apply, and they produce a natural look that blends well with most decor styles.
The biggest advantage of using maple wood for floating shelves is its affordability. Maple is one of the least expensive hardwoods out there, so if you’re looking for an affordable option for your project, this type of wood would work well for you.
In addition, maple is also very durable and will last a lifetime if properly cared for. A layer of varnish will keep the wood looking new and polished for a long time.
Cherry wood is a hardwood with a reddish-brown color and is generally used in furniture making. It also has a straight grain pattern, which makes it easy to work with.
Cherry wood is durable, long-lasting wood that can withstand heavyweight. This makes cherry wood an excellent choice for floating shelves.
Walnut wood is one of the most popular hardwoods in the world due to its beautiful dark color with lighter streaks. It is also very strong and durable, making it a good candidate for floating shelves that will be exposed to moisture from humidity or water spills, such as in your kitchen.
Walnut is a hardwood that is easy to work with because it doesn’t have many knots or other imperfections that other types of wood do. It takes stains well and is super long-lasting, making it a great option for areas that are subjected to a lot of wear and tear.
Oak is the ideal choice for floating shelves because it’s an extremely durable, long-lasting wood. Its attractive wood grain and color make it a great addition to any room—plus, it’s less likely to warp when exposed to sunlight.
Oak also has good water-resistant properties, making it ideal for bathroom applications. Additionally, oak resists wear and tear much better than other woods, as well as stains and polishes well.
How To Make Floating Shelves
If you want to make some floating shelves for your space, follow this tutorial to make and install your own floating shelves:
Walnut Vs Maple Wood – How To Choose
Mahogany Vs Cherry Wood – The Most Important Differences