One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received about our kitchen remodel is how the heck to build the floating shelves that are heavy-duty enough to hold dishware but also are bracket-free. Well friends, it’s pretty easy. And pretty inexpensive. Well worth giving it a go in any kitchen.
The idea is pretty basic. So here’s everything you need to know to build your own heavy duty floating shelves.
Use threaded rods inserted into both studs in the wall and into your floating shelf. Of course this isn’t the only approach – you can use L-brackets in the wall like this, cleats like this, or a torsion box like this. All of these approaches will work, but we wanted thinner floating shelves, nothing wider than 1 1/2″ inches, which meant these other options wouldn’t work for us. So after a bunch of research, we went for the threaded rod approach which seemed the most solid for the look I wanted. Here’s what you’ll need to do your own.
- 12″ lengths of 5/8″ threaded rod – quantity depends on the number of studs you have to drill into
- 2×12 framing lumber, cut to the desired length of your floating shelf
- 1/2″ drill bit (long enough to drill 3″ into stud)
- 5/8″ drill bit (long enough to drill 8″ into shelf)
- epoxy or construction adhesive (optional but recommended)
- measuring tape
- stain and waterlox or polyurethane to seal the shelves
The basic concept is to drill and insert the threaded rods into the holes in the studs. Then make corresponding holes in the shelf. Then slide (or pound) the shelf onto the rods.
Start by using a level to put a line on your wall where your shelf will go. You’ll use this line to align your holes for the rods.
Next drill use your 1/2″ drill bit to drill holes into the wall studs 3″ deep, keeping the drill level. Yes, need to use the 1/2″ drill bit for your 5/8″ rod so that they rods aren’t too loose. Otherwise it won’t give any support. See the loose rod in the below pic (hint, second from left).
You may want to remove the drywall to ensure you are drilling into the middle of the stud, exactly. We did that and it was an easy patch (especially when the patched areas were then covered by tile). We also installed our shelves first then tiled around them, but you can do it the other way around, too.
Once your holes are drilled into the studs, pound the rods into the holes just a little and then twist in the rest of the way, making sure they are straight and level. Because they are threaded they act like screws so you can twist in the larger rod into the smaller hole. We used vice grips. You can also use construction adhesive/epoxy in the holes to make sure the rods stay secure. We skipped that step and found that twisting the rods worked just fine (and once we started there was no easy way those were coming back out to allow use to insert epoxy).
Next mark where you need to make corresponding holes in your shelf. We used basic measurements and held up our board to make sure things would align okay.
Using your 5/8″ long drill bit, drill about 8″ deep into the shelf for each of the rods. You want the larger hole to allow for some play when putting the shelf in place.
Once you’ve drilled your holes, slide the shelf onto the rods. Chances are the rods won’t be perfect so you’ll need to use a mallet to hit the board onto the rods. Check for level before fully attaching the shelf – once you do there isn’t an easy way to pull the shelf back off (trust me on this).
Then finish off your shelf by sanding it smooth, staining if you want (we skipped that), and finishing with waterlox or polyurethane. Wait for everything to dry/cure and then load that sucker up with all your dishware.
Clearly we have a TON of heavy dishes on our shelves and they haven’t budged. I’m kind of thinking that’s an excuse for me to be able to load these shelves up even more – maybe a colorful dish set when I’m bored of white??
- Pick the straightest wood you can find. You can use a higher quality wood, but the framing lumber is inexpensive and works well considering you mostly just see the front edge. Pick a piece with few knots, especially on the exposed edge, and no one will notice that it is framing lumber.
- Keep you drill level. Seriously, don’t screw this one up. You want your holes in the studs and in the shelf to be as straight as possible, both up and down (for level) and sideways (so they fit in well).
- It is easiest to sand the shelf before installing it to keep your house dust-free or in my case, a little less dusty than usual.
- You can finish however you want – distress for a more rustic finish or even paint.
- If you are having trouble with the holes aligning, you can widen the hole in the shelf but not in the stud). You can also use a hammer to pound the rod sticking out of the stud up/down/sideways if necessary.
- Test fit everything and check with a level before using any construction adhesive or epoxy. Our fits were so tight we didn’t bother with either – and nothing is moving.
- Caulk where your shelf meets the wall for a more finished look.
Really, the process was pretty straightforward and the result is exactly what we wanted. So if you’re looking for a bracket-free, heavy duty floating shelves, this is a great way to go!
p.s. I added all the kitchen sources onto our Kitchen Reveal post so you can find them all here. And thanks for all your love about our finished kitchen here and on Instagram – you guys are THE BEST!!