DIY Floating Bookshelf
*for all my book hoarders out there...
As was the case for many in 2020, I used the early months of the pandemic to tackle home improvement projects and this cute – and totally functional – DIY Floating Bookshelf was one of them. Born out of a need for book storage (because I was tired of tripping over stacks of them by my bedside), I came up with a solution that was not only visually appealing – give me all the colorful spines – but also space saving (it cleverly capitalized on an otherwise dead corner in my living-room-turned-creative-studio).
Having received SEVERAL (like three, ha!) requests via Instagram, I finally got around to detailing the process for this bibliophile's dream DIY. Scroll through below to see more of the finished project, then read on for the full HOW-TO tutorial...
TYPE - I used poplar (because it’s a fine grain “hardwood” that takes paint well)
DIMENSIONS - Mine was ¾” thick x 5.5” wide x 64” long
The size I got is referred to as a 1x6 board (thickness x width), but it actually measures ¾” thick by 5.5” wide. I then had it cut to 64” long, which Home Depot or Lowes will do for free.
TYPE + SIZE - #8 Phillips flat head ¾” length – for screwing shelves to wood board
TYPE + SIZE - #8 Phillips flat head 2” length – for screwing wood board to wall studs (which are also wood)*
*Refer to my notes in step 3 under THE PROCESS section regarding what to do if you’re not able to screw into studs.
Metal book shelves:
I used these white ones from Amazon – they come as a set of four, so I purchased two (2) sets, for a total of eight shelves (‘cause I love to read and got a whole lotta books to show for it!)
Paint + paint application:
I used the same color and sheen that’s on my walls (a custom creamy white in a flat finish), so that the board didn’t stand out
Based on the width of my board, I used a 4” foam roller to apply the paint to the top surface and all edges (sides, top and bottom). Since the backside of the board will be against the wall, you don’t need to paint that.
I have several reusable / washable canvas drop cloths on hand for various painting projects and these are my go-to! They're great for protecting your floors and other surfaces you don't want paint getting on, especially if you're like me and you're a messy painter.
Power drill with ⅛” drill bit AND a Phillips screwdriver bit:
The ⅛” drill bit is to pre-drill holes in the wood for where the shelf screws will go AND for where the screws will go that you’re using to attach the board to the wall (Trust me: pre-drilling not only saves you time, but saves your arm from having to manually torque that many screws!)
The Phillips screwdriver bit for your power drill is to aid in screwing in all the screws (again, to save your arm)
Worth noting...My power drill is straight out of the 1970’s (no joke, it was my mom’s back in the day), but you can find them at Home Depot for less than $40!
And of course, you can ALWAYS do this project the old fashioned way with a hammer and nail (to create starter holes – just make sure the nail isn’t thicker than the screws you’re using) and a handheld Phillips screwdriver (to manually screw in all the screws)
1. Paint the board – depending on the quality of your paint, use 1-2 coats and let dry fully in between each one (if the paint is really thin, you may need 3 coats)
2. Install the shelves on the board
Once board is COMPLETELY DRY, use a pencil and measuring tape to measure and mark where the shelves will go on your board, then use a leveler to ensure the shelves are straight before marking the holes (next step)
FOR REFERENCE: My board was 64” long/tall and I used 8 shelves, so I lined up the bottom shelf with the bottom of the board (vertically), then spaced the remaining 7 shelves above, with 8” in between each one.
Once you determine shelf placement, use a pencil to mark a dot in the middle of the four screw holes on each shelf, then before you set the shelves aside, mark the back of each with a number (1-8, or however many shelves you have) and write the same number on the corresponding spot on the board where each shelf was. This is to ensure that the holes line up when you go back to install the shelves and accounts for any manufacturer discrepancies with their design.
Using a power drill with a ⅛ drill bit, pre-drill through the pencil marks you made in the last step (be careful not to drill all the way through the board)
NOTE: if you don’t have a power drill, you can create a starter hole on each dot by hammering a nail into it. Use a nail that’s slightly smaller in diameter than the screws and only hammer about 1/4" in, then remove the nail. Repeat this step for all four screw holes of each shelf that you’ve marked with your pencil.
Once you’ve created ALL the starter holes, grab the shelves and reposition them (matching the numbers you marked earlier) so that holes in the shelf line up with the holes in the board, then screw in each screw.
NOTE: I did this step by hand with a Phillips screwdriver, but you could also do it with your power drill and a Phillips screwdriver bit.
3. Install the board (with shelves attached) on the wall
Locate the wall studs in the area where you’d like your DIY floating bookshelf to hang – if you’re not sure how to find the studs, this is a very helpful video that shows several tricks to do so
Once you determine where the stud is and assuming it lines up with where you want your shelf to hang (if not, see NOTE after all images below), mark 4-5 points along the center line (or close to it) of the board. These points are where you'll screw the board to the wall, so they should be as evenly spaced as possible along the length (for proper weight distribution) and placed in between the metal shelves.
FOR REFERENCE: I did 5 points, placed above every other shelf (roughly), and they're slightly off-center because I wanted the board to be centered on the wall, but the stud location was more to the left. Cheating the stud screws to the left of center on the board allowed me to visually center the entire unit on the wall, while still maintaining the integrity of the installation.
Just as you did with the metal shelf screw holes above, you'll want to pre-drill these 4-5 points prior to installing the unit on the wall.
Once you do that, install the board by screwing in the very top screw first, then work your way down.
NOTE: If you’re not able to screw the wood board directly into a stud – because there isn’t one where you want to hang it – then you’ll need to use anchors (with coordinating screws) to suit your wall type (e.g. drywall, lath and plaster – common in older houses, like mine – concrete, ceramic tile, etc.). You’ll also want to ensure the anchors will support the approximate weight you’ll be placing on the shelves. This will depend on how many shelves you plan to do, since the more shelves you have on the board, the more books you’ll be able to display and therefore, the more weight you’ll need to support. While you’ll need to use multiple anchors along the board, it’s important to note that the amount of weight they can support is not cumulative. In other words, using 4 anchors that each support 50lbs does not mean that you can load up to 200lbs worth of items on your shelving unit. The total weight is still 50lbs, but having multiple anchor points ensures the following:
Your shelf will be fully secured to the wall
The weight (load) will be more evenly distributed across multiple anchors, which is better for your wall (e.g. less strain/tension on a single point)
4. Add your books and voila! – you’ve got your very own DIY floating bookshelf! Well done, my friend. Now kick up your feet and get to reading!
5. Optional styling ideas + add-ons:
Top your books off with a fun/quirky sculptural piece – like Frank, my fake dog figurine, pictured above – or add a small potted plant
Create a half rounded shelf, paint it in a funky color, install it a few inches above the books, then place your sculptural or plant element on top of that (I'd planned to do this, but never got around to it!)
You can certainly screw the bookshelves directly into the wall, but when you consider that each shelf has 4 screws, it’s much easier, more sturdy and less damaging to your walls to screw the shelves into a wood board first, then screw the board into the wall. Plus…
It gives you a better chance of hitting a stud: the vertical wood boards – generally 2x4’s – that are installed at 16-18” intervals inside a wall to strengthen and and support the wallboard (drywall), paneling or plaster
It’s easier to create even spacing between shelves
You can take the entire unit with you if you ever move or simply decide to relocate it to another room in your current home
I know that sounds like A LOT, but I promise it’s relatively easy – it just takes time and patience (much like any DO IT YOURSELF project).
As always, reach out with any questions and please let me know if you end up trying this DIY!! I'd love to hear how it went and if you have any feedback on the process.