DIY Cheap and Easy Floating Wood Shelves: Beginners Tutorial

I love the look of floating shelves and I knew that I wanted to incorporate one in my recent bathroom renovation. I really wanted a floating shelf that would span the entire length of the wall from the vanity to the shower. I also knew that a shelf that long would cost a ton of money. So, I decided to make one myself and I am really happy with how it turned out…and I saved a lot of money too!

This floating shelf is perfect for a beginner and with the help of some metal “L” brackets this tutorial will show you how to hang a shelf to give the illusion of an expensive floating shelf.

My Materials List:

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2×6 Lumber– I wanted my shelf to have some depth to it, but I didn’t want it to stick out too far. The nominal 5.5″ of the 2×6 was perfect!
  • Wood Stain– I used Varathane Premium Wood Stain in Braismoke.
  • Aged Wood Accelerator– I had this on had from a previous project and I love how it enhances the grain of wood and also brings out a rustic brown finish.
  • Stain Brush
  • Clean Cloth– I love using a clean white cotton cloth to help remove excess stain. This is the perfect excuse to use your husbands old undershirt…you know the one with the holes that he insists on still wearing!
  • Sand Paper (not pictured)- 80 and 120 Grit
  • “L” Bracket– I used 4 in. Galvanized Corner Brace (4-Pack). This was a game changer for my budget. I wanted smaller brackets so that I could “hide them” but I still wanted something sturdy. I found these corner braces and they came four to a pack, which was all I needed. The brackets came pre-drilled with four holes and screws to fit each opening. Best of all the 4-pack was less than $8!!!
  • Spray Paint (not pictured)- wanted the brackets to be a flat black like a lot of the other metal finishes in the space. I already had the spray cans on hand from a previous project.


Use a cardboard box as your spray paint enclosure to insure that no over spay is getting on nearby items. Don’t forget to spray any screw that will be left exposed by poking their sharp tips into the cardboard for stability.

Tool Time

1)Level 2) Orbital Sander 3) Tape Measurer 4) Electric Drill 5) Circular Saw 6) Saw Horses or Workbench

I have made it really easy for you and linked this to my LikeToKnow.It page where you can shop directly from there!

Step One: Prep-Rally

The first step is to prep the wood. Before starting, measure your space, and cut your board to size. Next, sand and prep the wood for the stain. I start with an 80 grit sandpaper and then work up to a smaller grit like a 120. Remember: The lower the grit the more coarse the sandpaper typically used for a more intense sanding. The higher the grit the finer the sandpaper typically used as a final step to smooth the wood.

Step Two: Brush On, Wipe Off

Staining is fairly easy and to be honest this is my first time staining a piece this large. I would suggest practicing on a scrap piece of wood prior to staining the larger piece to insure the prefect final product.

Using your stain brush, add an adequate amount of stain, and brush in the direction of the grain. Let it sit, the longer it sits the darker the stain. I wanted something a bit lighter so I removed the excess with a cloth right away.

To me, the Brairsmoke stain alone wasn’t 100% what I was looking for and a bit too ashy-grey. I wanted something warmer and with some brown tones. I decided to also apply an Aged-Wood Accelerator that had bark brown undertones. I added the accelerator pretty soon after the stain and it worked well but, I suggest using the manufacturers recommendations. I had this product on hand from a another project and I wasn’t worried that it would eat into my final budget.

Step Three: Level Up

Like I mentioned before, the “L” Brackets that I found came in a set of four and they are exactly what I wanted to give the shelves the illusion that they are floating.

Using a tape measure, measure the distance that the shelf will span, and equally divide the length into four sections ( you will use more or less brackets depending on the size of your shelf). I suggest using the existing stud spacing as a guide. My shelf was a little under six feet and I decided to use four brackets for maximum stability.

Using the spacing that you measured previously, use a 2″ wood screw to secure your bracket to the wall. Making sure to stay level with each new bracket you install. You don’t want to get to the end and install a crooked shelf!

Please note that you should use drywall anchors if you are not going to be securing directly into a stud. This is especially true for larger shelves.

Step Four: Let’s Take a Shelfie

Now that your brackets are installed and level it is time to add the shelf. To secure the shelf we are going to use the 1″ screws that came with the brackets and drill upwards to anchor down the shelf. The brackets come with holes pre-drilled and I suggest using both holes to anchor down the shelf.

Repeat this step on all brackets.

Step Five: I Feel Like I’m Floating

As you know, this tutorial is very easy, and it is meant to give the illusion of an expensive floating shelf. To give this illusion of floating I suggest you purposefully dress up the shelf and conceal the exposed brackets. Don’t worry, the brackets only stick up a few inches and are easy to hide.

I love the finish product and it adds the perfect amount of horizontal storage that this space needed! Check out my blog post on how to make this awesome DIY Canvas Wall Art.

Pin It!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and don’t forget to Pin it to your favorite board!

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