I’ve been diligently chipping away at my do-to list for the One Room Challenge, and am feeling pretty good about where I’m at with everything. In last week’s Week 2 post for the Challenge, I mentioned the floating shelves that we DIYed for the space. It was one of major items on the list that needed to get done, and it required help from the Mr. (um , well okay, he pretty much did it all). But the family room definitely needed some decorative storage space to display family photos, art, and just cool stuff that needed something to sit on vs. being hung on the wall. Here’s the before:
Big, white, empty.
Floating shelves ended up being the final solution for the wall, but was most definitely not the first option. I went through a host of ideas before deciding on this DIY option. First, I explored doing custom bookcases, which rang in at a tune of about $5,000. Pass! Next! Then I looked into freestanding bookcases, but due to the size of the bookcases necessary to match the size of the wall (the wall is 10ft tall by 12 feet wide), that was going to run me a minimum of $1k, which I was not fond either. I thought about doing DIY Bookcases with one of the awesome IKEA Billy hacks out there, but again due to the size of the wall, the bookcases would not have been tall enough without massive modification. And…I knew I wouldn’t have the Mr.’s willing participation on a project of this scale, or even just the time to do it at all.
So given all that, floating shelves seemed like the perfect go-between – but reality was that we needed big shelving, and big shelving was expensive to purchased outright. So I started to look for DIY options. When I came across the floating shelving tutorial made out of hollow core doors and strips of 2 x 4 boards at The Family Handyman, I knew it was the perfect solution.
So that is how this project came about. You can visit The Family Handyman for a tutorial that doesn’t contain commentary like mine does- but if you prefer a more colorful version, then keep reading to hear how we went about creating these floating shelves.
DIY Floating Shelves
(To make four shelves)
- 2 sets of hollow core bi-fold closet doors
- 2 – 2 x 4 x 6ft. boards
- 1/4-in. x 3-1/2-in. lag screws
- 1-in. brad nails
- Wood Filler
- Paintable Caulk (optional)
Other Tools Necessary
- Tape measure
- Socket/ratchet set
- Stud finder
- Table saw 40-tooth saw blade
- Wood chisel
First, I removed the hinges holding the bi fold doors together, then patched those holes with wood filler and sanded down as necessary. I also had to patch and sand over the holes at the tops and bottoms of each bi-fold door that were there to accommodate the door mechanism (I actually did this at the end of the process, but could be done first too). If you use a regular door instead of bi-fold per The Family Handyman instructions, you won’t have this step.
The Jeld -Wen bi-fold doors from Home Depot we used
I then primed and painted the doors with the same white color (Benjamin Moore White Dove) that my walls are painted. If you are able to get a bi-fold door that is unfinished, you could also try staining it – however you’d have to get creative on the tops (what will be the end of your shelf) as they won’t be finished with the same wood veneer that the sides are. We were looking for longer shelves, so we kept them their full length as purchased, but if you want shorter shelves, The Family Handyman tutorial has instruction for that as well.
Next, we had to cut down the width of each panel to create a shelf that would have less depth once up on the wall. The panels of the bi-fold door measured 12″ wide, so we cut them down using a table saw to 9″, as that was the recommended size in order to avoid weakening the cantilever strength of the shelf. You will need to access the interior hollow core of the door, so a cut will be necessary regardless of the size of door you have. We used a 40 tooth carbide blade on the saw to ensure the cut was smooth.
Once we had them cut down to 9″ we were able to chip away at the cardboard interior structure of the door in order to make a space for the bracket to slide into. Chipping away the cardboard was super easy, I actually used a spakleing knife (they recommend a wood chisel) and sliced the cardboard where it attached to the inside part of the door. Instead of cutting it away and removing it, I pushed most of it further down into the door. I figured it was easier, and offered more support for the structure of the shelf anyway.
Then we turned towards creating the brackets out of the 2 x 4 x 6ft boards that would mount to the wall and the shelves would slide on to. Since we purchased 6 ft. length, and the doors were 80″, we didn’t have to cut any length off, but we did have to cut them lengthwise to get the thickness of the internal measurement of the door. That measurement was 1-3/32 in. The board dimensions end up being 1 1/2 in. (the actual thickness of a 2×4) by 1-3/32 in., with the 1-1/2 in. portion acting as the length (the part that sticks out of the wall and supports the shelf itself) of the bracket. We only needed one 2 x 4 board for all shelves, but I would have a second on hand just in case of cutting errors (measure twice, cut once!). Just a note here: the Mr. decided that if he were to do this again, he would have made two cuts and made the length a bit longer as he felt it would offer a bit more support o the shelf. It isn’t necessary (as you will see below), but he felt it would just make it even stronger.
The strips of 2 x 4 cut down to size to be mounted as brackets.
Once the brackets were cut, we located the wall studs using a stud finder (my favorite tool of course), and attached the brackets to the wall on the stud using a level and lag screws in the location we desired. After these were secured, we applied wood glue to the top of the bracket and the bottom of the shelf, and slid them onto the bracket. Not gonna lie, at this point we were totally concerned about how these suckers were going to stay put on these tiny brackets. I was sure this DIY was doomed for failure. We threw around some ideas as to how to make it more stable, but decided to just go ahead with putting the brad nails in to see what would happen.
Brad nails were placed all along the length of the shelf where it met with the bracket, both on the top and bottom sides of the shelf. Surprisingly, once the glue dried, these babies were totally secure. The process was repeated for each shelf, using 14″ of space in-between. While the shelves are sturdy and secure, they are not meant to hold a ton of weight, so be careful with what you place on them. Since I am using them for decorative purposes, they are more than sufficient to hold the weight of the types of things I’ll have up there.
Lastly – because neither the wall, nor our cut on the door was exactly straight, we decided to add a line of paintable caulk on the top and sides in order to help conceal the small crack between the shelf and the wall. I had to put a final coat of paint on the shelves anyway to cover marks from handling them during the construction and touch up over the brad nails, so it worked to paint right over the caulk too.
The entire project only took about 3 hours. Overall, I really like how they turned out. It was the perfect solution for the display storage I was looking for – and was cheap and easy too. Here’s how much we spent for 4 shelves:
2 bi-fold door – $45 each = $90 total
16 lag screws @ .78 each = $12.48
2 x 4 x 6ft1@ 2.48 = $2.48
1 pack of brad nails: $1.30
The remainder of items: wood filler, caulk, and paint we had on hand = Free
Total cost: $106.26
So this project was a total win win for my budget, and for the Mr.’s patience with the DIY projects I throw at him.
All finished, with the new lights that were put in the following week too (more on that in the next post on Thursday)!
Once they were all done, I styled the shelves with a few random items I had laying around to give you a better visual of how things look on them. But these are just temporary items.
Sorry for the bad photo, lighting was terrible when I took this!
I have big plans for the styling of these shelves, so be sure to keep coming back to get sneak peaks of items I pick out for them, and how it all comes together at the final reveal for the One Room Challenge on Nov. 10th!