DIY Solid Wood Wall-to-Wall Shelves

Last night we hung the shelves in the reading room and the design that has been in our minds finally came to fruition. From this:

To this:

We really wanted wall-to-wall thicker solid wood shelves that maybe looked like they were floating, but not necessarily are–since you can’t very easily achieve that with solid wood. We are so pleased with the results! Of course, now we can fill them up with books and some accessories, but before we do that we wanted to give you a full breakdown of what we used and what we did in case you wanted to do something similar in your home. And why wouldn’t you!?

What We Used:

4–10 3/4″ deep x 2 1/2″ thick x 10′ long boards of Douglas Fir. (We special ordered these from our local lumber yard for $33 each)
100 grit sandpaper
Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut
Satin Polycrylic
20–2″x5/8″inside corner brackets
40–2″screws
40–3/4″ screws (came with the inside corner braces we bought from Ace)
16–heavy duty anchors
Miter Saw
Palm sander
Router
DeWalt impact driver
Level
Stud Finder
Hammer
Philips screwdriver
Pencil

What We Did:

We special ordered the boards because we wanted them a little thicker, and we wanted squared edges. We were pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive they were. Even still, the ends were a little rough and uneven, which we expected, so the first step was to square the edges and cut them to fit on the wall exactly. For this, we used a miter saw. The blade wasn’t big enough to cut through the whole board (wah wahhh), so Chris cut half, flipped the board, lined up the blade with the first cut, and finished cutting through.

Even though we wanted the shelves to look like they were floating (ie, no visible brackets), we knew that would be difficult to achieve with the size of boards we were dealing with. The boards were really heavy. So we picked up these 2 inch metal angle brackets. These worked perfect, because they were short enough to hide behind the 2.5 inch boards, but strong enough to hold the weight without bending. Something this short wouldn’t work if just holding from the back wall, but since we were putting the shelves wall-to-wall, we could have one bracket on each end to prevent the boards from sagging forward. So after cutting the boards to size, we measured the wall and found 3 somewhat evenly-spaced studs that we could connect the brackets straight into. Unfortunately, there weren’t any studs where we needed them to be on the sides, so we found some heavy-duty wall anchors, each rated to hold up to 75 pounds. We would have two anchors supporting each side bracket (a total of 4 anchors in the 2 side brackets for each board), and coupled with the back-wall brackets mounted directly to the studs, this would give us plenty of support.

After taking the measurements and deciding where the brackets would mount on the back wall, we marked these locations on our boards and routed spaces out so the brackets could set inside the boards, making them flush and less visible. You need to take the measuring part of this step serious, because the brackets are hung on the wall before you place the shelves. This means your routed out spaces need to match perfectly with where the brackets are mounted. We’ve all heard the advice to “measure twice, cut once.” Well with this, measure 5 or 6 times, pray like mad, and then cut.

After deciding the best way to stain the boards (you can read about that here), we sanded them smooth with a palm sander, equipped with 100 grit sandpaper–being careful not to over-sand, because that can impact Douglas Fir’s ability to accept stain. So we took our time to get it right.

The gel stain we mentioned earlier this week worked perfectly. We spread it on nice and thick, wiped it off with rags and paper towels, and let each coat cry for 8 hours. We did two coats of stain, plus a layer of water-based satin polycrylic–which gives off a nice low-lustre sheen. Nothing too shiny, just protects.

Once the shelves were cut, sanded, routed, stained and sealed, we only needed to get them mounted. Our friends at Ace Hardware sent over a heavy duty 18V DeWalt Impact driver for us to try out. We weren’t sure what to expect when comparing it to our standard drill that we’ve been using for the past three years, but, well, have you ever used an impact driver? We were dealing with solid wood and studs and it was like butter. In fact, the first stud Chris drove a bracket into, he thought he missed the stud! It was effortless. We are working on putting together a giveaway with Ace Hardware because these are one of those game-changer tools we can’t imagine living without.  Stay tuned. It’s good.

Making sure the brackets were level on the wall
We learned this trick from our friend, Preston. Hammer a phillips screwdriver (or nail) just once before drilling a screw so it doesn’t wobble when driving

Anyway, back to it. We measured the predetermined locations for the brackets several times, drew lines, and mounted them with 2″ screws. The new driver worked perfectly and the brackets were solid. But the big unknown was if the brackets would line up with the routed slots in the shelves. We grabbed the boards, lifted them up…

held our collective breath, and…

They matched up. Perfectly. Cue sigh of relief. The hard part was over. The shelves were level. The last step was just driving 3/4″ screws into the underside of the shelves to secure them in place. And then stand back and pat ourselves on the back.

We have spent every other minute, just sitting on the couch looking at our pretty, empty shelves. But this weekend we can’t wait to load them up and wrap this room up–for now. Happy Weekend to all of you!

To read more about the transformation of our reading room, click here.

We are one of the 8 bloggers on the Ace Blogger Panel and this post was in collaboration with Ace Hardware. They sent us the impact driver to try and review and we’re currently working on a giveaway for all of you (as soon as it gets back in stock!). All opinions and words are our own. Promise. 

30 Comments

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Jimena

    Love the shelves, LOVE this room!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Rosko & Paige

    They look beautiful!! I’d would love to have that room in my home. It has come together quite nicely! Good job guys!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Meagan @ Meagan Tells All

    Whoa whoa whoa!! Beautiful! Seriously,that wall color is amazing with the stain on the shelves. At first I was doubting those little brackets, but then I saw you put two on each end and my fears went away. Can’t wait to see how you fill them! Books books books!! Jealous!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Gabbi @ Retro Ranch Reno

    Looks absolutely amazing!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    casamarcelli.com

    This is stunning. I’ve already showed the picture to my husband and told him we need to do this in the weird recessed area that was left in our living room after we ripped out a horrible built in desk! This would be absolutely perfect for that spot!

    http://casamarcelli.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/build-in-after.jpg?w=467&h=350

    http://casamarcelli.com/home-tour/

    Need to do this. So thanks for the good instructions!!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Gretchen

    ooh, those are so pretty! I’m loving the way this room is coming together :)

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Kim @ Yellow Brick Home

    I’m SUPER impressed that you took the time to route out the places where the L hooks would go! The attention to detail is impeccable. Excelente, Marcums!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Susan

    so pretty!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Brynne Delerson

    Looking good! Love the color stain with those fab green walls!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    gustoandgrace

    This room looks amazing! I love the shelves, the color, and the lights!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    qlkowa

    Looks great!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Rebecca W.

    It looks like they were meant to be there. Fabulous!!!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Cindy

    Gorgeous. We are wanting to do something similar in our office: chunky wood, wall to wall, looks like they’re floating. But I’ve been a bit stumped. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Amy @ Five Kinds of Happy

    Looks SO good. I have loved seeing your style develop over the last year or so – I feel like you’ve totally got it sussed! Beautiful.

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Sherri

    The room looks amazing. Love the shelves, the color, all the lighting, the warmth of the sofa and pillows. Can’t wait to see the finished project!

  • Reply December 20, 2013

    Caroline Nolazco

    It looks fantastic! The wood tone really warms it up and I love the wooden bowl on the coffee table. Brings it together nicely. Cant wait to see it all styled :)

  • Reply December 21, 2013

    Steph

    This room is really turning out beautiful. I love the wood and the green and how colors in the pictures
    are coming out. Even the wood thing on the coffee table….
    :)

  • Reply December 21, 2013

    Kara

    Holy wow. Those look fantastic! Are you at all concerned about the weight of the shelves and the weight of books combined with the “L” bracket mounts? I’ve been wanting to put shelves in a niche in my dining room to hold cookbooks, liquor bottles, glasses & cups, etc. and I’ve been struggling with how to mount them in a way that doesn’t look like IKEA shelving but that is safe and stable. I’m seriously thinking that if you’re comfortable with these thick, heavy shelves holding books, I shouldn’t be concerned about my shorter shelves holding a dozen bottles or my cookbooks.

    • Reply December 23, 2013

      Julia Marcum

      We aren’t in the least concerned about the weight of these shelves on the L brackets for a couple reasons. First, they are mounted into 3 studs, but the addition of the L-brackets supporting the sides are really putting us at ease.

  • Reply December 22, 2013

    Connie

    Oh wow! That looks absolutely amazing. I love everything about that… the colors work so great together. I’m now thinking where in my house can I do that?

  • Reply January 18, 2014

    Melissa

    This is beautiful and so creative! What paint color did you use?

  • Reply January 26, 2014

    Madeleine

    Looks really great! Would love to know what the paint color is.

  • Reply January 26, 2014

    Monette

    Fabulous, it looks awesome and I loved reading the blog for the first time. I will be a regular reader

  • Reply January 26, 2014

    Kate

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I’ve been wanting to do almost exactly the same project and this is so so so helpful. What tool did you use to route out the spots where the shelves sit on the brackets? Specific brand and tip sizes would be really helpful!!!

    • Reply January 26, 2014

      Julia

      The router we used is a Craftsman plunge router with a digital display and went down 1/8″. We used the smallest, flattest bit. Hope that helps!

  • Reply January 27, 2014

    Abigail

    This is EXACTLY what I am planning in my living room, same color wood, everything! Thanks so much for the step by step and the info on the wood you used. I went to local hardware store and couldn’t make up my mind which type of wood to use or dimensions. I was also concerned as to how I was going to make it look like a floating shelf. This has definitely given me a better grasp of exactly what I need to do. Looks great!
    Thanks again

  • Reply February 1, 2014

    Erin

    I just saw this on AT and had to comment! I love this! Good job guys!

  • Reply February 2, 2014

    Hannah

    love the shelves! we’re hoping to add similar shelving in or kitchen
    http://www.branchandtwig.com

  • Reply February 25, 2014

    Michelle

    I was wondering about making free standing shelves like this to hold multiple betta tanks. I want to do the sides painted and a painted back without making it look like cheap shelves from the store. The shelves would be about 20″ wide about 10-12″ deep and would hold about 15-25 lbs each. Can you give me any tips about thickness and would I use Douglas for on the sides too?

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