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DIY Solid Wood Wall-to-Wall Shelves

December 20, 2013  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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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. 

What do you think?

  1. Deborah says:

    Shelves are beautiful and appreciate detailed instructions as well as details in materials used and pricing. I am however curious if you have any suggestions for shelves that would not butt up against wall on just one end. Also curious as to the weight capacity for the shelves you installed in your reading room.
    Thank you for any suggestions or advice you may have.

  2. Vicki says:

    This looks fantastic! I’m in the middle of doing something similar. I’m curious how you did the top part with the lights to make the shelves looked recessed. From the before picture it looks like the wall was flush before.

  3. Ashley Bovard says:

    Hi, My husband and I love this design and home projects! So fun!

    We’re very curious about the lighting portion you put in near the ceiling and how that worked. Are there any other articles that detail that process?

    Thanks!
    Ashley

  4. Carrie says:

    I love these shelves and would love to do this for our home office, but did you find those brackets to be enough? This will be where all of our books go, we have a LOT, and I am wondering if those tiny brackets stood the test of time?

  5. Kelsey says:

    Hi!
    I was wondering if you had a paint code for the color of your walls?
    Thanks!

  6. I found a bracket and shelf preparation system that would take the visibility of the brackets out of this and maintain the strength of the shelves. The next time you do a floating shelf project you should check it out. It is from Sheppard Brackets.

  7. Jozette Herrera says:

    Hello,
    First I just want you both to know y’all inspire me! I’m a DIYer and so many of your projects get me thinking creatively. Thank you so much.

    I’m going to install 2”x12”x5’ shelves in an alcove area next to my fireplace. I have 4 studs on the back wall and none on the sides (I have bought anchors for the sides).
    Should I put a brace into all 4 back studs?
    Should I use 2” or 3” corner braces?
    Should I use the screw that come with it, Sheetrock screws, or ez anchor stud anchors?

    Thank you for any feedback.

  8. Kim says:

    HI,
    My walls are similar but they are 10 feet apart. I’m looking to install one long shelf across the wall for medium weight storage. Probably nothing as heavy as a bunch of books. Do you think I could go to 12″ width?

    • Chris says:

      You’ll need supports along the back wall as well, and toward the front of the sides on each end. As long as you have that you should be fine (supports should be in studs.

  9. Mary Weckerly says:

    Hi Chris and Julia!
    Love these shelves! I’ve been inspired by these shelves, and I keep coming back to them after 3 years of following you guys! AND finally now is the time to get these awesome shelves up in our home!! I’m so excited!!
    Quick question for you — how far apart did you space your shelves??

  10. Kristin Cikowski says:

    So, I am just wondering…

    If you had placed the anchors, and placed the shelf on top, couldn’t you have marked the shelves and then routed?

    Just curious if this would work too because I don’t trust myself.

    Thank you.

    • Chris says:

      Sure! You could do it that way. Because of the difficulty of getting our shelves in place I didn’t want to do it more than once and scrape up the walls, but you could for sure do it that way.

  11. Hana says:

    We’ve done something similar.. the o my problem is that the brackets are slightly visible (as they are shiny silver). How did you guys cover them up?

    • Chris says:

      Ours are visible if you look close, but not very obvious. If you want to cover it up, you could paint it with a similar color to help it blend.

  12. Tunde Szlavik-Kiss says:

    Hi! We are planning to hang solid wood bookshelves too, but not between two walls.
    We would use solid wood on the ends too to make a frame and to strengthen. What I’m worried about is that it may not bear the weight of the books with those little brackest, so I’m writing you to ask if it works for you now, as it is loaded with books?
    Thanks for your answer!
    Tunde

    • Chris says:

      It works great – the main factor there is the strength of the wood. With beams as thick as we have, it holds up really well.

  13. Heather says:

    Love your reading room shelves! Can you detail the spacing of them….how far apart on the wall, from floor and ceiling???

  14. Samantha says:

    We are looking to do something similar in a corner of our living room, but would only have 2 walls (the back and one end) to attach the shelf to, about 7.5-8ft long. Do you think this L-bracket method would still suffice? Additionally, the wall we would be mounting to is plaster. Any advice?

    • Chris says:

      Definitely not a great situation. I wouldn’t use these short L-brackets, for sure. You’d need much, much larger ones, attached directly to the studs, then plastered over to be hidden and make the wall seamless.

  15. Rcahel says:

    Would it be possible to use these L brackets without using a router? I’m guessing that’s just what makes it look more like they’re floating, but does it have any structural effect?

  16. Lindsay says:

    I’m planning to recreate on my 12ft wall. Do you think 4 back-wall brackets?

  17. Allie says:

    How much weight do you think each shelf can hold? I want to use them to hold just books and I’m a little nervous.

  18. Allie says:

    Your shelves are beautiful! I’m wondering if I did something similar for one of my rooms, would the shelves hold all books? How much weight do you think they’ll hold?

  19. Nikkia Herbella says:

    We did this, this past weekend and LOVE how they turned out. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Lmo says:

    So, how did this work out when loaded? The “L” brackets you chose look like they were barely capable of holding up the empty shelves…

  21. Michael says:

    They look great. I picked up Douglas fir boards to build similar shelves. I’m wondering if yours are flush wall to wall, or if you left an expansion gap? Or, maybe you notice expansion or contraction with different humidity levels? Thanks.

  22. Megan says:

    Hey, Julia,

    I’m a CLJ blog devotee…thanks for all you do! You inspired my kitchen remodel I just realized as I wrote this, ha!

    I have a question about the thickness of this wood, is there a reason you chose the 2.5 in? Our wall is about the same width, but we were looking at possibly using 1 5/8 in x 10 ft boards. Any reason you think that would not work either from a design perspective or for the stability of the shelves?
    Thanks

  23. Lauryn Dees says:

    What color is the paint on the walls? Love!!

  24. Carmen Katz says:

    Hi Chris and Julia,
    If I have just one side wall do you think these L brackets would be strong enough on three walls only? I’m going to be using them for books. The shelves will be 33” wide.

  25. […] diy wood wall shelves – Source […]

  26. […] diy wood shelves – Source […]

  27. […] diy wall shelves ideas – Source […]

  28. […] diy floating bookshelves – Source […]

  29. Jen says:

    This shelving has inspired me to do it for our now finished basement! Except I couldn’t find douglas fir. Went to the closest lumber yard and Home Depot and they both said that spruce wood would work. I ended up buying it but am now getting a differing opinion from our contractor regarding the wood warping if used inside a warm house unsupported. Any knowledge/advice on whether or not this wall-to-wall shelving would work with spruce wood?

    • Brittany says:

      Spruce is one of the cheaper woods. They warp and twist due to the softness of the wood and the change in dryness of the environment. Definitely invest in a better quality wood to ensure your shelves last. (This is from my understanding of woodworking. Open to corrections/a higher quality answer.)

  30. Dijana Krstic says:

    This looks awesome, and it’s exactly how I want it done. I’m wondering how would this work on a little longer wall. Our wall is 11’6″ long, so please tell me if I should use the same wood thickness.
    Thanks!
    Dijana

    • Chris says:

      Yeah I wouldn’t go any thicker – otherwise it begins getting so heavy that it may be even more prone to sagging. For a span that long, you may want to use angle brackets a little larger than what we went with, but as long as you are anchored into studs along the way you should see minimal, if any, sagging.

  31. Brenda says:

    Hi Julia, How far apart did you space your shelves? We are about to put some floating shelves in ourselves and love yours. Thanks!

  32. Chris says:

    4 years later just curious how the shelves are holding up? Are they sagging in the middle from the weight of books and decorations???

    Just kidding. Wood that thick probably doesn’t even need the brackets if you could just put two long screws in to studs.

  33. Madeline says:

    Hey there,
    So impressed with how this turned out! I love the paint color, do you know the name?

  34. Will says:

    Hi! Curious to know how these are holding up . . . thanks!

  35. Darren says:

    The before and after on this room is astounding !

  36. Michele Franks says:

    Julia,

    How much space did you leave between each shelf? Also, what is the distance from the floor to the bottom shelf?

    I’ve spent a year being incredibly inspired by this room. I think my husband and I are ready to use this inspiration to tackle a room in our house that needs some serious charm.

    Thanks for what you do and how you do it! Love your podcast, blog, insta, and snapchat. BIG FAN over here :)

    Michele

  37. Ellen Bruce says:

    I have been trying to replicate this for floating shelves in our kitchen, but all the lumber yards near me are quoting me $30 per linear foot – you got yours for $33 for each 10′ board, am I reading that correctly?

  38. Abby says:

    Hi! Love this look and thanks so much for all the details! How far apart did you space your shelves?

  39. Sarah says:

    When you say you ordered the wood….where? What type?

    It is LOVELY!

  40. brio says:

    Came over from apartment therapy. A couple of points:

    1 – Wouldn’t it have been easier to mount the brackets, Then put the shelves in place temporarily, mark the spots where they needed to be routed, take the shelves off, rout, then screw the shelves in place? Seems better than holding your breath to make sure your measurements were correct. Although I would have done the above and measured too.

    2 – Call me a contrarian, but I would have preferred the shelves left unstained and just sealed. I like the look of unfinished wood. I don’t like the stained look next to the dark walls. But judging from the comments, I am a minority of one here. Otherwise, I think the room looks great.

  41. Brandon says:

    Do you have a pic of the shelves with books on them?

  42. Corey says:

    Hi! We are tackling this project in our study. Can you give me an idea of how fart apart your shelves are spaced? Thanks!

  43. Bethany says:

    I’m curious how your shelves have done over the years since you installed them? Are they holding up to the weight of all the books? We are looking at a similar project and I’m concerned about whether the front of the shelves will need additional support.

  44. Roger says:

    We love these shelves. We are planning on putting up some just like this. Where do you purchase the wood?

  45. Sonia says:

    I was curious on how the shelves are holding up. Also if there is anything you would’ve done differently. Has the weight of the books been an issue?

  46. Tanya says:

    Wanted to thank you guys for posting this. We did something similar in our living room and thanks to your detailed pictures, I was able to show my “men” EXACTLY what I wanted…and that it was feasible!

  47. Jade Price says:

    what tools do you use to rout out the spaces for the brackets?

  48. Kristi says:

    I have a hard time trusting that much wood to such a small bracket. A year and a half later, how are they holding up?

  49. […] DIY Solid Wood Wall to Wall Shelves Chris Loves Julia source […]

  50. […] dad in your life a tool, this DeWalt Impact driver is a great choice. We got ours back when we were building the shelves in the reading room and it drove into studs with hardly any effort. Plus, think of all the things he’s gonna want […]

  51. Michelle says:

    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?

  52. Hannah says:

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

  53. Erin says:

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

  54. Abigail says:

    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

  55. Kate says:

    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!!!

    • Julia says:

      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!

  56. Monette says:

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

  57. Madeleine says:

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

  58. Melissa says:

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

  59. Connie says:

    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?

  60. Kara says:

    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.

    • 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.

  61. Steph says:

    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….
    :)

  62. 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 :)

  63. Sherri says:

    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!

  64. 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.

  65. Cindy says:

    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!

  66. Rebecca W. says:

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

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

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

  69. 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!

  70. Gretchen says:

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

  71. 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!!

  72. 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!

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

  74. Jimena says:

    Love the shelves, LOVE this room!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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