No Shit September

How to Build Floating Library Wall Shelves

by megan
Published: Last Updated on

The Mr. has a ton of books. A TON. His books lived on two sets of bookcases (I got rid of the majority of my books, save for a few favorites. I just wanted so badly to free up some of the clutter with them. Luckily we have a nook in our living room that is the perfect place to install floating library wall shelves.

The problem is, I had NEVER done anything like this. Heavy wood shelves with interior supports that were secured into our wall studs…and they would be holding heavy books? It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. But I knew I had to overcome that fear because dammit, I want a beautiful life and part of that involves getting shit off of the floor, especially shit that can hide tumbleweeds of cat fur. 

In the end, it wasn’t as terrifying as I had imagined (as most things end up being…Thanks, anxiety!) and the end result was so worth the sweat and bruises. If you’re interested in getting this awesome industrial look to a set of library shelves like me, here’s how I did it:

How to Build Floating Library Wall Shelves

How to Build Floating Library Wall Shelves
testing them overnight to make sure nothing fell

Note: These aren’t fully finished. I have plans to add a library ladder and lighting, and once those happen I will be sure to update this!

How to Build Floating Wall Shelves

How to Build Floating Wall Shelves
Prep Time 2 hours
Active Time 4 hours
Additional Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 6 hours
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost Under $100



  1. blankMeasure and find your studs. This is important as you’ll need to make sure you have the studs accounted for in your shelves before adding the inner supports. 
  2. blankCut wood to size: I measured the nook and it was just over 4’ wide, so I made a plan to have everything cut to 4’ and give it a little wiggle room, accounting for any bumps or curves in the wall. I had Home Depot cut all of the wood into 48” long pieces...partly because I’m still intimidated by Big Sexy, but mostly because I needed it to fit in my Honda Fit.
  3. blankCut 1x4 supports to size: I decided for simplicity's sake to have the shelves be 12” wide, so I needed the inner supports to be cut into lengths that would account for that. If you envision these shelves as a box you can see what I mean: blank
  4. blankSince the 2x4’s were ~4” wide (give or take), I used Big Sexy to cut the 1x4’s down to 4” long. 
  5. blankScrew 1x4s to 2x4 support. You’re essentially making an “E” but keep in mind Step #1 and make sure that wherever your middle-est support lives won’t interfere with your ability to screw these to the walls. I used my Kreg pocket jig for the first time ever to do this! As I mentioned in the Haven recap, I was really intimidated by this jig for whatever reason, so I had Kreg show me how to use it at their booth. Once I got the hang of it, there was no turning back...this jig is clutch.
  6. blankMeasure and mark off where your shelves will live. I did this with a chalk pen and clearly wasn’t interested in finding a straight edge, so I just did a rough mockup. In the end, we eyeballed the topmost shelf and I really wish we had stuck to our grid. (the vertical lines show the studs)
  7. blankInstall the shelf frames. Shelf skeletons? Whatever you want to call them. Attach the wood “E” to the studs using construction screws. 
  8. blankAttach the 1x4x48” fronts to the frames
  9. blankAttach the 1x12x48” panels to the top and bottom. I suppose the bottoms are optional, but I wanted a more finished look. I screwed them in, but these could probably be nailed in, as well. 
  10. Fill holes with wood filler. I ended up using two different types of wood filler and I would have to say that I really liked the pink stuff better. It’s taken stain more easily and was less flaky.
  11. blankSand everything down
  12. blankStain and let dry


Cut list (per shelf):

2x4x96: 48”

1x4x96” 48” + 3x 8”

1x12x96”: 48”

Voila! Like I said above, the plan is to get a library ladder and LED cool lighting. But for now, I am SO happy with them! The little robot vacuum lives under the shelves now and it just feels so much better now that the floor space is open!

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