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What are Floating Shelves?

By S. Gonzales
Updated May 16, 2024
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Floating shelves are shelves that are designed to look as if they are floating against the walls on which they are fastened. While their look is sleek and effortless, the construction of floating shelves may be a difficult and precise undertaking. The design and desired support of the floating shelves are two factors that need to be researched and adequately prepared before a homeowner attempts installation.

When constructing shelves at home, homeowners would be wise to compare potential woods for the shelves. Generally, wood will not be chosen for the sake of look or design so much as for its ability to hold a specific amount of weight. Some woods, for example, are more suited to support televisions than others. Bracket size and supportability also need to be taken into account when choosing wood types.

Homeowners who choose to spruce up their shelves with sophisticated designs may choose a type of shelf that has profiled edges or grooves on it. These types of shelves are usually chosen to display specific or important items such as trophies or pictures. These extra options can be realized by the more advanced floating shelf creator, but should probably not be attempted by the novice shelf builder, as they may compromise the stability of the shelf. Many novice builders are not accustomed to accounting for weight and design.

The size of floating shelves are usually up to the homeowner to decide. They may be small enough to hold only small trinkets or they can be constructed to support complete home entertainment systems. Whatever their purpose, each floating shelf should be planned around its main function. For example, it would generally not be wise to plan and construct a shelf for the purpose of holding pictures and then decide to use it as a means to hold up a television or computer speaker.

A large part of successful installation is the implementation of appropriate brackets. They must be securely and tightly put into place so that they fit against the wall. Any stability issues that manifest during installation should be taken care of at the moment they occur, as the issue will only worsen once the shelf is in use.

Generally, floating shelves are considered to be an interesting addition to any home and are likely to be a conversation-starter amongst guests. By being different, they express a homeowner's personality. They may even showcase artistry if he created the shelf himself.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By houykdd — On Jan 01, 2014

For different type floating shelves, the length, depth and install components are not the same, thus the support capacities are not the same. If we choose a narrow one to storage some heavy books, it is not so suitable. And if we choose a very thick one to display pictures, it is wasteful.

By anon356030 — On Nov 21, 2013

Rather than using glass, consider using Perspex or Polycarbonate to reduce the risk of glass shards.

By orangey03 — On Mar 16, 2012

I have a lot of shoes, and I needed somewhere to store them besides my closet floor. I had them all scattered about in a pile, and it was so hard to find both halves of a pair every day.

I decided to install some floating wood shelves in my laundry room. This made organizing and retrieving my shoes so much easier, and the shelves themselves were an attractive addition to the blank wall. The laundry room has a door leading to the carport, so if my shoes are muddy, I can take them off at the door and place them right on the shelves without having to track dirt in the house.

By StarJo — On Mar 16, 2012

I don't have a lot of space in my small house. I decided that corner floating shelves would give me a good out-of-the-way place to stack some items, since most of my wall space is taken up by photos and posters.

These shelves radiate outward in a semi-circle from the corner of the wall. I can stand up a stack of magazines and fan them out to make them fit here. I can do the same thing for books.

I liked the design of them so much that I decided to put some in my bathroom. This gave me a way to declutter my bathroom counter top. I put hair products and makeup on the shelves, leaving my lotion, toothbrush, and deodorant on the counter.

By seag47 — On Mar 15, 2012

@cloudel – Brackets and studs intimidate me a bit, so I got the kind of shelves that only require small grooves to be cut and caulking to be applied to stick them to the wall. I bought some floating glass shelves to display decorative vases and sculptures, and they are surprisingly sturdy.

They can each hold a maximum of 100 pounds. Some of my sculptures weight a good bit, so I feel safe putting them on these shelves.

I love the fact that they are transparent. It really adds to the floating effect. I think it makes my living room look very modern, maybe even futuristic.

By cloudel — On Mar 14, 2012

I have some black floating wall shelves that look so cool. They have hidden brackets, so they literally look as if they are hanging in midair.

The instructions that came with the shelves noted that I should drill a hole wherever a stud was. Since I wanted to hang the shelves in a specific place, and there were no studs there, I had to use anchors.

Amazingly, I got them installed with no major issues. I use them to display small paintings on canvas and lightweight sculptures. Each shelf is only a couple of feet long, so my room has short bursts of artistic display scattered around the walls.

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