How Does A Floating Shelf Work?

September 18, 2022

Flat wooden panel floating shelf.

There’s something about floating shelves that just makes any room feel polished, right? It may also feel like there’s some kind of magic behind its support system. But how exactly do they work? More importantly, can you DIY one yourself? 

What Are Floating Shelves?

Floating shelves are typically found in homes with a deep craving to fill every nook and cranny. The best way to describe them is by saying that they’re just like any other bookshelf. Still, instead of being stuck on the ground floor, upper levels, or anywhere, these bookcases hang from wall-mounted brackets without contact with anything else. Internal hardware is what keeps them in place and holds your precious belongings.

Floating shelves look great and provide a nice, simple style, but they are nothing short of magical. They give your home that minimalist look with help from inside brackets, which are usually made up of two rods and holes in between where they meet to allow for sliding into place! When all put together these pieces will hold any weight, whether you’re looking at putting anything heavy on them or not, making this style perfect even if it’s just temporary until something better comes along later down the road.

Floating Shelves Secret Revealed

Before going into the nitty-gritty details, a floating shelf consists of the following materials:

  • Shelf – A flat surface, usually made from a selection of materials and serves as the storage space. Thicker shelves can hold heavier items. Longer shelves have more storage capacity.
  • Mounting bracket – Internal brackets bear the weight of the shelf and are usually provided in the shelving packaging. When positioned on the wall, using a level can help align these brackets in a vertical manner before fixing them securely with wood nails.

Mounting To Wall Studs

Floating shelves designed for standard stud spacing are best mounted into wall spuds. While it’s rationally okay to install a floating shelf without hitting the wall studs, this is not ideal for heavy-duty shelves. Without these studs, heavier and longer shelves still need additional support such as toggle bolts or wall anchors; otherwise, they are incapable of holding the weight.  

The general rule for shelf brackets and the distances between them is roughly 16 inches apart, but this can vary depending on the wall stud spacing in each home. For those with a different wall stud spacing, custom shelves will be necessary.

Floating Shelf Brackets

There is a wide range of floating shelf brackets to choose from. Taking the time to get to know each type helps save you time and money, especially if you’re planning to store or display valuable items on these floating shelves. 

As for the weight capacity, this may vary depending on the support rod length but usually fits nearly every floating shelf size. When choosing a floating shelf bracket, shelf thickness is also an important consideration. 

Rod Style Brackets

Using rod brackets is a common method used when installing floating shelves. This entails drilling into the material and then inserting the support inside the shelf. 

The downside to this is that rod brackets can be unstable even with minimal weight and pressure. Installation-wise, it can be time-consuming and too much effort to accurately get the shelf flush positioned against the wall. Moreover, if not drilled properly, the shelves can slide forward at an uneven angle.   

Low Profile Shelf Brackets

With low-profile shelf brackets, these can act as additional support for heavier and/or sturdier floating shelves. These brackets help hold up more weight while maintaining a clean, minimalist appearance.

Flush Mount Floating Brackets

Flush mount floating shelves offer a unique design that allows you to create your own custom look with ease. With their special design, these brackets can be securely attached and won’t slide forward or backward, which can happen with traditional mounting styles where the screw meets the surface plane.

Top 3 Benefits Of Floating Shelves 

Floating shelves are a great way to declutter your home and attractively display your belongings. Not only do they look great, but they also have a ton of benefits. 

Ease of installation 

Floating shelves are very easy to install. Detailed installation instructions will be provided later in this article, and the only tools you will need are the following:

  • Drill
  • Level
  • Measuring tape

The stylish, Minimalist Appeal

Floating shelves project a unique vibe that can turn free wall spaces in your home into well-organized display spaces. It even complements different interior design styles.


Floating shelves also serve as functional storage spaces. Aside from using them to de-clutter, they maximize the open wall spaces in your home practically.

Easy Steps To Hang Floating Shelves

The possibilities for hanging your floating shelves are endless! The first option is using brackets specifically designed for the task, which means they won’t be visible when you install them.

You can also build an empty shelf out of wood and then slide that right onto a wooden cleat. This can work well for as long as there isn’t any weight above what typically supports its own load. 

Finally, there are figure-eight fasteners for drilling large holes into both ends.

1) Floating Shelf Brackets

  1. Using a drill, drill into the stud where you want your shelf positioned. 
  2. Create the first hole for your special bracket by using a 0.25-inch (0.64 cm) drill bit.
  3. After creating a small hole, drill another hole for the bracket by using a 0.5-inch (1.3 cm) bit. Take caution not to drill too deeply.
  4. Secure the bracket into the hole.
  5. Place the bracket into the hole then turn it until there’s a slight resistance.
  6. Continue to turn the bracket until it’s tightly secured.
  7. In case there’s no feeling of any resistance as your twist the bracket, pull it back out the twist the end going into the shelf clockwise, making the bracket expand.

2) Cleats 

This method helps build hollow floating shelves. Among a number of ways to do this, the easiest is to use plywood and nails where 5 sides and the backside of the shelf are kept open to allow it to easily slide onto the cleat.

3) Figure-Eights

  1. Step 1 – Using a drill and chisel, create a recess on the shelf then drill a shallow hole right into the shelf where you will position the figure-eight. 
  2. Step 2 – Using a chisel, carefully carve out the space for the figure-eight, allowing the fastener to lay flush against the shelf. Take caution not to drill too deeply as this is only so you can start chiseling.
  3. Step 3 – Using a screw, attach the figure-eight fastener to the shelf.
  4. Step 4 – Place the figure-eight fastener into the recess.
  5. Step 5 – Using a screw, tightly screw the bottom of the figure-eight fastener into the shelf.
  6. Step 6 – Insert the screws into these figure-eight fasteners then place the screws into the fasteners.
  7. Step 7 – Attach the top of the figure-eights into the hollow wall anchors or studs. You can opt to use a drill or screwdriver for this.
  8. Step 8 – After hanging the shelf, check if the top of the fastener is visible. 

Are Floating Shelves Strong Enough To Hold All Of Your Stuff?

Floating shelves are a stylish, functional, and practical addition that can really spruce up a space. When you’re looking for a way to add storage to your home without taking up a lot of floor area, these are a great option. But how strong do you think they are, really? And can they hold all of your stuff?

There are a few things to consider for those eyeing extra-strong floating shelves. Aside from the material and the costs, these factors should also be taken into account.

Number of rods

Both the number and type of rods are essential, so you’ll want to make sure that it can support the weight with enough structural integrity, so try not to go too much over what’s being asked in terms of how many pounds are held by each bracket or rod combination! Make sure you choose amongst shelves with supportive brackets, and then pick a rod number that can support about 45 pounds. Consider both weight capacity and length limitations because longer shelves usually require additional support from bracketing systems near their ends.


It is not a secret that heavy things are more difficult to move than light ones. But if you want your shelves strong enough for whatever may come, get deeper! Factoring in how high up you need your storage units can save you from trouble because it’s not just about finding space anymore; but also considering what weight capacity is needed at each height level (or tier).

Number of screws

Never underestimate the power of screws! In this case, many screws can help ensure each bracket is supported to hold your shelf securely. If they’re not securely fastened, it won’t be long before one or more falls off their bracket but let’s not dwell on what might happen to your valued display pieces.  

What Factors Affect The Weight Limit Of A Floating Shelf?

When it comes to floating shelves, one question always comes up: how much weight can they hold? While it’s easy to just load it up and see how far it can take the weight of your belongings, the safest road is still to know the weight limit first. 

Reality check: If the weight limit is exceeded, the shelf may collapse and everything will fall to the ground.

The weight that a floating shelf can hold depends on where you put it and how big it is. Lighter shelves can only hold 25 pounds, but the sturdiest, heaviest, and strongest shelves can hold 100 pounds or more.

The difference between floating shelves that are attached to studs or masonry blocks and those installed in drywall is the amount of weight they can hold. Deeper shelves can be as good as shallow shelves if stronger brackets are keeping them in place. This then makes them also ideal when adding heavy items to your wall-mounted storage system. 

Additionally, the number of rods will determine how much load is resting directly above each shelf.

Your Floating Shelves Will Thank You For Using Studs

There’s no denying that the safety of your floating shelves can be assured with the use of studs. These will give them greater stability and weight capacity. The last thing you want is for your precious items to fall out unexpectedly or for your shelves to no longer be able to stay afloat!

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