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How Do Floating Shelves Work?

Collage photo of foating shelves and tools on how to put the shelves.

Shelving is more than merely functional when you add floating shelves to your décor. Adding shelving to any room in your home will give you extra space and fill the bare walls.

Floating shelves, however, can add a touch of elegance or a rustic flair to your interior decorations.

Related: Kitchens With Floating Shelves | How High to Hang Floating Shelves | How Far Apart Should Floating Shelves Be?

How floating shelves work (blind shelf support)

A floating shelf appears to be suspended from a wall without support. They do have support, though, but the shelf hides it.

Floating shelves work with hidden hardware. As a result, a floating shelf is easier to install than many other types of shelves. Unless, however, you are installing rod brackets, which are a little more challenging to install.

How you can attach floating shelves to your walls

A screw secures the bracket to the wall foam or aerated concrete.

There are different ways to mount a floating shelf to the wall. Some are mounted with hidden screws that hold a bracket to the wall that the shelf attaches to. These will need wall anchors for the screws to keep the shelf in place.

However, other floating shelves may use a long bolt hanger, called a rod hanger, that screws into a wall joist. This type of floating shelf requires a little more work to install.

However, a floating shelf mounted with a bolt hanger can hold much more weight than one hanging by a couple of screws or an adhesive strip.

There are three basic types of floating shelf mounts, and most kits provide hangers. When looking at the variety of floating shelves, please pay attention to how they are attached to the wall.

Floating shelves that attach to your home’s wall studs require more skill than drilling in screws or using adhesives.

Are floating shelves strong?

They can be, but a floating shelf is only as strong as its attachment to a wall. If the attachment points are screws or double-sided tape, they will not be as strong as being attached to wall studs.

However, if you want a quick décor touch-up, floating shelves attached with screws or tape are quick to put up. The only tool you will need for this installation is a level.

No level? Find an app on your Android or Apple smartphone, and your shelf will be level instantly.

So, what are you doing with your shelf? Does it need to be able to hold 50 to 100 pounds, or not? A shelf that uses bolt hangers can support the most weight.

What materials are floating shelves made from?

Close up shot of a floating shelves in the kitchen.

Floating shelves can be made of metal, wood, or plastic, or they can be made with a combination of materials, including faux wood made from resin.

Each type of shelf has a different attachment method. Before purchasing your floating shelf, please know how you should install the product. If you don’t own any tools, you should stay with stick-on shelves or start a tool collection.

Although shelves that attach to the wall with adhesives are supposed to come free from the wall quickly, that’s not always the case because some adhesives can mess up the paint and sheetrock.

However, if you live in a rental or are careful about treating your drywall in a way that may harm it, find a shelf that uses a different attachment method.   

Floating shelf kits vs. Do it yourself shelves

You also can get hardware, such as bolt hangers, brackets, or adhesives, to install a shelf of your design.

Most shelves, made with stud-mounted hardware, are a piece of wood. These shelves are available as kits. However, those made with rare woods can get costly, although they are quite beautiful.

And, with bolt hangers, you can make a shelf you have designed. Then it can be as long as you desire, using multiple hangers.

Unless they are custom, floating shelf kits are rarely longer than 26 inches. However, that’s not long enough in some instances.

You can attach a shelf to a wall with wood studs or one made from masonry with bolt hangers.

How hard are floating shelves to install?

Close-up of a hand using a drill to make a hole in a wall so that floating shelves may be installed during home renovation.

That depends on the type of floating shelf you are installing. Some are attached with adhesive parts, while other shelves are mounted to the wall with screws.

These can be an elegant addition to your home. However, they will only work for items that are on the lighter side. The shelves you buy in a kit will have a load weight for their floating shelves.

This means if the shelf is rated to hold ten pounds, it is best to keep anything you put there below that weight, lest the shelf and its contents end up on your floor.

When searching for a floating shelf, or a grouping of them, consider the weight you want them to hold. Also, consider the installation method.

Some floating shelves will require tools. So, ensure you have the ones you need to install these handy items in your home.

Tools you will need to hang floating shelves.

Each type of shelf will require tools. However, a floating shelf installed using command shelving is the easiest and fastest way to get a shelf on your wall today.

But even they will require that you use a level to get them straight before you stick them to the wall. These small shelves also have the slightest weight load, so be careful what you place on them once installed.

How each type of floating shelf is mounted

An attached wall-mounted steel bracket.

Screw-in shelf brackets

Hanging floating shelves that use a bracket screwed to the wall will require the following tools:

  • Pencil
  • Level – a spirit, electronic, or phone app level will work fine to get your shelf straight.
  • A power drill and a bit
  • Safety glasses
  • Screw anchors
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws

This type of shelf anchor is generally a metal strip with mounting points for the shelf. You affix it to your wall with screws, which need to be level before attaching the shelf to the hanger.

You will need to drill holes for where the screws will be placed for the hanger. You then tap on the screw anchors gently with a hammer. Now, you can attach the shelf and put a book or pot of flowers on your new shelf.

They will not support the weight of a floating shelf mounted with rod brackets. However, floating shelves affixed with screwed in anchors will hold more weight than those put on the wall with an adhesive.

Installing floating shelves with rod brackets

Walk-in closet with metal rods and shelves fixed on the wall.

You will need the same tools to install floating shelves with rod brackets as you will for installing a screw-on bracket. Except, you will need a larger bit and a stud finder.

Rod brackets must be mounted onto a stud in your wall, or it will not work. This is because the diameter of the rod is too big to use with a wall anchor. Unless it’s going into masonry, you will need an anchor large enough for the rod bracket. You will also need to drill a large enough hole for the anchor to fit smoothly.

This type of shelf can hold more weight than screwed-on or stuck-on floating shelves. So, if you need a shelf that can hold up to a hundred pounds or more, this is your style.

What’s your style?

There are many styles of floating shelves. They can be as simple as a small plastic shelf holding a small item or as elaborate as a tier of four or five shelves cascading down your wall. Floating shelves can be massively large or elegantly dainty.

When searching for a floating shelf that will suit your taste and budget, you may need to look at many different styles before you find one you like. Or, if you are handy, you can buy the brackets you need to make a floating shelf for your design.

The DIY Avenue will give you many more shelving options than just kits. However, kits are the fastest way to get a shelf from an interior decoration idea to hang it on the wall of your home with a lovely plant sitting atop it.