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Easy DIY Shelves

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

If you're looking to dip your toe into the DIY woodworking waters, this is the perfect first project for you! I promise, you can definitely do this. All you need to make it happen is: Wood

Stain or Paint

Brackets Drywall Anchors (maybe) It's helpful to have a drill, screwdriver, level and stud finder as well, although, not all of these are absolutely necessary, and I will give a full breakdown below.

1. Wood - If you will be staining your shelves, like me, it's important to get high quality wood since you're simply staining and the wood's beauty will show through. When you walk into your home improvement store's lumber section, there's usually a large selection of lumber made from white wood or something similar, but you can find higher quality lumber in a separate aisle. I used red oak, like the one pictured below, but you can use any kind that you like!

2. Stain - there are many, many different stains to choose from, and it's really a personal choice. I used Weathered Oak. You will want to make sure you have something to apply the stain - a brush or an old t-shirt that will not shed any fibers into the stain and wood. You don't need anything special for the application.

3. Brackets - You need something to attach your shelves to the wall and there is a large variety to choose from out there to make your shelves fit any design style. I used these, pictured below. Make sure to pay attention to the weight limit for whatever brackets you choose. Some can handle more and if you are are going to have a lot of weight on the shelves, you should choose accordingly.

4. Drywall Anchors - If you aren't drilling into a stud, you will want to use drywall anchors. These are by far the best kind I've found. They have all different sizes to fit you weight and screw size needs, and they do not require anything more than a screwdriver for installation. If the mention of studs and dry wall anchors has you thinking you're in over your head, stick with me for a little bit longer before you abandon ship.


  1. Plan it Out - Before you get started, you should fully plan out what you're going to do, and understand it may change as the project goes on. Measure out your space, determine the length and width of your shelves, how many shelves you will need, and how much weight you think will be placed on your shelves.

  2. Visit Your Store - Visit your local home improvement store and determine the type of wood and brackets you will be using. Note the weight and width guidelines for your brackets. The bracket packaging will usually specify the spacing needed for them - some can be 12" apart, some 18" and some only 10". Whatever it is, you will need that information for the next step.

  3. Map It Out - Map it out on your wall. I like to use painter's tape to map out the shelves on my wall, noting where the brackets will be placed/attached to the wall. You can also use a pencil to map it out. Now, here's the important part... we need to find your studs. The studs are the wood framing behind your wall. They usually run 18" to 24" apart. If you have a fancy stud finder, by all means, use it. I don't, and that's because my very simple one does the trick. It's only $10, magnetic, works by locating the nails in the studs and is very easy to use. Run it over your wall until it sticks - you've found a stud! If you don't have a stud finder, but have a drill, you can use that as well. With the drill, and a very small drill bit, drill into the wall where one of the brackets would attach. If your drill requires steady pressure the entire time, you've more than likely hit a stud. If you, start drilling into the wall with steady pressure, and then about 1/2" in, it quickly sinks in, you do not have a stud, and have simply drilled through the drywall and then hit the empty space behind it. After you've located your studs, or not, you can determine how your brackets will be attached to a wall. If you're lucky enough to have studs behind your brackets, all you will need are the screws that came with your brackets. If you have drywall only, you will need the anchors I mentioned above. Make sure you buy the type that matches your weight requirements and is a similar size to the screws that come with your brackets.

  4. Buy Your Supplies - If you don't have a saw, don't worry, you don't need one. Most home improvement stores will make cuts for you. Just come prepared with the measurements you want for your shelves and let them take it from there. Pick a piece of wood that is the correct depth and width, so all you need to do is have it cut the appropriate length. I purchased a board that was 1/2" thick, 8" deep and cut it into shelves that were 22" in length.

  5. Stain - If the edges of your shelves are rough from the saw, you can use a sanding block or paper to knock it down and smooth it out. Once it's ready for stain, apply it using a paint brush or cloth and rub out any excess. Stain will get darker as you layer it. I only did one pass on mine because I was very happy with the color, but you can do as many as you'd like to get your desired color. Allow your shelves to fully dry before you handle and install them.

  6. Install - Measure everything again and remind yourself that mistakes happen, If you make one, it's important to know that everything is fixable. The next steps will depend on whether or not you are drilling into studs or just drywall. Use your brackets to mark exactly where your screws will enter the wall. Use a level to confirm that your the holes for each bracket are level with each other. Stud Installation - You will need a drill for this and should follow the directions that came with your brackets. If the directions do not mention it, I strongly encourage you to use a small drill bit to drill a pilot hole or holes where your screw(s) will go. A pilot hole is simply a small hole that will make it easier for your screw to follow. Drywall Installation - Grab your magical drywall anchors and follow the directions on the package. All you need for these is a screwdriver. With steady pressure, you will install the anchor into the wall with your screwdriver. Once the anchor is in the wall, you will line your bracket up and use your screwdriver to install the bracket with your screw.

  7. Attached your shelves to your brackets and use your level to double check everything is sitting correctly.

  8. Wooohoooo! You're done and can style to your heart's content!!

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