How to Build a Floating Desk
A floating desk is a minimalistic approach to furnishing your home. While this project in particular takes advantage of an existing small and awkward space, you can also apply it to a larger area with proper bracing underneath the tabletop.
The area where this desk is built is in a recess three feet wide. The main purpose of the desk will be to keep a laptop in a usable situation, so the desk will is 16 1/2 inches deep.
This guide uses some old lumber that's being repurposed. Incidentally, this was originally used for a cabin bed so it has the screw holes in it. This adds a bit of character; the desk is not going in a spotless office in Silicon Valley. It's for a writing desk in an old house.
This example uses individual planks for the desk top, which gives interest in both pattern and texture. It also helps that the pieces can be trimmed individually so that it fits properly in the space as the walls are not square. Cutting a piece of plywood to fit properly would be possible, but more difficult. That would have involved using a template made out of cardboard for an exact fit, and then marking out and cutting the sheet material.
Don't forget that the desk needs to be strong enough for your purpose. Think about the height you'd like the desk to be at. This depends on your size, the height of the chair that you're going to sit at, and what you're going to use the desk for. In this case, a height of 30 inches from the ground to the top of the desk is perfect for typing from the desk chair.
Please note: Ensure that a pipe and/or cable detector has been used on the walls so that nothing will be drilled into, apart from plaster or brickwork. The following assumes that this check has been completed and it's safe to proceed.
Step 1 - Mark the Height
Mark on the wall the height of the top of the desk. Use a spirit or laser level to mark this line across all three walls. Remember, this is the top of the desk.
Step 2 - Lumber Calculation
Work out where the bottom edge of the framework is going to come to. Here, the frame is 2 3/4" deep and the desk top is 3/4". Therefore, I mark 3 1/4 inches down from my line on the walls. Again, use the spirit level to draw this line around all three walls. You should now have two parallel lines across all three walls.
Step 3 - Measure and Cut Framework
On the back wall, accurately measure the width between the two side walls. Mark this measurement on the lumber and cut. Sand off any rough edges. Determine the depth of the framework on the side walls.
Step 4 - Predrill Holes
This example has three screws across the back wall to support the frame. These were predrilled using a wood drill that's bigger than the screws.
1) halfway along the wood, and halfway down
2) 3" in from each end of the wood, and halfway down
Step 5 - Fix Back of Frame to Wall
Put the wood along the bottom line on the wall so the bottom of the lumber sits on the bottom line and is horizontal. Use the pencil to mark the center hole on the wall. Using a pilot masonry drill, drill the hole. Then, dill a hole suitable for the size of the rawlplug. Push the rawlplug into the hole—you may need to tap it in with a hammer if it's a tight fit. Screw in timber through the middle hole, but not too tight. Ensure the timber is horizontal.
Once satisfied, mark the remaining two holes on the wall using the pencil. Remove the timber from the wall and drill holes using the smaller drill bit first. Fit the rawlplugs. Screw lumber to the wall and tighten up. This should now be fixed firmly to the wall, and be horizontal.
Step 6 - Fix Sides of Frame to Wall
Again, use the same technique as steps 4 and 5, but this time for the sides of framework into the sides of the supporting wall.
Step 7 - Fix the Front of the Framework
The front is screwed directly into the ends of the sides of the framework and not screwed into the wall. One screw in each side is strong enough for the purpose of this particular desk. These screws are visible, although you could cap them or counterbore if so desired. Either way, measure them so that they appear to be symmetrical.
Step 8 - Apply the Desk Top
Measure across the width of the desk for each individual component of the desk top, and then cut each one individually. Start at the front so that the leading edge of the desk is square, and then if any final trimming is required, that is absorbed by the last piece to go into place. This is more hidden than the other pieces.
Once everything is cut to size, glue the pieces into place. Glue is used so that there are no more screw heads / caps on show.
Step 9 - Caulk
Once the desk is in place and the glue has hardened, you may wish to apply some caulk so that there is a seamless join between the timber and the wall.