How to Build Hanging Shelves

Hanging shelves add distinct style and elegance to a room. The shelves are attached to the ceiling joists by means of rods, nuts and bolts. An attractive, modern look is created by the design of the shelves. Where space is limited, the shelves help to free up floor space. On the downside, the shelves aren’t as stable as standing shelves. It is best not to place heavy items on them. However, they’re great for lighter items such as photos, small pieces of art and CDs. It is vital that you take accurate measurements and cut precisely for successful construction. Use the steps outlined below to build a 3-shelf hanging unit.

Materials Needed

  • Birch plywood, ¾ inch thick, 30 by 60 inches
  • 4 Threaded rods, 6 feet long, 3/8 inch diameter
  • 4 Hanger bolts, 3/8 inch diameter, 16 by 3 inches  
  • 28 Hex nuts, 3/8 inch
  • 28 Fender washers, 3/8 inch
  • 4 coupling nuts, 3/8 inch
  • Stud finder
  • Router saw
  • Hole saw
  • Clamps
  • Pencil
  • Variable speed drill, with 3/8 inch bit and ½ inch bit
  • Sandpaper, fine-grade
  • Polyurethane
  • Paintbrush
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Tape measure
  • Safety glasses

Step 1- Determine Location

Decide where you want to install your shelves. Avoid areas close to doors due to the heavy traffic here. Mark the position for each shelf on the wall. Use a stud finder to identify ceiling joists where you’ll attach the shelves.

Step 2 – Cut the Shelves

Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Use a router saw to cut out 3 shelves of your desired size from the birch plywood.

Step 3 – Stacking

It is easier to drill holes through all the shelves when they are stacked. Clamp the shelves to hold them steady while you drill. Mark the location of the drill holes in each corner of the top shelf, 1 inch from the edge.

Step 4 – Drilling

Attach a 3/8 inch drill bit to a hole saw. Bore holes through each of the marked points on the top shelf, right through all 3 shelves.

Step 5 – Apply Polyurethane

Use fine-grade sandpaper to smooth the shelves. This facilitates better adherence of the finish applied. Apply a light, even coat of polyurethane on each shelf. Once the coat has dried, apply a second coat and allow it to dry completely.

Step 6 – Attach Hanger Bolts

Hold one shelf against the ceiling. Mark the location of the 4 holes on the joists. Drill 4 holes into the joist, ½ inch each. Fit a hex nut onto the machine thread end of each hanger bolt and turn with a wrench, to drive the bolt into the joist. Place a fender washer over each bolt, then attach a coupling nut.

Step 7 – Assembly

Loosely assemble the shelves and rods. Be sure to place a fender washer and hex nut below and above each shelf. Do not tighten the nuts at this point.

Step 8 – Attach Rods to Coupling Nuts

Position your shelves beneath the coupling nuts. Thread each rod into a nut until it is secure. Raise or lower the nuts below each shelf to adjust to the desired height, as marked on the wall in Step 1. Use your wrench to tighten the nuts.