How to Install Floating Kitchen Shelves Over A Tile Backsplash

Learn how to install floating shelves over a tile backsplash.

One of my favorite features in our kitchen remodel so far are the floating shelves we installed over our marble backsplash. It is such a pretty focal point in the kitchen. As we were researching how to install floating shelves over tile, I realized that there’s not a whole lot of information out there about how to do it. Do you build the shelves first, then tile around them? Do you drill holes into the tile after the backsplash is already installed? We just weren’t sure! So after a lot of research, we came up with the best way to install the shelves so that they would:
  • be strong and sturdy
  • anchor into the wall studs
  • have the least possible chance of damaging the backsplash.

 

If you want to do something similar, we’re sharing the nitty gritty details with you today!
DIY Floating Shelves
Step 1: Install hidden supports. We purchased THESE blind shelf supports and anchored them into the studs on the wall where we wanted our floating shelves to be. You can see in the photo below that they are off center from left to right because that’s where the studs happened to be. But they are at the correct vertical height.
How to Install Floating Shelves over Tile
Step 2: Tile. We tiled all the way up the wall and around the shelf supports. We chose to do it this way so we could make sure the brackets were in the studs and that we didn’t have to drill through tile after the fact and risk cracking it. Marble is especially soft and prone to breaking, so I definitely think this was the right choice for us. You can see the shelf brackets sticking out of the tile in these pics:
Floating Shelves Installed over Tile
Floating Shelves on a Tile Backsplash
Step 3: Build the shelves. I wanted chunky shelves, but it was going to be really expensive (and heavy) to make solid shelves that thick, so we built hollow boxes instead. We used 1×3″ pine for the edge pieces and 1/4″ birch ply for the tops and bottoms. Then we added two cross pieces inside the shelves.
How to Build Floating Shelves
We rabbited the top and bottom edges of the 1×3’s to give the ply a place to sit.

 

DIY STRONG Floating Shelves
Once we were happy with the fit, we glued the ply into place, added clamps and let dry overnight.

 

DIY Floating Shelves
Here’s a close up of the back to give you an idea of how the shelves are constructed.

 

Now, remember the two cross sections inside the shelves? Those are there so that we’d have solid wood to drill through. We used a drill bit just a teeny bit bigger than the metal pegs and carefully drilled into the wood, careful to keep the holes straight.

 

How to build floating shelves
Next came the fun part. After a thorough sanding ending with 400 grit sandpaper, I coated the shelves with pre-stain conditioner, then a light coat of Varathane Wood Stain in the color Briarsmoke.
Weathered wood stain
It was really pretty, but I wanted a little more depth to the color, so I went over the wood again with a super light coat of Rustoleum Dark Walnut. You can see the difference in the color in these pictures:
Wood Stain Examples

 

Briarsmoke and Dark Walnut Wood Stain

 

I finished the shelves off with two coats of wipe-on Poly. The hardest part was waiting for the finish to dry so I could hang them up and style them!

 

Floating Wall Shelves in a Kitchen
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