As I previously mentioned, Ian and I have started to focus on wrapping up the kitchen. Having no kitchen at all was no fun, but then rotating between ‘semi-useable kitchen’ and ‘full-on construction zone’ wasn’t easy either. So in an effort to be D.O.N.E. with work in this room, we decided to bite the bullet and finish our remaining projects. First on that list – open shelves!
To this day, I have yet to use one place setting, serving dish, or glass of any kind that I received for my showers and wedding. Having no place to store all of it on Hill Street – all of my gifts have been neatly packed away for two years (!!) at my parents house. So, you can imagine my excitement when we finished the kitchen shelving — not only does it look great (I love it!) but I can FINALLY unpack and use all of my new (well, new to me!) kitchenware!
Below is our step-by-step guide for building and installing your own open shelves. The project takes a little over a weekend, as you have to wait for the stain and multiple coats of poly to dry. Other than that – this project was pretty quick and very straightforward.
If you’re not sure if open shelving is for you, check out my Pros & Cons to open shelving post.
- Determine how many shelves you want. We decided 3 shelves on each side would fit our needs. A 4th shelf would have very little room above it, making it almost useless.
- Back when we installed our backsplash, we measured 6 tiles high, knowing that it would line up with the bottom of our first shelf, making it almost 19” from countertop to the first shelf – 18” to 22” is recommended for this space. We also measured our shelves to be 13” apart. 12” to 15” is standard, and 13” worked for us since I’m short and wanted to be sure I could reach the bottom two shelves without a step stool!
- Chose your wood type and thickness/width. We chose 2” (thick) by 12” (wide) maple boards from Home Depot’s lumber section. (Note: be sure to get untreated wood.) I wanted my shelves to be deep because I have larger sized plates, but if you’re space-constricted, you can go as shallow as 10” deep in a kitchen. Also, if you’re painting (not staining) the wood – you can use plywood.
- Cut the boards to the desired shelf length. We did 3 shelves high on both sides and each one was a slightly different length because our walls weren’t perfectly straight, so measure each one individually!
Making the Shelves
- Select the brackets you want to use and get them ordered. We used iron shelf brackets from Signature Hardware because we liked the look and they would hold the weight we needed them to. Be sure to order the correct size (and number) based on weight distribution and stud placement.
- Back to the boards – sand each side of each wooden board with 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpaper, respectively.
- We chose to round the sides of the boards to make them look more professional. Ian used this router and was really happy with it, especially for the price.
- Next, we stained the shelves in Minwax Early American oil-based stain. I recommend sampling a few different stains (or paints!) to be sure you end up with a color you like. (Note: be sure to wipe down the boards and get them dust-free before applying stain.)
- Finally, we added two coats of polyurethane to all sides of the boards. Be sure to lightly sand (with 220 grit) in between each application of polyurethane. (Always follow the application and drying instructions for stain and poly.)
- Locate and mark studs with a stud finder.
- Using a vertical laser level, mark the height of each shelf and location of each screw for each bracket on the wall (our brackets required 3 screws each). Be very careful to locate the centers of each stud as our mounting holes in the brackets were 1.25” and any error laterally would result in the screw not going into the stud.
- Next, line the bracket up with the laser level at the correct height and to double check the plumbness with a small 10” level on the brackets as well.
- We predrilled the screw holes so that we knew the screws would grab and go in at the right angle if necessary. We did this when drilling through the tile as well. (Tip: use medical tape on the tile so your drill bit doesn’t slip on the smooth surface.)
- We ended up using cabinet hardware (screws) that matched the brackets since they were a lot more heavy duty than the hardware that came with the brackets. Be sure your hardware is just as sturdy as your bracket – if not replace it with something that will hold the weight.
- We used our Dewalt Impact Driver to drive the screws into the wall/stud nice and snug. We did this for all the screws except the ones that went through the ceramic tile backsplash. There we tightened them by hand to ensure that we didn’t crack the tile.
- After getting both brackets up, we double checked (with a 4’ level) that they were level before securing the shelf to the bracket. (Note: it is a lot easier to work from the top down so that the shelving isn’t getting in your way as you mount the shelves.)
Good luck with your project and feel free to post questions in the comments below!