Installation-friendly floating shelves
Ultrashelf components unboxing

The Ultrashelf floating shelf kit comes well packed in a Styrofoam-reinforced box with the shelf, bracket, screws, and instructions.

Floating shelves are really popular with designers and homeowners but less so with shops and installers. The requirements for specialized hardware and sometimes finicky installations have put off some in the trades. But Ultrashelf has put together a system that makes the whole process straightforward, fast, and simple. We were anxious to try it out.

Floating shelf basics
Designers love the look of floating shelves because they appear as if they have no means of support and create a contemporary design element on almost any wall. In recent years they have been especially popular in kitchens as well as accent shelving in living rooms, offices, and other areas in residential and commercial construction.

Most floating shelves are built from some kind of box construction to make a thicker than normal shelf. The thickness hides the heavy-duty hardware needed to secure the shelf to the wall. There are a number of strategies for hardware and mounting, but most consist of a heavy steel bracket that is screwed to studs in the wall. Posts welded to the steel bracket insert into pockets inside the shelf to support the weight and hold the shelf securely to the wall.

Ultrashelf back view
A view of the back of the shelf shows how the bracket rods mount to support the shelf, which is rated for 50 pounds per stud.

Ultrashelf system
With the Ultrashelf system you get everything you need, including the shelf, bracket, and screws. Custom shelves can be ordered down to 1/8-inch and are designed to support 50 pounds per stud. Stocks sizes are also available in 8, 24, 30, 36, and 42 inches long. Custom or ready-to-ship, the shelves are available in a variety of thicknesses and wood species. We tried one of the 24-inch kits in 2-inch white oak.

The kit came very well packed with Styrofoam protecting the shelf on all sides. The bracket was shipped inside the shelf, and full instructions and screws were included.

Ultrashelf finding the studs
Once you’ve identified where the shelf is to go, you use a stud finder to locate the studs.

Installing the shelf
Ultrashelf designed its system to be very versatile. With holes every inch on the bracket, you are almost guaranteed of finding the studs you need for mounting no matter where you want the shelf. We did find one narrow wall situation that was a challenge for the bracket. In such cases, Ultrashelf says you can use toggle-bolts, but we decided to stick with a full-stud installation and chose a better location where stud alignment was not an issue.

Ultrashelf screwing in bracket
Drive one screw in first to temporarily hold the bracket to the wall before alignment.

All you need to put up the shelf is a pencil, tape measure, level, drill driver, and stud finder. I marked the position of the top edge of the shelf first, then measured down 3/8 inch to locate where the bracket would go. Next, I used the stud finder to locate the stud positons and screwed in one screw into the bracket.

Ultrashelf leveling bracket
A level on the bracket makes quick work of leveling so you can screw in the remaining three screws.

Attaching a level on top of the bracket to properly align it, I drove in the three other screws to secure the bracket to the wall. Finally, I simply slid the shelf onto the bracket posts all the way to the wall.

Ultrashelf installed
The Ultrashelf simply slides onto the brackets for a press fit against the wall.

Ultrashelf vs. DIY
I’ve seen a lot of shops that have some welding skills on staff and fabricate their own floating shelf brackets. Still other shops will farm out the work to a local welding shop. Personally, I would be much more inclined to outsource the Ultrashelf units to save not only the work of fabricating brackets but also the fabrication of the shelves themselves. When you buy into the system, you know everything will work well together.

I was pleased with the quality of the shelves and brackets. Ultrashelf also has a trade program to work directly with designers and builders. If you have a specialty shelf application in a wood species they don’t have available, you can make the shelf yourself but order the bracket hardware from them.

As easy and versatile as the system is to install, it makes it possible for any shop to add reliable floating shelves to their repertoire. It’s a great opportunity to add value and design pizazz to even small built-in projects. You can learn more at


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.