Have you moved to a new home and don’t fancy how bare your living room wall is? Do you need extra storage space for displaying books stacked around your home?

Simple, easy installation of floating shelves is an excellent option to maximize your home storage and display area as well as save money.

Real wood is a traditional and highly preferred material for furniture, shelves, and cabinets. Wood, if well maintained, could be efficient and long-lasting.

Yet how do you select the best modern wooden hardware for your floating shelves, be it DIY bookshelves, cabinets, or any other shelving need?

This in-depth article will guide you in selecting the best wood for floating shelves, from easy to install woods to the best fit for bathroom shelves.

Best Wood for Floating Shelves

If you are looking for a classic, modern or contemporary style, go for clean fine-grained wood with straight edges like oak, walnut, or cherry. Although for a simple, easy to install a floating shelf, you can also opt for pine, plywood, or maple.

What Makes Good Wood Floating Shelves

Depending on the objects you intend to place on your shelves, you will be looking for specific wood qualities. Whether you want to add aesthetics to your home or need extra storage space.

Consider the type and weight of objects you intend to store on the shelves and how well your shelf’s material will endure the weight.

Putting into account where you would like to place the shelves is also important in deciding the type of shelf. Generally, in woodworking, different projects need wood with distinct qualities:

  • Solid wood: This will be ideal for placing objects bearing heavyweight.
  • Manufactured wood types: This range of composite wood is good for placing light-medium-weight objects.

Always opt for defect-free wood, such as those without deep knots and are susceptible to collapse or wear out over time or those hard to paint on the sides.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Floating Wood Shelves


The length of the shelves depends on where you would like to position your floating shelf and what you intend to use the shelves for, either placing books, dishes or plants.

Measure the wall space to know the exact length to cater to, keeping in mind open shelves may look smaller after installation.

Weight Capacity

When it comes to shop organization, using DIY lumber storage racks can be a great way to store heavy pieces of wood and other materials. However, ensure that the weight capacity of the racks is appropriate for the items you plan to store.

Similarly, when choosing floating shelves for your workshop, you should consider the weight of the hardware and the objects you plan to place on the shelf.

Avoid placing too many heavy items on the shelf, as this can cause it to collapse.

To prevent this, you can choose a wood material that is slightly heavier than what you intend to place on the shelf.

This will provide extra support and help ensure that your floating shelves can safely hold the weight of your workshop items.

Taking these precautions can help you maintain a safe and organized workspace.


Depending on what you would like to place on your shelf, always go for strong and durable material. Opt for wood with the ability to absorb and release water.

In addition, go for hardware free of warp and resistant to conditions and chemicals, which will affect its longevity.


The wood thickness is key in ensuring the shelf will hold and not tip over when you place your solid pieces. An ideal thickness should be two inches; anything less may result in your shelf snaping after loading your objects.

Moreover, hardwood is also the preferred choice for wood floating shelves.

Bracket selection

The brackets holding your shelf must be invisible to showcase the floating effect. When you have your shelves’ dimensions ready, it’s time to pick out the right brackets.

We recommend you opt for a bracket at least four inches shorter than the shelf’s length and a half-inch thinner than the shelf’s thickness.

Read also: is pine wood good for bed frame?

Best Wood for Floating Shelves

1. Best wood for wall shelves – Pine

Although a softwood, yellow pine is strong enough with a Janka rating of 870, making it ideal for small wall shelves. Woodworkers prefer pinewood shelves for their easy workability, lightweight and pocket-friendly price.

After installing your brackets steady into the drywall studs, pine wood can hold between 40lbs and 50 lbs of your display object’s weight. 

To protect pine from dents and scratches, you should seal the plack of wood and then add your favorite stain. Pine is also a favorite for rustic wood floating shelves.

For a closet rod made of pine, a diameter of 1 1/4 inches is commonly used. This is a sturdy enough size to hold clothes without sagging, while still being comfortable to grip.

However, the diameter of the closet rod may need to be adjusted based on the weight of the clothes or personal preference. (Find out the maximum weight capacity of a wooden closet rod in our guide.)


  • Affordable compared to other materials.
  • Easy workability makes it ideal for a DIY project.
  • It takes paint well.
  • Resistant to shrinkage and swelling
  • Attractive wood grain.


  • Prone to scratches and dents.
  • Less strength than hardwoods.

2. Best wood for open shelvesWalnut

Walnut is a strong and durable hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 1010 lbf. This wood is straight-grained with colors ranging from yellow (the outer portion of the wood) to brown (the inner portion of the wood).

Woodworkers prefer walnut for furniture, the best wooden canes, and wood floating shelves because of its easy workability. The hardwood nature of this wood makes it ideal for beautiful open shelves. Additionally, walnut has a wide range of finishes for an antique look.

For a sturdy installation, drill the wall brackets into the wall studs; walnut wood can hold objects weighing more than 50lbs. Walnut is also light compared to other hardwoods and therefore manageable for DYI shelf installation.


  • Strong and durable.
  • Shrink and swelling resistant.
  • paints well
  • Easy workability.


  • Expensive and rare.
  • It may have a variation in color from dark to light.

3. Best wood for high-end floating shelves – Mahogany

Mahogany is a relatively heavy hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of between 800-900 lbf. This wood has small straight grain patterns with a beautiful hue of reddish-pink, which darkens over time to glorious reddish-brown color.

Although it’s hard, mahogany enjoys easy workability with tools, and this wood stains and polishes quite well. A shelf from pure mahogany is nearly seventy percent harder than most available wood.

Therefore, it is an excellent choice for displaying heavier objects like books and musical instruments. Therefore, mahogany is popular for making floating bookshelves which can withstand a high weight capacity of more than 65lbs per individual shelf.

Moreover, you can add two shelves to accommodate more books.


  • Strong and durable.
  • Longevity.
  • Easy workability with tools.
  • Resistant to dents and scratches.
  • Beautiful hue and grain pattern.
  • Relatively hard. 


  • Mahogany is expensive.
  • Availability is quite limited compared to other wood types.
  • Wood is heavy.

4. Best wood for bookshelves – Red oak

Red oak is a strong and versatile hardwood with a Janka hardness of 1290lbj. Although lighter than white oak, it can withstand a moderate weight capacity of 35lbs when used in shelving.

The hue saturation of this oak varies from a swirling reddish-pink to a light brownish watery pattern. With a wide wavy grain pattern and coarse texture, red oak absorbs stain and easily polishes without bloating. 

Remember, red oak is easier to work with and stains much better than white oak. Therefore, in shelving use of red oak is great with easy cutting, handling, and finishing capabilities.


  • Strong and durable.
  • Easy workability.
  • Warp resistant.
  • Resistant to scratches.


  • Blackens when in contact with moisture.
  • Expensive compared to other solid wood options.
  • Poor moisture resistance.

5. Best wood for bathroom shelves – Koa

Koa, also known as tigerwood, is renowned for its strength and longevity. With a Janka hardness rating of 1220lbf, koa is a moderately heavy hardwood.

Generally, koa hue comes in a reddish-gold to dark brown, with its interlocking wood grain producing a curly appearance. Koa is naturally beautiful, and adding stain to the wood is unnecessary and will hide its natural appeal.

Its relatively low weight and outstanding strength make this wood ideal for woodworkers making cabinet shelving. Additionally, koa is moisture and weather-resistant.

If you’re interested in exploring ways to waterproof wood for bathroom applications, we’ve got you covered. Discover effective methods and techniques in our comprehensive guide on waterproofing wood for bathroom use.



  • Challenging to work with due to weight.
  • Expensive compared to other listed hardwoods.

6. Best light wood for floating shelves – Douglas Fir

A popular softwood with a Janka hardness rating of 660 lbf, Douglas fir is adequately strong, versatile, and tough enough, making it ideal for cabinet shelving with an exceptional performance fit for any room.

It has a distinguished, rich, straight, close-grain pattern and its rosy light color, becoming reddish over time and setting Douglas fir apart. Additionally, Douglas fir stains well, though it is hard to stain because of its uneven texture and porous structure.

Douglas Fir wood’s lightweight nature makes it ideal for crafting shelves and outdoor birdhouses. Its strength and stability ensure sturdy structures, while its attractive grain pattern adds aesthetic value to the projects.

With its highest strength rating of softwoods, woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts prefer using Douglas fir for interior and exterior shelving.


  • Excellent strength to weight ratio.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy workability.
  • Cheaper than hardwood.
  • Easily available because of its short growth span.


  • Softer than hardwoods.
  • Dents and scratches easily.
  • Vulnerable to wear and tear after time.
  • Hard to stain.

7. Cheapest wood for shelves – Plywood

A great substitute for solid wood shelves, plywood is an inexpensive engineered wood made of flimsy strands of different wood species attached by adhesive.

Plywood is a versatile and easy material to work with; it is a light material used for furniture, shelving, plywood signs, and many other projects. Once you’ve completed a project, stain your plywood and add a waterproof coat.

Cabinet-grade plywood is the most preferred by professional woodworkers to make shelves and cabinets. This plywood type is quite strong and can withstand weights up to 50 lbs.


  • Cheap and readily available.
  • Reduced possibility of bending.
  • Versatile and easy to work with.


  • Less durable than real wood.
  • Susceptible to insect and moisture damage if not protected.
  • The surface of plywood may peel if not well stained.

8. Strongest wood for shelves – Maple

Maple is strong wood and with a Janka hardness rating of 1450lbj. It’s straight grain, and the color is white with some reddish-brown hues. Maple is affordable compared to other hardwoods.

With its high durability and strength, it can withstand dents and scratches. Woodworkers use maple wood for flooring and furniture, ideal for floating shelves.

Although, working with maple is only easy with machine tools and stains quite well. Wood shelves made of this wood can withstand up to 50lbs weight capacity for every stud which the bracket attaches.


  • Strong and durable.
  • Affordable than other hardwoods.
  • It stains well.


  • It does not have much grain variation there; some find it unattractive.
  • Hard to work with using hand tools. 

9. Best wood for kitchen cabinets – Cherry

Cherry wood is a beautiful softer hardwood which is relatively strong with a Janka hardness rating of 950lbj. Cherry comes in various colors, from yellow, red, dark brown, and white.

This wood has a fine, straight closed grain pattern and a smooth texture, easy to stain. In addition, it is easy to work on cherry since its flexible and carves easily. Carpenters have long used cherry in making fine, long-lasting cabinets, bathroom vanities and furniture. 



  • Susceptible to moisture damage.
  • Expensive for cabinets.
  • It easily shows dirt and dust.

10. Best light wood for open shelves – Poplar

Poplar is soft hardware with a Janka hardness rating of 540lbj. Its grain is straight and uniform. The color is light with some reddish-brown hues. Poplar is affordable compared to other hardwoods.

With its lightweight and moderate strength, poplar bends well and can be carved easily. Woodworkers use poplar wood for furniture and toys, ideal for wood shelves.

With the best finish for poplar, you can give your floating shelf a long-lasting protection. Wood shelves made of this wood can withstand up to 50lbs for every stud the bracket attaches and need iron reinforcement for extra support.


  • lightweight and durable
  • Affordable than other hardwoods
  • Easy to work with


  • Dents and scratches easily
  • It soaks up more paint

Difference Between Solid Wood and Engineered Wood

As the name suggests, solid wood is a piece of timber cut from one chunk of wood, while engineered wood is made by binding genuine wood particles, strands, or veneer with adhesive to form a composite material.

Engineered wood is an excellent substitute for solid wooden shelves in wet places, such as bathroom shelves.


How is a floating shelf installed?

First, find your wall studs and determine a suitable placement spot; secondly, if your shelf is heavy or you intend to place heavy items on the shelf, consider installing them directly into the stud. Next, drill the bracket holes, level, and tightly screw in the iron brackets. Finally, put your shelf in place and tightly screw underneath the shelf for a firm and steady storage space.

What to display on your floating shelves?

An array of books, vases, plants, or any existing decor will make any floating shelf stand out in a room and improve your home decor appeal. A simple hue scheme will allow different displayed items to seem intentional and put together. An additional wooden ornament or a natural material like rattan and jute will further complement your space.

How high can you place a floating shelf?

If you are hanging shelves on a hallway wall, between 5-6 feet from the floor will be the right height. As for shelves in rooms, especially the living and dining rooms, measure between 4-4.5 feet from the floor. Additionally, measure ten inches above the couches back for shelves above a couch.

Is whitewood good for floating shelves?

Whitewood is not the best for shelves, but you can opt for this wood to only place lightweight objects. With a Janka rating of 540 lbf, this wood is quite soft. Choosing between whitewood or pine for floating shelves might be challenging because they wear and tear faster, especially in high-traffic areas.

Read also: best wood types for doors

How thick should wood be for floating shelves?

At least two inches of wood thickness is ideal for floating wood shelves; it’s okay to boost the thickness to make up for the lack of exterior support.

Can pine wood be used for building sauna walls?

Yes, pine wood is the best wood for sauna walls. Pine is a popular and suitable wood choice for saunas due to its low heat conductivity and pleasant aroma when exposed to high temperatures. However, it’s essential to ensure the wood is properly treated and installed to withstand the heat and humidity of the sauna environment.

Can plywood be used to make raised garden beds?

Yes, plywood can be used to make raised garden beds, but it may not be the best wood for garden boxes for long-term use. While plywood is affordable and easy to work with, it is not naturally resistant to decay or moisture, which are important considerations for garden beds exposed to soil and water. For a more durable and long-lasting option, consider using naturally rot-resistant wood like cedar, redwood, or cypress. For the best wood for a workbench top, hardwoods like oak, maple, or beech are ideal choices for their durability and strength.

Related search: what is the best wood for countertops?

Final Thoughts

Floating shelves are a great and modern way to add decoration and storage space to your home without using the traditional cabinets or a dull bookshelf.

With various wood types to use in making shelves, using our list, you can find the best fit for your display space and complements your style.

Opt for suitable wood species and iron brackets for more sturdy floating shelves, and ensure you incorporate mounting equipment like a drill and stud finder in your next DIY project.

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