Kitchen Shelves: How To

I promised to share how I made the shelves for the kitchen.

I had been looking at shelves for a while and I had really wanted floating shelves but I knew I would need a custom size to fit between the upper cabinets and the wall. I didn’t want to spend the money on pre-made floating shelves and I didn’t want to risk cutting them and having the melamine veneer chip that many they all seem to have. Husband and I were in home depot and randomly decided to pick up a 2×10 plank for under $12 and get it cut to size right there in the store for free (greatest service idea ever.) It was a long enough board that we had enough for the two shelves we wanted from one piece.

I took them home and sanded them down with an orbital sander taking care to sand down the edges where the wood had splintered a bit when they cut it. At this point I realized that they were going to be pretty rustic looking shelves just based on the quality of wood we bought; it had a bunch of knots and a pretty heavy grain in it, not to mention the dings and splintering where they cut it. I also realized that short of welding my own contraption, these shelves were not going to be floating. Just the wood alone was heavy enough to foil any of the ideas I had to make these babies “float.”

I have never had to pick stain before but after spending at least an hour reading cans in the stain aisle at the store I ended up with Rust Oleum Varethane Stain & Polyurethane in Dark Walnut. I liked that it was water based, low fumes, and clean up was just soap and water and that it was a one stop process. I didn’t use a wood conditioner or anything, just applied the stain to the wood with a brush.

This was after one coat, it got darker with the second. Some tips here: be careful that no drips escape you and run onto the underside of the board, they will show up really dark and are tough to blend in short of sanding it all down or doing a ton of coats. Also, this may be a no brainer but make sure it is evenly applied. I slopped one coat down and then went back over it a few times with the brush to make sure it was even and there were no drips. This is technically a no-no but I found it worked well for me and I didn’t get any brush marks showing despite the warning.

The stain dries really quickly, I would do one side, let it dry and in about 20min and I could already flip the board and do the other side with out getting the other side stuck  on  my work surface.

Between the coats I did a very light hand sanding to smooth everything. I also did this as the final step. Wipe it down thoroughly with a dry cloth to get all the dust and you are good to go.

The toughest part of this project was hanging the shelves on the wall. It seemed so straight forward…until I realized that the wall we wanted to hang them on was the fire separation between our house and our attached neighbour. Fortunately Home Depot to the rescue again with several options. We first bought concrete anchors and screws, this should have been enough but apparently we have super thick drywall or two layers of drywall and the anchors and screws were too short to properly grip into  the concrete to give the needed support. We were able to just pull the bracket out of the wall with our hands and minimal effort. Not ideal. After a few attempts and a giant hole in the wall, we went back out to the store for straight up Tap-cons. These bad boys are specialized concrete screws that are long and mean looking and once in were super secure.

OK so they aren’t that awful looking but with name like “Tap-con” they sound like they deserve a bit of respect, no?

Anyways, they did the trick and I love the results…

To use any of the methods above, the anchors or the Tap-cons, you will need to pre-drill a hole with a special concrete bit. These are cheap to buy on their own but I found that a lot of the packages of anchors or Tap-cons actually came with the appropriate bit. It is important that you match the bit size with the size of anchor/screw you are putting into the wall, if your bit is too big your screw won’t be able to grip the drywall/concrete properly. You can  use a normal drill to do this step but it is a little easier if you have a hammer drill.

It may sound a little confusing but it very doable with just a few things from any hardware store. The trick is to have an idea what your wall is made of, what you want to load on your selves, and then get the right stuff the first time! I was really confused staring at the wall of screws at Home Depot but a wonderful contractor took pity on me and patiently explained most of this to me. Now, he gave me the wrong product but in his defense, the anchors should have been fine if we didn’t have such thick drywall :)

The brackets I chose were from IKEA. I liked how they were a modern take on a pretty traditional design and even more importantly, how sturdy they are and how they support the full depth of the shelf!  They are about $10 for a pair so it came to $30 and odd change for the materials for this project.

A little design note: these brackets can be installed on the top of the shelf which I think I would have really liked but my shelf was too thick and heavy to have been properly supported.

There you have it! Do not let a little thing like a concrete wall keep you from doing that project you have been wanting to tackle. I actually feel safer that these shelves are hanging off concrete, can’t rip that down too easily!

Was this walk through clear? Have you had to hang anything on a concrete wall? did it go smoothly? I’d love to hear your stories or questions, please feel free to leave a comment!


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