Mounting Floating Shelves on Tile Backplash


Once we had finished (mediocrely) backsplashing the wall behind our wine / coffee bar, it was time to add the finishing touch: floating shelves!

Before we get started, let’s recap. A few months ago, this is what the ‘bar’ area of our kitchen looked like:


This crazy cabinet mash-up looked like such a labyrinth, I half expected David Bowie to pop out of one of the random doors, holes, or cubbies and hurl his little glass ball at me.

Besides making our kitchen feel super dated, dark, and strange… this behemoth cabinet contraption also made our kitchen feel cramped and smaller than it really is.

When we replaced our cabinets, we knew we didn’t want to make the same mistake, so we left the wall space wide open.


So much more room for activities!

This little decision made a huge impact on our kitchen. The room felt so much bigger and brighter, and this little bar area started to seem infinitely more cool and functional.

Even though we had nixed wall cabinets, we still wanted something cool to take up some of the overhead space, and give us a little bit of fake storage (I call it ‘fake’ storage because, let’s be real, we aren’t gonna throw the spaghetti-stained tupperware up there… this is basically ‘storage’ for decorative crap).


We first planned on going with Ikea’s Lack shelf. Flat white with sharp squared corners, the Lack would have been a nice match for our very square shaker cabinets.

However, we also thought it was important to start bringing a little more character into the kitchen; to better juxtapose the very square, very stainless steel almost ‘modern’ elements with our less modern / more rustic choices (like our backsplash and oil rubbed bronze light fixtures).

So we ended up going with this white Home Decorators Collection shelf from Home Depot. They’ve got a great profile that matches our crown molding.

Unlike some tasks that are best done as a pair (like hanging curtains or replacing a toilet), installing floating shelves is a great afternoon project to tackle solo.

The installation is pretty straightforward: the hollow shelf slides over a wooden support cleat that is mounted to the wall. Quick and easy!

Step One: marking and drilling holes into our beautiful subway tile backsplash (eek!)


Since this was my first time drilling through tile, I needed to pick up a spear-tipped drill bit designed to blaze through tile without damaging it. (I chose this set; economical and got the job done).

I started by positioning the wooden support cleat where I wanted it on the wall, then checked the placement to ensure it was centered. Next, I marked where I needed to drill.

The cleat had several pre-drilled holes, but they were too small to fit a pen or marker through. So I got a q-tip and colored the tip with a dry erase marker…


…and stuck the q-tip through each hole, leaving a mark where my hole needed to go:


(Not bad for the girl whose idea of being clever is using dryer sheets as closet potpourri!)

With my holes marked, it was time for the moment of truth.I threw on my safety glasses sunglasses, held my breath, and hoped for the best:


Let my interrupt this stressful moment to point out that, as with any wall-mounting project, your best bet is to anchor the support to studs.

I don’t know about y’all, but anytime I see directions that tell me to find a stud, my reaction is to stomp my foot and yell “stop trying to tell me how to live my life!” to nobody in particular. Of course I don’t actually do that. Rather, I’ll try to find any way possible to buck the stud, grab life by the horns and go rogue (usually by using wall anchors).

I had already made up my mind that I was going to use wall anchors when, through pure luck, I ended up hitting not one, but two studs after centering my wooden support. Pure luck, y’all. (I used an anchor for the third).

Oh, and as for drilling through tile? Turns out, it was was a breeze:


Step Two: attaching cleat

After drilling the three holes I needed and inserting my anchor where I didn’t have a stud to screw into, I got the cleat attached to the wall.


Then I checked and double-checked that everything was still level.


(This picture probably wasn’t necessary, but I already uploaded it so fuck it).

Step Three: affixing shelf to cleat

Sliding the hollow shelf onto the cleat was so fun, I forgot to take a picture (good thing I gave you two pictures for the last step!) During this step it’s important to make sure the shelf stays centered. Because the cleat is several inches smaller than the shelf, you can move left or right quite a bit (which means this is your shot at redemption is you screwed the pooch with your cleat placement).

Once I confirmed that everything was where it should be, I attached the shelf to the cleat by screwing downward through the shelf top.

Step Four: decorate!


(I finally got to dust off my mug collection!)


The decor is still a work in project, and every time I pass through the kitchen I stop at the bar and rearrange the glasses, mugs, and canisters.

But boy, have we come a long way!

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About Accidental Suburbanites

Just a couple of kids turning a house into a home, one Pinterest fail at a time.
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