How to Make Wire Shelf Covers That Look Just Like Floating Shelves

This renter and homeowner-friendly hack transforms tricky wire shelves into stylish, faux floating wood shelves.

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August 17, 2022
Closet with brown floating shelves

After: Closet with Floating Wood Shelves

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove creates faux floating shelves that slide over existing wire shelves.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

I have a love-hate relationship with wire shelves. You know the kind I’m talking about: the ones where things either fall through or don’t stand up straight, and dust gets stuck in all the little nooks and crannies.

Closet with white wire shelves

Before: Closet with Wire Shelves

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove covers the wire shelves in a storage closet using a renter-friendly hack.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

In other words, I love to hate them, especially since that led me to try the best hack yet in our home: building faux floating shelves that slide right over the existing wire shelves. Without having to remove a single wire shelf, I created the look of wood floating shelves that completely transformed this closet.

This stunning hack is a renter- and homeowner-friendly project that will have you running to your local home improvement store. So, if you're wondering how you can “get rid” of the wire shelves haunting you in the closets of your home with an affordable solution, then buckle up — this DIY is a good one!

We will place plywood boards, with pine boards attached to the front, on top of the wire shelves. The pine boards will conceal the front of the wire shelves, giving the wire shelves the illusion of wooden floating shelves. Here’s how to build faux wooden shelves that fit perfectly.

Wood floating shelves in a closet

Wood Wire Shelf Covers

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove creates plywood wire shelf covers to update her storage closet.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Tools + Materials

  • 1/4" thick sheet of plywood (I was able to use a 4' x 8' sheet for all five shelves.)
  • 1x3 pine (I bought mine in 6' sections. You want to make sure you have enough to fit the front width of each wire shelf.)
  • brown general purpose shipping paper
  • marker
  • scissors
  • jigsaw
  • tape measure
  • miter saw
Wire shelves covered by wood covers, wood cover leaning on door

DIY Plywood Floating Shelves

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove creates renter-friendly shelves for a storage closet.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

1. Measure Wire Shelves + Create Stencil

The first thing you’ll want to do is take the measurement of each shelf by measuring the width and depth. I saved myself a little time by getting the exact measurement of each side of one shelf and creating a cut-out of those measurements with shipping paper. I made sure my cut-out stencil aligned with every shelf.

Woman tracing the shelf shape onto plywood

Create the Shape

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove uses a stencil made of shipping paper to create the plywood covers.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

2. Trace Onto Plywood

Grab your 1/4-inch thick piece of plywood and trace out the shelves you need using your stencil. These pieces will sit on top of the wire shelves. Be mindful if it's important to you that the wood grain goes the same direction. I had to get creative with mine to make all the pieces fit onto the board, so they didn’t all line up the same way, but I was OK with that.

Woman tracing the shelf shape onto plywood

Create the Shape

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove traces the shelf shape onto the plywood.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

3. Cut Out Plywood Top Pieces

Clamp your piece of plywood down securely. Using a jigsaw or table saw, slowly cut out each piece. You’ll want to take your time with this step so that you cut straight sides. Give the edges a quick sanding after you’re done cutting them out.

Woman cutting plywood with jigsaw

Cut Out to Pieces

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove cuts out the top piece of the plywood wire shelf cover.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Before moving on, I did a test fit with each plywood piece on a shelf. I was battling the brackets of the wire shelves, so I had to slightly trim the width of each wooden shelf slightly for a snug fit. You’ll also want to number your shelves (you can make a mark with a pencil) so you know which wire shelf it covers.

4. Create the Pine Floating Shelf Lip

To create the lip for each shelf, measure the front width of each shelf and cut the piece of 1x3 pine accordingly. Keep the front piece and shelf paired together so you don’t get them mixed up.

Using a router, you’ll route a ledge along the top, backside of each piece of pine board. You’ll want to route the pine board about half the width of the board and at the same depth of the piece of plywood. This will ensure that the plywood will sit flush with the pine board once they’re placed together. This is the ledge where you’ll place the plywood piece on top. The goal is to hide the piece of plywood from view to create the illusion of a floating shelf.

5. Nail Pieces Together

To piece the faux floating shelf together, apply wood glue along the ledge, put your piece of plywood in place, and secure it using a brad nailer and 1-inch nails. Add nails through the top of the plywood shelf and into the pine board spaced about 8 inches apart.

Man nailing plywood to pine wood piece using a brad nailer

Attach Wood Pieces

Attach the plywood piece to the pine wood piece using wood glue. Then, secure the pieces using a brad nailer.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

6. Fill Holes + Sand

Once the wood glue is dry, fill in the nail holes with wood filler. This is also a great time to fill in any gaps where the plywood and pine board meet. Let the wood filler cure and harden overnight. Pro tip: Make sure to use wood filler that is stainable! Next, I gave my shelves a good sanding using 120-grit sandpaper for the initial sand and a 220-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish. Make sure that you have smoothed out all of the wood filler so that when you go to stain it, it doesn’t look like it was ever there.

Woman sanding a piece of plywood

Sand the Wood

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove uses a sander to give the wood a smooth finish.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

7. Stain

Apply stain on the sides, top and bottom of the faux shelf. I tested three different stains and ultimately went with Flagstone by Varathane. It’s my new favorite stain color. It’s the perfect balance of being a natural wood color mixed with a hint of brown. Keep in mind this stain will look different on different types of wood. You can see the blog post where I chat all about that here. You can also seal your shelves by applying two coats of polyurethane in clear satin. Make sure to lightly sand between each coat. Let dry completely.

8. Install Wire Shelf Covers

Install your new floating shelves by simply sliding them over the wire shelves.

This can be a fun weekend project that completely transforms your closet. I was shocked by the difference it made in ours and can’t wait to see you try these in your home.

Closet with wood floating shelves

DIY Plywood Shelf Covers

Liz Rishel from Within the Grove gives step-by-step instructions on how to create plywood wire shelf covers, as seen on HGTV’s Handmade.

Photo by: Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

Liz Rishel, Within the Grove

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