DIY Car Display Shelves

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Awe…would you look at that face?!  My little man was so excited when we told him what we were going to build for his cars!  He was too anxious to even let us finish the shelves all the way before he had them completely filled up with his cars! 🤣  The shelves are mostly done in this pic, I just had to paint the putty marks.

First things first, what materials did we use to make these shelves?  Before I get into that, we did our fair share of shopping around for prefab shelving units.  There are quite a few different floating shelves out there, but they come at a cost!  The shelves I found that would look the best in his room were $20 a piece and I would’ve needed 10 to fill the same amount of space!  $200 Yowsers! Don’t know about you, but that’s not in my budget!  (These DIY shelves we made cost roughly $25 for ALL 5 of the shelves!)

Off to The Home Depot we went.  We walked up and down the aisles looking for possible materials.  I knew I wanted a metal edge to mimic the metal grates on the wall next to the shelves.  When my eye caught these aluminum angle strips I knew that’s what I wanted to use!  Since this strip was only 3/4″ wide this would make a great front edge of the shelf, but I needed something deep enough for a toy car to sit on. In the end I decided to use your basic cedar fence slat.  Again I wanted to mimic the metal and wood used together like I did on the wagon shelf. You can see that tutorial here.

Decide how long you want your shelf to be, measure and cut.  I used the miter saw and made the cut at 24″. Once the aluminum strip was cut it left a rough edge, so I used a file to remove any sharp edges. 

Once the aluminum strip was filed, we lined a fence slat on top of the aluminum edge and put a square at the end of the aluminum strip. Make sure everything is lined up and mark the straight edge.  Once marked you can cut the fence slat. 

To make the shelves appear to be floating we cut strips of wood 1/2″ thick x 1″ tall x 22″ long.  We measured where the top of each shelf would be and made a small pencil mark on the wall.  We then used a level to line up the wood strip and used a nail gun to attach each strip to the wall.  Make sure to use a stud finder to get the nails in a stud, otherwise if the nails only go through to the sheet rock you’ll be able to pull the shelf right off the wall.  Studs are your friends.  The cleats were also painted the wall color so they would blend into the wall as much as possible. Remember we don’t really want to see the cleats.

Once all the fence slats are cut to size you can drill pilot holes along the backside of the wood.  Since the wood cleat was only 1/2″ thick we opted to drill pilot holes so we were sure to get the screw into the cleat. We secured each shelf to each cleat with 3 screws, 1 in the middle and 1 on each side. 

We started securing the shelves to the cleats from the bottom up, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to get the drill in between the shelves to screw into the top of cleat.

One step that is a little out of order (my fault, I failed to take a picture of this step), you’ll want to screw the aluminum strip onto the front of the fence slat before you screw the shelf into the cleat!  You can do this either right after you cut the fence slat to size or after you drill the pilot holes that will be used to secure the shelf into the cleat…just save yourself the trouble of trying to attach the aluminum when the shelf is already secured to the wall.  

We also drilled a pilot hole for each screw in the aluminum strip. Now you can simply secure the strip onto the front edge of the fence slat, by screwing from the bottom side of the shelf, again with 3 screws, 1 in the middle and 1 on each end.

This is also a good time to putty the nail holes in the cleats.  Once the putty has dried, give a light sanding to make sure its smooth and level to the cleat and then paint. 

Here’s a good shot of the shelves once they were all secured.  You can see that the front aluminum edge has been secured to the shelves with screws on the bottom of the shelf, and the nail holes in the cleats have been puttied and painted. 

Here’s a shot with many of the cars on the shelves.  Most of the cars are the perfect size for the shelves, they but right up to the aluminum edge.  A few cars are a little longer and had to be angled just a little bit.  But you can see how nicely they line up.  You can also see the 3 screws that secure the shelf into the cleat. 

I love how involved Mr. A was during this project.  He was thrilled that we were making something for his room. He loves having these new shelves to display his cars!  He actually picks them up after he’s done playing now because he likes to see them on the shelves, and it allows him to find the ones he wants more easily.  It’s a win for everyone!

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And as always here at Sunny Side Design we hope to . . .

BRING YOUR HOME TO THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET.

You may also want to see the complete room tour of this Car Loving Kid! 

More DIY projects are introduced (my personal favorite…the Tool Chest Dresser makeover!)

Click here for the DIY Tool Chest Dresser Tutorial.

Click here to learn how to transform a rusty old wagon into a spectacular shelf in only 30 minutes!

For even more DIY ideas and inspiration be sure to follow us on Pinterest!  

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Fantastic idea
    Food for thought would be to attach a 1/2 or 3/4” end caps for each shelf to protect anyone from injury on exposed sharp corners of metal strips. Maybe even a cover board from top to bottom on both ends. It can also help keep objects from falling of the end of shelves.
    Speaking from past experience from one of my own projects.

    1. Sue, thanks for your comment! That’s a great recommendation. That would be darling to frame the sides in so it was more like a box.

  2. Oh, my son would have LOVED this for his cars when he was little! Just wonderful! I featured this at Thursday Favorite Things today, along with your teen room. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks SO much Pam! We’re excited to be featured at Thursday Favorite Things! We’ll keep adding more of our creations to our site to share with everyone!

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