Imagine this scenario: It’s 2020 and schools across the nation have closed down due to a viral pandemic. Your children are now learning from home and you’re not sure if and when the schools will re-open for face to face learning. How do you handle this situation? Well, many parents, like myself, don’t have to imagine this scenario because we are living it right now. And with there being so many unknowns for the next few months, I felt like I needed to have a solid backup plan (that may one day turn into the main plan) for my children to have a dedicated learning environment from home.
When schools closed in the Spring last school year, my kids were doing their school work in the evening from a shared laptop at the dining room table. Now that distance learning and/or homeschooling has become a longer-term reality for many parents, they have pivoted and adapted as parents so beautifully do, to create safe learning spaces at home.
Today, I’m sharing a quick tutorial on the floating desk we built for our girls. It was once just a playroom, but now it doubles as a playroom and homeschool combo. I have no intention of getting rid of the play items, because as Maria Montessori says, “play is the work of the child.”
Alright, let’s get to the DIY Triple Floating Desk tutorial!
Before I get to the supply list, I just want to make sure you have a basic understanding of nominal vs. actual lumber size. In the DIY world, you will see nominal or dimensional lumber referred to as 1×6 or 2×4, for example. The first number refers to the lumber thickness and the second number represents the lumber width, but they are not actually 1″ x 6″ or 2″ x 4″. This is the measurement when the lumber is initially cut, but because they are then planed on all sides to a smooth surface, the actual dimensions are less. So, using my example above a 1×6 is actually 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ and a 2×4 is actually 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Lastly, whenever you see a third number like 1x6x8, that last number (8) refers to the length of the piece of the wood and it usually IS the actual dimension. So the actual dimensions on a 1x6x8 are 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ x 96″ or 8′. Confusing, I know, but necessary to understand so you can create a custom sized desk according to your needs!
Here is what I used to make my floating desk:
(2) 1″ x 5″ x 8′ pine boards.
1 board for the back piece that runs across the length of the wall. This is also the depth of your storage cubby so if you want more or less cubby space, go with a 1″x6″ or 1″x4″.
1 board to cut down for the 4 brace pieces. This board needs to be the same thickness and width as the back piece.
(1) 1/2″ Sheet of Thin Plywood of choice. We used some scrap 1/2″ MDF with a plywood veneer. My desk was 8′ in length, but if your desk is 4′ in length or shorter, you can just buy a 4′ sheet plywood instead of 8 feet.
1 1/4″ Pocket Hole Screws (We used 10 total.)
Deckmate Screws (For attaching the desk to the studs. We used about 12 total)
Drill/Driver of choice
Table Saw or Circular Saw – to cut desk top and bottom. You could have your hardware store cut it for you, too.
Miter Saw – to cut braces
Brad Nailer or #6 Screws & Drill
Here’s how we built our floating homeschool desk:
First, determine the length of your desk, as well as the number of storage cubbies you want. The formula will go something like this:
Length of desk divided by (÷) # of storage cubbies. For the arms/braces, add (+) 1 to the number of storage cubbies you want.
So to use our desk for example: I wanted it 8 ft (96″) long and I wanted 3 cubbies for my girls. So 96″ ÷ 3 = 32″. Starting at one end of your board, mark every 32″ until you reach the very end of your board. If you come up a few inches shy of your board, adjust your math. The goal is to have two arms/braces on each end and then the remaining braces should be evenly divided & distanced along the rest of the back board.
After marking where the braces would go, we cut down our second board into 4 – 16″ pieces. This is the depth from the wall (once attached) to the child and this is the amount of desk space we went with for our kids. You may want more desk space or less depending on the size of you or your kiddo.
With all your pieces cut, you will start attaching the braces to the back board, but before you do this, it’d be beneficial to locate the studs in your walls to ensure that you don’t add a brace where a stud is. You will want to use every stud you can so the desk is attached securely.
Now that you’ve marked your studs on the wall, you can start putting together your desk. We used a Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ pocket screws to attach the braces to the back board. See the image below to get an idea of how many screws we used per brace and where we put them.
For the two end braces, we only put two screws in and only put them on the inside so that no holes were showing from the outside. For the inside braces, we put three screws in. Two on one side and one one the opposite side in the middle as seen in this photo. Add glue to the end of your brace, as well, for extra strength.
Once all of the braces were attached and the glue set up, we traced our sheet of plywood and cut two pieces down to size with a circular saw (table saw works, too!). One for the top and one for the bottom. Seen below is the bottom piece. We didn’t add the top until after we attached the desk to the wall otherwise it wouldn’t been impossible (or super difficult) to get a drill inside of that cubby space.
To attach the bottom plywood piece, we used a ton of wood glue and also put in a few nails into the braces from the bottom with my Ryobi Airstrike. You could also use thin #6 screws and a drill since a brad nailer isn’t really meant to bear much weight. Most of the strength comes from the wood glue, but a few nails don’t hurt, especially since the bottom piece will be holding the weight of the contents stored inside the desk.
And now that it’s attached to the wall, all that is left to do is to take the remaining piece of plywood and attach it to the top. From the ground to the top of the plywood desk measures approximately 24″ high. We had each of our girls sit down in their chairs to make sure that each of them were comfortable at that height. Our girls are 5, 6 and 9 years old and my 9 year old is very petite for her age compared to others her age so keep that in mind. When in doubt, go a little on the high side and your kiddo can use a booster or cushion in the meantime to accomodate older kids.
I added lots of wood glue again (but not too much that is seeps out everywhere.) Then, we added clamps and a few books on top and left it overnight. By morning, we took off the clamps and had a new triple floating desk for our girls!