A French cleat wall is a way to hang all kinds of different things. The wall uses a series of boards with 45-degree beveled edges that face upward, allowing storage devices to securely lock into place via a downward-facing bevel.
Before You Begin
While our design will utilize a full 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of 3/4-inch sanded plywood for the wall boards, you could easily swap this out for other 3/4-inch thick solid boards such as pine, poplar, or oak. However, this will increase the overall cost of the French cleat wall, so keep that in mind. Additionally, you can easily downsize or upsize this design, so feel free to scale it to your specific space.
Pay close attention to all of the steps when constructing the French cleat wall to ensure safety once it’s complete. Compromising the hold of the wall by failing to screw into the wall studs, overdriving screws, or skimping on materials and construction steps could cause the whole unit to malfunction and pose a safety risk.
Rip the plywood board lengthwise to create individual boards with a width of four inches. Use a track saw or circular saw with a cutting guide or a table saw (but this will likely require assistance at first due to the board’s initial size).
If you cut the entire plywood sheet, you’ll be left with 11 4-inch wide boards, as the 12th board will not be a full four inches due to the material removed by the blade.
Set the 12th board off to the side for later use.
Ripping the full plywood sheet will create enough boards to cover an entire 8-foot wall. If you’d like a smaller French cleat wall, simply rip fewer boards.
Rip Boards in Half
Cut each 4-inch board in half lengthwise using a table saw with the blade set at 45 degrees, so that the blade is cutting the board exactly in half. Set fence at a point that looks good, then cut just slightly into the board and adjust until the blade cuts perfectly down the center.
Once you’ve figured it out, rip all your boards. If you started with 11, you should end with 22 boards, each with a 45-degree beveled edge on one side.
Sand Off Splinters
Remove splinters. The downside of plywood is that it often splinters when cut, but these can be removed using a sanding block. Be careful not to sand too much and alter the shape of the wood.
Mark Wall Studs
Mark each stud along the length of your French cleat wall using a stud finder. Use a long level or laser level to translate these marks vertically and lightly trace each stud with a pencil.
Wall studs are typically spaced every 16 inches on center. Taking a screw and driving it into the wall until you feel the screw make contact with the stud is a good way to be certain of the placement.
Mount Bottom Board
Start by mounting the first board. Place one end against the stud and screw into place using 3-inch self-drilling wood screws. Place a level against the bottom of the board and adjust until it sits perfectly level.
Once leveled, screw the opposite end into place. Check level once more, then continue to screw into each stud.
Create two spacers with the leftover plywood by cutting two 2-inch wide sections from the plywood. Cut one end of each piece at a 45-degree angle, then cut each piece to whatever you prefer the final spacing between the boards to be (at least two to three inches between boards).
Mount Remaining Boards
Mount the remaining boards by placing the spacers on the highest mounted board, stacking the next board on top of the spacers, and screwing into place. Repeat until all boards are mounted.
Making shelves and other accessories to hang on your French cleat wall is as simple as cutting beveled hangers out of your spare plywood or any other 3/4-inch material, and then securely mounting them to whatever accessory you can dream up. For a tight hold, always use wood glue in addition to brad nails. To ensure your accessories sit securely against the wall, they should vertically span more than one row of boards.