Installing shelves

Whilst adding shelves to your home is a great practical solution for storage and saving floor space, they can also be a crucial part of your home décor. Adding personal items, quirky objects, and your favourite books all help to create a lovely shelving arrangement. For ideas on how to decorate your shelves, click here to read our blog on this. Anyway, that’s the fun bit which you’ll get to but how do you actually put-up shelves? Well, this blog is going to teach you and we’ll cover the installation of fixed shelves and floating shelves depending on your preference.

A triple stack of wooden shelves with black brackets

A Little Bit of Pre-Planning

Firstly, we need to consider where we’ll be attaching the shelving brackets too. A good idea is to pick an area that is somewhat out of the way of traffic. Mounting your shelves at eye level is also recommended (5-6ft high) to ensure that they remain a focal point of the room and easily visible. You can either fix shelves onto stud or masonry walls, but the installation will differ slightly.

If you are fixing onto a stud wall, you’ll need a stud finder to locate where the studs are in your wall. Slide the stud finder across the wall you wish to install your shelves and mark the two adjacent studs you wish to fix the brackets onto. Fixing your brackets to the studs are important as they will be able to support the weight of the shelves compared to drywall.

Alternatively, masonry walls require a hammer action drill with a masonry bit, creating holes for the screws to be fixed into. You’ll need at least 50mm screws and wall plugs to go into the wall. Before drilling, with a digital detector make sure that you are not drilling into any pipes, cables or studs.

Stud – A vertical board located within the structure of the wall.

Tools required to complete the job:

  • Shelf and fixings
  • Spirit Level
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
Pale wooden shelves being installed with spirit level placed on shelf

Positioning Your Shelves

Positioning your shelves is completely up to you, but just make sure that the brackets are placed on the two studs or where there is nothing behind if placing them on masonry walls.

Fixing The Brackets

Hold the shelf against the wall and mark where the bottom will sit. You’ll then want to mark the position of your first bracket and measure the distance of where the second bracket will need to be placed before marking it. To ensure that the bracket markers are level, use a spirit level.

The next job is to hold your first bracket up to the marker ensuring that it is vertically straight using your spirit level. Then mark the fixing screw holes with a pencil and remove the bracket. This will then need to be done for the other bracket(s). If you do have more than two brackets, fix them in between the outer brackets but making sure they are equal distances apart. To install the brackets, drill into the wall where you have marked and then screw the brackets in place.

Wooden brackets are being fixed to the wall with screwdriver

Adding The Shelf

Now the brackets are up, take the shelf and position it on top of the brackets so that it is in the correct place. Mark with a pencil, where the screws will go underneath the shelf. Take the shelf away and pre-drill the holes, making sure you don’t drill through to the other side. The shelf can now be rested back on the brackets and the screws can be fixed into the holes underneath the shelf to ensure it is firmly secured.

Underneath a wooden contemporary shelf that is fixed against a plain white wall

How To Fit Floating Shelves

Floating shelves commonly come in a kit form with hidden bracket strips designed to accommodate the shelf it comes with. In terms of how they work, a bracket strip will be fixed to the wall, and two bars extend outwards from the strip and slot into the side of the shelf to keep it up. Then, to remove the floating shelf, you would just need to slide the shelf back out from the metal bars. Do make sure the objects placed on the shelf are distributed evenly and check the guidelines for the heaviest load the shelf can take.

Fixing The Brackets

Firstly, ensure that there are no pipes, cables or hidden hazards behind the wall using a multi-purpose digital detector. Hold the bracket strip where you wish to install your floating shelf and use a spirit level to ensure its horizontally straight. Mark the fixing hole positions through the bracket. Take away the bracket and pre-drill the markings. Tap in your wall plugs using a hammer and then you can screw your brackets in place.

Slotting The Shelf in Place

Lining up the holes with the bars, slide the shelf in place until it finishes flat against the wall. You may need to fix screws through the underneath of the shelf into the bars of the bracket depending on your kit so do look to see if there are any of these.

Sliding a white contemporary floating shelf onto bracket strip

How to Install Shelves Without Drilling

Perhaps you're wanting to add shelves to your home arrangement but a little unsure about drilling holes into your walls. If you're not keen on your DIY skills or you don't want to leave marks or traces on your walls, then the good news is that it is still possible to install shelves. A good solution is to use adhesive strips which can be stuck against the wall and shelf to hold it in place. However, your shelves and ornaments will need to be particularly light (approx. 4.5kg) so that the strips can hold the shelf in place.

So to install your shelves using adhesive strips correctly, you firstly need to clean the back of your shelves and the part of the wall that you're wishing to use. This is to ensure that you're sticking these strips against clean and dry surfaces. Next up, you'll want to stick your adhesive strips to your shelf with one on each end and ensure that you are pressing the velcro side down against the shelf. Hold these strips down for around 30 seconds. If your shelves are made from wood, then it might be a good idea to staple your strips to the shelf to ensure a strong hold. Now, you can remove the strip covers on the other side and press the shelf up against the wall, holding it in place for at least 30 seconds to fix it in place and then you can let go. You now have a shelf to use!

How to Remove Floating Shelves

Rearranging your interior home spaces and looking for ways to freshen up your home design can be an enjoyable task. Whilst floating shelves are fixed to the wall, these can be removed relatively easy and so it's important that you know how to if wanting switch up your home design. Therefore, to remove these floating shelves, you'll need to check if there are any screws that are in place underneath the shelf and unscrew these if so. Once these have been removed, the shelf can now slide off of the two bars from the hidden bracket. 

We hope this has given you some much needed guidance on the installation of your shelves. It’s important that this process is completed thoroughly to make sure that the shelves can hold its recommended weight and are situated completely level on the wall. 

Relevant Information 

Where to Locate Shelves Around Your Home

Ideas for Creating the Perfect Shelving Arrangement

Renovation Guide: Budget-friendly ways to transform your home

Measuring up for interior furniture

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