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Planning & preparation

  • This leaflet explains how to fit two types of shelf: a floating shelf with hidden supports, and a traditional shelf on brackets
  • Shelves come in a range of styles, sizes and materials so take some time to select a design that is right for you and your space
  • When selecting a design, bear in mind the position and purpose of the shelf. For example, if it will be supporting heavy items, it’s best to choose a shelf on brackets
  • Once you’ve chosen a location, you’ll need to check what wall surface you have, as this will determine the fixings you’ll need. If possible, fit shelves to a masonry wall as this will provide the sturdiest fixing
  • If you are fitting a shelf on a stud wall, you’ll need to use a stud detector to locate the vertical timber studs behind the plasterboard

Do it right

  • When fitting a shelf on brackets, bear in mind that the longer arm of the bracket should be against the wall and the shorter arm against the shelf
  • If using a floating shelf kit, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. These usually also include information about the load the shelf will support
  • If fixing a shelf to a stud wall, the shelf supports should be screwed into a pair of vertical timber studs – never into the hollow gaps between studs. This may also affect the type and length of shelf you can use

Staying safe

  • Always use a pipe and cable detector to avoid hidden water pipes and electric cables
  • Never drill directly above or below light switches and power sockets
  • On a stud wall, do not screw shelf supports into the hollow gaps between studs. They will not take the weight of a laden shelf and may collapse
  • Wear safety goggles when drilling

Aftercare

Be careful not to overload shelves, especially a floating shelf

Step by step

Step 1

When plastering, it’s important to get a smooth, even coverage, so start by applying plaster tape to cover all the joints between plasterboard sheets.

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Step 2

Once the tape is in place, use a snap off knife to trim the tape for a neat edge.

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Step 3

When preparing plaster, you should always add the water first as this keeps the mixture from becoming lumpy. To prepare the mix, start by half filling a bucket with clean tap water.

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Step 4

Slowly add the plaster powder to the water. It’s best to make more plaster mixture as and when you need it, instead of making a large quantity at the start. Be sure to check and follow the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging.

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Step 5

Use a bucket trowel to incorporate any dry plaster around the edge of the bucket. Do this several times during the mixing process.

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Step 6

You can either mix the plaster manually or by using a power stirrer. If you opt for a power stirrer, then make sure it is fully submerged in the mixture before switching on. Use at a low speed in order to not overwork the mixture.

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Step 7

When you’ve finished mixing, clean the power stirrer before the plaster has time to set on it.

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Step 8

If you are going to be plastering a large area, then it’s best to pour your plaster out onto a spot board. The mix should be thick enough that it is easy to spread but doesn’t run.

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Step 9

Using a plastering trowel, cut away a section of the mixed plaster and transfer it to the plastering hawk. It’s best to only use a small amount to start with if you are not used to handling the hawk.

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Step 10

If you are working with plasterboard, it’s best to start by adding a thin coat over any joints.

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Step 11

Then push a section of the plaster up and onto the wall surface using the plastering trowel, and spread from left to right.

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Step 12

It’s best to press firmly and distribute the plaster as evenly as possible. Use both vertical and horizontal movements to spread the plaster.

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Step 13

If you need to plaster around a light socket, disconnect your electricity supply before doing so. To avoid getting plaster within, it’s best to cover the socket whilst working.

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Step 14

Try to work quickly and build up a rhythm in order to cover the surface before the plaster begins to set. Then, go back over the whole surface with a thin second coat and smooth to an even thickness.

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Step 15

Following the manufacturer's instructions, leave the plaster to dry until the surface is still slightly damp but is firm enough that it doesn’t move when touched.

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Step 16

Go over the whole surface with a clean trowel blade, dampening the surface with a spray bottle as you go. This will smooth the plaster and help to fill any small indentations.

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Step 17

To achieve a smooth and level finish, hold the blade so that only one edge is on the plaster.

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Step 18

Then, use a small damp brush to smooth corners and edges.

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Step 19

Following the manufacturer's instructions, allow to dry further before repeating this smoothing process for the final time. The plaster should be harder than before but still slightly damp at this stage.

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