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Putting up Shelves

Hanging shelves on a wall is often the finishing touch that a room needs, and it’s a great space saving solution too. Whether you prefer floating shelves or traditional bracket shelves, there are styles and materials available to suit all tastes, from contemporary to traditional or rustic. Mounting a shelf to a wall is a simple DIY task which can be easily achieved with the right preparation.

How do I ensure a secure fixing?

Before you choose your shelf you need to check the type of wall it will be fixed to – a masonry wall, or a stud and plasterboard wall. This will determine the type of shelf you choose, where you’ll have to place it, and how much weight it will bear. A masonry wall is by far the best wall for supporting shelves with heavy loads.

Step 1

Using a pipe and cable detector, check that the area is free from pipes, electric cables, etc. If you are fixing a shelf to a stud wall then use a stud detector to tell you where the vertical beams (studs) and horizontal beams (noggins) are, and mark these spots on the wall.

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Step 2

If you’re fixing a shelf to a stud wall, the shelf brackets or supports should always be screwed into the studs or noggins, never the plasterboard.

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Step 3

For fixing shelves into masonry you need at least 50mm screws and wall plugs for the most stability. If you’re fitting shelves onto a stud wall then heavy gauge 38mm or 50mm screws offer the most stability.

What material should the shelving be?

Shelves are available in a variety of materials to suit your needs, from MDF to high quality hardwoods. Solid wood shelves such as pine, oak or beech can be painted, varnished or treated to increase longevity. MDF or composite wood shelves are often wrapped in hard wearing melamine, or a wood effect laminate layer. Glass shelves benefit from a truly modern look – safety glass with rounded edges is most suitable for the home.

What is the right bracket spacing to use?

For maximum stability and weight-bearing capacity, the type of brackets you choose and how far apart you fix them will depend on the shelf material, and what you intend to put on the shelf.

Have a look at our handy guide below to help you select the right shelving and brackets.

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How do I put up a floating shelf?

Floating shelves have hidden fixings, which makes for a thicker looking shelf, but also gives them a stylish minimal look when hung up. They are most suitable for light to medium loads such as small ornaments or paperback books.

Step 1

Once you’ve checked your wall for pipes, cables and studs, and decided where to position your shelf, hold the first shelf support in position. Ensure it’s the right way up, with the screw holes at the bottom.

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Step 2

Mark the top of the support on your wall, then mark the position of the two screw holes.

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Step 3

Repeat this process for the second shelf support by measuring and marking out the corresponding fixing positions. Always use a spirit level to ensure that the fixings are exactly level.

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Step 4

On a stud wall you can now fix the two supports in place by driving the screws through the plasterboard and into the timber stud or noggin behind. You don’t usually need wall plugs for this, especially if you’re using heavy gauge screws.

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Step 5

For a masonry wall you’ll need a hammer action drill with a masonry bit. To ensure you are drilling to the right depth, mark the length of your wall plugs on your drill bit using masking tape.

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Step 6

Drill the screw holes to the required depth, then push the wall plugs in. You might need to lightly tap them in with a hammer so they sit flush to the wall. Then screw both support brackets to the wall.

Finally slide the shelf into position and secure onto the supports from the underside.

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How do I put up a bracket shelf?

A fixed bracket shelf can make a striking feature in a room, as it can bear heavier loads and a wider variety of objects than a floating shelf. You should fit the bracket with the longer arm against the wall and the shorter arm under the shelf.

Step 1

Once you’ve checked your wall for pipes, cables and studs, and decided where to position your shelf, hold the first bracket in position with the longer side against the wall. Mark the positions of the screw holes and the top of the bracket.

Repeat this process for the second shelf support by measuring and marking out the corresponding fixing positions. Always use a spirit level to ensure that the fixings are exactly level.

Bracket-Shelf-Step-2.jpg
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Step 2

On a stud wall you can now fix the two supports in place by driving the screws through the plasterboard and into the timber stud or noggin behind. You don’t usually need wall plugs for this, especially if you’re using heavy gauge screws.

Bracket-Shelf-Step-4.jpg

Step 3

For a masonry wall you’ll need a hammer action drill with a masonry bit. To ensure you are drilling to the right depth, mark the length of your wall plugs on your drill bit using masking tape.

Bracket-Shelf-Step-5.jpg

Step 4

Drill the screw holes to the required depth, then push the wall plugs in. You might need to lightly tap them in with a hammer so they sit flush to the wall. Then screw both support brackets to the wall. Once the brackets are secure, double check to see if they are level.

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Step 5

Rest the shelf on the brackets in its correct position and mark on the underside of the shelf where the bracket fixing screws will go.

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Step 6

Use the marks to drill short pilot holes into the bottom of the shelf, taking care not to drill too deeply. Then place the shelf back into position and secure with screws.

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