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How do I Choose the Best Cantilever Shelving?

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  • Written By: Jen Ainoa
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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A cantilever is a structure that is only anchored along one side, and it protrudes or juts out into space like an overhang. Cantilever shelves seem to emerge from the wall, sometime with no visible support at all, which is why they are sometimes called floating shelves. Choosing the best cantilever shelving is a decision based on a number of factors, including personal taste, budget and, most importantly, the type of wall to which the shelving is to be attached.

Cantilever shelves rely on the integrity of the wall to which they will be attached for their support, so the building materials making up the wall must be considered before any cantilever shelving is selected. Walls made of sheetrock, sometimes called dry wall, typically can only hold cantilever shelving if two or more studs behind the sheet rock are located, and the fasteners used to mount the shelving are driven directly into those studs. Special fasteners called toggle bolts can further reinforce the attachment of cantilever shelving to sheetrock walls, though these are not designed to go into the studs.

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Trying to attach cantilever shelving, or even a heavy piece of framed art, to a sheetrock wall without locating the studs and using the proper hardware often results in precious home decorations crashing to the floor, leaving behind a crumbly hole in the wall where the screw or nail used to be. Locating studs behind sheetrock walls is best done with a stud finder. Knocking on the wall with your knuckles and listening for the rise in pitch can sometimes give a hint as to where the studs might be, though this is not a recommended method for pin-pointing the exact location. Once studs are located and adequate hardware is established, choosing the best cantilever shelving for sheetrock walls is now a matter of aesthetics, in terms of both the form and function of the shelves.

Attaching cantilever shelving to brick or stone walls requires using concrete screws and a hearty drill. While more difficult than finding a stud behind the sheetrock wall, the solid structure of brick walls allows for heavier shelves to be mounted and more weight to be held. Again, once the structural elements of support have been considered, the best cantilever shelving for brick walls becomes a question of the design and décor of the room, and what looks most attractive in the space.

Determining which cantilever shelving is best in terms of style must be based on the purpose of the shelves. Small, decorative cantilever shelving serves a different purpose than shelving meant to hold books or showcase a heavy, ceramic vase. When cantilever shelving is chunky and bold in design, it becomes the focus, so if the shelves are intended to showcase a sculpture or other decorative pieces, the shelves should not draw too much attention to themselves. If the goal of cantilever shelving is more practical, such as providing a way to increase storage in a room without giving up floor space, strong, thin shelves work well, and the design element can come in with color.

Stainless steel and glass block materials are modern, urban twists on cantilever shelving. Shelves made of rare materials, such as exotic woods or slabs of granite, will likely be expensive and may be heavier than your wall can support. There are plastic and hallow cantilever shelves made to look like wood and concrete that are much lighter and less expensive than the real thing. Harvesting shelving from older buildings being torn down is becoming a popular way to “build green” and would be considered the best cantilever shelving if your priority is protecting the environment.

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