How do I Install Wall Mounted Shelves?

Gregory Hanson

The process of installing wall mounted shelves is a simple one. Like most construction tasks, it begins with planning and measuring. The shelves or shelf units are then fastened to the wall, using either drywall anchors for very light duty shelves or attaching them directly to the underlying studs for shelves meant to carry more weight. Finishing touches are added to ensure stability and enhance the appearance of the shelving.

Measurements must be taken carefully when building storage shelves.
Measurements must be taken carefully when building storage shelves.

When planning any permanent modification to a home, begin by taking careful measurements and using mock-ups to simulate any changes. Before installing wall mounted shelves, it is a good idea to use cardboard shelves to give an idea of what the finished project will look like. If the shelves will need to carry weight, identify the location of studs behind the plaster or drywall because the shelves or their supports will need to be anchored to the studs. This will dictate the placement of support brackets and the shelves that rest on top of them. A ruler and level should be used to mark the wall to ensure that the shelves are installed with even spacing and on the level.

Installing wall mounted shelves first requires taking careful measurements.
Installing wall mounted shelves first requires taking careful measurements.

After measurements have been taken, it is time to mount the support hardware. Some shelf systems use metal strips that are attached to the wall, and which then accommodate adjustable metal brackets to hold the shelves. Other types of wall mounted shelves use mounting screws to hold pre-assembled shelf units. Still others consist simply of brackets mounted directly to the wall. In all cases, shelves will need to be mounted to the wall.

For light-duty wall mounted shelves, attachment can be accomplished with plastic drywall anchors which are sunk into holes drilled through the drywall. The anchors expand to grip the back of the wall when a screw is threaded through them. For shelves that hold any real weight, mounting will involve using screws, ideally drywall screws, to mount the support system directly to the underlying studs. Using a small drill bit to pre-drill a guide hole can be helpful here.

After the mounting hardware has been affixed to the wall, the shelves themselves can be installed. Pre-assembled units require no additional work. Wall mounted shelving that is held up by brackets requires one additional step. For safety, these shelves should be mounted to their supporting brackets, so that they will not tip or fall if they are jostled.

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