Putting up ShelvesPutting up shelves is a fairly easy DIY job but to achieve good results you need to approach this task carefully. Read on and you will learn all you need to know about putting up shelves you can be proud of.

Main Types of Shelves

There are two main types of shelving available. Either ready made shelving which may be adjustable and often comes in flat pack form; or fixed shelves which you can build yourself from either raw materials or a ready made pack. Remember home made shelving when made from basic and even reclaimed materials can create a very good effect in your home. Units can also be installed or made yourself – either free standing or secured to the wall.

Types of Shelving Material

Chipboard – Cheap and readily available it can look good around the home if used correctly.

Plywood and block board – Cheaper wood pieces. Common shelving materials for sheds and storage rooms.

Softwood – Most common wood type in the lumber yard or DIY store. Can be used to great effect for shelving around the home if cut and finished well.

Hardwood – More expensive, hard wearing quality wood which will provide you with the strongest shelving. Many people find hardwood the most attractive material for shelving.

Metal – Strong but normally for use in only pre-built units unless you have appropriate machinery and tools.

Glass – Only for lightweight displays. Can be cut to size by specialist supplier. Glass involves safety concerns if broken and of a non safety standard.

Plastic – Suitable pieces are available but normally only looks good in small shelving units, for instance in the bathroom.

Putting Up a Shelf

she3 Most shelf supports need to be secured to a wall or panel by means of screws. You need to carefully consider the type of wall and weight of the shelf and what it will hold. For most shelving you will need at least a 50mm screw and probably up to 75mm. A thicker screw gauge of around 10 is required for a heavier load while about 6 or 7 should be OK for minimal loads. If in doubt use a heavier/longer screw and secure your shelves properly. It’s best to screw shelves onto solid walls. If the wall is a partition wall check to see if it is thick enough for your screws.

20px break Choose an appropriate wall plug. Avoid drilling holes near plugs, sockets and if you think pipes may run behind.Consult an appropriate qualified person if in doubt. A wooden batten can provide a good base for your shelves and make them extra secure. A wooden batten is also useful if you are filling an alcove. Use an appropriate length screw to screw the batten in place at intervals and use a spirit level to make sure it is straight. Wood will provide a good secure surface for your shelving screws and you can use a counter sunk drill first on the batten to create a hole so your shelf screws fall into the batten neatly. You can drill your shelf screws through the batten and into the wall itself for extra security.

Erecting Shelves – Step By Step


  • Choose your shelving materials carefully including brackets and screws.
  • Hold the shelving up to the wall with a spirit level on top.
  • Mark the position of brackets on the wall. You may need someone to help you. 20px break  she2
  • Drill two holes for the first bracket and when it is in position fix the screws.
  • Repeat on the other side for the other bracket.
  • Always check the shelf is straight with the spirit level before tightening the second bracket screws.
  • Secure your shelves to the brackets. Make sure the brackets are equidistant from the edges.

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Top Shelving Tips


  • Shelf supports must support the weight of goods they are intended for. If you have heavy hard-back books or bulky ornaments you will need sturdy shelving and appropriate brackets, lengthy screws, etc.
  • You should make your own shelving out of appropriate durable materials. Just visit your local timber yard and they will cut pieces of hard wood to order.
  • For best results try and add shelving after decoration and not before.
  • The front edge of a shelf should ideally not project beyond 25mm of its bracket supports.
  • To strengthen a shelving unit and neaten the finish you can tack a decorative strip of beading on the edge of each shelf. Wooden beading looks particularly good. Fit this first before you fit the shelf to the wall.
  • L shaped brackets are fine for many fixed shelves. Cantilever brackets are useful if your shelves are carrying heavier loads. They are sturdier. 20px break she2
  • Use a spirit level. The worst thing after wonky shelves is shelves which are secure but not straight.
  • For small shelves it is worth fixing the bracket to the shelf before you screw it to the wall.
  • If using your own shelf materials, remember you can always paint or varnish them to create a good final effect.

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Fitting Shelves Correctly

shel6 You should always aim to fit shelves safely and securely. Never overload shelves if you have any concerns about their stability. If you create an environment for falling objects or shelving that could collapse not only could you be left with shoddy looking results but you can damage furniture, your walls and ornaments. Badly fitted shelving can also be dangerous, especially if you have children. 20px break Alternatively if you follow the correct guidelines and fit well secured shelves and shelving you can create a positive impact on your living space. Not only can good shelving provide an attractive feature for your home – showing off nice ornaments or books – but it can also maximise your storage space.