DIY How To

How to choose shelves

DIY Projects - Planning for shelves

There are many forms of shelving available, some for mainly decorative effect and others that are more functional. It could be that you want to display valuable items up out of harms way, or may be you want to display books or dvd's in an alcove. Whatever the need one day you are going to require additional shelving.

There are a few things that need to be considered before buying or making your new shelves. What type of wall are the shelves being fitted on, is it brick or is it a studded wall, what is going to be stored on the shelves, take into account the size and weight of the items and also the clearance needed between additional shelves. The shelves not only need to stay up, but not sag due to the weight of the items placed upon it.

Shelves require supporting at varying distances, depending upon the material being used and the weight of the load.

Safety AdviceWhen working with MDF always wear a face mask when cutting or drilling it.
Check for electrical cables before drilling into walls.
Don't overload shelves.

Recommended Shelf Spans
Material Thickness Light Load Medium Load Heavy Load
Chipboard 16mm (5/8") 750mm (2'6") 600mm (2') 450mm (1'6")
Block board 18mm (3/4") 800mm (2'8") 750mm (2'6") 700mm (2'4")
MDF 18mm (3/4") 800mm (2'8") 750mm (2'6") 700mm (2'4")
Solid wood 18mm (3/4") 800mm (2'8") 750mm (2'6") 700mm (2'4")
Glass 6mm (1/4") 700mm (2'4") 700mm (2'4") 700mm (2'4")

If the wall is a solid masonry constructed wall the shelves can be fitted anywhere, but if it is a partition wall, ideally the brackets need to be fastened to the studs which make up the framework of the partition. If this is not possible due to the positioning of the studs then special fixings can be used to fasten the brackets to the plasterboard.

Top TipWhen using special fixings to fasten a shelf to a plasterboard wall, take care not to put too much weight on the shelf, as it may pull the fixings through the plasterboard.


DIY Projects - Shelving systems

There are many forms of shelving available, some for mainly decorative effect and others that are more functional. It could be that you want to display valuable items up out of harms way, or may be you want to display books or dvd's in an alcove. Whatever the need one day you are going to require additional shelving.

Shelving systems provide a quick and easy way to install shelves, there are different style brackets for different needs and they all clip into the uprights which are fastened to the wall. The advantage of this system is that the spacing between the shelves can be adjusted to accommodate specific items.

Spacing of brackets

Measure the length of the shelf and determine the spacing for the brackets, take into consideration the shelf material and thickness, also the weight of the items that will be placed upon it.

Fit upright

Mark the position on the wall for the top screw, drill and plug the wall, then secure the upright in place but do not fully tighten the screw.

Check upright is vertical

Using a spirit level make sure the bracket is vertical, mark the remaining screw positions on the wall with a pencil, then lifting the upright out of the way, drill and plug the wall. Line up the uprights, fit the remaining screws then fully tighten all the screws.

Line up second upright

Mark the wall to show the position of the second upright following these guidelines. To make sure the second upright is in line with the first, fit a shelf bracket into the corresponding slots in each upright, then using a spirit level mark the position on the wall for the top screw. Follow the previous 2 steps to secure the second upright.

Typical shelving system

Continue as above adding additional uprights where required, fit the shelf brackets into the desired slots and add the shelves. Some shelf brackets have holes which allow the shelf to be secured to the brackets from underneath, make sure the screws are not too long otherwise the point of the screw will come through the top of the shelf.


DIY Projects - Corner shelves

There are many forms of shelving available, some for mainly decorative effect and others that are more functional. It could be that you want to display valuable items up out of harms way, or may be you want to display books or dvd's in an alcove. Whatever the need one day you are going to require additional shelving.

Corners usually provide an ideal opportunity to create extra space by putting up some form of shelves. The shelves need to be shaped to fit into the corner, this prevents sharp edges jutting out into the room.

Top TipCheck the walls are 90° otherwise a bought shelf won't fit properly.

How to check a 90deg corner

To check a corner is 90° there is a rule that says if you measure 3 units along one wall and make a mark, then 4 units along the other wall and make a mark, the distance between the two marks should be 5 units. If the distance between the two marks is more than 5 then the angle is greater than 90° and if the distance is less than 5 the angle is less than 90°
Units can be any form of measure eg. Metre's, Feet.

Mark top of shelf

Determine the height of the shelf and then using a spirit level mark the top of the batten. With the batten lined up correctly mark the hole positions, then drill and plug the wall and fit one of the battens. Fit all the screws before fully tightening.

Fasten battens

Rest the spirit level on the other batten and make sure both battens are level and in line with each other. Mark the hole positions, then drill and plug the wall, fit the batten and after ensuring they are both level fasten all the screws fully.

Fit shelf

Fit the shelf and after making sure it fits properly screw the shelf to the brackets using countersunk screws.

Corner shelving

Corner shelves are a great way to utilise space that is usually wasted.


DIY Projects - Angle bracket shelving

Angle brackets come in a variety of sizes and patterns, so whether you want a nice display shelf or a shelf in a utility room there should be one that will suit your needs. Take care to make sure the brackets are strong enough to take the weight of the load that is going to be placed on the shelf.

Various angle brackets

Mark height of shelf

Determine the height of the shelf taking into consideration what is going to be stored, how heavy and how often the item will need to be moved.
Using a batten to support a spirit level draw a line where the brackets want to be, alternatively use the top of the spirit level as the guide and draw a small line marking the position of each bracket.

Line up bracket

To ensure the shelf is at the required height place a small block of wood on the brackets level with the pencil line and mark the fixing holes.

fit bracket

Drill and plug the wall then hold the brackets in place whilst the screws are fitted, fit all of the screws before tightening them fully.

Secure shelf

Once all the brackets are fitted, place the shelf on the top of the brackets, making sure the overhang is equal at both sides. Use a bradawl to make pilot holes then fit screws through the brackets and into the shelf for security. Make sure the screws are not too long otherwise the point of the screw will come through the top of the shelf.

Bracket shelving

If the shelves are secured with wooden brackets, you usually screw through the top of the shelf and into the bracket to secure the shelf, use countersunk screws so the head will not protrude above the top of the shelf.

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