Floating shelves lend a clean, contemporary look to any room. Combining style with function, they provide storage and display space without the unaesthetic appearance of assemble-it-yourself shelving units and their visible brackets – or the heaviness of cabinetry shelving units. Going beyond the utilitarian, floating shelves can be artfully arranged on the wall to create unique effects, or stacked at various levels to accommodate items of different heights. And the best part? They can be very budget-friendly! The second-best part? If you have some DIY skills, you can install them yourself! If not, don’t despair – we’ll get to that part eventually, if you haven’t guessed it by now!
Because shelving of any kind serves a practical purpose, you need to first determine if floating shelves are the right solution for both your storage and/or display requirements and your interior décor. Be sure you choose shelves that are up to the task for which you intend them.
How Much Weight Can a Floating Shelf Safely Hold?
First, let’s look at how a floating shelf achieves its illusion. The shelf slips over a metal bracket that’s been installed by drilling into a wall stud. If a wall stud cannot be located, you can use a drywall anchor, but understand that the shelf won’t be able to hold as much weight.
When shopping for floating shelves, don’t be distracted by style. As Shawn Anderson writes for Ultra Shelf, “Whether you’re sprucing up the dining room, adding storage to your laundry room, or adding a little décor to the bedroom, it’s important to know just how much weight your floating shelf can hold. Floating shelves are a great way to personalize your home décor and give functional-storage a facelift, but you can’t just put anything on the shelves.”
In other words, be mindful of the weight you expect the shelf to support. Some shelves are clearly meant for light duty – as in a bathroom. But if you’re planning to support books or other heavy objects, make sure the hidden hardware is up to the task! Anderson notes that the weight of books adds up faster than you think, so don’t underestimate the stress they’ll put on the supporting brackets. Ditto for kitchen shelves if you intend to use them for small appliances and stacks of dinnerware.
Anderson estimates that for every wall stud your bracket is attached to, a floating shelf can hold up to 50 lbs. That means if you have a three-foot shelf attached to two studs, your shelf can safely hold 100 lbs. The same is true for a two-foot shelf attached to two studs. Regardless of the shelf length, material, or depth, each wall stud that your shelf bracket is attached to allows your shelf to hold 50 lbs. However, when purchasing a floating shelf kit – which typically includes the shelf and all mounting hardware – note the manufacturer’s recommended maximum support weight.
Getting Down to Business – How to Install Floating Shelves
If you buy a kit, installation instructions may be included. If you buy the components separately, the following basic DIY steps apply, courtesy of Home Depot. Also, learning what’s involved can help you decide whether you have the confidence to attempt this yourself, or should leave installation to a professional!
Find the studs – You can use a stud finder to locate the studs and select the shelf placement spot. Mark the spot with a light pencil. You need to ensure that one of the mounting brackets secures in a stud. If you can’t find a stud in your preferred location, install drywall anchors. Again, be aware that should this be the case, the shelf will not be able to support as much weight.
Fix the bracket – Once you fix the location, you can use a screwdriver or drill to secure the internal bracket to the wall with the help of the supplied hardware. Before adding the final screws, make sure it is level.
Determine shelf placement – If you want to install multiple shelves, note the spots where you want to place them on the wall by measuring the installed bracket. While selecting the locations, keep in mind the amount of vertical space needed between the shelves. For example, if you want the lower shelf to display a tall vase, make sure the shelf above is placed far above enough to not visually “crowd” the vase.
Add and secure shelf casing – After securing the internal brackets, slide the shelf casing on to the bracket. Tighten the set screws underneath the shelf to secure them.
Place your items – Once installation is complete, the shelf is ready to use!
Floating Shelf Installation Safety Tips
Even if you’re a confident DIY’er, be sure you always keep safety first! In fact, those who have some experience in do-it-yourself projects can become over-confident and neglect basic safety practices – which can lead to trouble! Kevin Anderson – self-described Chief Shelf Nerd and CEO of Shelfology – provides the following safety tips for both personal safety during installation and long-term safety to prevent the shelf from eventually crashing down:
Be careful while driving a screw into the wall – Once you’ve located the wall stud, be sure you don’t also drill into anything that may be inside the stud – such as wires or pipes! Use the proper length screw – not too long, but long enough to grab the wood securely.
Always use studs and blocking – It takes slightly longer to install, but nothing will fall off the wall or sag. Also, if your floating shelf bracket crosses a stud but doesn’t line up with a screw hole, drill through the bracket and use that stud.
Make sure you use the right hardware – If you don’t buy a kit that includes the shelf and all hardware for installation, don’t cut corners by looking for a bargain. Brackets and fasteners really matter and are engineered to perform for specific situations. Literally everything is hanging on them. Select brackets that are sturdy and can handle heavy weights, if that’s what you want your shelf to do.
Safety Tips From The Paint Manager:
- Handle power tools with care.
- Wear eye protection.
- If using a ladder, make sure it is appropriate for the job. Never improvise with a chair, stool, etc. Wear footwear that will grip the ladder rungs – no flip-flops.
Don’t Have Confidence in Your DIY Skills? Don’t Worry – Call Us!
Even if you don’t trust yourself to hang a picture, you can still have the sophistication of floating shelves in whatever room – or rooms – you choose! Our professionals at The Paint Manager have the experience and skill to perform a wide range of home improvement and home maintenance tasks. No job is too small for us to treat as any less as if we were doing it in our own home! You can be assured that our handyman service will install floating (or any type of) shelves with precision to make them a beautiful and functional addition to your décor! Our blog post – “Hire a Handyman This Year! Here Are The Advantages!” – covers the many reasons why enlisting the services of a handyman is practical.
We have served Central Florida since 2000 with quality residential and commercial painting services. Visit our website to learn about the many other services we provide – including pressure washing, roof cleaning and stump removal. Become a member of The Paint Manager to receive a 15% year-‘round member’s discount. Contact us to learn more about our services and membership discount offer. We look forward to meeting you!