Shelving.. the old favorite!

13 May 2004
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United Kingdom
Hi, found this forum through a google search. Hope I can get some help with a problem I'm chewing on.

I'm currently renovating my place & one of the things I would like to do is to add a shelf to the living room. The flat is fairly compact so to save floor space I plan to run a single shelf right across an entire wall of the living room. The span is over 4 meters so I'm not expecting to be able to have one length of shelf right across. The shelves would need to accommodate books & magazines so would have a heavy load & be around 300-250mm deep & there will be a cabinet running above the whole shelf. The wall the shelf will be running along is solid so I can bolt to that quiet happily but one side is a stud wall.

What my dilema is is that I would like to acheive this so as the support cannot be seen as much as possible. The solutions I've come up with & need to know if they are workable are:

To recess into the plaster & attach galvanised steel angle brackets which can be fitted under the shelves (like an upside down L) or above for the tangent to protrude under (like a rightway up L) with the underneath of the shelves reccessed to accommodate the flange of the bracket. The brackets I've looked into are 90mm long/60mm wide 2.5mm galvanised steel which I'd have 3 for each meter long shelf but possibly longer (deeper) brackets are needed.. not sure.

I'm not sure it can be done without some other support so one compromise I've thought of is to have suspension wire coming from the wall: the ceiling above is covered by wall cabinets which are going to be around 300-400mm above the shelf so the wire supports would be running at around a 45º angle when attached to the heighest possible point to the edge of the shelves. I'd prefer not to have to use this method as the whole point is to make the shelf seem part of the wall.

So do these solutions sound feasable or am I underestimating the problem?
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I don't think the brackets you've choose are suitable, ideally a shelf would have vertical supports but the next best thing is wall brackets that are designed to do the job.
Shelf brackets need to offer a good support at the outer edge so a300mm shelf needs at least 250 mm bracket . Secondly the best way to get the support is with a diagonal brace which means the depth of bracket also needs to at least 250 mm. I know there are some brackets that don't have a diagonal brace as such but they make use of the added strength when thin material is used on its edge.
The weight would act as a lever and if it didn't pull out the screws the bracket may bend.
The fact you are considering wire support tells me you also think they may not be suitable.
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
Here is an idea, it will be quite a bit of work but it should hold:

I presume your shelves will be quite thick? Well, I was thinking. The "invisible support" shelves you can get in Ikea et al are constructed by screwing a plate to the wall which has metal dowels coming out at a right angle to the wall. These then slide into pre-drilled holes on the shelf (or this is how I would imagine they would work anyway).

Now, to beef this up to take the weight of all that paper.

1) Take some threaded rod.

2) Drill holes large enough to accomodate the rod into your shelf, from the back towards the front. I reckon on your 300mm shelves you want it 200mm into the shelf (long bit!). Affix the rod into the shelf either through some form of adhesive or by cutting a hole into the underside of the shelf, using a nut and then filling the hole (OK if it will be painted)

3)Drill LEVEL holes straight through the solid wall, corresponding to the rods mounted in the shelves. If this is an internal wall, cut recesses into the opposite wall face.

4) Slide the rods through the holes.

5) Now, screw a nut on to this on the opposite side to your shelf-room. Tighten this (and the nut in the shelves) until everything is well supported.

6) Fill the recesses on the other side (if it was an internal wall) and make good.

This isn't a cheap or quick solution, but this type of shelf is usually intended for a few trendy ornaments and some flowers. :D Drilling the shelves and the wall level would be the hardest bit I reckon.
I think the principle of what you're proposing sounds OK. The three things that go wrong with shelves is they can sag between brackets, tilt forwards or fall off the wall after a few months.

All these are to do with the amount of weight on the shelf and the brackets you use.

If you're going to use one bracket every 33cm then that sounds OK and considering that you're going to load this up with a ton of books, I wouldn't go for anything less. If you use sufficient brackets along the rear wall then you don't need to have any other fixing on the side walls as these will only support the ends (and if you're looking at 4m it ain't going to matter). However you really need to get some support for the front edge of the shelf and I don't think that L brackets will provide sufficient support to prevent the shelf from tilting forwards.

Have you thought about providing the additional support to the front edge by running wire/rod vertically from the cabinet above? (Only good if the cabinet is securely fixed otherwise that'll come down as well!!)

I've used the Ikea shelves and they're fine providing you don't put too much weight on them.
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Unfortunately the wall is a party wall so I'd have to knock on the neighbours door & ask if can drill holes in her wall. As nice as she is somehow I think she will not be as keen as me :LOL:

The cabinets will be the horizontal kitchen cabinets from Ikea (my wife works there so our place resembles a Ikea show room! BTW if anybody needs advice on Ikea stuff I can pass on any questions). They probably would be sturdy enough to take the extra weight but I'd prefer to hide the supports as much as possible. If they are angled from the wall it should provide the support but still be fairly discrete.

Yes the Lack shelves from Ikea only take a max of 5kg. I piled about 200mm of magazines onto a scale & it came in at 11kg.. So for one meter length of shelf we are talking about a possible 55kg load! The weight of my wife!

I think I'll have to look into longer (deeper) brackets & wire suspension.

What material would be best for the shelf? I've thought block board or ply would be the best giving less sag than solid wood.
sonofwan said:
we are talking about a possible 55kg load! The weight of my wife!

I don't think keeping your wife on a shelf is a good idea. A pedestal maybe... ;)

Sag can be avoided by putting the supports more frequently. I would think that if you have one at the very end of each shelf, plus about 200mm between each one, that would give you 6 brackets for each 1m shelf (assuming you use 1m lengths, I guess 2 metres would be more likely) I doubt you will get much sag PROVIDED THE SHELVES ARE SUPPORTED ACROSS MOST OF THEIR WIDTH! The 90mm brackets won't be much good, I think you want 200mm as a minimum under each shelf, that way the centre of gravity of all those books will lie over bracket, not unsupported shelf.
If you want a substantial looking shelf you could consider a decent piece of hardwood which would stain/varnish up - that shouldn't sag if you've got sufficient support or alternatively MDF (which would need finishing somehow).

I think plywood would actually tend to be prone to flexing unless you were using a chunky piece of marine ply.

sonofwan wrote:
we are talking about a possible 55kg load! The weight of my wife!

I don't think keeping your wife on a shelf is a good idea. A pedestal maybe...
- No she'd bang her head on the cabinet above! :LOL:
A bracket every 200 mm ? That's not needed, what would it achieve. 400/500 mm I would agree with. I would not use ply because it splinters and you can't finish the edge so easy.I would not use conti board or mdf due to lack of strength. What's wrong with 1in planed timber finishes about 3/4 in thick you can get it around 9 or 10 in wide.
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
what would it achieve.

Well, if you have a load of 55kg per metre, then supporting a shelf at 500mm intervals is going to result in bendy warped shelves. Who wants wavy shelves? :LOL:

The aim here appears to be a striking visual impact from a seemingly seamless shelf running the length of a 4m wall, as part of the wall. That impact will be ruined if the shelf is in the least bit wavy. For the sake of a few quid of ironmongery and an extra hour (if that) installation I think it is worth it. :rolleyes:

I am sure we all know someone with insufficient shelf supports. There is no risk of it coming off the wall, but all that vinyl or all those books in the middle make it look rubbish.
As much as I'd love to live in a place which could afford to have a 4m shelf with nic-naks on, I need to be practical & consider the stacks of mags & books I have. This solution is, in my mind & considering the space constraints, far more elegant than a freestanding shelf unit which would eat up not only wall space but floor space too. Or even another row of cabinets which would look bulky & make the space look much smaller. The idea is to make it look less like a peice of furniture & more like part of the room so it is more congruous making the space appear less cluttered.

I've sourced 200m angle brackets at 2.5mm thick by 50mm. I'm probably looking at at least a bracket every 300-400mm but have emailed the manufacturer (simpson strongtie) who seems proactive to tech queries... we see...

I alway thought block board or ply (30mm or so thick) would be the least likely to warp due to the grain being less uniform..? MDF is definately out as it's heavy to begin with. Forget the finish, it's going to be painted white to match the wall, with the exception of ply for which I'd leave the edge shown. But you guys think solid plank would be best?

If I put my wife on a pedestal (she does deserves it) I'd be screwed: her head wouldn't fit between the shelf & the cabinets if I did ever need to shelve her. :p
ok think I've found part of the solution here at the bottom of the page.

Still looking for advice on what to use as the actual shelf, will a solid wooden plank be best?
I did a similar thing a while ago to what AdamW suggests:


The wood is some old Oak from a door jamb, reclaimed and cut down to size. I didn't bolt them from the other side, I simply recessed the rods far enough into the brick, and glued them, so that only The Hulk would ever be able to remove them.

They ain't going anywhere :D

I suggest drilling the holes slightly skewed in relation to eachother, that way, you have to hammer the shelves in, a bit like a fish hook (they won't want to come back out).
Gone for the bracket method. Found some box section brackets that are 250/200 & have recessed into the plaster to fit them direct to the wall.
Great looking shelves there Tom.
Those shelves look pretty sturdy! Which adhesive did you use to glue the rods in?

I like the Eagle annuals! :D Many a childhood Saturday afternoon was spent reading my Dad's old Eagle annuals.
Some better piccies:



I used PVA glue (nonails type stuff). Its just to keep the rods from moving around over the years. Basically, if anyone tries to remove them, they will probably take large chunks of plaster, as well as lots of brick dust, with them

The glue also forms a seal along the back of the shelf, which helps them stay flush with the wall.

Heh, would you believe, the dan dare books cost a fortune now! I wanted to expand my collection from Ebay, but they sell for over £100 each!

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