How to Install Wall Shelves

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Stud finder
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's level
  • Drill
  • Phillips head screwdriver
Materials Required
  • Standards, brackets, shelves
  • Mounting hardware

Before You Begin

Make a preliminary shopping/learning expedition to select a shelving system and pick up a planning brochure that details the system's standard and bracket specifications. Decide how many shelves you want and how you want to arrange them. Make a sketch of the wall, noting the location of wall studs so that you can plan the design.

Types of fasteners Choose the standard size and shelf depth and style to fit the items you plan to store and display, such as deep shelves for large items, narrower ones for smaller things. Plan to space the standards about 32 inches apart and allow a maximum overhang of 1/6th of the shelf length.

Standard size and shelves

If you must fasten the shelf to a hollow wall, choose mounting anchors based on their weight-bearing capacity. Don't be shy or embarrassed to ask for help.

Read the directions on the package, noting how many standards and brackets and what width and length of shelves are included. Most systems have brackets for at least two shelving widths, so make sure that you buy the correct size brackets for the width of shelves you chose. Some systems include the mounting hardware; some don't. Don't leave the store without everything you need.

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  • Step 1 : Find wall studs

    Plan to install each standard on the center of the stud. Use a stud finder and make light pencil marks on all the wall studs in the vicinity of the spot where you plan to install the shelving unit. You may have to adjust the exact location slightly so that the standards will be attached to the studs.

  • Step 2 : Install the first standard

     Install the first standard

    Mark the location for the top screw hole on the first standard and drill a small pilot hole through its top hole. Using a Phillips-head screwdriver, fasten the bracket with a screw at that location, but don't tighten it yet.

    Use a carpenter's level to position the first standard so that it's plumb, and then mark the location of the other mounting screws by inserting a pencil point into the mounting holes in the bracket. Swing the bracket to one side and then drill pilot holes for the mounting screws. Reposition the upright and install the remaining mounting screws.

  • Step 3 : Locate the position of the second standard

    Locate the position of the second standard

    Place a shelf support bracket in the standard hanging on the wall. Then, install another shelf support bracket in the same slot of a second standard. Hold the second standard over the next wall stud and then place a level (alone or on a piece of shelving) across the two brackets and move the second standard up or down until the shelf is level. Mark the location for the second standard and install it as you did the first one.

  • Step 4 : Repeat with the remaining standards, if any

  • Step 5 : Install the shelf support brackets into the standards

    These brackets usually slide down into slots that lock them in place, you might have to tap them to be secure. Don't pound too hard or you may move the standard.

  • Step 6 : Install the shelves on top of the support brackets