How to put up a shelf for display using fixings or brackets
Simple shelves can add instant impact to plain walls and give you the perfect platform to display your precious items. And the good news is that there are plenty of easy shelves to install, whether you’re a DIY novice or not.
You also won’t need an extensive collection of power tools, as some shelves only need a screwdriver and hammer. Although we recommend using a spirit level to ensure your shelves are straight (you don’t want your prized items sliding off your shelves!)
If you don’t have much experience with DIY, and are feeling nervous about putting up a shelf, James Cork, a handyman at Taskrabbit, recommends starting with something simple, like a bracket shelf. “For beginners, lightweight bracket shelves are a good place to start. They look great and are pretty stress-free to assemble. I’d recommend leaving heavier shelves to someone with more DIY experience as they’re a lot more complicated.”
You can really go to town when choosing shelves with brackets. For a classic look, you can select the shelf and bracket in the same material, or for something funky, why not mix up the materials? For example, make a rustic oak shelf look smarter with modern black brackets, in painted wood or industrial metal. Try Cast in Style’s Linear Bracket at £13 a piece.
Floating shelves are also an option and give a sleeker look than those with brackets, although check how much weight they can bear. John Roissetter, storage buyer at B&Q, says: “With floating shelves you can store items like small books and light ornaments without any visible support.”
We particularly like the rustic style of the Fulton Pine Floating Shelf available at Dunelm for £20, complete with fixings. If you’re after a minimalist look, we recommend Ikea’s classic Lack wall shelf in white for £12.
We could all do with some hidden support now and again, and this is exactly how floating shelves are attached. Roissetter explains: “A metal bracket strip will be fixed to the wall, from which two bars support the shelf by slotting into pre-drilled holes.”
With minimal fixing, putting up a floating shelf could be the ideal project if you’re a first- timer to DIY shelving. However, a floating shelf is as strong as its attachment to the wall, so take this into account when deciding what you want to display.
“This option is great for those who love the minimalist look, however it is not suitable for every use as it does come with some minor drawbacks,” says Roissetter. “There are weight restrictions for these types of shelves, and they may not work on every type of wall.” So if the items you want to display are on the heavier side, we’d recommend opting for a shelf with brackets.
How to use a spirit level
Hold the spirit level up to the measurements you want to check. If your measurements are correct, the spirit level’s vial bubble will appear between two lines. If not, you’ll need to make some adjustments.
If you prefer a quick fix, STOREMIC’s floating shelves could be a winner, as is claimed they can be installed in five minutes. Reviewers rave about these shelves, which have pre-drilled holes and come with fixings suitable for all wall types. All you’ll need is a screwdriver, hammer and spirit level.
Fancy some tiered shelving suspended with ropes? HomeZone’s shabby chic rustic shelving at £17.90 ticks all the boxes for a simple and stylish dark wood shelving display. Just knot the rope through the pre-drilled holes in the shelves, hammer the hooks into a solid wall, and then hang the whole shelf. At £17.90 you get a simple–to–install shelf at a simple price.
We’ve saved the simplest shelf to last. With absolutely no tools required, Ikea’s ÖBONÄS wall shelf comes with concealed suction cups, and is a steal at £5. Ideal for storing soap and shampoo in the bathroom or condiments in the kitchen, it grips smooth surfaces such as glass, mirrors and tiles and is suitable for high–humidity areas. The plastic shelf can be easily wiped clean and holds up to 1kg.
Know your limits
To avoid overloading your floating or bracket shelves and seeing your hard work destroyed as they start to sag (yes, shelf sagging is a thing) or pull away from their fixings, it’s worth checking how much weight they can bear.
The easier the shelf is to install, the less weight it can generally bear, comoared to those with more complicated fixings. B&Q recommends a range of light loading bearing brackets that support up to 30kg (66lb), while Dunelm’s White Floating Shelf can only support 5kg (11lb).
If you’d like a few more tips to get you started, we have plenty of advice from the experts within our article How to put up a shelf for display using fixings or brackets. Good luck!
Written by Camilla Sharman she/her
With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer. As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.