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November 2021 | Reveal Editors

How To Hang Floating Shelves

Floating shelves are an easy (and budget-friendly) way to add some stylish storage or show off a few of your favorite things. Follow our tips for how to hang floating shelves safely and properly.

Black floating shelf in small kitchen

Pick A Style

Before choosing a shelf, make sure you know it’s up to the job. Weight capacity is determined by the material of the shelf, the strength of its brackets, and its depth: The deeper the shelf, the less strong it is. Heavy-duty floating shelves have hidden internal brackets (any exposed brackets are decorative). Shelves with keyhole plates on the back are made to hang from screws, so should hold only light objects.

Stud or Anchor

Stud placement is crucial to deciding where to put your shelf. For a safe hold, screw hardware directly into at least one stud (one of the vertical two-by-fours that make up the frame of your home). Use a stud finder to identify them, and mark on either side to keep track of their location. Standard stud spacing is 16 inches apart, but always measure twice, drill once.

No stud? You’ll need wall anchors. If your shelf came with flimsy plastic ones, ditch them for heavier-duty options. When choosing, consider your wall material (drywall? plaster?), its thickness, and how much weight the shelf will support (including the shelf itself!). Err on the heavier side.

For heavy shelves, toggle or molly bolts are good options for both drywall and plaster; threaded drywall anchors work for light-duty applications. Most hardware includes the anchor and the screw or bolt to secure it. The packaging will say the anchor’s weight capacity and wall type, and what drill bit is needed for the pilot hole.

Line Things Up

This is where painter’s tape is your BFF! After you’ve picked your general shelf spot, put a long horizontal piece of tape on the wall and mark your studs on the tape, so you avoid visible pencil markings. Then place strips on the wall to help visualize spacing between shelves. And if shelves come with a hanging template, use tape to hang that. If your wall is plaster, place a small piece of tape over your mark before drilling; this helps prevent cracking. You can also place a tape curl directly below to catch dust. When you’re done, just peel it all off!

Two wooden hanging shelves with kitchen items

Choose Your Spot

  • After you’ve located the studs (or have the correct anchors), measure and mark on the wall where you want to place the shelf. Using a level, draw a straight line that’s approximately as wide as the shelf.
  • Using your level line and stud markings for reference, hold up the shelf brackets to the wall and trace the holes for your screws. Sometimes shelves come with a hanging template to make this task easier. If you have a bracket that has multiple screw holes, secure the middle one first, then ensure the shelf is level before securing the ones on either end.
  • When your shelf is in place, test for sturdiness by gently trying to move it. The screws should feel secure, with no wiggling. When placing items, evenly distribute their weight across the shelf. Beam with pride: Ya did it!
Drew and Jonathan holding drill and level

You’ll Need

  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • level
  • stud finder
  • painter’s tape
  • wood screws
  • appropriate anchors
  • drill/driver with corresponding drill bit
  • screwdriver

By Drew + Jonathan Feature photograph by Brittany Ambridge/Otto | Kitchen shelf photograph by David A. Land/Otto | Drew + Jonathan photograph by Emily Shur | All other images courtesy of the brands

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