Concerned about damp and mould? Talk to us

Step-By-Step: How to put up shelves

Kitchen Shelves To Display Mugs

Putting up shelves is a great way to gain storage without compromising floor space. However, erecting these space-saving items is more challenging than it might first appear, but don't worry, we've got your back with our step-by-step guide on how to put up shelves. 

Jump to:
The two methods of shelf erection
How to put up shelves with brackets
How to put up shelves without brackets
Frequently asked questions

The two methods of shelf erection 

Now that you’ve committed to hanging your shelves yourself, it’s vital that you understand that the method you use will depend on the style of shelving you choose. Although similar, erecting shelves with or without brackets differs slightly, so you must first decide on which style you’re going for and follow the correct steps for that design. 

How to put up shelves with brackets

Often seen as the more traditional style of shelving, bracket-fixed shelves are a staple in most homes, so it’s essential to know how to hang them correctly. Here’s a five-step guide to help you.

The tools you’ll need: 

  • Drill 
  • Masking tape
  • Stud, pipe, and cable detector
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Screwdriver
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil 
  • Safety goggles

Materials you’ll need: 

  • Screws 
  • Wall plugs 
  • Bracket shelf 
  • Brackets
Woman Installs Shelf Using Drill

Step 1: Whip out your spirit level

Start by placing one of the wall brackets at your desired height, then make sure it's straight using your spirit level. Mark the top of the bracket and the holes on your wall using your pencil. 

Step 2: Accuracy is key 

Measure the distance for the next bracket and sketch its position using a spirit level. Make sure it's completely level with the previous mark; otherwise, you'll end up with a wonky shelf!

Step 3: Mark it up on the wall  

Place your second wall bracket at the desired height, double-check it's level, and mark where the holes in the bracket are on the wall. Then, mark the length of your wall plugs on your drill bit using tape. Put your goggles on, then drill holes in the wall where your markings are. 

For masonry walls, you'll want to switch your drill to hammer mode, as drilling through stone or brick can often be quite tricky. 

Step 4: Insert the wall plugs 

Next, insert the correct wall plugs for the type of wall you're screwing into. If needed, gently tap them in with a hammer so that they sit flush with the wall. It's worth noting that you don't need to use wall plugs if you're screwing into timber studs. 

Step 5: Fit the shelf brackets  

Finally, affix the brackets into position. Make sure they're level, then position the shelf board so that it sits centrally on the brackets and mark out the location of the fixing screws using the holes on the brackets. Once marked, drill pilot holes into the shelf, ensuring you only drill some of the way through the board. Now, attach the board with screws, and there you have it. You've built a shelf with brackets! 

How to put up shelves without brackets

Now that you’ve mastered shelves with brackets, it’s time to move on to those without. Bracketless shelves, or floating shelves as they’re also known, are often seen as the more modern style of shelving. Their floating appearance gives them a minimalistic feel that can fit into most decor styles without creating too much fuss. 

So, how do you put up shelves without brackets? First, you need to gather your equipment.

You will need: 

  • A floating shelf 
  • A cable and stud detector, and pipe
  • A drill
  • 50mm or 38mm screws 
  • Wall plugs 
  • Small screws to affix the shelves to the bars
  • Safety goggles to wear when drilling
  • Masking tape
Using A Spirit Level To Check Shelf Is Straight

Step 1: Preparation to succeed 

Before you even think of building your floating shelves, you must check that there aren’t any hidden dangers behind the wall you intend to drill such as water pipes or electrical wires. Once you’re happy that the wall is safe, place the hidden metal bracket strip against the wall, making sure it’s horizontal using a spirit level, then mark your desired fixing hole positions. 

Use some tape to mark the length of the wall plugs on the drill, then drill the holes in the marked spots and carefully tap in the wall plugs with a hammer. Finally, screw the hidden brackets into place, then make holes on the prongs facing down. 

Step 2: Build the shelf  

Slip the shelf onto the bars. It’s worth noting that your kit might have pre-drilled holes beneath the shelf. If this is the case, you’ll have to fit small screws through them into the holes within the bar. Complete the assembling by covering the screw heads with caps. 

Frequently asked questions

Are shelves easy to hang? 

Putting up shelving is notoriously fiddly, but nothing a little patience can't solve. As mentioned in our steps, you'll need a few tools like a drill, pencil, some wood screws, a hammer and some nails to complete the task – but it's nothing that a novice DIYer can't handle. 

Can I put shelves up on plasterboard? 

The simple answer is yes. There's a range of fixings available for fitting shelves to a plasterboard wall. 

However, it's important to note that you can't use regular wall plugs to fix shelves to these wall types, as they're soft, and the expanding nature of traditional wall plugs will cause the holes you've made to widen. If you're in doubt about which plugs are suitable to use and live in a Places for People home, call us on 01772 667002 or talk to a local carpenter. 

Can I put up a shelf without nails? 

Yes. You can erect a shelf using adhesive mounting strips rather than nails. However, it's worth ensuring your shelf design is lightweight and checking your tape's weight capacity before purchasing. 

Can I put up a shelf on a brick wall? 

When hanging a shelf on a brick wall, you'll need specific fasteners designed for masonry walls, as conventional fasteners and screws won't be up for the job.