Putting up shelves

Shelves can solve many storage problems in any room in the house and enable you to make use of odd corners and unused space in cupboards and alcoves. Very few tools are needed and the materials are widely available. The methods described here are for permanently fixed shelves. using battens. brackets or angled metal strips.

Shelf loads
The load a shelf can safely carry depends on the thickness of the shelf material, the strength of the supports and the distance between them. If you overload a shelf, it will begin to sag and may eventually loosen the supports. When planning your shelving, take into account the size and weight of the items you want to store and overestimate your needs to allow for future acquisitions. The chart below gives a guide to the maximum span for different shelf materials for medium to heavy loads. If you want to exceed the span given. use intermediate supports. Extra support can be given in a recess by fixing a batten to the back wall.

Recommended maximum distance between supports

 Material  Thickness Maximum span
 Blockboard  12mm  450mm
 Chipboard  12mm  400mm
 18mm  600mm
 25mm  750mm
 Plywood  18mm  800mm
 25mm  1000mm
 Timber  16mm  500mm
 22mm  900mm
 28mm  1050mm


Shelf material
Natural timber (hardwood or softwood) makes attractive shelves, but you may find the cost prohibitive if you want several shelves. Man-made boards in chipboard, blockboard and plywood are available in a wide range of standard shelf sizes, some of which are wider than the wood normally stocked by timber yards. Chipboard is popular for shelving since it is light in weight and is available veneered in a wood grain finish or melamine-faced: this is much stronger than unfaced chipboard, which tends to sag under heavy weights.

Shelf supports
Your choice of shelf supports may depend on where you wish to put the shelves. Timber battens and angled metal strips can be used only in recesses since they are fixed to side walls. Metal and timber angle brackets can be used in a recess or on an open wall.