Home Improvement

How to Install Floating Shelves

  • Once your anchors are in place, slide on the shelf

    Once your anchors are in place, slide on the shelf

  • Line up holes with grout lines to prevent cracks in tile

    Line up holes with grout lines to prevent cracks in tile  (Catherine Nguyen Photography)

Seeming to defy gravity, floating shelves are a chic, streamlined addition to a home's decor. But how do they actually stay up, and how many knickknacks can these bracketless wonders actually support?

For the answers to these and other pressing questions, read on to learn how to install floating shelves. Trust us, they won't fall if they're installed right!

Check for studs

Don't just bang away before making sure you know what's behind your walls.

"Floating shelves should be installed where there are wall studs -- a framework of wood behind the wall -- to give more support," explains J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman in Ann Arbor, MI. Use a stud finder to locate them. No studs? You'll need anchors. Buy hollow ones for plaster walls and toggle anchors for drywall. Anchors or studs are strong enough to support the shelf without brackets.

Measure twice, drill once

This next step requires a level and a pencil. Place the level on the wall where the shelf will hang, and make marks with the pencil on both ends. Using the level as your guide, draw a light pencil line across the length of the area to make sure the shelf will be straight on the wall.

Drill, baby, drill

Place the bracket on the wall and mark little pencil holes where you find the studs to determine the correct placement for the anchors. To get those anchors in, make it easy on yourself and power up a hand drill to pierce the wall. The bracket should be aligned with the anchor-filled pilot holes.

"Follow the directions on the package to insert the anchors into the wall," says Sassano. Next, align the bracket with the anchor-filled holes and screw in the anchors with a regular screw driver to attach it to the wall.

Add the shelf

The last step is to insert the floating shelf over the bracket. Before arranging your display, make sure you're within proper weight range. Most of the weight factor has to do with the anchors themselves. Each anchor size is labeled according to how much weight it can hold, but it's best to stay on the lower end of the maximum load.