How To Install Wall Mounted Or Floating Book Shelves

If you are organizing a small office or home office there is a good chance you will want some extra shelving installed. If you rarely or never pick up a hammer or power tool then this kind of job might seem a little daunting. Even if the shelving you purchase has instructions, sometimes they make assumptions about your skill level. Let’s demystify the process and break it down in to 10 easy to follow steps:


1. Placement

Before you hit the stores and purchase your furniture you need to do a bit of thinking about where the shelving will go, and the equipment you will need to get it up.

Wall mounted floating shelf in office

If you have drywalls (also known as plasterboard) then you will need to find the studs behind it from where you will mount each shelf. Mounting straight on to the wall will likely rip the wall apart as soon as any weight is placed on the shelf.

To find the studs we highly recommend purchasing an inexpensive stud finder, available from any hardware store. Trying to find studs by knocking against the wall and listening for the response can work, but why take the chance?

If you have brick or concrete walls, then you can mount your shelving directly on to them. Just remember to mount on to the brick itself and not the mortar in between the bricks. Mortar will crumble away if you drill in to it and might not have the strength to hold a shelf.

Whichever wall you have you will need an electric drill to drive in to the wall and secure mounting brackets. If you have brick or concrete walls you will need a masonry drill bit for your drill, and plastic anchors/plugs to hold the bracket screws (see step 5). With a drywall you can get away with a screwdriver bit to drive screws in without pre-drilling. The screws to hold up the bracket are typically Phillips head (star / cross-hair head) and the bit is included with your drill, but can also be purchased at the hardware store tool department.

2. Shelf measurement and placement

Work out where you want your shelves to go, keeping in mind that if you have drywall you will need to mount it on to the studs, which might restrict placement.

There should be enough space to move through the room without bumping in to the shelf, dragging items off it. Similarly if sitting down, avoid positioning shelving where you will bump your head when you get up.

Consider whether the shelf needs to be accessible whilst sitting down. Could you grab a book off it without getting out of your chair?

After you have sorted out the practicalities, now work out the material and color of your shelving. A glossy white never goes astray for a modern office. If you have existing furniture you might want to match the style and color to keep a the feeling consistent in your office. For more ideas on color and styhling check out our Office Colors – Beginners Tips article.

3. Hit the shops!

Whether you shop online or down the street. It’s time to check and make sure you have everything you need to complete the job:

  • Stud finder
  • Spirit level (to test that the shelf is level)
  • Electric drill
  • Screwdriver drill bits for mounting brackets
  • Masonry drill bits for drilling in to brick or concrete
    As well as plastic anchors/lugs to hammer in to your pilot holes (see step 5 below)
    And a hammer to get those anchors in to the hole
  • The shelf itself with brackets and screws

Keep in mind that shelving systems almost always include all of the brackets, anchors and screws you will need, and you just need to supply the drill and drill bits. If you don’t receive them in your kit, your local hardware store will help pick out the bits you need.

4. Measure Up

Work out how the shelving and brackets fit together, and hold them against the wall to verify placement. Mark the wall with a pencil where the holes for the brackets need to be drilled.

At this time it’s a good idea to get the spirit level out and do an initial check that your markings are at the same height. Double check by measuring the distance from your markings to the floor. A slanted shelf will annoy the heck out of you and make you wish you took more time installing it!

If your bracket has multiple screw holes, arranged vertically, don’t forget to test your level that they are lined up perfectly vertically as well.

5. First pilot holes

If you are working with brick or concrete walls, now is the time to get out your masonry bit and drill that first pilot hole. Start with just one hole and keep re-checking measurements as you go. Once drilled, hammer in the plastic plug/anchor that matches the screw for the bracket.

6. Loosely Drill the brackets in

Now (for any wall type) place one of the brackets in position and drill in place. You only need enough of the screw in to keep the bracket in place – half an inch is typically enough.

7. Pop on the shelf and test for levelness, mark remaining holes

Now line up your next bracket and put the shelf on – again testing you are level, and that your wall markings from earlier are still spot on. Last chance!

8. Finish drilling pilot holes

Again only required for brick or concrete walls – complete your pilot holes with anchors

9. Screw in brackets

Hold your brackets up and screw them in firmly.

10. Screw shelf in place

If your shelving came with instructions then it will say how to attach the shelf itself to the brackets. But if not, typically you screw it to the bracket from underneath the shelf, to hide the screws and leave a clean finish on top.

Once all screwed in check that everything is secure and going to hold the books and other gear you are about to place on top.

And one more thing…

Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!