If you are floating a shelf, the most important decision you can make is the choice of floating shelf hardware. Quite literally, everything is hanging on it.
Specifically, the floating shelf bracket is what gives a floating shelf its ability to perform under stress and over time. It also makes your life easier or harder when you build and install your shelf, yourself, and ultimately makes or breaks the entire installation. So, choose wisely.
At Shelfology we build high strength, super sweet floating shelves every day, and these are the characteristics of a floating shelf bracket we have found to be most useful for performance and installation ease:
1. Solid welded construction
Brackets with the highest strength have the rods recessed into the flat bar of the bracket and are welded all 360 degrees around it, on the back. It is a far superior construction method to face welding for both strength as well as ease of use. Brackets that screw or bolt together also are inferior to a solid 360 welded floating shelf brackets. In our experience using any of these versions consistently left wiggle within the finished shelf and the weight capacity was nowhere near the capacity of a welded version. Both are major deal breakers for us and we have avoided these types of floating shelf brackets at all costs from the beginning. In fact, they inspired us to design a better solution, which is why we know what we know.
2. Support rods are large enough diameter
Typically, a 3/4” diameter rod is more than enough to handle most real life situations like say, 12” deep shelves with dishes or books on them. Typical shelf depths are 12” for kitchen, 10” for living room/bookshelves. A 3/4” diameter rod will handle both with ease. Using smaller rods like 5/8" or 1/2" means you wont be able to go as deep, or hold as much. Using larger diameter rods means you can go deeper. You get the picture.
3. Proper number of rods for your shelf length
It doesn’t make sense to have a bracket with two rods supporting a shelf 70” long. More rods equals more strength and 70” is a lot of length to squeeze more rods(strength) into the shelf. Look for brackets that have multiple rods added as the bracket gets longer. Ideally no more that ~20” apart. If we use the same example, there should be 4 to 5 rods within a 70” long shelf to adequately support all the weight that could be place on that long of a shelf.
4. Bracket is constructed of thicker gauges of steel
Thinner steel bends, thicker steel withstands stress and higher loads. In this case beefier is usually better. Look for back bars at least 1/4” thick, and as wide as fits inside your shelf thickness. This helps eliminate twist or torsional flex. Torsional flex is bad in a floating shelf bracket, it means the shelf will sag sooner under load.
5. Appropriately sized bracket
Use a bracket that is sized appropriately to your shelf. The name of the game is to have as much steel behind your shelf without it showing. Think about sizing two ways: length and width. First consider length, which is the long dimension of any given floating shelf bracket. Ideally your bracket should be 2”-4” shorter than your shelf length, as a rule. This means it will cross as many anchor points as possible on the wall. More places to anchor to the wall, equals more strength. Use them all. Next, width. I am talking about the width of the flat back that sits against the wall. This dimension is critical and is a major part of what gives a floating shelf bracket its strength. You want as much width as possible without being wider than the thickness of your shelf. The whole point is to hide it, yet still be super strong. The best rule to follow is this, keep the floating shelf bracket back bar 1/2" thinner than your shelf is thick. For example, if you are floating a 2” thick shelf, the ideal shelf bracket should have a flat back bar that is 1-1/2” wide.
Of course, at Shelfology, we sell stock brackets in four different back bar widths, with fifteen lengths in each width. We literally have a bracket in stock that will fit just about any shelf dimension. If it isn't in stock, we also customize back bars to any width you can imagine. Don't worry, we don't freak out if you don't buy them from us, but it's your choice to make your life harder if you want.
Regardless of where you get your brackets, we are always here to help. If you have any further questions, feel free to give us a call, chat or email any time. We would love to geek out on this with you. All that contact jazz is on our website www.shelfology.com.
Xo Kevin Chief shelf nerd, Shelfology