How much weight can a floating shelf hold?
In Shelfology, there is always a long and a short answer. Today we give you the short (for us) answer to this question, How much weight can a floating shelf hold? Since we are shelf geeks and own a company that manufactures floating shelves, this is an easy one for us.
The answer is, a lot of weight—if it is done right. Like anywhere from 25lbs to well over 300lbs. That is a big range. So here's the catch, the answer to this question is essentially based on a sliding scale of factors. Some factors increase the weight capacity of your floating shelf, some decrease it. For your particular shelf or shelves, digest the following rules then shop and install accordingly:
Rule #1. Know what you need to float.
Start here. Know approximately how much weight you need to float and what the dimensions of the shelf needs to be to get everything onto it comfortably. This kind of goes without saying, but like my grandpa always said, if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll get nowhere fast. Have a basic idea of where you need to go, then you can adjust the various factors to meet the needs of your project.
Rule #2. Generally, the deeper your floating shelf is, the less weight it can hold, or the stronger the floating shelf bracket needs to be.
Simple physics, dictates that the longer the lever, the less force it takes to move it. If your floating shelf is the lever and it gets longer (deeper) then it takes less weight to make it sag. The takeaway lessons from this principle are first, to only float as deep as you need. If you go deeper then you need, you will lose weight capacity. For example, if you are floating a bookshelf, typically your shelf won’t need to be deeper than 10" since most books are less than 9" deep. If you are floating kitchen shelves, 12" usually works since most cabinets and the plates, cups, and bowls they house, are 12" or less deep. Second lesson, pick a bracket that can handle the dimensions of your project. Hint, they are on Shelfology.com.
Rule #3. More rods in your floating shelf bracket means more floating shelf weight capacity.
First off, buy a decent floating shelf bracket. At Shelfology, we design and manufacture floating shelf brackets of all kinds and we are obviously partial to our version. We have competitors and copycats though, so regardless of where you get your brackets follow this rule. Pick a bracket that has enough horizontal rods welded onto it to adequately support your shelf. This is where knowing how much weight capacity you need comes in. Each rod will carry a certain amount of weight on its own, and together those capacities add up to the bracket's total capacity. For example, a Shelfology 34" heavy duty floating shelf bracket has three rods welded to it that individually, can handle roughly 45lbs per rod. Together, however, they add up to 135lbs of total bracket capacity. For shelves longer than 36" be sure that the bracket you choose has additional rods as your shelf gets longer. Over 50" we recommend at least four rods in the bracket, over 70" we recommend at least five rods. If your shelf is short and it needs to hold more weight than the two rods a shorter floating shelf bracket has, have Shelfology add more rods to it or buy shorter brackets and more of them to get the same effect without welding. For example, if you have a 30" shelf that needs exceptional weight capacity, you can either customize a standard Shelfology 26" floating shelf bracket with two additional rods, or you can use two 10" floating shelf brackets, with two rods each on them. The effect is the same. Four rods of support inside your 30" floating shelf.
Rule #4. More screws into studs or blocking equals more floating shelf weight capacity.
This is perhaps the most overlooked factor. A floating shelf bracket and consequently, a floating shelf, is only as strong as its weakest attachment point. If you only screw your floating shelf bracket into two studs then the entire shelf system is literally supported by only those two screws. They essentially have to do all of the work to support the bracket, shelf, and everything on them. In cases where weight capacity isn’t critical, this isn’t a problem. My friend Steve D only hangs a few Spandex body suits from his floating shelves. Not an issue for Steve. Eric G, however, has a small bowling ball collection he likes to display. Clearly weight capacity matters more for Eric.
Floating shelves can only maintain high weight capacities if they are mounted into something solid like wall studs or masonry block. They hold the most weight when they are secured into something solid all the way across the length of each shelf. If there are gaps where the bracket is not fastened to something solid, flex and sag can occur. Take a second to consider as you view the following illustration.
Most homes are stick frame construction, AKA have wood studs framing the walls. The problem for floating shelves on this types of wall, is that the solid mounting surface you need to support them (studs) are spaced every 16” apart. Floating shelves mounted into the periodic stud will not be as strong as floating shelves mounted into a solid backing that runs along the entire shelf. The gaps between mounting points will introduce flex in the bracket and the shelf can sag at worst, and will be weaker at best. In the illustration, imagine that the blocking is removed and the middle rod of the floating shelf bracket is not attached to anything behind it. Without that attachment, the rod can be bent downward much easier. This equates to lower floating shelf weight capacity and possibly shelf sag. To avoid both, attach the entire bracket to something solid, ideally blocking, like in the illustration.
Ok, so your eyes are now bleeding from all of this nerdy info. What next? Digest. Draw or write out your project, go find a bracket on shelfology.com that will support your shelves, make sure your wall is set up to hang it properly, then dammit, go hang it. Call us if you need any help. 949.244.1083.Xo Kevin Chief Shelf Officer, Shelfology