Now's the time to shelf safely with our shelf safety tips.
Howdy friends! Kevin Anderson, Chief Shelf nerd + CEO of Shelfology here. Awhile back I was asked by a friend about shelf safety--yes! Shelf safety. I laughed at first and tried to think of a snarky comment, but then I remembered my four year old climbing to the top of our living room shelf system and rescuing her in tears--mine, not hers. Next I remembered my friends’ saggy rustic “floating shelves” hung with screws and 2x2’s with plates sliding off regularly. Then I remembered a kitten stuck in a tree in that one animated superheroes movie and then I stopped remembering things and wandered away and fell asleep.
Now I’m awake again and I thought that some shelf safety tips would actually be helpful here. Plates sliding off and children NOT crashing the system or themselves to the ground are both good reasons to write a few of them. So without further ado, here are five tips to make sure when you hang shelves you, your family, and your kittens stay safe. This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few thoughts from our experience.
1. Walls are full of stuff that can either help your shelf stay up or really ruin your day.
Ducting, electrical wires, and pipes can ruin your day if you drive a screw into any of them. Studs, on the other hand are THE thing to mount your shelves into. If you mount your shelves or mantel into studs, you generally avoid everything else. The one caveat is if you use too long of a screw and you screw through a stud and into a wire or pipe running through the middle of that stud. Lessons? 1. mount into studs with 2. the proper length screw--not too long, but long enough to grab the wood securely. We have a formula for this that you can try! Add the following where applicable to get about the right length screw (I cant see your walls, so use this as a general guide and adjust where necessary): 1/4" for bracket thickness + 1/2" for sheetrock thickness +a good guess for any other finish thickness on your wall--if applicable AND you are screwing through them + 1.75". Generally, this will get the screw tip into the wood deep enough to hold but not so long that it penetrates more than 1/2 way through the stud.
2. Mount your shelves like a pro. Always use studs and blocking.
I can't repeat this enough. Find and use every available stud. It takes slightly longer to install, but nothing will fall off the wall or sag. Isn't that what we all want anyway--along with world peace? Also, if your floating shelf bracket crosses a stud but doesn’t line up with a screw hole, drill through the bracket and use that stud. That’s what the pro’s do.
3. Use the right hardware for the job.
When floating shelves or a mantel, brackets and fasteners really matter and are engineered to perform for specific situations. Literally EVERYTHING is hanging on them. General rule is don’t be cheap if you want performance. Select brackets that have 360 degree back welds, plumb and square rods and at least ¼” thick back bars. This combination has been engineered to handle real loads for real life situations and are the safest design on the market. Yes I am talking about Shelfology floating shelf brackets and floating mantel brackets, but if you are feeling like you want to shop around, at least find imitations with similar specs. Also, the safest fasteners we have found are these. All of this is worth paying for. You wouldn't buy a Kia because it was cheap and still expect it to hang with the Ferrari's. So, don't use inferior hardware if you want your floating shelves or floating mantel to perform year after year.
4. Always secure your shelf to the bracket.
Duh, right? A shelf that is stuck to its bracket will not rattle off in an earthquake or mock WWF session. Use screws driven through the top or bottom of the shelf into the horizontal support rods of the bracket, or silicone glue on the same rods. Lock it down so it wont come off and squash your GI Joe collection.
5. Don’t open yourself up for injury.
Place your shelves in smart places and put stuff on them that won’t fall off easily, especially in earthquake prone areas. In other words, don’t put your bowling ball collection over your couch. You get the idea. Take some time to consider what could happen to the stuff on the shelf if your world starts shaking, then adjust location or stuff accordingly. Also using good bookends or earthquake putty is recommended. Leaning shelves or freestanding shelves should always be secured to the wall with a small angle bracket to avoid tipping over (you should do this with your tall dressers too if you have monkeys, I mean, kids).
That's it so far. If you have further questions, I'm sure volume two is coming sometime. Until then, you can always reach out to our insanely educated shelf geeks for answers about anything.
Remember, shelf safety starts with you!