Shelving Issues

Putting Up Shelving

You need more space and you've selected the area you want to put up new shelves (having checked that there are no live wires behind the walls!), but how do you go about putting these shelves up?

In some cases, you maybe limited for space and will actually have to shorten the length of shelf you've purchased. This can be performed using a jig-saw or a circular saw. Taking care that this is all performed in a well ventilated room and that you are wearing eye protection. It is also important that if you are doing this for the first time, you have someone around to help you, especially if you don't have a vice that can hold the piece of wood you want to cut - do not attempt to hold the wood by putting weight on it (whether putting something heavy on it or kneeling on it) since you may end up taking more off than you planned or worst still, doing yourself some damage in the process!

If the shelf supports need to be attached to the shelves, do this before measuring up where you need to put the holes in the wall. Once measuring where to drill, this is the time when an extra pair of hands comes in very useful! The easiest way of ensuring you put the shelf up horizontally is to use a spirit-level. Failing this, a ball is also a good indicator of how level your shelving is! Mark the centre of each of the holes in the shelf support on the wall with a pencil (shows up best on wallpaper/paint).

Wall plugs approximately the length of the screws you will use, are necessary to make sure the screws are held securely. This will require you drilling a hole which is large enough (diameter and length) to hold the wall plug. You will find that when putting the plug into the hole you have drilled, the last bit of the plug will usually require hammering into the wall to ensure a secure fit. If you can pull the plug out of the hole then it is too big and will not hold the screw and ergo, your shelf!

A masonry drill bit will easily go through plaster and brick without causing the hole to be too much bigger than the drill bit. However, drilling into concrete will require some patience since quite often you will find that you hit stones that are much harder to drill through(!). At these times make sure you take breaks between proceeding a few mms each time since the drillbit can heat up considerably as can the whole drill!

Prior to drilling a hole, you must ensure you don't make the hole too big. You can achieve this by using tape to mark off the length of the plug on the drill bit. The width of the hole will be approximately the same as that of the plug, but to make sure you don't make the hole too wide or too small, drill one hole and check how snugly the plug fits. If too big, then there are numerous polyfillers that will allow you to ‘try again' after a few hours which are needed to allow the filler to dry. If too small, then obviously, you just need to redrill the hole with a larger diameter drillbit.

After each hole has been drilled, recheck the position of your shelf and the other holes you have marked off. This will ensure that your shelf will indeed be level and that you can screw the shelf into position.

If bits of plaster have come off in the process of drilling, use a little polyfiller to fill in the gaps. If you have to do this, refrain from putting up the shelf for 24hours to make sure all is dry and secure. You can apply a little grease to the screws before using them to secure the shelf into position since this will allow easier removal if you decide to repaint or repaper the walls.


by Dr Judith Juhasz for