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How Do Floating Shelves Work?

How Do Floating Shelves Work?
By Flow Wall
August 26, 2020

Floating shelves are streamlined, stylish, and almost seem like a bit of magic. There they are, holding your books and picture frames with some invisible support system you can't quite figure out. So how do floating shelves work? How do you attach floating shelves, and how much weight can a floating shelf hold, really?

What Are Floating Shelves?

Before we dive in, let's make sure we all know what floating shelves are. A short answer to this question is: A floating shelf is a shelf attached to a wall with no visible means of support. As magical as they seem, remember, they aren't literally floating like those candles in Harry Potter. They require some internal hardware to stay in place. Now that we're all clear on that, how do floating shelves work?

Floating shelves give that minimal look with the help of internal brackets. These brackets usually include at least two rods that support the shelves from the inside. The shelf casing has holes that allow the brackets to slide into place. Then the shelf is secured to the wall by tightening screws located underneath the shelf. Not so magical now, huh? They still look great, though!

How to Install Floating Shelves

To attach your floating shelves, you'll need a ladder, wall anchors, and all the typical tools for hanging something on the wall. This includes a screwdriver, drill, level, pencil, tape measure, and stud finder.

Here are the steps to installing and hanging floating shelves:

  1. Find the studs using your stud finder.

  2. Use the level and a pencil to make marks showing where you want the mounting brackets to go.

  3. Attach the bracket using a screwdriver or drill.

  4. Use a tape measure to determine where you want the next shelf to go. (Don't forget to leave room for it to hold books, picture frames, etc.)

  5. Install the next set of brackets above or below the first bracket.

  6. Repeat until all of the brackets are in place.

  7. Add shelf casing over the brackets and secure them to the wall by tightening the screws under the shelf.

How Much Weight Can Floating Shelves Hold?

You've got your floating shelf mounted and you're excited to load it up. But before you get too carried away, make sure you're not exceeding the weight limit for your shelf—otherwise, everything will soon be tumbling to the ground.

The amount of weight your floating shelf can hold depends on where you hang it and how big your floating shelf is. Shelves with the lowest weight capacity can't hold more than 25 pounds, but the sturdiest shelves can hold up to 100 pounds or more.

Floating shelves that are mounted into studs or masonry blocks can hold more weight than those that are mounted into drywall. Deeper shelves usually can't hold as much as shallow shelves, since they require stronger brackets to stay in place. Additionally, the more rods your bracket has, the more weight the shelf can hold. Be sure to install a good amount of rods if you're wanting to put some heavy stuff on your shelves.

Do Floating Shelves Need Studs?

You're not planning on putting anything too hefty on your shelves, so you're wondering: Do floating shelves need studs? Yes, it's still the safest bet to use studs when installing your floating shelves. This will give them greater security and weight capacity, so you don't have your shelves falling out of the wall unannounced and no longer floating.

How Strong Are Floating Shelves?

Floating shelves are functional, and they look cool—definitely a winning combination! But the ultimate question is, are they strong? If so, just how strong are they?

Well, that depends on a lot of factors. As we said earlier, the weakest of floating shelves can hold up to 25 pounds, while the weight capacity of the strongest floating shelves may exceed 100 pounds. (Yep, that’s enough strength to hold a pre-teen or a German Shepherd!)

Here’s what you need to consider if you are looking to get extra-strong floating shelves:

  • Depth: Generally, the deeper the shelf, the greater the weight capacity—as long as you adequately support the shelf with rods and screws. So, if you want your shelf to hold heavy porcelain dishes, your impressive trophy collection, or dozens of books, opt for deeper shelving.

  • Number of rods: The more rods your shelf has, the stronger it will be. Make sure you choose amongst shelves with supportive brackets, then choose a shelf with the number of rods to support the weight you need. As a rule of thumb, a high-quality rod can take on about 45 pounds. So, a shelf with three rods can hold up to 135 pounds! Just remember, longer shelves need more brackets to support the length.

  • Number of screws: Ultimately, a floating shelf is only as strong as the attachments to the wall, so this is an element you want to pay close attention to. Make sure you take time to support each bracket with plenty of screws, which are mounted to wall studs or masonry blocks.

Hanging Shelves with Command Strips

Command Strips are everywhere these days. Need to hang a wreath? Perfect! Creating a gallery wall? Go for it! But when it comes to hanging floating shelves, put the Command Strips down. It’s definitely not a smart idea to use them in this situation.

As previously mentioned, floating shelves are only as strong as their attachment, and they need something far more solid to keep them from slowly breaking free from the wall. Instead, play it safe by drilling screws into your brackets, and always make sure you’re installing shelves on wall studs or masonry blocks.

If you don’t have screws, you can try hooks or panels to get a customized storage system you love.

How to Fix Sagging Floating Shelves

Your floating shelves look sleek and stylish. They’re functional and practical, too. But then one day, they start to sag. Yikes! Not only are sagging shelves unsightly—they’re also a safety hazard. Any sagging shelf is struggling to uphold the weight of what it contains, putting you one bad earthquake or even one door slam away from disaster.

So how do you keep floating shelves from sagging? And how do you to fix sagging shelves? Here are a few tips to get your shelves back into shape:

  • Take everything off the shelf and remove it from the wall.

  • Weight the shelf to help it return to its original form. You can do this by putting it on a flat surface and placing heavy objects on top of it.

  • Reattach the shelf using adequate screws, brackets, and rods.

  • Make sure you’re attaching the shelf to a wall stud or masonry block.

  • Add more rods and screws if needed.

  • Consider putting less weight on the shelf to prevent it from sagging again.

How to Install Floating Shelves Without Drilling

Maybe you live in an apartment, and you’re not supposed to drill holes in the wall. Or, maybe you don’t own a drill and don’t plan on buying one anytime soon. In that case, all is not lost. You can still install the floating shelves you have your eye on—you’ll just have to make a few modifications to the installation process.

It’s already been established that installing shelves with Command Strips is a big no-no. This option simply isn’t sturdy enough to hold even the lightest of shelves. Instead, go for a modular panel solution that allows you to slide in your shelving and add hooks, bins, and other storage options. You can even rearrange your shelving anytime you’d like—no drilling required.

Shop Floating Shelves Today

If all this talk about floating shelves has you wondering what options are out there, your first stop should be Flow Wall. Whether you're looking for heavy-duty shelves for your garage or decorative shelves for inside the home, Flow Wall is your one-stop-shop. Find your ideal shelves today at Flow Wall along with tons of other organization options to help you optimize and beautify youur home or garage.