How to Install a Wall Shelf in Your Home

Wall shelf with pots and pans
Sebastian Schollmeyer/EyeEm/Getty Images
  • 01 of 09

    Installing a Wall Shelf

    Before and after a wall shelf is installed

    Sometimes your home repair project may involve hanging shelving on a wall where the shelf itself may be heavy, or it may support a heavy object. For example, a bookshelf or the combination wall shelf/coat hook which is the subject of this tutorial.

    As you can see in the photo above, a nice wall shelf can replace really bad art with something both useful and attractive!

    In this tutorial, we will explain how to install any wall shelf like a pro. It’s pretty easy if you follow the tips that are laid out for you. You’ll need the following tools to install a wall shelf.

    What You'll Need:

    • 48 inch long standard level (at least length of the shelf, usually a 24 inch or 48 inch level, not a torpedo level which is too small)
    • (2) expanding wall anchors (#6-32 screw x 2-3/8" long)
    • Electric drill
    • 9/32 inch drill bit
    • Phillips head screwdriver
    • Tape measure
    • Hammer
    • Pencil
    Continue to 2 of 9 below.
  • 02 of 09

    Locate Placement of Wall Shelf

    Marking a wall for shelf installation

    First, you need to locate the shelf on the wall. You may need a helper with this step to hold the shelf in place while you determine the height and location you desire and to hold the shelf while you mark its location.

    • Once the wall shelf is placed where you want it, level it with a standard level or give it a good "eye-ball" it does not matter just so long as the shelf is generally level.
    • Mark the wall with a pencil locating the left and right sides of the shelf.
    • Mark the wall with a pencil locating the top of the shelf.
    Continue to 3 of 9 below.
  • 03 of 09

    Mark Mounting Hole Line on Wall

    Measuring a wall for shelf installation

    In this step, you will mark the wall with a level pencil line representing the height of the mounting holes. Flip the shelf over and take a look at the mounting brackets. The shelf will probably have a secure mounting bracket like you see in photo #2 above. Secure mounting brackets like this look something like a thermometer bulb, fat on the bottom with a skinny neck. That's because the mounting screw is designed to go into the round hole in the bottom of the bracket and slide up the neck being held in place so the shelf cannot pull off.

    • Measure down from the top of the shelf to the top of the bracket slot. In the photo above that dimension is about 2 inches.
    • Next, measure down from the mark you made on the wall for the top of the shelf. This mark below the top shelf mark is the centerline for the mounting holes.
    • Using a standard box level, mark a level pencil line the width of the shelf establishing the height of the mounting holes.
    Continue to 4 of 9 below.
  • 04 of 09

    Measure and Mark the First Mounting Hole Location

    Measuring for a mounting hole

    Now that you have the line marked on the wall that establishes the height of the mounting holes locating the holes is easy. Just take your time because proper placement makes or breaks your installation. You want to be very accurate in the location of the mounting holes.

    • Measure from the edge of the shelf to the center of the mounting hole. In the example photo above that dimension is about 1 7/8 inches.
    • Draw a pencil line up from the mark on the wall you made for the edge of the shelf until it intersects the mounting hole line.
    • Then measure in the dimension of the shelf to the center of the mounting hole.
    • Mark that location. This is the center of your first mounting hole.
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Measure Distance Between Bracket Holes

    Measuring shelf mounting holes

    To mark the location of the second mounting hole, you must measure the distance between the holes.

    • Turn the shelf over.
    • Place the tape measure at the right edge of the left bracket mounting hole.
    • Holding the tape measure taut, measure the distance to the right edge of the right bracket mounting hole which in the photo above is about 23 3/16 inches.
    • In the next step, you will now transfer this dimension to the wall.
    Continue to 6 of 9 below.
  • 06 of 09

    Measure and Mark the Second Mounting Hole Location

    Measuring a wall for a mounting hole

    Next, transfer the dimension between mounting holes onto the wall.

    • Starting at the first mounting hole location, measure along the mounting hole line on the wall the distance between mounting holes.
    • Mark that location. This is the center of your second mounting hole.
    Continue to 7 of 9 below.
  • 07 of 09

    Select and Test-Fit Wall Anchor

    Test fitting a wall anchor

    You have a few options of which wall anchor system to use. You can use a nylon toggle anchor, what's recommended for this application, the expandable wall anchor.

    You should use a pointy plastic tipped wall anchor called a "drive anchor." Although you technically don't need a hole pre-drilled if this anchor is going into drywall, we still recommend pre-drilling a hole for ease of installation and accuracy of hole placement. And a pre-drilled hole is a must for any anchor going into a plaster wall as may be found in older homes or apartments.

    The size used for this project was a #6-32 screw x 2-3/8 inch long expandable wall anchor. You also need to test-fit the anchor's screw head to make sure it will fit into the bracket slot.

    Continue to 8 of 9 below.
  • 08 of 09

    Install Wall Anchors

    installing wall anchor

    Installing the wall anchors is the next step in the shelf's installation. You will need to drill a hole in the wall for each of the two mounting holes you have located in previous steps.

    • Select the appropriate size drill bit for the wall anchor used. If you are using the #6-32 wall anchor we recommend, then use a 9/32 inch drill bit.
    • Using an electric drill, drill a clean and precisely placed hole into each of the two mounting hole locations marked on the wall.
    • Insert an anchor into each hole and tap lightly with a hammer to seat the pointed prongs of each anchor into the wall. These prongs keep the anchor from turning when the screw is tightened.
    • Tighten the anchor screw fully allowing the expanded metal frame of the anchor to expand against the back of the wall.
    • Once each screw is fully tightened, you must back them off about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch so that they extend out and can be inserted into their respective shelf mounting bracket holes.
    • This is also a good time to clean up all the drywall dust from the drilling and clean up the pencil marks from the wall.
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Final Shelf Installation

    final shelf installation

    All that's left to do once the wall anchors are in place is to carefully align the wall shelf mounting bracket holes over each anchor screw and slide the shelf down onto the mounting bracket. The job is now complete.