Pick the Perfect Shelves for Any Room

Create space to display collectibles, stack books and store bulky items. Follow these tips to pick the perfect shelves and install them (no handyman required!)


Once you've decided on the style, figure out the shelf quantity and placement.

First, calculate how many shelves to purchase by taking rough measurements of the height and width of the items you will place on them. For books, always allow for more space than you think you'll need.

Next, plot out how you will situate the shelves on the wall. Brackets and the tracks used for adjustable shelves should be placed no more than 24 inches apart. If you want to be able to reach items without a step stool, install the top shelf no higher than 78 inches from the floor.

Finally, when arranging several vertical shelves, space those near the bottom farther apart to avoid a top-heavy appearance.


Hang your shelves flawlessly by making sure you use the right technique for your wall type.

Drywall method
Be safe―install in the studs.

  1. Locate the studs with a stud finder or knock on the wall, listening for places where it no longer sounds hollow when you tap it.
  2. Once you come across the first stud, mark its location with a pencil, and then measure to find the others; you should find a stud every 16 or 24 inches.
  3. Affix shelf hardware to the studs by drilling holes and driving in wood screws or all-purpose screws.
  4. If you have to install hardware in drywall where there is no stud, don't use a regular screw; use a toggle bolt (right), a fastener that expands inside the wall, providing a secure hold.

Plaster method
Protect your soft walls.
Drill holes, and then hammer in plastic sleeves, known as anchors. Drive screws through the shelf hardware and into the anchors.

Masonry method
Get the proper drill bit.
Drill holes with a masonry drill bit and use metal fasteners, called expanding anchors, instead of regular screws to attach the shelf hardware to the wall.