How best to hang a shelf on drywall?

My work desk at home is tucked in a corner, with the long end of the desk up against a section of drywall and the short end against a ?cinder block wall. I would

Dang, hit submit by accident. What I wanted to say:

I would like to hang a couple of shelves that wrap around the corner above my desk, because I sure could use the space for work-related books, etc. Is there any way I can hang shelves bearing books on the drywall side when there don’t appear to be any studs in a handy location?

Well, there’s at least one stud that’s going to be in the corner. Traditionally studs are placed every 18 inches, so if your shelf extends more than 18 inches on either side of the corner, you should find one there. I’m assuming you know how to use a stud finder?

Well, there have to be studs somewhere… probably no more than 18" apart. You can get stud-finders at the hardware store to figure out where they are. If they aren’t there, you may have to just hang them from the cinderblock, or from the ceiling…

Toggle bolts are probably your best bet. You can try drywall anchors, but I wouldn’t trust them to bear the weight of a book.

I would question how you can have a corner without studs, however…


There are self screw-in anchors for use in drywall. Made in both plastic and metal with a machine screw to hold the shelf.

Shelf should not be wider that the books. Use angle brackets with one long leg to go down the wall. Screw the anchor(s) into the wall using a cross point screw driver till face is flush. Mount angle brackets and shelf. End corner brackets are better, if you can find them, as they can be mounted above the shelf and have a more mechanically stable shelf.

The drywall is actually just the back side of a closet built out from the cinder block wall, so I suppose I wasn’t expecting much by way of support in the wall. I would be happy to be proven wrong, since it would make life a lot easier.

I don’t have a stud finder handy here, but I have used them before. Off to Home Depot, I guess.

So… toggle bolts vs. regular drywall anchors? I don’t need more than a regular drill to put those in, do I?

Studs are on either 16" or 24" centers. If the finish will be paint, get some 1 x 12 shelving and lag screw it to the studs horizontally. I would fasten it to at least 4 studs or every one if you want to. I would use 1/4" by 3-1/2" long lag screws with a washer under the head, two screws per stud. Then fasten the shelf support brackets to the 1 x 12 and you’re off and running. For a different finish, Philippine mahagany isn’t all that expensive or even redwood could be used instead of the shelving.

If you use shelving the knots need to be sealed before painting or the paint will discollor over the knot. Shellac used to be used to seal them but I suppose there is some synthetic now. A paint dealer will know.

What I was thinking of installing is something like this:

so no angle brackets are involved. Good idea/bad idea?

I originally posted that studs are 18" apart, but the above information is correct. Sorry for the brain fart.

I would be surprised if you’ve got a wall with no studs in it. After all, something’s holding up the drywall, right? Before you go buy a stud finder, try knocking on the wall every few inches. You can often hear and feel where the studs are - it will progress from a hollow sound, with a little give in the wall to a solid sound and feel. This won’t be precise, but it might give you a feel for the general area where the studs are located, and what general layout will work for your shelves. You’ll also usually find a stud immediately on one side or the other of light switches and electrical outlets.

You must find out ahead of time whether or not there is a stud where you want to put your screw, because if there is a stud, you can’t use an anchor, and if there is no stud, you must use an anchor. This can be frustrating if you can’t tell where the studs are for some reason.

So, use a level to draw a line at a place where the marks and holes will be hidden by the shelf edge. Mark the locations on this line that are at the same horizontal places where you plan to put the anchors. With a 3/32" bit on a drill, make a test hole and pay attention to whether you punch thru drywall, or bite into a wood stud.

Also be reasonably certain there’s no plumbing or electrical back there. Are there any outlets or switches right under or above the location? (Probably not, given the location you described.)

If you find a stud, then at those lateral locations, use 2" wood screws or drywall screws. If there are no studs, then use anchors.

Drywall anchors are fine for shelving, especially the kind you linked to. If you think you’re going to be really loading the shelves, then you can install two rows of 1-by-2 or 1-by-4 cleats, and use as many anchors as you think you need to hold the weight, and then mount your shelves to the cleats.

But you shouldn’t need to. These kinds of anchors really hold a lot. I’ve hung large, heavy mirrors on just two of them. And even though the instructions say you don’t need a hole, a small one (like the 3/32" exploratory drills) is OK, and even helps them go in straight.

Warning, if you try to use these anchors in a place where a stud, or flashing, or plumbing, or anything is behind the drywall, the threads on these anchors will ream out a big nasty crater in your drywall. So be sure there’s no stud!

how many books are you gonna put on the shelves?

the shelves you linked to seem to be pretty item shelves not book shelves.

I have one end of a cabin bed supported by a plasterboard drywall; It’s a bit difficult to explain, but the lower edge of the end of the bed has a chamfer that locks into an opposite chamfer on a piece of timber the full width of the bed - the section looks something like:

   |   ||
   |   || 
   |   ||
   \   ||
    \  ||  WALL
   |\\ ||
   | \\||
   |  \ | 
   |   \|
   | S  |
   | U B|
   | P A|
   | P T|  WALL
   | O T| 
   | R E|
   | T N|
   |    |

The support batten was liberally coated with ‘no more nails’ adhesive and also screwed into five metal spiral plasterboard fixings (the sort that just screw straight into the drywall and finish flush) - the effect is that the weight of the bed end (and occupant) is distributed over the entire area of the support batten, which is the full width of the bed wide and five inches high - the plasterboard can easily take this sort of load.

Your bookshelf is a little different in that the weight of the books will tend to lever it off the wall, (whereas mine is a simple downward load), but this will be somewhat minimised by the corner.

rocking chair, I don’t have a huge quantity of book to stash away, fortunately; I just wanted something that would be a little more convenient than my current arrangement. As it is, the shelves I want to put up are somewhat heftier than the ones in the link - I just wanted to give a sense of the style. Have no fear, I don’t want to see whether my monitor can withstand falling shelves and books a la the Dell commercials. :wink:

Mangetout, thank you for the artwork. :slight_smile: I do see what you mean, and if you can support a bed on the wall I can surely get a few books up on a shelf.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions - you’ve been a great help.