Introduction: IKEA EKBY Shelf Hack

About: Engineer, musician, etc.

Here's an easy modification to IKEA's EKBY VALTER bracket that makes it a touch more functional and attractive.

My issue with the original design is that the extension of the 1x against the wall creates a gap at the back of the shelf. It does make it easier to install, but I didn't like that trade off.

Step 1: Gather Your Goods

Materials, per shelf:

  • (1) EKBY HEMNES* or similar board
  • (4) Screws with wall anchors as required
  • Wood glue
  • Clearcoat, such as Minwax Polyurethane (optional)


  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Chisel or similar

*The EKBY HEMNES comes with a light clear coat already applied and I was happy to skip that small step.

Step 2: Unscrew the Back Piece

Each joint is reinforced with a wood screw in addition to being dadoed and glued. First we'll need to remove the screws to remove the back that we don't want. Save the screws; we'll reuse them later.

Step 3: Knock Off the Back

Using a hammer (and maybe a wood block if you want to protect the part you're removing), hold the bracket firmly and strike the top side of the back a few times. Then, do the same to the bottom. And repeat. Eventually, with enough force and hits, the back should break off relatively cleanly.

Step 4: Pare the Bracket Clean

Maybe half of the joints broke totally cleanly and the other half had taken a bit of wood from the back piece. Using a chisel or similar sharp object, pare (or shave) this off to get a clean, flat surface.

Be careful with sharp objects!

Step 5: Apply Finish to the Brackets

IKEA sells these brackets unfinished. You might as well apply a nice clear coat to class them up. I put just one medium-light coat of Minwax Polyurethane on (with a shop paper towel because I didn't have anything better on hand) and let it cure over night.

Step 6: Predrill the Shelf

Measure out the existing screw holes in the brackets and transfer their location to the shelf, aligning the back of the brace with the back of the shelf and the side of the bracket about 1/8" inside the edge of the shelf. We're going to reuse the wood screws that we took out from the earlier step. You'll want to slightly oversize the hole in the shelf so the screw can pull the bracket tight to the shelf more easily. Countersink the heads if you can!

Step 7: Attach the Brackets

Place a dab of wood glue on the brackets where they'll join with the shelf, spreading it out evenly. Using the original wood screws, put the screw through the shelf and start tightening the bracket down. Make sure the bracket is perpendicular to the shelf and getting pulled down approximately in the correct location. Wipe up any excess glue with a wet paper towel.

I put the bracket on top to double as book ends and mimic a cable-stayed bridge.

NOTE: The screws are going into end grain and holes that were previously made, so this is not going to be the strongest connection, but it will be enough as long as you properly align the screw with the hole and DON'T OVER-TIGHTEN the screws. If you do strip it, remove the screw. Fill the hole partially using a toothpick and wood glue. Let the glue dry overnight and break off the excess toothpick. Try again!

Step 8: Mount 'em

Now, using your screws -- and wall anchors if you're going into just drywall -- mount the shelves. I placed them on a wall with a plaster and metal lath finish (1930's building) and used Spax cabinet screws, which grab well in most any material. Getting the lower screw in is tricky. Ideally you'll have a short screwdriver or one that angles. Otherwise, you can do like I did: use a small crescent wrench to turn the bit... I didn't take toooo long.

BONUS: If you want to confirm your wall mounts are strong enough, calculate the pull out and shear force and check against what the screws claim to be good for. Books weigh about 40 pounds a cubic foot, so assuming an average of 8" tall books on a 2'-0" wide shelf, each bracket is supporting 8/12 * 2'/2 * 40 = 27 pounds. You can assume the top screw takes the pull out force in tension and the bottom screw supports the weight vertically in shear. So, the bottom screw should be rated for 27 pounds. For the pull out load, if the center of mass of the books is about 5" away from the wall and the spacing between the wall screws is 6", the pull out force would be 27 * 5 / 6 = 22 pounds. So, as long as you followed the anchors' manufacturer's instructions you should be able to hit that easily.

EXTRA BONUS: Search for the ICC report of the fastener to get code-approved allowable capacities!

Shelving Contest 2016

Participated in the
Shelving Contest 2016