How to Install Standard-and-Bracket Book Shelves





Introduction: How to Install Standard-and-Bracket Book Shelves

About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Do you have more books than shelf space? Give yourself some extra storage space by installing standard-and-bracket shelves. Installing these types of shelves is very easy, and won't take much time. You'll spend more time rearranging your books than actually installing the shelves.

Step 1: Motivation

I wanted to put all of our various books and magazines in one spot to start on my eventual goal of having a multiple story library, complete with ladders, spiral staircases, and secret doors. Here's a motivational picture I took of the library in a monastery in Lima, Peru.

I already had a few hand-built bookcases, like these, but I needed more space, and I wanted them attached to the wall.

Step 2: Cost and Tools

The ease of installing stand-and-bracket shelving comes at a cost.

I spent $100 at Home Depot getting 3 standards (the rails), 15 brackets, 5 10 in x 48 in shelves, and screws (I used 2 in and 1 1/4 in).

Stud finder (I prefer using a magnet)

Step 3: Find the Studs, Install the Standards

Clear our the area where you want install shelves. Then, find and mark the location of studs (again, I prefer using a magnet). Install the first standard with screws. Here, I used 2 in long screws to secure the standard. After you've installed the first screw, ensure the standard is vertical with a level and install the rest of the screws.

In many houses, the studs will be spaced 16 in apart on center (meaning the stud's centers are 16 in apart). In older houses, the studs might be 12 in apart, and more difficult to find behind plaster and lathe. If you can't find a stud, some people say it's OK to use a drywall anchor or a toggle bolt. I don't agree with this thinking for anything other than hanging pictures in very specific places on a wall. If you are going to put any amount of books or other weight on a shelf, that shelf should be attached to something solid.

If you don't have studs, or they aren't at the right location, install a 2x4 or 2x6 flat against the wall anchored into something solid, and attach the standards to this "kicker plate" (I don't know what this is properly called, so I'll just use climbing-wall terminology). I've anchored kicker plates with lag screws into studs, and with masonry bolts into both bare concrete and bricks, or masonry behind plaster and lathe. In the images, you can see a kicker plate I attached with lag screws to studs in the garage; bike hooks are screwed into this kicker plate in specific places.

Step 4: Install the Other Standards

Mount the other standards to the wall. Attach two brackets and use the level as a shelf to ensure the shelves will sit horizontally. Again, with one screw installed, make sure the standard is vertical with the level.

It's possible to do this by yourself by holding the drill in awkward positions, but get a second hand if possible.

Step 5: Book Back Stop

I took a few scrap pieces of wood to create a back stop for the books. Without the backstop, if you pushed the books against the wall, you can't slide them past the standards.

Step 6: Arrange Books

Arrange, alphabetize, or sort your books by color. For me, this was the longest part of the project.

Step 7: Screw Shelves to Brackets

I live in an earthquake-prone area. So, after I was satisfied with the height of the shelves, I drove 1 1/4 in screws through the brackets into the shelves.



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    40 Discussions

    Thanks for this. Been wanting to install this type of shelving for my books, but wasn't sure it would be sturdy enough. You've convinced me. One question - how thick are your shelves and are they solid wood or the melamine-type shelves you see at most stores? Have read that to prevent bowing under the book weight over time, 1" solid wood shelves would be the best. Thoughts on that? Thanks again.

    Great instructable-- I noticed you used double slotted rails to hold the weight. I appreciate the magnet for finding the studs. I think that is the hardest part. Thank you!

    Very helpful instructable. Thank you very, very much for founding such a great site. I spend far more time than I should looking at all the ingenuity. I haven't built anything from the instructables yet but one on picking locks came in handy when the antique store I work at had a display cabinet come in locked and with no key. The owner was thinking about drilling out the lock but, having read an instructable on lock picking I thought "if I try to pick the lock the worst thing that could happen is I might break my dental probe off inside the lock and they'd have to drill that out as well" so I gave it a shot and within 15 or 20 minutes I had it open. That would not have happened without instructables. I tell everyone that comes in the store that shows any interest about crafts or diy about Instructables.

    To have a proper motivation one should see the library of the National Assembly in Paris. No photo allowed, but a virtual visit is available. Impressive and no bracketin used! :) Nice instructable, I was planning to do a similar thing, just looking for even a cheaper thing. Is there an instructable for your keyboards? I'd like to have one!

    A great system for wall mounting bookshelves can be found here: and

    "sort your books by color"? LOL I have taken to sorting my canned goods by color of contents, and it's so easy to put my hands right on what I want! More fun when putting groceries away, too.

    I have these all over my house. I bought an old house and the walls are bad, instead of replacing the walls I built these into the walls. Now the walls are lined so they won't crumble and I have so much space. My friends and family call me the "shelve queen" I even built shelves around my sewing machine so it looks like a built in and have room for all of my sewing. I am so happy to see someone else think they are as great as I do! My next project is to put shelves across my kitchen window and make a living curtain by putting all plants on the shelves. I did that where I used to live and it was great, let in light, plants grew like crazy and it gave me privecy.

    3 replies

    I don't know how to do that, but I might try to figure it out tomorow. I have homework to do today. Thanks for the idea, I would like to show them off, I worked so hard on thinking of the design, that was the hardest part I think, it looks so simple but it was the "fitting" it all together that was hard.

    Take a few pictures of your bookshelves, then hit the "Submit" button at the top of the page.  Hopefully, it's straightforward after that!

    First, nice instructable! Keep it up! :)

    I'm a musician myself -- a keyboardist to be exact. It hurts to see that you put hardware stuff on top of your keyboard! lol

    Does anyone know of a source of brackets of suitable (shallow) depth to make shelves exclusively for paperbacks (that would be like 4 inches. The shortest brackets I've seen are 6 inches, and those are pretty rare. If you can achieve an overall depth (including the standards) of about 5 inches, you can consider putting shelves in places they wouldn't otherwise fit (like lining hallways.))

    5 replies

    You asked over a year ago, but if you never found them (or if someone else is looking for them)... Knape and Vogt has 4" brackets in multiple finishes (including "anochrome"). carries them, or it looks like you can purchase directly from the manufacturer's website.

    Thanks! That's quite useful; I probably won't be done adding shelves till all the walls are completely covered...

    If you're creating just a few shelves, you might want to consider using just L brackets. You can get them in many sizes, and screw them directly into the wall.

    I had in mind floor to ceiling, wall to wall shelves :-) I've done the standards and brackets thing with 10foot 1x8 shelves, but it's a bit of a waste of space if most of your books are paperbacks...

    Finally after checking out your instructable I dove in am made my own shelf. I think I might have went a little overboard. It cost alot more but I'm proud of it and I thank you for the thorough instructable.

    Optimus Shelf.jpg
    1 reply

    Also 2 things. I had that same blue desk lamp & did you also build those shelves underneath? They look pretty handy.