Putting up shelves is a fundamental do-it-yourself task, and is probably one of the first jobs the newcomer will tackle. With a little thought, shelving can be made to be decorative as well as functional, and a variety of materials, including wood, metal and glass, can be used to good effect. All require firm wall fixings and always use a spirit (carpenter’s) level when fitting shelves.
Ready-made shelving systems can be employed, both wall-mounted and freestanding. The basic methods of fitting shelving are the same, no matter what material is used. Essential requirements are establishing a truly level surface with a spirit level, obtaining firm fixings in the wall, and being able to fit accurately into an alcove.
Use your spirit level to ascertain the height and horizontal run of the shelf, then mark the positions for the brackets. Mark the positions of the screws through the holes in the brackets, drill with a masonry bit and insert wallplugs. Hold each bracket in place and start all the screws into the wallplugs before tightening them fully. This will ensure that they engage properly.
If fitting more than one shelf on an uninterrupted run of wall, mark them out at the same time, using a try or combination square. Cut them to size, then screw them to the shelf brackets.
An easy way to measure the internal width of an alcove is by using two overlapping strips. Allow them to touch each end of the alcove and clamp them together on the overlap. Transfer this measurement to the shelving material and carefully cut it to length.
Establish the position for the back batten with a spirit level. Drill and plug the holes, then screw the batten in place. Using the back batten as a reference point, fit the side battens to the end walls of the alcove.
Drill screw clearance holes in the shelf, place the shelf on the battens and screw it down. When fitting shelves into an alcove, do not cut all the shelves to the same size. If the sides of the alcove are plasterwork, brick or stone, there will almost certainly be some discrepancies in the width from top to bottom, so measure for each shelf individually and cut them separately.
If there is an uneven gap along the back of a shelf, caused by an uneven wall surface, you can hide the gap by pinning quadrant moulding (a base shoe) along the back edge of the shelf.