How to put up a shelf with brackets (without any dramas)

Learning how to put up a shelf with brackets is a rite of passage for any DIY-er, so use our step-by-step guide and video to get it right first time

Learn how to put up a shelf with brackets
(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Learning how to put up a shelf with brackets is pretty much DIY 101. But don’t worry if you need a bit of hand holding to get you through; our easy-to-follow guide and video are here to help you every step of the way. Whether you want to pop up a display in your lounge, or on-trend open shelving in your kitchen, the same method applies.

And once you've mastered this task, why not check out all our DIY how-tos.

What you will need

1. Check the construction of the wall 

First check what kind of wall you are attaching your shelf brackets to – masonry or plasterboard? This will dictate the weight of the shelf you are going to be able to hang (not to mention its contents) and the fixings you will need. To test your wall type, knock on it; if it sounds hollow, chances are it’s plasterboard or drywall. 

2. Choose a suitable shelf style and fixtures

If you are working with a plasterboard wall, go for a lightweight shelf for pictures or house plants. Be aware that a bookshelf maybe too heavy for plasterboard, unless you can locate the brackets on the studs, and better suited to a masonry wall. 

3. Check your wall for pipes and cables 

Before drilling any holes, run over the area using a digital detector to check it’s free of any pipes and cables. If you don't have one, then take a look at the location of sockets and taps on either side of the wall and make sure you're not going to hang the brackets where any pipes or wires might fall.

4. Mark out the position of your shelf

Decide on the height you want your shelf and, using a spirit level, draw a straight horizontal line on the wall. Place your first bracket on the wall at the correct height and, again using a spirit level, ensure it is perfectly vertical. With a pencil, mark out the screw holes. 

5. Attach the first shelf bracket

Using a counterpunch, tap a small dent into the centre of each mark, this will stop your drill or screwdriver from slipping. Place a small strip of Sellotape over the drill hole to stop plaster or paintwork from cracking.

For worm-style fixings: If you are using a worm-style fixing, screw your wall plugs into the pencil marks. Place the bracket on top and use a spirit level to ensure it is vertical before loosely fixing the top of the bracket to the wall. Once you have checked again that the bracket is plumb straight, screw in the bottom of the bracket. Now go back and tighten up the top.

For sprung plasterboard fixings: If you have chosen a sprung plasterboard fixing, drill holes in your marked positions. Push the fixing into the holes and then screw the top of the bracket loosely to the wall. Ensure your bracket is straight and then repeat for the bottom of the bracket. 

6. Add the second shelf bracket 

Balance your shelf and a spirit level on top of the first bracket and slide the second bracket under the shelf. Move it into place so that the spirit level shows the shelf is completely straight. Once you are happy, mark the fixture points. Repeat the previous step to attach the second bracket.

7. Attach your shelf

Place the shelf on top of the bracket, use a ruler to check there is the same overhang on each side. Once the shelf is centred, mark the position of the screw holes underneath the shelf. Drill pilot holes, using a small drill bit, into each mark. Be careful not to drill all the way through the shelf. Return the shelf to the brackets, line up the drill holes with the screw holes and screw in your fixings from beneath. 

8. Check the shelf and brackets are secure

And then get creative with styling it however you wish. 

Wooden shelves holding vintage ornaments, house plants and chopping boards with herringbone tiling and marble surfaces

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Feeling inspired? Check out more DIY ideas

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer after working as a social media co-ordinator for a luxury boat title. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.