Shelf life: 5 steps to constructing the perfect shelf

Off the shelf: Follow these steps carefully if you're new to the world of power tools (Picture credi

Off the shelf: Follow these steps carefully if you're new to the world of power tools (Picture credit: Thinkstock/PA) - Credit: PA

In the world of DIY, this is basic level stuff - but novice drill-handlers should be aware that putting up a shelf isn’t always as easy as it looks!

Mission accomplished: With a bit of luck, you'll soon be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour (Pi

Mission accomplished: With a bit of luck, you'll soon be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour (Picture credit: Thinkstock/PA) - Credit: PA

Here are a few pointers to help you get you started...

1. Check your walls

Safety always comes first - so don’t even think about drilling or hammering into a wall before you’ve checked it’s safe to do so, and the wall is suitable. If you’re unsure, the pros at B&Q suggest using a multi-purpose digital detector: “They’re simple to use and will let you know if there are any pipes, cables or studs where you’re planning to work - simply run it over the surface of the area and it will tell you where any hazards lie.”

2. Test the strength

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Make sure your shelf is going to be strong enough for what you intend to place on it - this isn’t just about the shelf itself, but how it’s fixed to the wall. You don’t want something flimsy that’s going to sag or, worse, fall off. B&Q says: “To see whether a new shelf might sag, try resting it on stacks of bricks or books, spaced according to where the brackets will be set. Put the desired items on the shelf and then use a straightedge along it. If the shelf sags, bring the stacks closer together until it’s completely straight. If the brackets can’t be fixed that close together, you’ll need to use a thicker material for the shelf.”

3. Get the right materials and brackets

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“There are a variety of shelving materials to suit different needs, from chipboard and MDF, to high-quality hardwoods like oak and beech. It’s usually best to choose and space brackets according to the shelf material, its thickness, and the load the shelf will be supporting. Whether the brackets are fixed or part of an adjustable shelf system, these are always available in light, medium or heavyweight versions.” If you’re not sure, ask one of the DIY shop staff - they’re there to help. Or buy a DIY shelf pack that contains everything you need.

4. Make sure it’s straight

No really - please make sure it’s properly straight before you start drilling and attaching. It might ‘look’ straight from where you’re standing, but holding up a pencil, squinting or standing on the other side of the room never matches the accuracy of actually using a spirit level. You really don’t want to do all the work and then realise your shelf is a little lopsided after all. If you don’t have a spirit level, they’re not too pricey: B&Q has a Magnusson Spirit Level for £9.97 (

5. Style it up!

Task complete - and it’s straight? Big pat on the back for you. Now for the really fun part, styling it up. Your shelf might already have a designated purpose in mind (mugs, jars or cookbooks in the kitchen; lotions and potions in the bathroom) but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process of getting it looking nice. And if its purpose is more to add to the style of a room, think about adding extra dimensions, colour and light (draping some fairy lights on a shelf works well in a bedroom or lounge), and a striking objet d’art on a high-up shelf is a great way to draw eyes upwards and elevate a space.

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