How to Level Shelves

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Shelves need to be leveled in two directions. One axis is along the surface of the wall and the other axis comes out from the wall at a 90-degree angle. If you are installing the shelves for the first time, this is a very important consideration, for if you do not install shelves that are level, you may have to take them down and adjust the brackets that support the shelves.

Things You'll Need

  • Four-foot level
  • Two-foot level
  • Hammer
  • 16-penny nails
  • Magnetic stud finder
  • Pencil
  • Chalk line
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bits
  • Electric screw gun
  • Flat-head wood screws

Along the Wall

  • Hold the four-foot level vertically against the wall, where you plan to hang install your shelves. If the wall is plumb, your shelf brackets will be level as they protrude out from the wall.

  • Locate the wall studs with a magnetic stud finder or by tapping on the wall with a hammer. Make sure you find where each stud is all along the course of your shelves and mark each one with a pencil.

  • Choose a height for the top (or bottom shelf) and make a mark at that height. Make sure the mark falls in the middle of a wall stud. Drive a nail to be sure.

  • Make a horizontal line with your four-foot level that is level on the horizontal dimension. Then extend the mark with a chalk line. Have an assistant hold the chalk line at the original mark, while you extend the level pencil line as far as is necessary to complete the length of shelving.

  • Install each bracket so the top of the bracket is flush with the chalk line. Use an electric drill to make pilot holes and insert the bracket screws with an electric screw gun.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the wall is out of plumb, you might have to place cedar shims behind each bracket. This is a time-consuming task that may not be worth the effort, for the shims have to be cut with a knife so that they can slide behind the bracket without being seen.

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