How to Make a Plastic Shelf


Most shelving is made from wood. Wood is inexpensive and easy to work with. Unfortunately, wood is porous and can easily absorb liquids such as water. Water damage can cause warping, discoloration and disintegration over time. Most plastic is waterproof, making it a good material choice. Plastic is stronger than most woods and comes in a variety of colors, textures and thicknesses. From a clean glasslike look to simulated stone, plastic can mimic any material.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Long straight edge
  • Level
  • Stud finder (optional)
  • Drill
  • Mounting brackets
  • Plastic shelves
  • Measure the area where the shelves will be mounted. Determine the type of shelf bracket to use. There is a large selection of mounting brackets available. Standard L brackets are the simplest to install and offer the greatest support for shelving. If the shelves are transparent, choose shelf supports that are inconspicuous. There are a number of brackets designed for transparent shelving.

  • Select a material. Transparent plastic shelves are usually made from acrylic. Shelves in a kitchen or work area are often made from industrial plastics such as ABS or HDPE, which are extremely durable. Material thickness depends on the span between support brackets. Acrylic is less rigid than glass or wood so it can sag under its own weight. If the span between brackets is less than 12 inches, use 3/16-inch-thick plastic. For a 12-to-16-inch span, use ¼-inch-thick plastic. For a 16-to-24-inch span, use 3/8-inch-thick plastic. For a 24-to-36-inch span, use ½-inch-thick plastic. For a 36-to-40-inch span, use ¾-inch-thick plastic. For sizes over 40 inches, use ¾-inch-thick plastic. Take the measurements to a plastics dealer and have the shelves cut to size. Pick up the mounting brackets and other needed supplies at the same time.

  • Mark the location where the first shelf will sit by measuring from the floor to the shelf line. Make an identical mark three to four feet over, measuring up from the floor. Connect the two marks by drawing a straight line that mimics where the shelf will sit. Take a carpenter’s level and check to see if the line is perfectly straight. If not, adjust the line until level.

  • Mount the brackets into the wall studs; otherwise, the brackets will fall off the wall. Use a stud finder to locate the studs. Test fit the shelf. Mark the bracket holes on the shelf with a pencil and drill pilot holes for the screws. Acrylic can crack under the stress of drilling. For acrylic shelves, use a clear epoxy based glue to hold the shelf in place.

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  • Photo Credit Yellow and green shelves image by Charlie Rosenberg from girls on shelves image by Cherry-Merry from bar image by daniel sainthorant from bibliotheque image by Zeno from
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