Wall-mounted shelving is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to increase storage space in your home or work area. Shelves with wall anchors, or brackets, are the most widely used, giving extra support to the shelf and the items it holds. Consider the factors that affect the weight capacity of shelf brackets before installing shelves as improper brackets or sloppy installation can be unsafe and ineffective.
Wall shelving units come in stationary and adjustable styles -- both types utilize at least two brackets to secure the shelf board in place. Brackets are typically made of durable materials, such as wood, aluminum and metal.
Brackets come in several shapes, the most popular being L-shaped, 90-degree bend brackets. According to Home Depot, these single-piece brackets are visually unobtrusive, but for the greatest weight capacity, use those that have an additional diagonal support.
To use a shelf to its optimal weight capacity, consider details such as the material, length and thickness of the shelf board, the durability of the wall surface mounted upon and the weight the shelf is expected to support. Also, choose wall brackets appropriate for the aesthetic and functional use of the shelf. Securing wall bracket studs in a wall is the easiest and safest way to ensure a strong shelf; however, if you cannot mount on studs, use hollow wall fasteners such as toggles or expanding screw anchors.
The surface on which shelf brackets are adhered and the type of fasteners you use will help to determine the load a shelf can safely support. Typical shelf thickness is 3/4 inch. According to Tyler Morris Woodworking, a wooden bracket is needed for every 30 inches of shelf. In general, any 3/4-inch shelving requires a bracket at least every 24 to 32 inches. The heavier the load, the greater the chance of sagging if brackets are not properly spaced.
Brackets are rigorously tested and assigned a load rating, or maximum load amount, according to the Home Shelving Guide. The guide advises users to divide the maximum capacity rating by four to safely determine how much you should actually put on the shelf. For instance, a bracket that is capable of holding 120 lbs. should carry no more than 30 lbs. per bracket, including the shelf board and contents. By this standard, you should place no more than 60 lbs. on a two-bracket shelf.
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