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How to Install Adjustable Wall Mounted Shelving

This tutorial shows you how to install adjustable wall mounted shelving in minutes! All you need is a drill, a stud finder and a level!

How to Install Adjustable Wall Mounted Shelving

The angled ceilings of my son's playroom have always perplexed me. It's one of the largest rooms in the house, yet it feels so small because there's only a few feet of headroom down the center. You can see just how low the walls get in his Lego building area.

IKEA Lego table with two IKEA Trofast frames that look like giant Lego pieces

All the Lego creations strewn everywhere doesn't help! I've built a ton of storage for all the loose pieces, like these IKEA Lego tables and minifigure display case. But he doesn't have a good place to display all his dragons, mechs and other builds.

I made this built-in cabinet behind the door to the playroom, and the angled wall above it is perfect for wall mounted shelves. I drew up the plans for a built-in bookcase, but all those angles hurt my brain! Plus, adjustable wall mounted shelves would be more useful for his ever-changing collection.

3D model of built in cabinet and bookshelves

I dug out the vertical standards I had removed from the wall when I built these DIY garage shelves last year. While they're not the most attractive solution, they fit in this awkward space perfectly and they were free! Here's how to install them!

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Materials Needed

  • Vertical standards
  • Shelf brackets
    • These come in different sizes depending on the depth of your shelves. I used 12" shelf brackets, but I've also seen 16" ones for larger shelves.
  • Wood or melamine board
    • This should be the same width as the shelf brackets. You can buy prefinished melamine shelves like these in a variety of colors and finishes.
    • If you need the shelves cut to a custom length, you'll need a circular saw or miter saw (or have them cut for you at the store!)
  • 3" wood screws
  • Stud finder
  • Level (magnetic ones work great!)
  • Drill

How to Install Adjustable Wall Shelving

Paint the Wall Behind the Shelves First (Optional)

Our entire house was painted the same blah off-white color (ceilings, walls, trim and doors!) Over time, I've changed up almost every room. But the playroom has so many colors going on already with all the Lego storage I've built, so I just left it white.

But now he's getting older, and the purpose of the room is shifting from a kids playroom to a tween hangout spot. He's on the climbing team at a local gym, and he wanted this room painted the same exact color as the walls he spends so much time climbing on. It's Cooled Blue by Sherwin Williams, in case you're wondering.

The walls upstairs have a crazy amount of texture on them, so getting crisp lines is a challenge. You can read all my tips on how to paint textured walls here. My tricks worked pretty well on this sloped wall, with just a tiny bit of touch up on the biggest bumps.

painting textured walls with Purdy paint brush

Find and Mark the Studs

The vertical standards should be attached to studs in the wall in order to support all the weight on the shelves. Use a stud finder to locate the studs in the wall and mark the edges with a pencil. You can learn how to use a stud finder in this article.

using stud finder on turquoise wall

Line Up the Bottom edges

All the vertical standards should be mounted at the same height so the brackets line up and the shelves are level. I'm working with a sloped wall, so all my standards are different sizes. To keep them all a consistent height, I lined them all up with the top of the built-in cabinet (tutorial and plans for that project coming soon!)

Screw Standards to Studs

I'm using a 24" standard for the short side of the wall, and two 36" standards for the other side. This will allow me to have one long shelf along the bottom, and a shorter shelf at the top.

Line up the bottom of the first standard between the marked stud edges and the bottom horizontal line. Use a drill to screw a 3" screw through one hole in the standard and into the stud.

Next, use the level to make sure the standard is perfectly straight. A magnetic level like this one is super useful, because you can just attach it to the side of the metal standard and use two hands to screw it into place!

magnetic level attached to metal adjustable shelf standard

Repeat the process for the other standards. If you can't find a stud in a spot where you want the standard to go, you can use wall anchors instead. Just make sure they match the types of walls you have and the weight you'll be placing on the shelves!

Adjustable wall mount shelves on angled wall

The only screws I had on hand were tan colored and really stood out against the white standards. I used a small brush and painted them white so they would blend in better.

painting screw heads to match wall bracket

iNSTALL THE sHELF bRACKETS

Decide on the spacing of your shelves before you install the brackets. Since these shelves will display my son's larger Lego builds, I positioned the brackets 12" apart. I could have squeezed another shelf in, but most of his smaller creations are already on display on his rocket bookshelf.

rocket bookshelf with toys on display

Simply insert the shelf bracket into the holes in the standard with the point on the end facing up. Use a hammer to tap them into place and lock them in tight. Otherwise, they can fall out really easily!

hammering shelf bracket into vertical standard on wall

Make sure the brackets are at the same height on each of the standards. I just count down from the top or the nearest screw to check that they're even.

adjustable wall mounted shelves with brackets installed

Cut the Shelves to Fit

If you're using prefinished shelves like these, you can skip this step! But if your space requires a shelf length that isn't evenly divisible by 12, you'll probably have to cut your shelves to fit.

Measure the span of the wall you want to cover. You can have some overhang, but don't put anything too heavy on the ends or the shelves will tip!

My top shelf meets the sloped ceiling on one end and the door trim on the other. To get an accurate measurement, I placed the tape measure across the shelf brackets and took the measurement from the top of the tape.

measuring length of shelf on sloped ceiling

Use a miter saw or circular saw to cut the shelves to fit. A circular saw jig like this one will help keep your cut line straight.

I could have cut the end of the shelf at an angle to match the slope, but it would look weird if we ever moved the shelf down a notch. Plus, I didn't want to figure out the exact angle of the ceiling! 🙂

Place the Shelves on the Brackets

Test the fit of the shelves on the brackets. If all the standards were installed at the correct height, the shelf should sit flush with the bracket across the entire span.

adjustable wall mounted shelves installed on sloped wall

How to Keep The Shelves from Shifting

One downside to these adjustable wall mounted shelves is that the boards can shift pretty easily. It's not a problem when there's a wall on one end holding them in place, but shelves in the middle of the wall can move out of alignment when the ends get bumped.

These little shelf clips straddle the bracket and have rubber feet to hold the shelf in place with friction. You can also remove the feet and screw them directly into the shelf for a more permanent solution.

shelf bracket clips to hold adjustable wall mounted shelving in place

You can also cut small grooves in the underside of the shelves like this blogger did. The brackets fit into the grooves and prevent the shelves from moving around.

fill Up Your New Wall Mounted Shelving!

I'm so glad I decided to use this old shelving system for my son's playroom instead of building my own! It went up in minutes instead of the days it would take to cut, assemble, sand and paint a built-in unit.

adjustable wall mounted shelving installed on wall with sloped ceiling

Between these adjustable shelves and the cabinet below, he has a ton of new storage for all his toys! The hard part is getting him to put them all away when he's finished playing!

adjustable wall mounted shelving with Lego builds on display

Want more shelving ideas? Check these out!

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Chris @ bluespringshandyman.com

Thursday 26th of March 2020

These are great for storage! I had to use some Vertical Double Slotted Standards in my tanning salon in order to support the extra weight of the product. Singles would be great for a project like this one. I never thought of using this set-up in a play room. I think I'll add some to my kiddo's room as well. I feel they give a better appearance than just another shelf. Thank you for the idea, keep it up!

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