If you are planning on making shelves or wooden organizers for your home, you should understand the way shelf support positions play an important role in the strength of shelving and how much weight it can support. While a very basic shelf used only for a couple of light weight knick-knacks can be secured with a couple of cheap L-brackets (installed almost anywhere along the base of the shelf), stronger and more durable shelves will require more planning and attention to detail when designing the organizer or shelf. This article will discuss shelf support positions and how to implement them effectively to create stronger cabinet or organizer shelves.
L-Brackets and Cheap Wood Shelving
If you are creating a shelf out of an old piece of plywood and some L-brackets (or a similar setup), you will probable have to install several brackets if you want the wood shelf to support much weight. Generally speaking, L-brackets are the least effective and weakest way to create a shelf. With L-brackets, the shelf is stable and strong only in the are where the bracket is installed. So, if you have a significant amount of weight more than a few inches on either side of the L-bracket, there is a reasonably good chance the bracket will fail and the shelf may collapse.
A simple method to remedying this problem is to simply add more L-brackets along the base of the shelf. As a rule of thumb, you should place L-brackets no more than 12 inches or so apart; unless you are using a very strong piece of wood as your shelf base. If you are using thinner pieces of hardwood or plywood, you may want to place your L-brackets even closer together. However, instead of using L-brackets, you might want to consider stronger (and more attractive) support options for your shelving.
The Better Alternative - Shelving Cases
Although a piece of wood and a couple of L-bracket is an okay solution for a light duty shelf (where appearance is not a primary concern), this method might not be suitable for storing books or other heavy objects. If you need something stronger and more attractive, you should consider shelving cases.
Consider this: If you placed 2 individual shelves made with L-brackets on a wall, neither would support the other, and they would both be ineffectual for supporting a considerable amount of weight. Now, if you took those same 2 shelves and added a vertical wooden support attached to the sides of both shelves, they would both be considerably stronger, and one would help to support the other for strength.
If you took this a step further and added 4 small wooden blocks that were nailed or screwed into studs at the corners of the shelf (2 in the corners under the first shelf and 2 beneath the 2 corners of the bottom shelf), there would be little or no need for the L-brackets. Even without the L-brackets, the 2 shelves could support more weight.
You would simply need to ensure that you screwed through the shelves into the tops of the wooden blocks. Your supports would be virtually invisible. Because the weight and gravity create downward force, the wood blocks are much more resistant and offer greater strength than L-brackets.