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I am installing new shelves in my pantry, 12" x 55" with walls on three sides. The shelving material is laminate over particleboard. Considering how heavy a shelf full of canned goods is, can I get away with just using 1" nailers on all three walls to rest the shelves on, or do I need L brackets in the middle as additional support?

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55 inches is a rather long span for a 12 inch wide shelf that is supported on the ends and back side by the wall. One way that you could provide some more support for the shelves would be to add some center front supports for the shelves working up from the floor to the top shelf. enter image description here

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I like supporting the centers from the bottom base all the way up. 2X stock would work, but some nice 1X12 supports would fit and look nice also. +1 good call –  shirlock homes Sep 23 '12 at 11:08
    
1x4 plywood strips along the front, forget the vertical supports. –  decker Feb 13 '13 at 20:41
    
@mrRyan - 1x4 strips along the front edges of the shelves is far from an optimal solution with shelves because it uses up so much space for sliding items on and off the shelves. The vertical supports, even if you have to put more than one set of them use up a minuscule amount of the volumetric space between shelves. –  Michael Karas Feb 14 '13 at 6:36
    
Fair enough, but I find vertical supports just to be so ugly. If I was really concerned about loss of storage height, then maybe some steel angle instead of 1x4 across the front. Just personal preference really. –  decker Feb 14 '13 at 6:56
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@decker - I find that 4 inch facing on shelves is ugly as sin. The vertical supports can also be installed as angle supports as shown in a second answer that I posted to this question. –  Michael Karas Feb 14 '13 at 7:20
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Other important factors are how thick the shelving is, and what the shelf to shelf vertical spacing is, and how the back edge is attached, if at all, to the support. Assuming typical home improvement store shelving and common 12" to 16" vertical spacing, and simple nail attachment, the shelving is structurally adequate (meaning it will not actually collapse), but over time, a heavily loaded shelf will develop a very noticeable, unsightly bow without added support.(Which in itself could be called structurally inadequate by some) Particle board will creep, or slowly deflect, over time even under modest loads.

An alternative to L brackets might be a deep banding strip attached to the front of the shelving. The attachment would need to be carefully detailed, as you can't simply nail the banding into the edge of particle board and expect satisfactory results.

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I agree with the answer by @bcworkz and would add an alternative to L brackets. Wooden brackets would be more attractive and offer comparable support

bracket

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The braces you have pictured would work well if large enough and backed by a stud in the wall. These braces have a "key" that fits over a screw head for hanging them on the wall. They are not extremely strong, so sizing is important, but look nice. –  shirlock homes Sep 23 '12 at 11:12
    
@shirlockhomes Agreed. These are just meant to be illustrative of an alternatives to L brackets, which need basically the same mounting criteria. –  bib Sep 23 '12 at 14:48
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Another way to add some support to the shelves, expanding from my first answer, is to add angle supports as shown. This keeps the front edge of the shelves open and takes advantage of the fact that the back side support strip under the next shelf down is fastened securely to the wall. This approach works well in that the angle pieces do not need to be aligned or anchored into a stud.

enter image description here

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