Is it a good idea to buy a bookcase that is a DIY assembly for a large collection of big and heavy books?
Is it safe?
To be clear I am interested if the Billy bookcases of IKEA can be safely used for heavy books without bolting (L brackets or similar) it to the wall.
Does it depend on the height? Would something like bookshelf shims be needed/help?

  • 3
    How can we possibly guess? Quality is everything. The walmart model, probably not. The Ikea model, probably. Aug 4, 2017 at 23:08
  • @Harper: Yes, the ikea. That's where my question comes from. I found that online some say it needs to be supported by screwing the top in the wall so I am not sure if it is an issue in IKEA or any assembly bookcase
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 7:59
  • @Harper: I updated the post
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:44
  • My comment above addressed an earlier version of this question, it was completely rewritten and my comment is no longer relevant. Aug 6, 2017 at 9:58

3 Answers 3


Screwing to the wall has nothing to do with capacity

Think about it. The furniture isn't necessarily directly against the wall, and a screw or very thin bracket reaching across some distance isn't going to carry much weight in shear. I.E. the wall doesn't ordinarily bear any weight.

It's about safety

Ikea has a very strong message about standing furniture being screwed into the wall. You didn't quite get the whole message. It's to prevent furniture from toppling over and killing someone. Furniture topples over when its center of gravity goes outside its feet. Examples of how that happens:

  • It isn't level
  • the floor sags under the weight
  • someone grabbing the furniture to catch their balance or pull themselves onto their feet
  • Someone (e.g. child) trying to climb the furniture
  • All the drawers open
  • Heavy items in an open drawer not counterbalanced by heavy items in closed ones
  • Use in a mobile structure (boat, RV, #vanlife, "tiny house" on wheels)
  • Earthquakes
  • The top heavily loaded when the bottom is not (greatly amplifying the above)

Every piece of furniture from every manufacturer of the same size will have the exact same problem -- that is basic physics. The only reason it's such an intense thing for Ikea is, they have chosen to invest heavily in their brand, which makes them targetable. Likewise, people are sickened by Mexican food trucks and burrito shops every day - but it only makes the news when it's Chipotle.

  • But bookcases that are sold by regular stores which are not assembly and are standing don't have any such brackets to be bolted on the wall (or even warning from the store). Why is that?
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 22:29
  • 2
    Same problem for all furniture. Those other "brands" use a different liability model called "have no assets". 1) find an untaken domain name 2) register an LLC, rent office, design logo 3) get a catalog from a Chinese manufacturer 4) pitch it to big-box stores and haggle price 5) dropship products from China straight to big-box 6) distribute profits to shareholders immediately 7) get sued 8) declare bankruptcy 9) walk away 10) find an untaken domain name Aug 6, 2017 at 0:54
  • IKEA has been sued over a death in such an accident. washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/12/22/… dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2934936/…
    – DaveM
    Aug 6, 2017 at 1:55
  • @Harper: I am talking about physical stores that sell standing cases build by a carpenter. They don't mention anything about bolting to the wall. Is it because of quality?
    – Jim
    Aug 6, 2017 at 7:22
  • @Jim no, it's not because of quality, it's because of physics and geometry. It wouldn't matter if the bookshelf was made by NASA out of titanium honeycomb. Aug 6, 2017 at 9:55

They can be used without bolts as long as no one is trying to climb the front of the bookcase. Something which greatly correlates with the amount of children in the vicinity

  • So this is the only issue? The number and weight of books is not relevant? E.g. fully loaded with big and heavy books, end to end, top to bottom no free space at all
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 15:17
  • Correct. The books only push downward. Kids climbing on it exert torque.
    – iLikeDirt
    Aug 5, 2017 at 15:25
  • Do you own a Bill case?
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 22:26
  • Worst case scenario for center of gravity: a large tube TV (large tube TVs have very thick glass, all the weight is in the front) and a child climbing on an open drawer. hollywoodlife.com/2016/06/28/… Aug 6, 2017 at 1:28

I have 7 Billy cases with extensions around the house. They are not bolted and full of books. Feels perfectly safe, but it may be just me - the huge believer in Darwinism. If you don't trust household occupants to never pull on the shelves and bury themselves in books or other items with a case on top, you should bolt them to the walls.

  • I was wondering if the actual contents could be an issue. E.g fully filled, or fully filled and removing some books from bottom selves or something that could be of concern
    – Jim
    Aug 5, 2017 at 22:26

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