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I've had 5 IKEA Billy bookshelves lining a wall on my second floor for maybe 18 years. They have always been completely filled with books. Recently I decided to paint them and try to make them look like a large built-in bookcase.

When my husband attached planks of wood between the shelves (with a nail gun) in order to prepare to add vertical trim, it occurred to me that this was going to be one monolithic structure, and we never did secure it to the (plaster and lath) wall. I have no idea how this impacts center of gravity and danger of tipping. It was a little uneven so my husband put little shims on the bottom. It seems steady but Billy has a small footprint relative to its height.

Before we put trim and crown moulding on it, I just want to make sure this thing isn't going to become a hazard. My husband insists it's totally safe. We never have any kids or pets here (although his kids may have kids someday, who knows) so I don't anticipate anyone climbing the shelves. They would contain decorative items on top and lots of books on the lower shelves.

I'd be grateful if anyone could share any insights on whether you think this now-joined set of bookshelves is safe/secure or will there be a huge tipping hazard? And since my husband has now nail-gunned all the shelves together and we can't separate the parts and move the whole thing away from the wall, is it safe to say we're stuck with this thing as-is unless we're willing to demolish it into pieces?

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts you can share!

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On the one hand, the bigger it is - by combining the bookcases together - the less likely to actually tip, the danger if it ever does tip is much greater because one it starts tipping you (or a small child) will be fighting against the combined weight of all the bookcases with all the books.

All you need are a few screws into studs. Even with old plaster and lathe (as opposed to drywall where, in the US at least, you'll almost always find studs every 16") there will be studs or some sort of supporting framework behind the wall surface. Find that supporting framework and put screws either through actual wood (not some flimsy cardboard backing that many bookcases have these days - I don't know about IKEA Billy) or screw brackets into shelves and into the wall.

Ideally you want at least one screw into something solid (wood stud or masonry) for each of the component bookcases, just in case things start coming apart.

See also one of my favorite answers - same subject, not exactly a duplicate.

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The Billy series of bookcases isn't very deep, so I don't really see it being a tipping hazard. If the crown molding is going to attach to the ceiling, that's already a tip preventer that should hold them in place.

But, if it feels wobbly and you want some extra piece of mind (or if an IKEA representative is reading this), then you can attach it to the wall without any dissasembly.

Billy instructions

The instructions show an L-bracket being used to hold the bookcase to the wall. If you followed the instructions, the bracket gets attached to the wall and then you place the bookcase, but you can easily cut out a hole in the back panel just large enough to fasten the bracket and then attach the bracket to the top of the bookcase. This does leave a hole in a few of the panels, but some creative decorating can easily hide that.

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    Not being deep makes it worse for tipping, as the center of gravity is closer to the front feet. Also some of us (Virginia, Missouri) live in earthquake country. Sep 2 at 22:04
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica - Hey there Harper... are you saying that both, the states of Virginia and Missouri, are earthquake country, or that Virginia, MO (in Bates County) is? Just curious.
    – bubbleking
    Sep 2 at 22:56
  • I was thinking that not being deep makes it harder to make it front-heavy. A deeper shelf with books lining the front of the shelf would top easier, but I see your point too.
    – JPhi1618
    Sep 2 at 22:59
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    @bubbleking the two states.... one recently had an earthquake and the other is on the New Madrid fault. Sep 3 at 0:18
  • And we've had earthquakes in Maryland too - I remember one ~ 30 years ago where I lost a hard drive (SSDs solve that problem). But seriously - I worry less about a deep bookcase because odds of a kid being able to "accidentally" topple it when climbing up is pretty low. If it is not so deep, the damage might be half as bad - but twice as likely to happen. Sep 3 at 2:50
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We have six Billy-80 and four Billy-100 all bolted together on one side of our library and three sets of double Billy-90 on the other side (around the windows), two bolted together. All have extension shelves on top. No doors on any and shimmed underneath to make them level. They have been there over 20y. They seem quite solid -- no wobbles and difficult to move -- but we do not live in an earthquake zone and I have never tried to test them by climbing on them. I would not consider it a tipping hazard.

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