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I have a bit of bare wall above my desk and I wish to utilise the space. Maybe put a couple of shelves up, and hooks and mounts for my game controllers, headphones, microphones, cameras and what not. Maybe put my desktop computer up there as well. The catch is, if I can help it at all, I really don't want to drill it, for various reasons that include:

  • I don't know what's behind the drywall and my stud finder seems to give very confusing readings. There might be pipes, electric wires and what not. Also, I can't seem to find studs. Either there are no studs or they're in weird bendy shapes.

  • Behind the drywall is a concrete wall that I don't want to drill into because it's shared with my neighbour (these houses are terraced houses) and I don't want to accidentally do something wrong and piss my neighbour off and even get sued.

  • I'm cripplingly indecisive and I get an anxiety attack even just thinking about where I might permanently drill into my beautiful house and then possibly change my mind about where to place my furniture.

So an idea I had is to stick big slabs of wood onto the wall, something like these, using very strong double-sided tape, something like this. My hope is that the strength of adhesion is proportional to the total area of sticky tape used. Is that even true? If it is, then it means that I can just use an absolute truckload of sticky tape to stick the slab(s) of wood onto the wall so strongly that it would support even my body weight, and then I can screw or nail whatever other things (hooks, mounts, and even shelves) onto the slab(s) of wood instead of directly into the wall. Might this idea be feasible?

Any other ideas for mounting shelves and other things onto a wall without drilling?

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    Tape/glue type hooks/holders are only trust worthy for a couple of pounds/kgs. Maybe one hook for headphones, one for a controller. Something like a desktop computer will have a life span of a couple of minutes before smashing on the floor. If you want shelving without drilling, get shelving that sits on the floor.
    – crip659
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:19
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    Remember that holes can be repaired -- a dab of spackling compound and a swipe of the paintbrush. And that nail-sized holes are likely to be unnoticed anyway; it's common to just leave them until the next time you paint.
    – keshlam
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:07
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    Tape or glue strong enough to do that is also strong enough to destroy the wall surface if/when you decide to remove it, so I don't think you gain anything on the "not destroying my house" front .vs. drilling holes you can patch.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:42
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    "I don't know what's behind the drywall" followed by "Behind the drywall is a concrete wall". Either you know what's back there or you don't. The "concrete wall" would be a strong indicator of why your stud finder isn't finding studs - there aren't any because they're not needed.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:44
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    You should have top and bottom plates in your wall framing. You could get a couple of full-height boards and screw them at top and bottom to the wall. Then screw whatever you want to hang onto the boards.
    – Huesmann
    Jan 17, 2023 at 18:03

6 Answers 6

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One way around drilling for shelves is to glue a panel and to mount your shelves and other accessories to the panel.

For best load bearing, buy a 1/2 or 3/4in piece of plywood, or alternatively some "1-by" lumber like 1x6, and install it from the floor up to your desired height. It can go to the top of the highest shelf or to the ceiling.

You can paint this panel or the lumber strips to match the wall or you can give it an accent, like grey, white or black. It's easiest to pre-paint the panel.

Glue it to the wall using construction glue. If you dare, attach it additionally with some short 1 or 1.25 inch screws (for 1/2 or 3/4in plywood plus 1/2in drywall) into plastic drywall plugs. This will keep it tight to the wall while the glue dries.

To glue, apply 1in blobs of glue in a 12x12in grid. "Construction Adhesive" is 100% fine for interior, like LePage PL. If you don't have a "caulking gun" it's worth the few dollars for convenience, and will save you money with the glue cartridges. Don't confuse general construction adhesive with subfloor adhesive; read the label. Some variants are specialized for different substrates and installation conditions.

If the bottom rests on the floor or the top of your baseboard, then there will be little to no vertical movement due to loads on the board, and the glue and screws will hold the board up.

Should you ever need to remove the panel, some surface drywall patching will be required by the next painter. Repairs from the lumber strips will be less than from the plywood panel.

In stead of a plywood panel you can also buy finished panels from your favourite DIY store or (swedish) furniture store. At the spots of the panel where you are applying the glue it is better to scrape off the panel finishing and let the glue penetrate and bond with the wood or particle board behind the finish.

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  • Ah yes, "panel" is the word I was looking for, instead of "slabs of wood" LOL. Having the panel resting on the floor is a good call come to think of it, so that the floor is taking most of the weight and not just the glue. Regarding the glue, any specific ones you'd recommend? Link an example maybe? Thanks again!
    – Ray
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:49
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    @Ray edited with glue info/.Make a panel thick enough and you can call it "slab"!
    – P2000
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:00
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    As noted in another comment, @Ray, any glue/tape/adhesive strong enough to hold this contraption to the wall will destroy the drywall when you decide to remove it. It will make a far bigger mess to be repaired than a few toggle bolts/drywall anchors/concrete anchors (note, if the drywall is attached directly to the concrete, you'll need to drill through the concrete, too).
    – FreeMan
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:47
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For lighter loads, I've become fond of 3M's "command" adhesive strips. These are designed to both hold well and release easily (though you do need to leave the pull-tab exposed to get that easy release). They're available in various sizes/load ratings, either packaged with plastic hooks/Velcro strips designed for use with them, or in bulk; if you need to carry more load, several can be used (assuming the surface area contacting the wall is sufficient). I would hesitate to try them on shelves, but if shelf brackets are attached above the shelf to minimize the lever arm and the shelf and contents are light,it might be possible.

I have no affiliation with 3M or this product, and I don't know exactly what you need so I can't advise; I'm just mentioning it as a less permanent/damaging attachment method than many since you're so concerned about that.

But as I said in my comment, mounting holes in plaster are usually easy to patch when no longer in use. Apply a dab of spackling compound wipe clean, let dry; if the dot is overly visible apply a bit of paint matching what's in the wall now. Small holes (picture-hanging nails, for example) often simply get ignored until the next time you paint the room.You don't have to be terrified of anything you know how to restore to its original condition.

(And realistically, after you've been in the house for a while you'll stop thinking of it as a pristine piece of artwork and realize that it's really a machine for living; pretty is great but you have to be able to modify it to suit your needs. That's one of the big advantages of owning over renting: you can modify it without needing special permission from the landlord.)

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  • It's actually the vertical range of the attachments that affects the lever arm, so if you can get them well above and well below the shelf, that's best. Jan 18, 2023 at 8:32
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The simplest solution to "shelves over a desk without drilling the wall" is a freestanding shelf - either supported directly by the desk surface, or from the floor just outside the edges of the desk. To not be too much in the way of the desk, there's a long way from the desk surface to the first shelf, defined by whatever you do on the desk surface (i.e. higher than the top of the computer monitor that might be there...)

Common examples would be shelves over laboratory benches or workbenches. For whatever reason, the only folks who I've heard call it "a bridge" are in electronics; but that's another term for the same approach (though search results don't concur at the moment.) Typically used there to have large test equipment handy above, while workspace remains free below. (Mine is too messy to picture at present, but I built one...mind you, I also drilled holes in the wall for power strips.)

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  • Yeah I thought about a free-standing shelf too but I couldn't find one anywhere to buy and I'm not skilled enough at all to build one, neither do I have the tools. My house is tiny and there isn't really any space to do proper DIY. Ideally what I want is a large wooden board supported by a one-sided foot on the ground. Like an L-shaped thing that I can put against the wall and back my desk against it, so that the upright wooden board acts as a canvas for me to put whatever custom thing on it (hooks/shelves).
    – Ray
    Jan 17, 2023 at 11:22
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    Freestanding shelf which stands on the desk = "hutch". Like "desk with a hutch". Jan 17, 2023 at 17:43
  • @ray: that can be done. Flior-standing piece of plywood held against wall by desk. Shelf brackets attached to ply +bolted through would be stronger than short screws). Shelf on those. If you're putting a desktop computer on it I'd suggest 3/4" ply; probably overkill but that isn't something you want to drop. You could use 2x4s rather than ply, but then you'd need to cross brace so they can't rotate sideways against the wall; quite doable but you're looking for something involving minimum skill/effort, right?
    – keshlam
    Jan 18, 2023 at 12:18
  • @keshlam that would work pretty well. I'd still have legs coming forwards under the desk (perhaps inverted large shelf brackets, though I'd make them out of 2x2 with a mitred diagonal brace). That would stop it toppling over if someone moved the desk
    – Chris H
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:17
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    @Ray - Consider using pegboard. The L-shaped support could be built easily out of PVC pipe. No special tools, just superglue the parts together. The hardware store will usually cut the pipe for you, just get a long piece for the vertical part, a ~24 inch piece for the foot, and a right-angle fitting to join them. Mount the pegboard with pipe straps, or run a screw + washer through a peg hole and into the pipe.
    – bta
    Jan 19, 2023 at 0:42
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Tracing pipes and cables is easier than finding studs. My stud detector has a metal/voltage detector on the other end, plus cables (at least in modern houses in the UK) should run vertically or horizontally from sockets, switches etc., with a bit of margin for error of course. Then I'd drill back into the wall and use suitable anchors for concrete. You're not going to drill out the other side into your neighbour's house without an extra long drill bit. But it would be courteous to try and minimise the noise nuisance - find a time when they'll be out, for example.

Having said all that, I'd be very tempted to stand a low bookcase on the back of the desk. As I type this I have my monitors on a single shelf I built, but a basic low, wide, bookcase or the sort of open adjustable wooden shelving they sell in Ikea* can be stood on a desk, with monitors on the lowest shelf and the rest above. Just be sure the feet sit fully on the desk. I have some Ikea Ivar here - it's easy to cut the top down to fit if it's too tall (they don't seem to sell as many sizes as they used to, or the website hides them). Hejne is cheaper; it replaces the old Sten that I had in my living room, before relegating it to the garage. Again, that's very easy to modify with a drill and a small hand saw.

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    Thank you for the concrete Ikea model suggestions. I had a further look and found VATTENKAR, which isn't ideal but it's better than nothing. You might want to check it out.
    – Ray
    Jan 18, 2023 at 14:58
  • @Ray no reason you couldn't have 2+ Vattenkars - or those on the ends and something else at the back later if you feel the need.
    – Chris H
    Jan 18, 2023 at 15:26
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Command strips, and their knock-offs all work well, when their weight limits are adhered to. Please be aware that the ease of their removal depends largely on the quality and type of paint on the wall to which they are applied. Our house had very low-quality paint on the walls when we moved in, and when we removed the command hooks the previous owner installed, every single one pulled some piece of paint with it. Others that I have applied and removed on my own walls come off very well. I believe it is related to the level of gloss of the paint, and the quality of it.

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    Yeah, the other problem with these is that unless it's new construction, there's probably more than one layer of paint going on, and all of that paint is only as strong as its weakest layer. Jan 17, 2023 at 15:56
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Just a quick pointer - if you ever want to put something up with double-sided tape then 'Nanotape' is absolutely brilliant. It is probably not strong enough for what you want, but I've used it for all sorts of things you might expect tape is not good enough for!

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