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I am really proud of these floating shelves I made, which still need plywood tops, bottoms and fronts. But now that I’m done I’m worried pine was a bad choice. It was the only wood that came in 2x2. I screwed these into studs with 2.5” screws. They are not glued, just pocket joints, but I can disassemble and glue up (forgot to do that when assembling).

These span 5.5 feet on the long end and 3.5 feet on the short end. The depth is 12". They will hold mostly food - cans of beans, bags of flour, pasta. Heavy stuff can go on the shelves below but some weight is expected.

Do you think this will work as a pantry shelf? Or will this warp badly or fail to hold?

enter image description here

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    Just a suggestion for a similar future project: you can get butcher block table tops like the existing one shown at your favourite Swedish furniture store in the as-is section. For 12in deep, they are stiff enough to be mounted on a 3-sides 2x2 ledger, ie the framing you build without the front part.
    – P2000
    Feb 24, 2023 at 16:23
  • How far apart are your screws into the wall studs... It looks like they are spaced more then 3 ft apart... Is that correct?
    – Questor
    Feb 24, 2023 at 23:35
  • Somebody is going to stand or sit on them someday
    – D Duck
    Feb 25, 2023 at 18:22
  • @DDuck: and that somebody deserves to break the shelf. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the shelf strong enough to withstand the reasonable load and break in that situation. Feb 26, 2023 at 3:48
  • In itself, the structure in that photo is not likely to hold significant weight but why should that be a problem? If you don't mind restricting the space available on the lower shelf, insert some upright supports. If space on the lower shelf is critical, insert diagonal braces. Feb 26, 2023 at 19:47

8 Answers 8

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"In a pantry" indicates that they could be hold up piles of plates and glasses, or 5-10 pound bags of flour, sugar, potatoes, etc, or just cans of soup or vegetables. That will, pretty quickly, add up to a lot of weight.

The biggest issue I see is that they're floating, which is cool, hip, and modern, but suitable only for light weight knickknacks.

As unappealing as it might be, adding an angled bracket into the studs at the end of each run and a single one in the middle would significantly increase the strength of your shelf without detracting too much from the appearance. These brackets could be metal shelf brackets purchased from the store, they could be more 2x2 with mitered cuts at the ends, they could be 2x2 hardwood to make them more decorative, or even some angle iron for an "industrial chic" look.

One possibility, since you're putting on plywood tops, would be to make plywood gussets that would be screwed into the "stringers" (sticking straight out from the wall) then angled down to rest against the wall. In theory, if you cut them really well, you might get away with just resting them on the wall, but better would be to screw a 2x2 upright to the wall, then screw the gusset to the upright.

Oh, and is pine a bad choice for building something like this? Hint: your whole house is built out of pine just like it. It's the size and constructions details that matter more than the choice of lumber.

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    There's no need for brackets at the ends. There's direct support there already.
    – isherwood
    Feb 24, 2023 at 15:30
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    Maybe, maybe not, @isherwood. I don't see screws going through the right end of shelf to the left of the picture. Maybe it's screwed in to the shelf going to the right, maybe not. Maybe there's no stud there to support that inside corner, so that was left out. A bracket at that end would fix that.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 24, 2023 at 15:32
  • Thank you! I will look into brackets. If they are small I think I can get away with it without ruining the look. Thank you! Feb 24, 2023 at 15:59
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    I thought that spruce was for the rougher hidden wood and pine saved for more fancy(less sanding needed) finish wood, but I guess it depends on the area.
    – crip659
    Feb 24, 2023 at 16:22
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    Well, SPF, in general is used as construction lumber. Technically that's "Spruce-Pine-Fir", but in reality it's "whatever was cheapest on the day the buyer went looking".
    – FreeMan
    Feb 24, 2023 at 16:25
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Your question will result in many varying opinions based on experience and speculation. Here's my assessment as a lifelong carpenter and former home builder. I actually use a similar strategy when building garage shelves, though they're supported with shelf brackets every 32".

  • The design may be ok, assuming at least one screw into each stud and a plywood wrap. A system like this can actually be quite strong, and it doesn't take much shear strength to support a shelf at the back. One screw per stud is plenty, but they should be 3" (or deeply counterbored). A 2½" screw is only penetrating framing about 1/2".

  • You don't need glue on the frame. It's rarely used in cases like this and wouldn't add much.

  • You can resolve the primary concern, which is sag at the front, by simply extending the plywood face (front covering). Make it 3" high and things should be nice and stiff. This is one place where glue would be a good thing if you don't have a robust alternative attachment strategy.

Otherwise, one triangular support bracket centered on the longer span (or shifted toward the short span somewhat) would be plenty with your design as-is. All the wall attachments support everything else perfectly well. I would see how it feels with just the plywood top on and pick a plan from there to either enlarge the front skirt or add a bracket.

Your carpentry looks very nice. Keep up the good work.

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  • thanks! so by "plywood face" you mean what goes on the front of the shelf? if it's 3" high, then I would use 1.25" plywood top, giving me 3" total height for the shelf? not even sure where to get plywood at this stage, the ones at Home Depot are much too big to fit in my car. A project for this weekend. Feb 24, 2023 at 20:13
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    Yes. Home Depot will make some cuts for free or a couple bucks. You wouldn't want to rely on them for final cuts, though.
    – isherwood
    Feb 24, 2023 at 20:13
  • @isherwood... I think there is some confusion as to what the "plywood face is
    – Questor
    Feb 24, 2023 at 23:30
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    @podcastfan88 Isherwood is saying to add a strip of plywood across the front, parallel to the wall. This will add strength and prevent sagging. If you do 3” you’d make the top flush with your surface and there’d be a small lip below.
    – Tim
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:11
  • @podcastfan88 i.imgur.io/… (I know I marked the 2x2 as 2x2 not 1.5x1.5, but that’s the idea. Your lower lip would therefore be 1").
    – Tim
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:21
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2x2 is typically an actual size of 1.5"x1.5". If that's what you have, then your 2.5" screws will have 1" to go through the paneling and into the studs, which means somewhere between 0.5" (not good, in my opinion) and 0.75" (better, but not great) into the studs. You may want to use longer screws.

An additional problem is stability/capacity. The problem that I see with a floating shelf like this is that it can bend way too easily. A shelf with 2 screws in each stud, a few inches apart, will be much more stable. Will the shelf itself be OK? Yes. Can it hold a little bit of stuff? Yes. Can it hold heavy canned goods? I wouldn't recommend it.

I am not worried about the type of wood, though people with more experience may have a strong opinion (good or bad). I am also not worried about the joints between parts of the shelves. My main concern is the single point of contact with each stud.

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    reminder to OP: screws should not penetrate the stud portion more than 1in to stay clear of wires and pipes. Best to drill a hole (concealed by the shelves) sufficiently wide -perhaps 0.5in diameter, or whatever works- to confirm paneling and drywall depth
    – P2000
    Feb 24, 2023 at 16:13
  • agree here, 2.5" screws seems like the only weak point
    – Tiger Guy
    Feb 24, 2023 at 19:36
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If they are only 12" deep you are comparing to mounting 1 x 12 shelves to a wall. With any plywood sheathing top and bottom your shelf is far stronger than a 1 x 12 so now you only have to worry about the whole shelf pivoting down around the wall attachment. They look like they are below eye level, so I would buy some beefy L brackets to mount underneath. You won't see them. Even if the 2 x 2 coming out from the wall doesn't line up with a stud you are fine. Just mount the L brackets to a stud with reasonable screws and to the underside plywood and you are in great shape.

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Skinning those shelves top and bottom with plywood (or other manufactured panel board) will make them much stiffer but this only works if you can get the skins well glued. Pantries tend to collect heavy items it's hard to say if this approach will give enough strength.

If you know what is inside the the wall you can embed steel rods deeply into the studs and use these to support the shelf invisibly. If you don't know what's in there you risk damaging concealed services. (electricity, gas, water, data, etc) the time to look for these concealed services would have been before you screwed them onto the wall. You can cut a 1.5" hole beside the stud (where the installed shelf will cover the hole) and look inside the wall.

Another approach would be to use scaffold planks instead of skinned hollow shelves.

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Your shelves appear to be more sound structurally than many that I have seen. Half of the people in first world countries (i.e. anyone that rents) is using shelves less strong than yours.

As others have said, longer screws would be good. And, of course make sure your screws are going into studs or cross braces at the back. Turning your shelves into a bit of an I-beam (or L-beam) with a 3" face board will help with sag.

A rock-solid solution though, would be to design a look that allows for a center-front (or front of your shelf corner) support column. Meaning, a 1x2 or 2x2 finished the same as the shelf so it looks good, running from the very bottom up to the bottom of the top shelf. I don't mean bolted onto the front... It would actually be a few short pieces stacked, connecting the front top of one shelf to the front-bottom of the next so that the upper shelf can't sag.

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They hardly look like they're floating, as they're seemingly attached on the left, and right, with no support in between. If that's the case, they'll be well strong and sturdy enough. But why add excessively to the weight of it all with a thick, thus heavy, piece of ply. Keep the weight down by using 12mm at the most - probably get away with 9mm, particularly if another couple of braces were fixed going towards the wall.

If it's the depth you need to match the work-surface, you could add another long strip under the front (and back), and use laminate to match the work-surface. The underneath, if that needs cladding, only needs to be 3mm ply.

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This is a weak design. I would suggest screwing a pipe to the back side of the front piece or a vertical support.

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  • Once completed, these are super sturdy! A vertical support beam is practical and smart, but ugly, so I’m specifically trying to avoid that. Mar 22, 2023 at 22:29

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