How to Hang Shelves without a Stud


If you want to hang items on your wall such as a picture frame, a mirror, or a shelf, it can be done by screwing a nail or stud directly into the wall. However, you may not have the access to any studs, or sometimes the studs don’t line up with the area you want to hang the shelf on. In this case, there are a few different alternatives you can use to hang up the shelf. If you have drywall, which is a delicate type of wall you can screw things into, you can use a drywall anchor – these are made specifically for drywall and they’ll help to hang up the shelf.

If you want something that holds more weight, then you can use molly bolts – these are bolts that screw into the wall that will help to support the shelf. If the shelf you’re hanging up is heavy, you can use toggle bolts. Before you can install any of the bolts, toggle, or anchor, you need to measure and drill a hold directly into the wall – this is where you want the shelf to be housed.

Measuring and Drilling Hole

1. Before you start to drill any holes, you need to make sure that you’ve determined the length of the shelf. You’ll need to grab a tape measure and put it across either side of the shelf and note down the measuring.

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Make sure to do this on a flat surface because you’ll get a more accurate reading – if done wrong, you can end up messing up the alignment on the shelf. If you have the manual of the shelf or anything that contains the measurement, then you use this, and it’ll be more precise.

2. Make sure that the location the shelf is being placed on is clear of any objects or mounts that will prevent you from installing the shelf. The location should be somewhere that you ideally want the shelf to be at. To help with the visualization, you can put the shelf on the wall to see what it’ll look like in that location. Make sure not to put the self behind any doors or other obstructions – make sure it’s not somewhere people walk past because it could end up hurting them. If you want to install multiple shelves, you can arrange them vertically above one another to see what they’ll look like.

3. Once you’ve got your spot, use a pencil to mark the ends of the shelf. Make sure to place the shelf against the wall when doing this so that the pencil is marked correctly where the shelf is going to be installed. If you need help to put the wall up to make the markings, you can ask a friend to help you. If not, you can use another hand to hold it in place.

4. To mark along the shelf line, you should grab a bubble level to make sure that it’s straight. One of the most common reasons for an incorrectly installed shelf is a misaligned one. Having a misaligned shelf won’t look pleasing and things can end up sliding off the end of the shelf if the angle is too off. There’s a liquid in the bubble level and when the liquid is exactly in the middle, the level is perfectly straight. Put the shelf up against the wall and place the bubble level on top of it. Once the bubble level is placed, use the pencil and draw the line underneath the shelf onto the wall so you know where the shelf will be installed directly.

5. Next, you need to mark where the mounts are going to be placed. You’ll need to place the mounting brackets against the wall – this should be on either end of the shelf below the shelf. Depending on the mounting bracket you have, you may have a few holes to mark.

5. Get a drill and start to create pilot holes. A pilot hole is a hole that’s drilled before anything is screwed into it. The hole should be enough to stop the wall from damaging and allow for a tight and secure installation. Make sure to choose a drill that’s the same size as the hole that you’ve marked. Make sure that you drill through the hole making sure that it’s long enough for the screw. If you have drywall, you want to drill ½ inch into the wall and if you have plaster, you want to drill about an inch thick. Make sure not to drill too far in because the wall could have wires and other components internally. As you drill, stop often to make sure that you can see through the hole and nothing is blocking it.

Drywall Anchors

1. If you want to install the shelf using drywall anchors (View on Amazon), you need to grab a hammer and tap the anchors in. The anchor is similar to a screw, but it has a threaded end on one side. Put the threaded end into one of the holes you made with the drill. Hold the anchor and tap the head with the hammer a few times until the screw is tight enough to stay in the wall by itself. Make sure not to push the anchor into the wall all the way through. Make sure that you have a drywall anchor that’s big enough to bear the weight of the shelf.

2. Once you’ve knocked in the anchor slightly, you should screw the anchors in clockwise until they’re into the wall fully. You can do this using a drill or using a Philip screwdriver. Only screw it in until it fits fully into the wall. Make sure not to screw it in too hard or this could end up damaging the wall. If you’re going to use a drill, make sure to stop at the very end and complete the rest with a screwdriver if you don’t want to damage the wall.

3. Next, you want to put the brackets over the anchors and screw them together. You’ll need to hold the brackets and align them with the screw holes in the anchors. Once aligned, fit the screw into each hole by turning it clockwise with a screwdriver or drill. If you purchase the anchors, they should come with screws that fit flush inside them – the screw has to be compatible with the anchor unless you won’t end up with a flush finish. If you think you’ll ever needs to remove the screws later, make sure not to tighten the screws too much.

4. Once the brackets are securely in place, you can hang the shelf on the brackets. You should be able to just position the shelf against the wall and place it on to. If it’s a floating shelf, it’ll need to be pushed into the bracket to make it look like it’s floating. To test the shelf, you can place something on top to see if it can bear the weight.

Molly Bolts

1. If you want to use molly bolts (View on Amazon), you’ll need to put them into the hole you drilled earlier – make sure to place the metal end first into the wall and make sure the head is flat against the wall so that it doesn’t go through the hole. Make sure that the bolt is fully inserted into the wall so that it comes through the other side. If the molly bolts you have has flanges on the end, squeeze the flanges against the shaft to close up the bolt so it fits through the hole – this is tricky to do but it’ll help to get it through the hole. Molly bolts can bear more weight and they’re compatible with both drywall and plaster walls.

2. Once it’s through the other end, screw the bolt until it has a flush fit. You can use a Philips screwdriver or a drill to tighten the screw. When the screw turns, the flanges will open on the shaft and this will keep it secure against the wall – to test the bolt, you can pull on it to make sure it’s secure and stable. As soon as you feel that the screw is tight, you should stop as this could damage the wall if you continue. As soon as the flanges open, continue to turn the screws so they come out the wall.

3. Once the flanges are in place, you’ll need to remove the screw from the flanges by turning the drill or screwdriver anti-clockwise. The bolts will stay in place because of the flanges holding onto the wall and once the screws are taken out, this will leave a hole behind that will allow you to install the brackets. If you find yourself needing screws, you can save the screws that came with the molly bolts.

4. Once the screw has been removed, you should place the bracket against the bolts so that its aligned properly. Then you need to grab screws – you can use the ones you used to screw the bolts in – fit the screws into the bolts and rotate them clockwise so that the brackets secure. If you have average size molly bolts, make sure to use 3/32 inch screw – this is the average size that a lot of bolts Use.

5. Once all the screws are in the bolts and the bracket is secured, then you can place the shelf on top of them. Depending on the bracket you have, you’ll need to act accordingly. In most cases, you should be able to place the shelf on top of the brackets to hang them.

Heavy Toggles

1. If you want to use toggles (View on Amazon) to hang up the shelf, you’ll need to place the toggles directly into the hole that you’ve created. Toggles usually have a metal tip on one end and a plastic strap on the other – the metal tip is the end that goes into the wall. Make sure that this end is pushed all the way through the hole. If you have a shelf that’s going to be bearing a lot of weight, toggle bolts are your best option – they’re also compatible for drywall and plastic.

2. Check for a ring along the center of the plastic strap and hold onto it with one hand while holding the end of the strap with the other hand. Pull the strap towards you while pushing the ring into the wall. This will cause the flanges on the shaft to open which will secure the bolt to the hole in the wall. If you have a toggle that doesn’t have a plastic strap, you should just slot them through the brackets and tighten them – this means that you won’t have to deal with making sure the flanges are gripping the wall.

3. Once the bolt is in place, you’ll need to snap the end of the plastic that’s coming out of the wall – it should come off easily while leaving the bolt secured tightly into the wall. If the strap is resisting and you aren’t able to pull it out of the wall, you need to pull the ends of the strap apart and push them into the wall until they crack.

3. Once the strap has been removed, you should place the bracket against the bolt so that it’s aligned with it. Grab some screws and screw clockwise into each hole making sure that they remain level with the brackets. The screws have to be tight, so they fit flush into the bolts.

4. Once all the screws are in place and the bracket is tightly secured, then you can place the shelf on top. This depends on the bracket you have so you’ll need to act accordingly. Once the shelf is on, you can test it by putting items on it and checking how it holds. If the brackets feel loose, check the screws and make sure that they’re tightly secured and that the toggles are in the wall correctly.