How To Hang Shelves (All You Need To Know!)

I’ve always been a bit of a DIY-er. I like to take on projects around the house, and recently, I decided I wanted to hang some shelves in my living room. But, I’ll admit, I didn’t really know much about it.

I did some research and found some helpful content that walked me through the process. I compiled everything I learned into an easy-to-follow DIY guide and I’ll share that with you.

Hanging shelves isn’t complicated enough to require professional help. You’ll need screws, an electric drill, and a measuring tape. Next, measure where you’ll drill the screws by holding the bracket up to the wall. In case of no studs, use drywall anchors. Finally, hang the shelf and et voila!

That was a short overview but you may have more questions. What exact tools do you need? Can you hang shelves without nails? Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to hang shelves!

How to hang shelves (step-by-step guide)

We’ve given you a basic idea of how you normally hang a shelf. There are still more details about the topic you need to know.

Let’s look at all the details.

Tools You’ll Need

More often than not when doing a DIY project, I forget to make a list of the required tools. This results in an unexpected visit to the hardware store because I forgot a specific type of nail or some tape.

To save you that second trip to the store, here are all the tools you’ll need when hanging a shelf.

Tools You’ll NeedReason
Measuring tape (compulsory)You’ll need a measuring tape to measure the dimensions of the shelf and transfer those measurements to the wall.
Level (optional)You don’t want your shelves to be hanged at a diagonal angle. A level will ensure that you’re drilling screws in a straight line.
Screws and nails (compulsory)You can use either nails or screws on a stud. For nails, you’ll use a hammer, and for screws, you’ll need an electric drill.
Hammer (compulsory)You will need it to hammer the screws in the wall. You might also need it for making some adjustments.
Electric Drill (compulsory)If you are using screws to hold your shelves, you’ll need an electric drill
Drywall anchors (compulsory)When you can’t find a stud on your wall, you’ll have to hang your shelf on a hollow section of your drywall. You’ll need drywall for this as regular nails or screws only work on studs.
Shelf Bracket (compulsory)You’ll need a shelf bracket to hold your shelf.

If you’re hanging your shelf on a wall that has a stud behind it, we suggest you use screws over nails. Why? Well, screws are just more secure.

They’re less likely to come loose over time, and if they do, they’re easier to fix than nails. Plus, screws give you more adjustability if you need to level your shelf later on.

If you’re hanging shelves on a wall and there are no studs to support them, you’ll need to use drywall anchors.

Drywall anchors are small plastic or metal inserts that are used to hold screws in place when there isn’t a stud to secure them.

Drywall anchor and a normal screw
Drywall anchor and a normal screw

Make sure you select a drywall anchor that has around the same weight capacity as the weight of your shelf plus whatever you plan on putting on top of it.

Let’s discuss the location next.

Decide the location to hang your shelf

When you’re hanging a shelf, you need to consider its location. There are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to deciding where to put your shelf.

1. Think about how you’re going to be using the shelf. If you’re going to be using it to store heavy objects, you’ll need to make sure it’s properly supported And you must secure it by hanging on a shelf in such cases. You’ll also want to consider how often you’ll be using the shelf and how easy it will be to reach the items you’re storing on it.

2. Another important factor to consider is the level of the shelf. If you’re hanging a shelf near a window, you’ll want to make sure it’s not in direct sunlight for long so that the sun doesn’t damage the items you’re storing on it. You’ll also want to avoid putting the shelf too low, as this could make it a playground for your cats (if you have any as I do…)

3. You need to make sure that the shelf is not too close to any electrical outlets. The last thing you want is to drill holes in the walls where electric wires are and damage them.

Now that we’ve decided on a location for our shelf, here are some things you need to keep in mind about the type of wall you have.

Hanging the shelf using a stud

When hanging a shelf, it’s important to use the support of a stud. This will help ensure that your shelf is level and doesn’t sag over time.

A wall stud is one of the vertical supports that make up the framing of a wall. They are typically made of wood, but can also be made of metal or other materials. 

Wall studs are spaced 16 or 24 inches apart and are attached to the top and bottom plates of the wall.

There are a few different ways to find a stud in a wall. The easiest way is to use a stud finder, which is a tool that will help you locate the studs in a wall. You can also find studs by knocking on the wall and listening for a solid sound.

Man drilling into a wall
Man drilling into a wall

Once you’ve located a stud, so you can easily find it when you are about to drill the screws into it. Also, remember that you don’t use drywall anchors on studs. Just nails or screws will suffice.

Hanging shelf on drywall (without stud)

Let’s say you decided on a nice spot to hang your shelf, but that particular area of the wall doesn’t have a stud. You can’t just drill screws into hollow drywall and expect it to hold the weight of your shelf.

The screw will pop right out once weight is put on it. What do you do in such a situation? Just grab some drywall anchors and you’ll be good to go.

Wall anchors are great for situations like this, where you need to hang something but there’s no stud to screw into.

There are a few different types of wall anchors such as plastic anchors and toggle bolts and these offer different hanging capacities.

If you just plan on putting a few books on your shelf, a normal drywall anchor will do the job. But if you are putting something heavy on the shelf, you’ll need something stronger, like a toggle bolt.

Hanging The Shelf On Wall

Now that we’ve discussed the tools you’ll need as well as finding the best location, here’s how to hang your shelf:

  1. Hold your shelf bracket up against the wall and make sure it is horizontal using a level.
  2. Using a pencil, mark the places on the wall where the screws are supposed to go referencing the holes of your shelf bracket.
  3. Again, use a level to make sure the marks align in a horizontal line. The last thing you want is your shelf to be hung at an angle.
  4. Now you need to drill screws at the marked spots. The process for a wall with studs and one without is different as follows:
    1. If your marks have studs behind them, you can drill your screws directly into the marks by holding the shelf bracket against the wall at the marked spots.
    2. If the wall location you chose doesn’t have a stud, you’ll need to create pilot holes first. Next, hold your shelf bracket against the wall so its holes align with the pilot holes. Then you can insert the drywall anchors inside the pilot holes manually. Lastly, drill your screws into the drywall anchors.
  5. Use a level again to make sure your bracket is aligned perfectly.
  6. Place the shelf on top of the bracket and if the bracket and shelf have bottom holes, you can drill screws into them to ensure that your shelf doesn’t slide off of the bracket.
Wooden shelves on wall
The finished result should look something like this!


We discussed the details of how you can hang a shelf without the use of professional help. Hanging a shelf may seem a daunting task but once you break the process down into small steps, it is not that complex.

Remember, you should always prioritize hanging the shelf against a stud and only move towards the hollow section of the wall unless there is no option left.

We hope you found this helpful. For more similar content, check out “how to hang a mirror“, “ideas on what to hang on a wall“, “how to hang pictures“, and our homepage.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


About the author

We are GoldenTurtle. We aim to answer all queries about decorating walls and doing DIY guides on hanging things on the wall.

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