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How Deep Should Floating Shelves Be? A Quick Guide

Posted on 01/20/2022

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There are a lot of questions surrounding the usage of floating shelves.

How deep should floating shelves be? How many inches apart is ideal? How much weight can they bear? How thick should floating shelves be? At what height should they be placed?

These are just a few of the most common questions.

However, by far the most frequently asked of the bunch is, “How deep should floating shelves be?” 

To address this hot topic, we have put together this quick guide to understanding everything you need to know about floating shelves, including their ideal depth.

Let’s get started.

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How Do Floating Shelves Work?

While installing floating shelves might look a bit tricky to the uninitiated, once you understand what is going on, they are pretty simple.

Floating shelves utilize an internal bracket that slots into the shelf itself. From there, the bracket is attached to the wall using screws.

How Deep Should Floating Shelves Be?

As with most things in life, the most concise answer to this question is:

It depends.

The fact of the matter is that the intended use of the shelf should determine a floating shelf's depth. The reason for this is that as a shelf gets deeper, it will take less weight to make that shelf sag.

Therefore, the true answer is only to go as deep as you need for the intended purpose. If you go beyond the required depth, you will begin to lose weight-bearing capacity.

For instance, if you are installing a floating shelf for books, the shelf likely won't need to be more than 10 inches deep, as most books are less than nine inches in length.

However, if your floating shelves are part of a kitchen remodel and will serve to match kitchen cabinets and hold things like cups and plates, then the depth should be 12 inches, as most tableware is 12 inches or less in depth.

floating shelves in a kitchen

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Understanding this, the second most important consideration is to select a bracket that will successfully handle the dimensions of the project.

More Rods Mean More Weight Capacity

When asking how deep floating shelves should be, it is also critical to consider the number of rods for the length of the shelf, as this is from where much of the weight capacity is derived.

For instance, a shelf that is 34 inches in width should have no fewer than three rods welded to the bracket. Similarly, shelves that are 50 inches must have four rods to bear weight appropriately, while those over 70 inches should have at least five rods.

However, rods are not the only factor to consider when contemplating weight capacity, as wall studs also play a critical role.

More Screws in Studs Increases Weight-Bearing Capacity

The plain fact is that a floating shelf is only as strong as its most fragile mounting point. Therefore, if you only secure a floating shelf's bracket to two studs, the entire thing will only be held up by two screws. However, if weight capacity isn't an issue, then those two screws should do just fine.

hand using a drill

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However, for floating shelves that will be bearing higher amounts of weight, then it is recommended to mount the bracket into as many studs as possible, or even a masonry block, as this will help to increase the shelving's ability to bear weight.

Moreover, if you will be attaching floating shelves to wall studs, anchors are not required. However, if you will only be mounting the bracket to a piece of drywall, anchors are a necessity as these will help to build a sturdier foundation.

Alternatively, if you so choose, you can reinforce floating shelves by placing plywood planks between them vertically to prevent sagging. Of course, you will want to sand and stain them to match the shelves beforehand.

From there, simply nail the plywood into the wall.

The Ideal Depth of Floating Shelves

In short, when answering how deep should floating shelves be, the explanation is genuinely dependent on the intended use of the shelf as (generally speaking) deeper shelves will not be able to bear as much weight as shorter ones.

Therefore, the best course of action is to figure out what you will be using the shelves for and determine the correct answer based on that information.