How to fit wall shelves

Shelves are a brilliant and low cost storage solution, so we've put together a fitting guide to answer all your DIY shelf-related questions

Living room alcove shelving

Make the most of your alcoves with our simple guide to fitting stylish shelves.

Alcoves – many of us have them in our homes but lots of us have no idea what to do with them. Rather than try to hide the awkward space behind a piece of furniture, putting up shelves can make alcoves a lot more interesting to look at and will also give you a place to display your books, photographs and knick knacks.

Whether you just want to put up a single shelf or fit them from floor-to-ceiling, follow our simple guide to make sure yours look the part.


Step 1

DIY shelving, fitting a batten
© Crown

Firstly, you’ll need to cut and fit wooden strips, or battens, to the side walls of the alcove in order to support each end of the shelf. We recommend that you use timber battens that are 38mm x 10mm and use 50mm screws to secure them to the walls.

Cut the side battens to be 50mm shorter than the depth of the shelf and mitre the front edge if you want to hide the battens from view. In essence, if you mitre the wood you’re cutting the edge at half the angle of the corner – on the diagonal. Use sand paper to get rid of any rough edges.

Drill two holes through each batten, about 25mm from each end.

Position the batten on the wall, using a spirit level to check it’s horizontal, and mark the screw holes with a pencil. Drill the holes and insert wall plugs if needed.

Screw the batten securely to the wall.

Step 2

Measuring DIY shelf width with guide rods
© Crown

Measure each shelf separately using guide rods – two pieces of batten held together with rubber bands – to find the width of the back wall. This is much more accurate than using a retractable tape measure.

It’s unlikely that the walls in your alcove will be exact right angles to each other too, so use a sliding bevel to find the correct angle of each corner.


Step 3

Cutting shelves to size
© Crown

Transfer the measurements to each shelf and cut them to size.

If you plan to paint the shelves, do it now and let them dry completely before fitting them on top of the battens.


Top tip

To make the shelf even stronger you could also fit a batten along the back wall for the shelf to rest on.

If you need to secure the shelf to the batten too, mark and drill the holes before fixing the batten to the wall.


Find these instructions plus lots more handy guides, in 300 Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets for Painting and Decorating by Alison Jenkins, published by Apple Press.