how do you fix a shelf that’s coming out of the wall?

by Sam Wood | Last Updated: 27/07/2021

Shelves are a great storage option. But when they start coming away from the wall it can get scary. So how do you fix a shelf that’s coming out of the wall? Luckily for you, we have a quick and easy guide with the best options available to you.

How do you fix a shelf that’s coming out of the wall?

If your shelf starts to come away from the wall you have two main options on how to fix it. Replace the wall plug with something better, or move the shelf to a different area where you may be able to attach it to something sturdier.

Say you want the shelf to stay in the same place exactly then your only real option is to change the plugs. The simplest option is to just use bigger plugs. Bigger plugs are designed to hold more weight, so upgrading the plugs you use will probably be enough to fix your problem. This is ideal if you are hanging the shelf on a solid wall.

However, if the wall you are hanging the shelf on is just a plasterboard stud wall then rather than just using bigger plugs you may want to use a different style of plug altogether. Specialist stud wall plugs exist just for this task. There are tons of different designs available but they all work on the same principle. They have a “wing” that comes out on the backside of the plasterboard allowing for a much stronger fixing.

And then finally you have the option of moving the shelf. This could just be a little, for example moving it slightly to the side on a stud wall so you can fix it into the stud rather than plasterboard. Or it may be that you move the shelf to a different wall entirely, say to a solid exterior wall rather than a stud interior wall.

Using a bigger plug

Here we have a shelf in my bedroom (installed before I moved in I must add!) and as you can clearly see it has started to pull away from the wall. This is only going to go one way from here as the plug pulls further and further out of the wall.

The shelf that is coming away from the wall

The shelf that is coming away from the wall

The failed plug

The failed plug

So first things first it’s time to remove the shelf from the wall so I can upgrade the plugs. I started using a drill (this black & decker is on trial for a test so check back for that soon!) but it was hard to get it in.

Removing the shelf

Removing the shelf

Instead of the drill, a stubby screwdriver worked really well for getting into this tight spot.

A stubby screwdriver can come in handy

A stubby screwdriver can come in handy

Now you need to get the old plugs out of the wall. For the ones at the top that had failed this was really easy and I just pulled them out with my fingers. For the ones at the bottom which were still stuck in place the claw hammer technique worked well. I talk about this method in detail here.

Using a claw hammer works well

Using a claw hammer works well

All that’s left to do now is add the new plugs. I used blue rawl plugs here. These plugs were actually oversized for the hole by just a little. This was ideal as it would give a really tight fixing but I had to hammer them in quite hard.

Add the new plug

Add the new plug

The last job is putting the shelf back up and then it’s done! These larger plugs should help take the weight of the shelf a lot better than the small ones that were in.

Fixed

Fixed

Using Plasterboard Fixings

If you are fixing onto a plasterboard stud wall then you want to use special plasterboard fixings as regular fixings will just slip out as they have nothing to fasten into. I have used these Gripit’s before and while not cheap they can hold a lot of weight. 71kgs in the case of these smaller yellow ones!

Gripit - Yellow/15mm - Pack of 8
£4.88
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09/23/2021 04:37 pm GMT

Screwing into studs

You could also use a stud detector to locate the studs in your wall and screw directly into these rather than into the plasterboard. This will always be the strongest way, and you don’t even need to use fixings.

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Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!