Shelf (storage)

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A simple wooden wall shelf

A shelf (PL: shelves)[1] is a flat, horizontal plane used for items that are displayed or stored in a home, business, store, or elsewhere. It is raised off the floor and often anchored to a wall, supported on its shorter length sides by brackets, or otherwise anchored to cabinetry by brackets, dowels, screws, or nails. It can also be held up by columns or pillars. A shelf is also known as a counter, ledge, mantel, or rack.[1] Tables designed to be placed against a wall, possibly mounted, are known as console tables, and are similar to individual shelves.

A shelf can be attached to a wall or other vertical surface, be suspended from a ceiling, be a part of a free-standing frame unit, or it can be part of a piece of furniture such as a cabinet, bookcase, entertainment center, headboard, and so on. Usually, two to six shelves make up a unit, each shelf being attached perpendicularly to the vertical or diagonal supports and positioned parallel one above the other. Free-standing shelves can be accessible from either one or both longer length sides. A shelf with hidden internal brackets is termed a floating shelf. A shelf or case designed to hold books is a bookshelf.

The length of the shelf is based upon the space limitations of its siting and the amount of weight which it will be expected to hold. The vertical distance between the shelves is based upon the space limitations of the unit's siting and the height of the objects; adjustable shelving systems allow the vertical distance to be altered. The unit can be fixed or be some form of mobile shelving. The most heavy-duty shelving is pallet racking. In a store, the front edge of the shelf under the object(s) held might be used to display the name, product number, pricing, and other information about the object(s).


Adjustable shelving made from Dexion steel slotted angle

Shelves are normally made of strong materials such as wood,[2] bamboo or steel, though shelves to hold lighter-weight objects can be made of glass or plastic. Do it yourself (DIY) shelves can be made from things such as an old door,[3] colored pencils[4] or books.[5]

Pipe shelving[edit]

Pipe shelving can be used in a home, business, store or restaurant. It consists mainly of wood boards resting on black or galvanized steel gas pipe. Copper pipe can be used but it is not recommended[by whom?] for heavy-duty shelves. Pipe shelving can also be modified to be used as retail clothing displays and wall shelves. Pipe shelving supports rest on the floor with floor flanges (these need not be attached) and attaches to the wall with flanges that are directed backwards. Many different designs exist and some companies make these shelves for commercial and residential applications and others make these shelves as DIY projects.[6]

Pipe shelving is mainly attached to a wall but some companies have designed free standing units. Pipe shelving has even been used in reclamation projects such as shipping container architecture and was used by Marriott Hotels & Resorts in a bar project.[7]

Proportions for hanging on a wall[edit]

Two stainless steel shelf supports placed relatively far apart.

When hanging shelves on a wall, home designers generally try to ensure that the shelf should be no wider than 1.4 x bracket's width and no wider than 1.2 x bracket's height.[citation needed] Spacing brackets for a long shelf should be no more than 4 x shelf-breadth between each bracket - this holds true for normal materials used at home.[8]

Length and size of screws holding the shelf to the wall differ depending on the material of the wall. A good rule of thumb for concrete walls is that the screw should go into the wall at least as far as 1/10th the width of the shelf. But there are shelf systems where a brace is hung on the wall, onto which brackets are attached without screws.


The word shelf is from the Old English scylfe; akin to Low German schelf shelf and Old Norse -skjalf bench.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Shelf". Archived from the original on 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  2. ^ "How To Build Shelves". Do it Yourself. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  3. ^ "DIY Door Shelf Tutorial". Craftaholics anonymous. 11 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  4. ^ "Day 27: Pencil shelf". Variations on Normal. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  5. ^ "Book Shelf Made From Books". inhabitat. 7 April 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  6. ^ "HomeMade Modern DIY Pipe Shelves". Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  7. ^ "Marriott unveils hotel room, bar made from shipping containers | Real Estate Weekly". Archived from the original on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  8. ^ "EWPAA Shelving Design Manual" (PDF). Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-19.