The Key to Repairing a Sagging Shelf
What could be worse than droopy drawers? Sagging shelves, of course! It’s true. Have a look in virtually any closet in your home and chances are that you’ll find it’s about ready to give way to mounds of “stuff” that it supports.
Since a shelf isn’t likely to sag on its own without the help of some type of load being placed upon it, there are other indirect reasons for this condition. Too much clothing, too many dishes, too many books, etc. You get the picture. Over spanning, under sizing, over loading and general lack of support are just a few of the reasons for a sagging shelf.
People are creatures of habit. Therefore, unless you’re willing to part with that special Letterman sweater which is six sizes too small, the dress that you wore to the prom 30 years ago or that stack of spy novels, its time to beef up that sagging shelf.
One of the simplest methods of repairing a sagging shelf involves reusing the existing shelf. The shelf is removed and flipped over so that the bow points upward. The shelf will straighten out over time once a few items are replaced upon it.
The task is simple. First, carefully remove the shelf from the supports to which it is attached. More often than not the shelf is secured using finish nails. One of the most effective ways to remove the nails without damaging the shelf material is to drive the nails through the shelf material into the support cleats using a nail punch.
Another method involves using a block of wood and a hammer. Place the block of wood under the shelf where it is nailed to the cleat. Strike the block with hammer several times to force the nails out of the cleat. Remove the nails from the shelf using a hammer or pliers. Sometimes the shelve will work free of the nails and the nails will remain in the cleat. Pull the nails or simply cut them off using side cutters. Put the shelf aside for reinstallation later.
Now would be a good time to resecure the cleats at either end of the shelf and to add a 1 x 4 inch cleat at the rear of the shelf if one does not already exist. Use a level to make sure that the cleat at the back of the shelf is level before attaching it with finish nails or drywall screws. Use a small level (a two foot level or a bullet level) to make sure that the cleats at either end are level front to back, then beef up support with nails or screws.
In all cases the nails or screws should be installed through the cleat and into a stud or solid framing. An electronic stud finder, a hammer and a trained ear or a hammer and a finish nail are all good alternatives for locating a stud. Once a stud is found use a measuring tape to locate an adjacent stud. Most studs are generally 16 or 24 inches on center from one another. In the event that a stud doesn’t exist, use a lag shield or an expansion anchor along with a screw.
Next, reinstall the old shelf with the “sag” up. Use drywall screws to reattach the shelf. The screws will be less likely to damage the cleat and they will also be useful in drawing the shelf down against the cleat.
In the case of a shelf above a wardrobe pole, diagonal metal support brackets can be installed for added support. One end of the bracket attaches to a stud while the other end, consisting of a semi-circle, connects to the underside of the shelf. The semi-circle wraps around the underside of the wardrobe pole to further prevent sagging.
Speaking of shelves in wardrobe areas, here’s a neat trick which can be used to increase storage for a small investment. Most closets have wasted space behind the cloths rod; just under the shelf. A secondary shelf that is three to four inches deep (front to back) can be installed the full length. Wood cleat similar to those discussed earlier or prefabricated metal shelf brackets are all that is needed for support. The shelf is great for storing paperback books, toiletries or other odds and ends.