How to Secure a Bookshelf to the Wall

Written by randal thomas
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How to Secure a Bookshelf to the Wall
For everyone's safety, tall bookshelves should be secured to the wall. (Bookshelf 4 image by Tomasz Nowicki from

Tall, unsecured bookshelves can place small children in danger. Unable to anticipate the danger, your child might climb a bookshelf to reach something on a higher shelf. As your child climbs higher, he could pull the shelf over on top of himself. Thankfully, you can prevent these types of needless dangers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 4 expanding drywall bolts (butterfly bolts), 1/4-inch
  • Drill
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wood-coloured tape

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  1. 1

    Instruct a helper to press the bookshelf flush against the wall. Make sure the gap, if any, between the shelf and the wall measures less than 1/4 inch.

  2. 2

    Drill 4 holes through the back of the bookshelf and into the wall using the drill and the 3/8-inch drill bit. For the most stability, position 2 in each corner, 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch to 1 inch from the shelf's top. Drill each hole with one firm, careful motion.

  3. 3

    Insert one expanding drywall bolt into each hole. Once the bolt is within the wall, the butterfly clasp will open.

  4. 4

    Pull on the head of the butterfly bolt while at the same time hand-tightening it clockwise. You must accomplish both movements simultaneously. If you don't pull on the butterfly bolt while your tighten it, the clasp within the wall will not tighten.

  5. 5

    Tighten each butterfly bolt with the Phillips screwdriver once the head becomes flush with the bookshelf. Do not overtighten, or the head of the bolt might sink into the back of the bookshelf.

  6. 6

    Tug lightly on the bookshelf. If it pulls away from the wall at all, tighten the butterfly bolts more.

  7. 7

    Cover the butterfly bolt heads with wood-coloured tape. This disguises them, providing a "solid wood" appearance.

Tips and warnings

  • Each 1/4-inch butterfly bolt can support 9.07 to 13.6 Kilogram. Therefore, four bolts can support 36.3 to 54.4 Kilogram. If you need more support for a heavier bookshelf, use 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch butterfly bolts.
  • Whichever size bolt you use, always make sure the size of the bolts is slightly smaller than the size of the drill bit, so you don't damage the drywall when you insert the bolts.
  • When you drill, if your helper allows too wide a gap between the bookshelf and the wall, the drill could become unstable and drill at an angle or catch on the wood.
  • Do not use "L" brackets to secure the bookshelf to the wall. Hiding "L" brackets will prove difficult because they mount against the side of the bookshelf or the bottom surface of your shelves. Additionally, even if you use drywall screws to secure the "L" brackets into the wall, these screws cannot match the support strength of a butterfly bolt. Enough weight on the shelf could still strip the drywall screw and pull the shelf away from the wall.
  • If your bookshelf has no back, use wood screws to attach plywood or matching wood onto the rear of the bookshelf, then drill holes through the plywood. Adding a back to the bookshelf will offer more support than attaching "L" brackets will.

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