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How Deep Should Floating Shelves Be? What About Thickness?

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Finding new ways to showcase your decor can feel impossible if you don't know where to start. Do you think using a few floating shelves is the right solution but have no idea how deep they should be? Are all floating shelves the same size?

Well, we've done some digging and have the answers here for you. Let's dive in!

In general, floating shelves should be between five and ten inches deep. However, there are much bigger sizes you can try, spanning from 12 inches up to 15 inches deep.

With that said, most floating shelf designs call for longer, thinner dimensions, so you'll have to do some research before making a purchase.

As we begin, we will cover all things floating shelves and discuss how deep one should be. Whether you want to show off awards, photos, or your favorite trinkets, we're here to help. With that said, let's jump right into this post below!

Two white floating shelves simply decorated with yellow and blue, How Deep Should Floating Shelves Be? What About Thickness?

How Deep Is A Typical Floating Shelf?

Depending on what type of floating or "hanging" shelf you buy, their standard depths can be slightly different. Typically, floating kitchen shelving will have a depth of 12 inches.

On the other hand, living room/non-kitchen floating shelving tends to be ten inches deep. We can assume that is because kitchen storage includes cookware, bakeware, and everything in between, hence the deeper shelving.

As we mentioned, hanging shelves can also be on the shallower side. Many designs are only 4-5 inches deep, which won't hold bulkier items.

Modern floating bookshelves with books

Again, you may not need to display massive pieces of art or decor, but it's nice to give your things enough room to breathe. Even though floating shelving has evolved, it won't usually hold a candle to a traditional bookshelf.

Furthermore, hanging a floating shelf can be difficult as it becomes deeper/longer, so depth isn't always great.

How Thick Should My Floating Shelf Be?

Ideally, you want a floating shelf to be around two inches thick. Like depth, the thickness of a shelf can affect its ability to hold your precious items.

Suppose you want to show off your favorite award that weighs 5-10 pounds: if your shelf is too thin, you could have a cracked/broken shelf.

Additionally, the item on your shelf could also break or become damaged if it isn't sturdy enough. Unlike a traditional bookcase or display shelf, a floating shelf is in the hands of gravity.

You can also find floating shelves that are thicker than two inches. Luckily, various brands offer hanging shelves as wide as 3-4 inches.

Sometimes, a thicker shelf can look weird on your walls, so aesthetically, shoot for 2-3. The same applies to depth, so getting the deepest or widest option is not always best.

What Happens If A Floating Shelf Is Too Thin?

Expect problems if your floating shelf is too thin or poorly made. As we said above, your shelf will likely start cracking if the weight on top of it exceeds more than a few pounds.

Furthermore, you could end up with your shelf falling apart and bringing your valuables down with it. So even if a hanging shelf is more money, you should go with a thicker, higher-quality design.

On the other hand, thickness won't play a significant role if you don't need to showcase heavy or bulky items on your floating shelves. The same goes for depth, so your choice will ultimately come down to what you wish to display and how much it weighs.

What Is The Best Material For A Floating Shelf?

If you're stuck on what material for floating shelves is best, stick to wood. Specifically, maple wood shelving is durable and won't crack or warp as easily as other options.

However, many floating shelf designs use manufactured or "faux" wood, which isn't always as sturdy. Generally, any shelf with a plastic or artificial material as its base won't hold much weight.

You can also try other woods for your shelving needs. Oak and pine tend to be popular among DIY'ers, as they are easy to work with, hold out well, and aren't super expensive.

Imperative Decor Rustic Wood Floating Shelves

These floating shelves are natural wood, handmade, are 5.5 inches deep, have a built-in wall mount, come in a set of two, and are made in the USA.

View this set of shelves on Amazon.

How Deep Should A Floating Shelf Be For Pictures?

Blue simple minimalist background shelf pedesta

You don't need to use a super deep shelf for those wanting to show off their family pictures or any type of prints. Generally, a few inches of depth will be sufficient for photographs and even books, so we recommend 2-4.

As we said, that is a pretty standard depth for floating shelves, so you won't have trouble finding plenty of designs. According to The Craft Patch, many hanging shelves have a "lip," which may take away some of the overall depth of a given shelf.

For example, if you have a floating shelf that is three inches deep but has a lip, you may only get two inches of usable display space. Luckily, that is enough for a framed photograph or scrapbook, but it's something to think about.

Ballucci Modern Floating Wall Shelves

These modern floating shelves have a white painted finish, are four inches deep, come in a pack of two, and don't require any assembly.

Follow this link to view them on Amazon.

How Much Weight Can A Floating Shelf Hold?

Black decorated floating shelves and mounted TV on the wall

Generally, a floating shelf will have a recommended weight capacity of 10-25 pounds. However, that is on the lower end of the shelf capacity threshold but applies to most small-sized options.

For example, if you have a floating shelf made of pure hardwood, you can expect it to hold anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds safely. On the other hand, if your shelf is engineered material and has a weight capacity of 20-25 pounds, you don't want to try going higher.

Remember, not all hanging shelving will be made equally. As we covered above, kitchen shelves tend to be deeper and have higher weight capacities versus living room designs.

If you purchase smaller, thinner shelves for displaying framed pictures, you can't expect them to hold super heavy pieces. Even though a shelf may seem sturdy, not following its weight recommendation can result in wall, shelf, and item damage.

Are Floating Shelves Sturdy?

In general, a floating shelf will be very sturdy. Of course, this can depend on how you hang it and whether you follow the recommended weight capacity.

Another thing to consider is what your shelf is made from. Typically, wood will be the sturdiest material you can have for a hanging shelf versus other non-natural options.

Furthermore, what is the purpose of your shelf? Do you have it for the kitchen? Is it for your bathroom toiletries? What about the living room or even your bedroom?

These will all play an essential role in how sturdy your shelf will be. You can also buy a kitchen shelf for other sections of your home if you want something extra durable, so don't be afraid to get crafty.

What Do You Use To Hang A Floating Shelf?

Pile of nail for wood work

You'll want to use either nails, wall anchors, or command strips to hang a wall shelf most of the time. Of this group, wall anchors will give the best overall support but can leave multiple large holes in a surface.

According to Bob Vila, hollow wall anchors work best for plaster, while you need to use butterfly or toggle anchors for drywall. Moreover, you may want to stick with whatever materials your shelving comes with.

For example, many products will have built-in wall mounts with the required screws or nails. Again, these will create holes in your walls, so that is something to consider.

Let's say you're renting. Creating tons of holes in a rental property can often mean a hefty fine for you at the end of your lease.

That is when Command strips or any heavy-duty adhesive comes into play. With that said, not all adhesive strips will hold the same weight.

Typically, Command strips can withstand between four and 16 pounds, which is a dramatic range. Again, your adhesive will list the weight limit on its label, so make sure to find one that can withstand your shelving and display items.

Is It Better To Use Nails For A Floating Shelf?

Although using nails for hanging things seems to be the default, it isn't always the greatest option. Generally, you want to either use whatever your shelving comes with or screws for hanging.

Unlike nails, screws will handle pressure very well and won't bend or warp. Nails, on the other hand, tend to fall out of the wall and lose their shape if you place extreme weight on them.

The Art Of Manliness mentions how this is because nails lack grip and overall tensile strength.

To Wrap Up

Whether you need to find new ways to show off your belongings or have a floating shelf, knowing what measurements will work best for you is essential. From what we found, most floating shelves will be between five and ten inches deep, although you can find options much deeper.

Generally, kitchen floating shelves will be the deepest and have the most durable design. On the other hand, living room and bedroom shelves may be thinner and shallower.

Regardless, find a floating shelf that can hold your special items, and don't be afraid to get creative with how you hang one!

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related home posts below!

How To Decorate Kitchen Shelves (4 Foolproof EASY Techniques)

Can You Hang Shelves With Command Strips Or Hooks?

How To Build Shelves Under Stairs [3 Easy Steps]