How Much Weight Will My Shelves Hold?

So you’re putting in shelves and are wondering how much weight it can hold. Or you know the weight load, but don’t know the shelf length needed. Harkraft can help! We have some great closet shelving ideas and organization ideas to help you with your storage needs. 

Depending on whether you want your shelves free standing on the wall, up against one wall, or in between two walls, the load capacity will differ. There are solutions for every situation, and we’re going to discuss the key factors you should be aware of when looking for new shelving.

Adding additional shelving to your home can be a process. One of the key questions you need to consider is how much weight the shelves will be supporting. This is especially important if you’re installing storage shelves in your garage, cabinets, or closet. 

The last thing you want is storage shelves that can’t support the weight of the items you’re trying to store. There are several factors to consider when deciding how effective shelving will be in weight support and how much stuff you can safely store on top. 

These factors include wood type, how the selves are constructed, bracket types used, and how the shelves are installed. Here is a brief look at each.

Which Wood Type Do I Need?

Different woods have different bending strengths. This measurement measures how much pressure wood can take before it bends or breaks. 

Normally this is measured in terms of pounds per square inch. If your garage shelving is going to be supporting heavy tools a stronger wood may be required. Here is a brief psi strength list of popular and common woods.

  • Ash = 15,000 psi
  • Beech = 14,900 psi
  • Yellow Birch = 16,600 psi
  • Cherry = 12,300 psi
  • Elm = 11,800 psi
  • Hickory = 20,200 psi
  • Red Oak = 14,300 psi
  • White Oak = 15,200 psi
  • Walnut = 14,600 psi

As you can see there is a range of strengths and support capabilities across various wood types. If you’re shelving is being used to support heavy equipment in a garage, for example, you’ll want a wood type that won’t bend or buckle.

In practice, this means that cherry wood would be great for holding lighter knickknacks in your living room or bedroom, but wouldn’t be the most effective in your garage. A stronger wood such as yellow birch or hickory would make a better choice.

Of course, you’re not limited to wood shelving either. Wire shelving makes an excellent option, and can hold 80lbs on average. Depending on what things you need stored, you might want to compare wood and wire shelving options.

How Should My Shelves Be Constructed? 

How shelving is made also affects its strength and how effectively it can support the weight. When installing a shelving unit its overall weight has to be taken into consideration. 

Remember brackets have to support both the weight of the items on the shelves and the shelves themselves. Also, you have to consider more mundane aspects of shelf construction such as the wood used, types of screws, overall support built into the structure, and thickness of the wood. 

Simply put if you need heavy storage a lightweight shelf, even with proper support may not be enough. Having an understanding of how your shelves were constructed will help you determine what they can safely hold.

How Do Brackets Fit In? 

Brackets are rated for the amount of weight they can safely support. When installing support brackets you’ll need to consider what the brackets can safely support and how they are installed. 

Bracket strength can greatly vary and can support weight from 10 lbs up to several hundred. Always consider what you’re storing and its overall weight before installing brackets. 

Also, be sure to install the correct number of brackets. A heavy-duty bracket may be able to support the weight but if only one bracket is attached to one point it can fail. Brackets need to be spread out evenly to support the overall weight of the shelving.

What About Installation?

How shelves are installed can greatly affect how much weight they can support. A shelving unit attached to a central stud is far stronger than one simply attached to drywall. 

How your brackets are installed can also affect overall support. L-brackets with heavy screws attached to a stud offer a great deal of support versus a freestanding unit. 

So before installing shelving take stock of what options are available for installation and how much support you need.

Here is a handy chart for your use!

Shelving Load Capacities

Open End to Open End

Shelf Length Total Weight* Per Lineal Ft*
1 ft. 75 75
2 ft. 130 65
3 ft. 135 45
4 ft. 160 40
5 ft. 175 35
6 ft. + 180 30

Wall to Open End

Shelf Length Total Weight* Per Lineal Ft*
1 ft. 90 90
2 ft. 140 70
3 ft. 150 50
4 ft. 180 45
5 ft. 200 40
6 ft. + 210 35

Wall to Wall

Shelf Length Total Weight* Per Lineal Ft*
1 ft. 105 105
2 ft. 150 75
3 ft. 180 60
4 ft. 220 55
5 ft. 250 50
6 ft. + 252 42

* Based on recommended installation methods. Load capacity will vary depending on specific applications.

Get Your Shelves Safely Installed With Harkraft

Having a professional install your shelves for you is the best way to ensure they’re secure and able to hold the load you need. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your latest shelving and storage project.