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Thread: Floating Shelf sanaity check, please

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    San Antonio, Texas

    Floating Shelf sanaity check, please

    Hey, guys and gals, I've either been sick or busier than a cat covering up... well, you know. Anyway, I've been commissioned to build three floating shelves for a couple's kitchen. Apparently they are all the rage right now. These are to replace an open face cabinet that currently hangs on the wall. I understand what they are, how they work and know how to build them.

    My issue is the size and placement of these behemoths. They want them 54" long and 12" deep! They will hang about 9" apart. So I decided a simple modified torsion box would be the way to go. NOTE: The pics represent only the left half of the design.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I also decided that I need to hang the entire torsion frame (bottom drafting on pic below) on the wall and then slide the "shell" (second drafting on the first pic above) over it.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The frame (all 1"x2" Poplar - She wants to paint them, hence the Poplar) would be secured to at least two and hopefully three studs with 3x3/8" lag bolts and a large washer to prevent any weight from pulling the head of the bolt into (or through) the Poplar wall cleat of the frame. I would also use 3"or 4" #12 wood screws (if I can find such a thing) from the back of the cleat into the torsion stretchers for added strength. The shell would be made from three pieces of 1"x3" Poplar milled to size so that it just fits over the frame. It would be skinned top and bottom with 1/4" Maple plywood set into rabbets.

    Once the frame is securely mounted to the wall, the shell would be slid in place and secured to the frame on top, back at the wall with screws down into the wall cleat. Again, to bolster up the shelf.

    Even with all the strengthening, I'm still worried that the oversized shelves will not hold up to the weight of the kitchen related items (plates, bowls, etc.) that the tenants will be tempted to place on them. Am I worrying for nothing and my "engineering" is fine for the project? Or is my hunch that there is really no way to use true floating shelves in the kitchen correct?

    I have a suspension option using 2 lengths of threaded rod under lengths of copper tubing in mind, but I'm not sure the couple would go for it. When the husband first told me the dimensions I replied that such a thing would be too weak for use in the kitchen and that these pieces would be at least twice as big as any floating shelves I've seen. His response? "But we've seen pictures of them being used in the kitchen."

    Any help or advice here would be greatly appreciated!
    Billy B.

    "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    I am very little help, however McFeeley's will have your screws. I have never been able to break a McFeeley screw and my tremendously stronger son has not broken one either. If I was the one doing that shelf I would not use anything except McFeeley. There are probably other makes of screws as strong; I just don't know about them. No, I do NOT have any financial or other connection to McFeeley other than they get my money occasionally. or Phone 1-800-443-7937

    I wish you luck and a wonderful end to this story.

    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    SE Minnesota
    For shelves that deep I would be concerned about just screwing your frame to the wall. I think it would be a good idea to consider inserting metal rods deep into holes in the studs, too. Run those rods out to the front of the frame.

    McFeeley's may not be a viable source right now. There has been a bunch of talk on at least one other forum where folks who used them regularly haven't been able to get orders filled or even useful contact with anyone there.
    Irony: The opposite of Wrinkly

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    San Antonio, Texas
    Thanks, guys! I love McFeely's screws! But I haven't ordered any in a while. So I've done some more research and people ARE doing this successfully... though I don't have any lengths of time for the success rate. And by and large they are using one of two methods.

    The first is to remove the sheetrock from over the stud so that a piece of 1/4"x1 1/4"x16" steel bent to 90 degrees at the middle will bolt to it with lag bolts. That is then covered with the necessary materials so that it blends in and then bolted to a recess in the torsion frame part of the shelf so that the bottom is flush. Then the shell is slid over and mounted like you would any smaller floating shelf. This takes more work, but seems the most efficient to me since the torsion frame can also be screwed to the studs adding strength.

    The other way is more akin to what Dave said above. Only they use 5/8" lag bolts long enough to screw into the wall studs 3" and protrude no less than 8" into the torsion frame where it is secured with epoxy. With this method the torsion box and shell can be mounted as one piece, but again I think doing it separately would allow for greater strength by also screwing the frame to the wall.

    So at least now I know what to tell the couple... along with one more thing. I will build the shelves for them, and tell them how they can mount them, but I will in no way hang them myself. I stand behind my work, but I am not licensed and bonded for construction, or home improvement work and cannot afford the liability issues. But truth be told, I'm contemplating bailing on the project altogether.
    Billy B.

    "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    I'm a fan of the remove-the-sheetrock theory because you at least have a solid foundation you're building up from. The other idea is probably ok as well but the drywall under it kind of gives me the heebies because you don't have any (useful) leverage against it.

    Your liability concerns seem well founded as well.

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