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Get the Hang of Organization by Installing Custom Shelves

April 04, 1998|From Associated Press

Shelves can work wonders to increase storage space.

A shelf system should be practical. The shape will depend on where you want to place it and what you want to put on it. With practicality in mind, let your imagination go to work. Sketch some rough designs in their room settings.

Plan your shelf depth--the front-to-back measurement--to fit the largest objects you'll want to hold: books, photo albums, stereo gear, toys or whatever, especially oversize items such as TV sets.

Well-designed shelves shouldn't sag, so plan their length to support the heaviest objects you're likely to set on them without causing a noticeable dip.

Using books as a standard, follow this rule of thumb: If three-quarter-inch thick wood shelves are 10 to 12 inches deep, they should span no more than 32 inches between supports. (This is a conservative average span for a variety of wood species and for plywood). Even if you use stronger boards, such as three-quarter-inch oak or maple, it's best to limit span to 32 inches.

You can design shelves that are longer and stronger in three ways: Use thicker wood, reinforce three-quarter-inch shelves with 1-by-2 strips glued and nailed to their front and back edges, or nail the shelves to a back.

It's a good idea to use three-quarter-inch wood boards because standard 1-by-8s, 1-by-10s and 1-by-12s are all three-quarter-inches thick. Three-quarter-inch boards are strong, easy to work with and readily available. With a wide range of wood types, choose one that fits your budget and decorating needs.

Three-quarter-inch plywood is also a popular choice for shelving. It's widely available and comes in a variety of wood veneer finishes--from the frankly utilitarian to the smooth and paintable to fancy hardwoods. You can have it cut to any shelf width and you can finish the edges with veneer tape to hide the plys.

Build a free-standing shelf system as tall as you like. The taller it is, the more prone it will be to tipping. Unless it has a wide, stable base, a shelf system more than 3 feet tall should be screwed to the wall studs. Remove the screws to move the unit.

With the dimensions of your projected shelf system in mind, consider how you would like it to look. Do you plan to paint the shelves?

Here is another shelving idea:

* Hang shelves with rope from hooks attached to joists in the ceiling or studs in the wall. Drill pairs of holes at the ends of the boards and at all support points, 1 inch from the edges. Knot the end of a length of rope for each hole and slip a washer onto it. Then feed the ropes up through the holes in the bottom shelf and knot them again on top. Measure up for the next shelf and repeat the process. Be sure when you hang the shelves that the ropes are firmly anchored.

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