The free diy home improvement guide with answers to your questions on a wide range of do it yourself projects.

Putting up an Alcove Shelf

Putting up simple shelves in an alcove between a chimney breast and a return wall is a simple enough DIY project requiring only a few basic skills and tools.

Always wear suitable safety goggles when drilling fixings.

1. Always check that there are no pipes or cables hidden in the wall behind the fixing points. You can use a pipe and cable detector to check this.

Measuring the width of the alcove

2. Mark the required height of the shelf on the back wall of the alcove the measure the width at this point.

Cutting the batten to length

3. Mark this length on a timber batten and cut to length.

Drilling the fixing holes in the batten

4. Drill the batten at intervals with a wood bit of suitable diameter to accommodate the screws to be used.

Countersinking the fixing holes

5. Use a countersink bit to countersink the holes so that your screws will sit flush with the surface of the batten.

Levelling the batten with a spirit level

6. Hold the batten in position against the wall and lay a spirit level on it, then adjust so that it is perfectly level.

Marking the fixings with a bradawl

7. Insert a bradawl in each of the fixing holes and push lightly to mark the wall.

Drilling the wall for fixings

8. Put the batten to one side then drill the wall at these marks using a masonry drill bit. Either use a depth stop on your drill if you have one or wrap masking tape around the drill bit to indentify when the correct depth has been reached. For information on fixing to plasterboard stud walls see our Wall Fixing – Hollow Walls guide

9. Insert suitable wall plugs in the holes and tap them home with a hammer.

Aligning the fixing screws

10. Insert the screws through the batten and align them with the wall plugs.

Tightening the fixing screws

11. Tighten the screws so that the batten is held securely against the wall.

Measuring the depth of the shelf

12. Now measure the depth of the shelf front to back. Subtract 25mm or so and transfer this measurement to a new timber batten.

Cutting a splayed end to the batten

13. Cut the batten square at this mark then splay the corner with a 45 degree cut at the outer end. This will leave a much more pleasing finish that a square cut batten. Lightly smooth off the edges with abrasive paper.

Drilling the batten for fixings

14. Drill the batten towards either end with a suitable drill bit.

Countersinking the fixing holes in the batten

15. Countersink these holes as before to allow the screw heads to sit flush with the surface.

Using a spirit level to align the batten

16. Hold the batten in position using a sprit level to ensure that it is perfectly horizontal.

Marking the fixing points with a bradawl

17. Mark the fixing holes with a bradawl as before and put the batten to one side.

Plugging the fixing points for the batten

18. Drill and plug the fixing holes.

Aligning the fixing screws with the wall plugs

19. Insert the screws in the batten and align them with the plugged holes.

Fastening the fixing screws

20. Secure the screws so that the batten is securely held.

Fastening the batten at the other end wall

21. Repeat the process with a batten on the other return wall.

22. You now need to carefully measure the shelf and cut to length.

Fixing the alcove shelf to the battens

23. Fix the shelf to the timber brackets with suitable screws at either end to prevent the shelf from moving or tipping.

Completed alcove shelf

24. Adding additional shelves in the alcove is simply a matter of repeating the process for as many shelves as are needed.

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