The Right Height to Hang Shelves

General Guidelines for The Right Height to Hang Shelves

Since we have painted and upgraded the house a little, I have been very careful with making the right choices for hanging things on my walls.  I did an online search for guidelines for the right height to hang shelves the other day.  In my research I found the eHow gave me the best advice.  I thought it was valuable so I thought I’d pass it on along with my own insights!

General Guidelines I learned:

  1. For hanging shelves above a couch, measure 10” above the back of the couch.
  2. When hanging shelves on a hallway wall, measure up from the floor 5-6 feet.
  3. For hanging shelves on a dining room or living room wall, measure up from the floor 4-4.5 feet.

What You Will Need:

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I started by measuring the width of the wall space and the width of the shelf.  I wanted it centered so I subtracted the shelf width (from the screw holes) from the wall width and divided by 2.  The remainder is the distance between the ends the shelf and the wall. I also measured 4.5 feet from the floor.

how-high-do-you-hang-shelves (1)

With the help of my husband, I had him hold the shelf in place while I used a free level app on my iPhone to make sure the shelf was straight.  This one from Ridgid did the job, but any level app (or level) will do. I used a pencil to mark where the screws should be placed and screwed in the first (bottom) shelf.

download-level-app (2)

download-level-app (1)

For the second shelf, I had in mind what knick knacks I wanted to put on top of it, and decided on placing it 16 inches above the second shelf. At the very minimum, your shelves should be at least 12 inches apart. However there are exceptions, depending on the use. It can range from 8″ to 16″. Again, I used the level to make sure it was straight. It looks a little off in the picture, but I blame that on my picture taking skills. Ha! I promise you, they are straight!

how-high-do-you-hang-shelves (2)

Take-Aways:

  • Download any free level app; it’ll make your project much easier.
  • In my opinion, the general measurement guidelines above were perfect!

Other Suggested Height Guidelines

  • The shelf height above a desk should be 22″ to 24″.
  • A cabinet or shelf above a toilet should be about 2 feet above the tank.
  • Shelves above a kitchen counter should be about 18″ to 23″, with about 15″ in between shelves.

Other Helpful DIY Tips and Tricks

You may also like this YouTube video I made on how to upgrade your switch plates with fabric! I’d love it i you subscribed! Thank you in advance!

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18 Comments

  1. I moved into my new apartment four months ago, and I have yet to hang my shelves. Thanks to these great tips, this just might finally be the weekend that I put them up. I do have one question, though, do you know of a way to secure them without nails?

    1. I have a buffet in my dining room that’s 40 in tall. At what height should I hang a shelf keeping in mind being able to display items on the buffet as well.

  2. Hi, just wanted to let you know that the ehow link you posted actually has different guidelines than what you used. The 4-4.5 ft should be where the *center* of your shelving unit is (including the height of all objects).

    “Hang the shelf on the wall so that the center point of the shelf and objects rests along the center pencil marks [this was the 4.5 ft] and so the top pencil marks rests at the top point of the shelf and the bottom pencil marks rests at the bottom pencil marks. ”

  3. Hi Dinah! Great tips, thanks.

    What height would you recommend hanging a 1900mm shelf above a freestanding bath? I’m worried about the head space and hitting your head when you get out of the bath!

    1. Hi Chris! Is it for function or decor? My initial thought is about 5 feet from the floor (approximately 3 feet above the bath). Also keep in mind the height of the items you will place on the shelf.

  4. Hi Dinah! I know this is an old post but would be great if you could advise on how high I should start my lowest shelf in an open dining. living and kitchen space of a small flat. The small round dining table sits right next to the wall where I’d like to hang the shelves. To clarify, it quite literally is one open space for kitchen, dining and living room, and we do want to hang very long shelves to cover the blank wall (which sits between the end of the kitchen cabinets and the start of the TV console in the living room). Thanks!

      1. I have this same setup large blank kitchen wall we will be having very shelves where the small dining room table is. 2 shelves probably 5-6 feet long. Would I do the lowest shelf still 4-4.5 feet high? Or should I do a certain height above the table?

        1. Hi Meghan! Yes, I would still do 4-4.5 feet, assuming there isn’t a dining chair in the way. In other words, if someone is seated near the shelf, make sure they won’t hit their head.

  5. How serendipitous. I came here looking for advice on hanging the exact same type of shelves you featured in this article. Great read!

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