How Much Weight Can a Floating Shelf Hold?

Floating shelves have become a staple in any home today. It seems like you can not watch an HGTV show that doesn’t have at least one floating shelf within the household. They are a simple, yet sophisticated addition that adds that extra flair to any home. But when looking at a floating shelf, you may be asking yourself “how much weight can that shelf hold?”.

How much weight can a floating shelf hold? A standard floating shelf can support approximately 30 to 75 pounds depending on a few factors like the material the shelf is made of, how many studs will be used, and how deep the shelf will be. Some floating shelves have been know to hold over 300 pounds if built correctly.

Below we will detail the exact factors that must be accounted for to know how much weight your floating shelf will be able to handle.

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What Will the Shelf Be Holding?

This might seem like the most obvious question when thinking about how much weight your floating shelf can hold, but it does require some thought. What will the floating shelf be holding? How much will these objects weigh? How will these objects affect the dimensions needed for the shelf? These questions alone will determine what type of wood is needed, how big the shelf will be, how deep the shelf will need to be, and how many rods and studs will be required. Like Henry Kissinger said “If you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere”.

Knock on Wood!

The type of wood is also a factor to determining how much weight the shelf will hold. There are several woods that are typically used when creating floating shelves and based on the wood type determines how much weight the shelf will be able to support. A few wood types you can choose, but are not limited to:

  • Pine
  • Walnut
  • Plywood
  • Mahogany
  • Cherry
  • MDF (Medium-density fiberboard)

Pine wood is probably the most popular wood in North America. It’s almost the staple wood for wood types, like cheeseburgers are for food for Americans. Pine is a softer wood that is affordable and can be found in home improvement stores typically in a variety of sizes. This makes it easy to pick up for a last second home project. Pine is also very easy to paint or stain. Usually you will need to do one or the other to get the exact look you are going for. One other thing to note, Pine is a softwood, which means it will not be able to support things that are too heavy. So Pine would be a great option if you are looking for something affordable and won’t need to support too much weight.

Walnut is a hardwood unlike the Pine we just discussed. This wood is a statement piece of wood! The best thing about Walnut is you typically won’t need to stain or treat it because it already has such a classical look to it. The downfall of this wood is it’s not as easy to find in the store and is more expensive than other types. Walnut is a great option if we need to hold objects that are heavier and we want that pristine look. We just need to be prepared to spend a little more money.

Plywood is another option we can look at for a floating shelf. This is a manufactured wood and is available in different grades, so we can try and get the exact smoothness and appearance we want our shelves to have. Along with those benefits it’s also fairly inexpensive compared to the other kinds of wood. If we are going to hold objects that are heavy, we may need to go the route of furniture grade plywood. If the objects are light, we could look at the cheaper grades.

Mahogany is the most elegant of all the woods. When you hear the word Mahogany, all you think of is a billionaires home office or library. This is another type of hardwood that is not easy to find at any home improvement store. This type of wood is usually not the kind the beginner would use. If you are a rookie, I would stay away from this pricey and elegant piece of wood.

Cherry is another kind of hardwood, but unlike the other hardwoods it is very lightweight. If you are looking for a rich, warm and reddish colored wood, then Cherry may be the way to go. Great option if you are looking for a stronger wood with that distinct cherry finish to it.

Medium-density fiberboard, most commonly referred to as MDF, is another option for a great wood to use for floating shelves. This wood is a combination of a soft and a hardwood so we get the best of both worlds. The soft and hardwood is bound with resin which makes this wood more dense than plywood. The only downfall of this wood is that it lacks in being moisture resistant, so make sure this is only for indoor shelving.

Stud Finder Alert!

Almost every floating shelf will need to be attached to studs, unless we are holding materials that are extremely light, less than 10 pounds. Anything with weight that we put on our walls will require the use of studs. The last thing we want is something falling and breaking or hurting anyone. If studs are not being properly used, then that is a real possibility and we could be looking at some damage to the wall, shelves, and objects it was holding. The more studs we utilize, the more weight the shelf will be able to hold. In order to find these studs it helps having a handy dandy stud finder! Before we hang the shelf up, let’s make sure we have enough studs attached to hold the appropriate weight. We can never use too many studs! It’s all about that STUD LIFE!

Deeper Isn’t Always Better…

One of the first things we need to determine is the dimensions that the shelf will require. This will have a direct impact on how much weight the shelf can hold. The deeper the shelf, the less weight it can support. If we have no choice but to build a deep shelf then we may need to look at buying a stronger floating bracket. These brackets are crucial when we do not make the standard 12″ deep floating shelf.

I Have a Fever, and the Only Prescription is More Rods!

Not more cowbell?!?! Nope, we are talking about rods! Every floating shelf will need a minimum of 2 rods in the back of the shelf. One of these rods has to be attached directly into a stud. The amount of rods we have and the amount of rods in studs has a direct correlation on the amount of weight we can add to the shelf. More rods, more studs, more weight! If you find yourself needing more rods to add more additional weight you can get some more here. Now we can see why the doctor prescribed rods over cowbell!


After reading through this article we can see that a floating shelf can hold a variety of weights. To answer the exact weight they can support though, required answering many questions about how the shelf was built. The questions we need to ask ourselves are:

  1. How much weight will the shelf need to hold?
  2. What will the dimensions of the shelf need to be?
  3. What type of wood will the shelf be made out of?
  4. How many screws will be in a stud?
  5. How many rods will be used in the shelf?

After determining all of the questions above we can make a conclusion on how much weight the floating shelf will be able to support.

Related Questions:

Are floating shelves strong? Yes, but there are many factors in deciding how strong the shelf is. If built incorrectly, then a floating shelf may be weak and not handle the weight it needs to.

Can floating shelves hold books? Yes, as long as the shelf has been hung the correct way. This requires using the correct number of rods and studs in the wall.

How deep should a floating shelf be? 12″ is the standard, but it all depends on what the shelf will be supporting. This is a custom feature to any floating shelf.

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