It is easy to assume that DIY shouldn't be too hard. From property shows to instructional YouTube videos, it looks doable almost by definition, and putting up a shelf is at the more elementary end.

But DIY disasters are common for a reason, and that reason is over-confidence. New research from Checkatrade suggests that DIY failures cost the average person more than €200 a year, and that nearly a quarter of DIYers have left tasks unfinished.

A shelf is no IKEA wardrobe (not that they are always easy either), and even simple tasks can quickly devolve into damaged walls and sore thumbs. Here's how to put up a shelf while ensuring your house, and your person, remain intact...

You will need...

1 x tape measure

1 x spirit level

1 x cable and pipe detector

1 x electric drill with wood and masonry bits

Plastic wall plugs

1 x hammer


1 x saw

1 x screwdriver

1 x pencil

Be prepared...

First of all, you will need to choose the material for your shelf. Softwoods like pine are easy to work with, attractive and not too expensive, but with a few adjustments you can also use plywood or chipboard.

Second, choose your spot on the wall. Barging into the brickwork without checking what's behind it can lead to cut cables and spurting pipework, so always carefully scan your surface with a cable and pipe detector.

To ensure your shelf will not tumble at the first touch of a paperback, you need it to be securely fixed, and for that it's important to know what kind of wall you are dealing with and choose the correct drill bits.

If it is a masonry wall (brick or concrete) it will be strong, but harder to drill into. If it is a stud wall (plaster board nailed onto a timber frame) then it will take less weight and you need to attach your shelf to the timber studs (not to the hollow areas between the timbers) unless both the shelf and its load are very light indeed.

How to put up your shelf...

1. Hold your shelf against the wall and - using a spirit level to ensure it is flat - mark its position.

2. Hold up your brackets and mark with a pencil the top of the brackets (on which the shelf will sit) and the screw holes in the brackets.

3. Drill the holes in the wall for the first bracket. If you are putting your shelf up on a masonry wall, these holes will take wall plugs to hold the screws in place. If you are screwing into timber studs, you should not need wall plugs if you drill only thin pilot holes and use long enough screws to firmly grip the timber. Take care to choose the right size drill bit for your wall plug (or screw). To know how far to drill into the wall, mark your drill bit with a piece of tape to show the length of your wall plug (or screw).

4. If using them, tap the wall plugs into the holes gently with a hammer so they sit flush with the wall.

5. Screw the first bracket loosely to the wall. Check the position of the second bracket by holding up the shelf and the spirit level, before drilling those holes and tapping in the plugs.

6. Screw both brackets securely to the wall.

7. Drill pilot holes in your shelf ensuring you do not go all the way through it (you can use a tape marker for this as well), then screw the shelf to the brackets.

8. Fill your shelf!