True story: The first time I ever hung a shelf by myself I was in college. I took some nails, hammered them into the wall, and hung the shelf on them. I adorned said shelf with framed photos of high school friends, prom, family, and a little vase my mom had given me. And the first time anyone shut the door, the whole thing came crashing to the floor, shattering everything.
From then on, I’ve always found a man—my father, a boyfriend, my husband, the Comcast guy—to help me hang shelves. And this really drives me crazy as a modern woman. So, I decided to face my “white whale” and learn how to hang a shelf properly—you know what, it’s embarrassingly easy. All you need is a drill, some screws, and a level or your smartphone.
Step 1: Find a stud (and no, you don’t have to sign up for Match.com). Studs are the (generally) 2 x 4 wood frame on which your drywall is hung. To guarantee your shelf is secure on the wall, you need to sink your screws into the studs. Theoretically, studs are located 16 inches apart if your house is built to code, so to find one, you can measure 16 inches from any corner. Another clue: electrical outlets and light switches are usually secured into them. Or, you can do it the old-school contractor way and knock along the wall—if there’s no stud, the sound will be hollower. Lastly, you can always buy an electronic stud finder at Home Depot or Lowes.
Step 2: Mark your stud. Once you find the stud, indicate where it is by marking it with a pencil. Theoretically, you can find your next stud by measuring 16 inches and confirm with the knock test. Mark that one, too.
Step 3: Use a level to confirm that your two points are, well, level. Using the level as a guide, draw a line on the wall so you know where to place your shelf. If you don’t have a level, here’s where your iPhone come in—and no, it’s not to call in reinforcements. The new iOS7 has a handy-dandy level feature built into the compass app. (If you don’t have an iPhone, you can download one of the many level apps in the Android marketplace.) Using a yardstick or another long flat surface, draw a line between your two nail marks and then use your iPhone for level confirmation.
Step 4: Start screwing. Using a drill, put screws into each of your points. When it’s done, hang your shelf on top. Top with photos, mementos, books or anything else. Then pour yourself a glass of wine and admire your work.