How To Remove Floating Shelves

How To Remove Floating Shelves

Floating shelves provide a streamlined way to display various items, from books to home decor. But, if you want to remove floating shelves, it can seem a bit confusing; where’s the hardware?

To remove floating shelves, you first need to know how they’re installed. Some floating shelves slide off a French cleat on the wall, while others slide onto a metal rod or bracket. For some, you’ll also need to remove a safety screw holding the shelf in position, then remove the shelf and the mounting system.

Once you know how the shelves are on your wall, it won’t seem as daunting a task to remove them. But take your time and inspect the shelf closely before you start pulling and prying it off the wall.

Steps For Removing Floating Shelves

If you’ve decided to relocate your floating shelves or do away with them entirely, you need to remove them with care. You want to avoid damaging your wall or the shelf as much as possible. Luckily, most floating shelves feature either a French cleat mounting system or a metal bracket, making them reasonably easy to remove.

1. Inspect The Floating Shelf You Want To Remove

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Before yanking the shelf off the wall, take a good look at it. Unless you installed the shelf yourself and remember exactly how you did it, you could break something if you go in blindly.

Brackets And Screws

For example, the most common installation method for floating shelves is a screw and bracket system.

A metal bracket attaches to your wall with screws and features a plate or rods that extend out perpendicularly from the wall. The floating shelf has a space in the back, allowing it to slide onto these rods or plate.

Therefore, there will likely be a small set screw holding the shelf in place. This screw prevents the shelf from sliding out of position or coming off completely.

If you don’t immediately see a screw, look for a plastic cap that likely blends in with the shelf’s surface. This decorative cap is a common way to hide an unsightly but necessary screw. Or, the screw could also be on the underside of the shelf.

A French Cleat

If the shelf does not have a set screw. Gently try to lift the shelf upward. If it moves easily, then it’s likely installed using a French cleat.

A French cleat is a piece of wood molding or metal strip with a 30 or 45-degree angle that angles down toward the wall. The back of the shelf has an identical angle in the opposite direction, so it fits perfectly into the cleat.

The shelf simply sits on the bracket, staying in place thanks to the wonders of counterweight and gravity.

2. Removing A Floating Shelf On Brackets

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If the floating shelf slides onto a bracket, you need to first locate the set screw. You’ll need a flathead screwdriver to pop off the decorative cap if there is one.

Then you can use the screwdriver to remove the screw. You might need a Phillips head screwdriver as well, depending on the screw.

Remember, if you don’t see a screw on the top of the shelf, look on the bottom. Make sure there are no additional set screws; if there are, remove them the same way. If you plan to keep, sell, or donate the shelves, place the screws in a plastic bag and label it accordingly, for example, “Floating Shelf Hardware.”

Place the decorative caps in the bag as well if they’re reusable. In some cases, there could just be stickers hiding the screws, and you’ll need to replace them.

Then, carefully slide the shelf straight out toward you to remove it from the wall bracket. If the back of the shelf seems stuck to the wall, score around it with a utility knife.

If you painted around the shelf or hung it too soon after a paint job, it could be sticking a little. Therefore, be prepared to possibly need to do some touch-ups on your wall.

3. Removing A Floating Shelf On A French Cleat

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If the floating shelf rests on a French cleat, you should just need to lift it up. You can check first for any possible set screws, although people typically don’t use them with a French cleat.

You might still need to score around the shelf with your utility knife if it’s sticking to the paint.

4. Removing The Floating Shelf Mount

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Once the shelf is off, you can use a power screwdriver or hand screwdriver to remove the mounting system. Whether it’s a bracket or French cleat, screws will hold it in place.

After removing the bracket or cleat, you’ll most likely see wall anchors in the holes. Unless you luck out and your shelf lines up perfectly with the wall studs, you’ll need anchors.

If your shelf was hanging on drywall, you should definitely see drywall anchors adding extra support to your shelf. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to grasp the anchor and pull it out of the hole.

5. Patch And Paint The Wall

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Now it’s time to pretend like nothing was ever there. Use spackling to fill the holes and let it dry. Lightly sand the area and paint with the appropriate paint color.

Frequently Asked Questions

I removed the set screw, but my shelf still won’t budge; what gives?

Unfortunately, sometimes homeowners might get a little too ambitious and make their floating shelves extra secure. They add this additional reinforcement by applying glue to the back of the shelf before sliding it into place.

Liquid nails or a similar adhesive will surely add extra reinforcement, but it also makes it more challenging to remove floating shelves. You’ll need to try and use a small hacksaw or something thin to cut behind the shelf. You might even need a small crowbar to help pry it loose.

Of course, you want to be as careful as you can to avoid too much damage. However, if glue is involved, you can count on doing some drywall repair. At the very least, you’ll want to have a piece of artwork or something similar in mind to hang in the same spot.

How much weight can a floating shelf hold?

Typically, floating shelves can handle between 15 and 30 pounds. However, it all depends on the actual shelf and more so on the installation. Usually, larger, deeper shelves can accommodate more weight.

If your mounting system is installed directly into a stud, your shelf can hold significantly more weight. Otherwise, you’ll undoubtedly want to use wall anchors to add extra support.

Some smaller floating shelves are merely for decorative purposes and can only handle about 5 pounds. When you purchase floating shelves, the instructions will typically dictate the weight limit. But, this only applies if you follow the guidelines and install the shelves properly.