Securing Bookcases

All bookcases should be securely fastened to nearby walls and contents secured.

Materials List

  • Stud finder

  • A drill plus 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch diameter drill bits

  • L or Z brackets or seismic straps

  • If the bracket will be attached to the bookcase: #8 (or larger) wood screws: or #8 (or larger) machine screws with washers and nuts

  • If the bracket may be attached to a wood stud wall: 3-inch long, #8 (or larger) wood screws

  • If the bracket will be attached to a masonry wall: 3-inch long #8 (or larger) screws with plastic anchors, or 3/16-inch diameter (or larger) masonry screws

  • Metal, plastic, or wood ledge barriers

  • Heavy duty Velcro®

  • Museum wax or gel

    Find additional guidance in the IBHS Guide, Earthquake Risks around the U.S. – How to Protect Your Property

How to Secure Bookcase to Wall

Select a location on the bookcase to attach a bracket or seismic strap. Make sure the location is strong enough to resist the significant forces the books will produce.

Attaching brackets or straps to bookcases:

For wooden bookcases:

  • Attach the bracket with #8 (or larger) woodscrews. The screw should be long enough to secure the bracket to the shelf without punching through and creating a sharp edge.

For plastic and metal bookcases:

  • Attach the bracket with #8 (or larger) machine screws with washers and nuts to ensure that the bracket will stay in place. The screw should be long enough to accommodate the bracket, shelf, washer and nut.

Attaching brackets or straps to the walls:

For wood stud walls:

  • Use 3-inch long #8 (or larger) wood screws to attach each bracket to the wall.

  • Locate screws in the wood studs, not just the wall sheathing to assure that they can properly hold the bookcase.

  • Use a stud locator to find the best places.

For stone or masonry walls:

  • Place plastic anchors in the holes before you screw in 3-inch long #8 (or larger) screws or consider using 3/16-inch diameter (or larger) masonry screws.

For a bookcase with a solid back, you can pass screws directly through the back into the wall.

  • Use washers to spread contact over a larger area between the screw and the bookcase. Make sure that the back of the bookcase is securely attached to the shelves.

  • If you are working with a wood stud wall, use a stud locator to find the best locations for the 3-inch long #8 (or larger) wood.

For a stone or masonry wall, use plastic anchors with the #8 (or larger) screws or use 3/16-inch diameter (or larger) masonry screws.

Installing ledge barriers

Cut wood, metal or plastic barrier material strips to fit the shelf and attach them with glue or mechanical fasteners.

  • Use paint or varnish to match barriers to shelves.

Securing items in the bookcase

  • Place heavy items on lower shelves to reduce the tipping effect.

  • Apply museum wax or gel to the bottom of large, heavy items, such as plants and aquariums, and other breakables to keep them from falling. Ensure that the wax or gel makes direct contact with the shelf.

  • For larger items, such as computers and printers, affix heavy duty Velcro® to the bottom to secure these items to the shelves.