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Need help -- Shelf for 500+ pounds - only studs on three sides, no under support


Old 12-18-13, 07:44 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Maryland
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Need help -- Shelf for 500+ pounds - only studs on three sides, no under support

I want to make my best effort to support a shelf in my family room so that it can hold a fish tank, total weight around 500 pounds. I have one of those wall nooks where someone once thought a TV would go, but is now largely useless. I want to put a fish tank there. The dimensions are 52" wide x 30.5" high x 26" depth. I removed the 1/4" plywood shelf to reveal 2x4 frame screwed (3" screws) to studs on three sides. The 2x4 frame does not have anything supporting it from underneath (in the pics below, that is some cement board about 7/8" down to insulate from the fireplace). There are 2x4 studs running on 3 sides, but obviously not the front side.

The fish tanks dimensions are 48" wide by 13" deep, so basically it will sit across the entirely of the width, but will only go half-way back. Unfortunately I want to place the fish tank towards the front.

MY QUESTION: What is the best way to shore this up so that it will support the 500 pounds of weight? I was planning on using Simpson Strong-Ties to strengthen the framing. I was also going to add some 2x4 cross sections. I would think the point of potential failure though is connecting the frame to the studs. I was planning on using 3/8" lag screws and washers (pre-drill the holes to avoid splitting) everywhere I can to better attach the framing to the existing studs.

Anything else I can do? Everything inside the nook will be obscured when I am done (plan on putting picture molding around the entire thing, with a board for access too). Thanks in advance for any help. I saw a number of people putting heavy weights on floating shelving in their garages and was hopeful that someone here can give me the advice I need.
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Old 12-18-13, 08:32 AM
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Will the mantel stay in place? Is there a way to put in a 2x6 across the front? Basically, I don't see a problem with the framing as it is, as long as it is captured on both sides and the back, but a 2x6 would make it warm and fuzzy. Adding more perlins front to back would help carry the weight and spread it out a little better.
Old 12-18-13, 09:13 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Thanks for the response. Yes, the mantel will still be there, so that would be able to carry some weight.

I wouldn't be able to put a 2x6 across the front without ripping out and reframing the entire thing because there isn't enough room with the current dimensions. Do you think it is necessary to rip out the existing frame and put in a 2x6 frame? Anything else you would suggest?
Old 12-18-13, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
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The total weight of 500# or more is not yhe big thing, but it should be distributed to avois different deflections.

Since you want a low profile, I would have used double 2x4s (nailed and glued) to stiffen up the front of the shelf where problems could occur, but now is a little late. Using 2 screws or nails into the other studs is cheap insurance. Using 3/4" plywood would be good to further stiffness and load distribution.

I have seen problems with tanks that size that are held together with silicone because one weak point that cannot handle the loads will zip open. that tank with sand, water and miscellaneous equipment/hardware will really be over the 500#.

When I set up and used my tanks, a duplex outlet over time was not enough if you want to keep the wire jungle sorted out.

Old 12-18-13, 04:08 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Maryland
Posts: 23
Thanks Concretemasonry for your input. What was your solution for the duplex outlets? I changed the outlet over top GFCI and was going to mount a surge protector strip behind the tank.

Unfortunately the 2x4 frame was already constructed. This is what I found when I took off the 1/4" plywood. My plan is to cover with 3/4" as you suggest. But, is there any benefit on tacking onto and doubling up the 2x4s at this point? Anything else I can do? How many 5/16" lag screws should I put into each 2x4-to-stud?

Thanks again for all your help. I have a lot of hope about this project now.

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