Built Cabinets: Avoiding Sagging Shelves

Kitchen Counter & Cupboards with glass doors
What You'll Need
New shelf brackets
Tape measure
Power drill
Carpenter level

Almost without exception, every household uses built cabinets. That is, their cabinets, whether used for books, dishes, or memorabilia, are brought into the house already built, or they are cabinets that are built by the homeowner. Often the user of these cabinets overestimates the strength of the cabinet shelves and eventually realizes the shelves are beginning to sag. What do you do, then? Replace the cabinet? Replace the sagging shelves? Here are four steps you can take to correct a sagging shelf problem.

Step 1 - Determine the Extent of the Sagging

Examine the shelves of your cabinet to determine if only one shelf is sagging, or if it is several. Each situation may call for a different course of action. Are your shelves all supported by brackets? If so, how many brackets are supporting each shelf. If only one shelf is sagging, does the sagging shelf hold heavy objects such as books?

Step 2 - Determine the Course of Action

room with built in bookshelves and large couch

If all shelves in your cabinet seem to be sagging in the center, determine whether all of them are missing a supporting bracket in the center of the shelves. If the shelves are sagging in the center, with no center bracket, chances are your remedy will be to add center brackets. Where a single shelf sags, chances are, it is either missing a center bracket or the center bracket screws may have pulled out of the cabinet wall. Remove sagging shelves and check to see if they are warped from sagging. If they are, measure one of them and make a note of its exact length.

Step 3 - Purchase New Material

Assuming you will need to add shelf support to at least one shelf and that you will want all shelf supports to have the same look, determine the kind and quantity of supports you'll need. If you are adding brackets to those presently supporting your shelf, you'll want to either purchase the same kind of brackets to add to the existing ones, or purchase all new brackets. If you plan to purchase new brackets, be sure their screw holes will match those in your existing brackets. Otherwise, you'll need to patch the old holes that don't match the new brackets. If you need to buy new shelves, try to buy those that are pre-cut to the length you need. Otherwise, you'll have to measure and cut the new ones to size.

Step 4 - Attach Your New Brackets

two white shelf brackets

If you haven't removed all shelves, do it now. You'll need the space to work in. Beginning with the first sagging shelf, use your straightedge and level to mark the place on the cabinet wall where you'll attach your new bracket and make new screw holes. Using your power drill, drill guide holes into the cabinet wall where you will attach your the bracket screws. Sink the screws through the bracket holes and into the cabinet wall, then lay your new shelf on the brackets. Use the same procedure for other shelves that need new brackets. Finally, varnish or paint your new shelves to match the old ones.