How to Earthquake-Proof Shelving

A living room with bookcases around a window.

If you live in an earthquake prone area, it’s important to take precautions surrounding your home and belongings in case one of these natural disasters strikes. Because the nature of these disasters is so unpredictable, it’s important to have certain precautions in place at all times.

One of these measures is to earthquake-proof shelving within your home to ensure that items don’t fall and break and that shelves don’t completely collapse in the event of an earthquake. Today, we’re walking through just how to earthquake-proof the shelving units in your home so that you have one less thing to worry about during and after a quake!

Common Shelves and Areas to Consider

There are certain areas and types of furniture in your home likely to have shelves you'll need to consider as you’re securing the home.

The Pantry

You’ll want to make sure that you secure the shelves within your pantry so that you don’t end up with a huge mess of cans and dry goods in the aftermath of an earthquake.


Whether it’s a clothing or linen closet or one that stores small appliances, cleaning products, and other home goods, you’ll want to secure these shelves to avoid valuable materials breaking during a natural disaster.


Shelves with books and decor items should definitely be secured to ward off the possibility of a mess after an earthquake. If you forget to secure these, you could lose your bookcase entirely, which will result in an unnecessary expense associated with the cleanup.

Open Shelves

Any open shelving that you’ve hung around your house is particularly vulnerable to damage during an earthquake. Securing those when they’re installed (or afterward) mitigates this risk.

How to Secure Shelving for an Earthquake

Step 1 - Choose Sturdy Shelving

Whenever you’re installing shelves in your home, choose sturdy and heavy materials that can stand up to the test of movement and heavy usage. This is the first step in securing your shelves to persevere through anything that comes their way. Solid wood or heavy-duty metal shelves fall into the “sturdy” category while snap-on plastic shelving units should be avoided.

Step 2 - Secure Shelves to the Wall

Someone using a stud finder on a wall.

Installing your shelves properly is the next step in ensuring they can live through an earthquake. Attach shelves to studs rather than just the drywall to ensure maximum support. For this, you’ll want to take advantage of a stud finder to locate the studs within the wall and then to mount them accordingly. (This same method should be used to secure other pieces of furniture like armoires, bookcases, and hutches to the wall to protect them from falling or attaining damage during an earthquake.)

Step 3 - Don’t Forget the Front

Wire shelving.

The next step, which many people forget, is that the front of your shelves must be secured as well. Failing to do this means that items will be able to bounce off the front of your shelf, negating your efforts in the first place.

Install shelf restraints by adding a 1x2-or-so-inch piece of wood across the front of the wood shelving. This not only ensures that items can’t slide off, but it gives your shelves a stylish and sleek aesthetic.

For shelves in less visible spots, like in your pantry, bungee cords can be used to secure the front of shelves and to prevent breakable items such as glass bottles from falling and breaking. You can also choose a style of shelving with a lip on it for prevention.

Step 4 - Make it a Sticky Situation

The last way to secure items on a shelf, especially with collectibles that are more fragile, is to use “museum putty.” This tacky adhesive is inexpensive to purchase at your local hardware or home supply store, and you use it by adhering a bit of the material to the bottom of an item, and then gently pressing the item onto the shelf. This adhesive prevents items from moving around or falling during an earthquake. The best part of this solution is that it can be easily removed from items and doesn’t leave any residue or marking on your collectibles or shelves.

The act of securing the shelves around your home and the items on them is not hard to do, and it’s well worth the investment for when an earthquake hits. You can never be too prepared for a natural disaster, so start now and you’ll be thankful that you did.