Are Ladder Bookcases Safe? (Find Out Here)


Are Ladder Bookcases Safe

Not everyone has room for a big, bulky bookcase. They also have a hard time fitting into a simpler, more modern aesthetic which is where the lightweight ladder bookcase comes in. It’s sleek, lightweight, and has a small angle to it that gives it a lot of storage space in a small area. As with any piece of furniture however, some are concerned about the safety of the piece.

Ladder bookcases are safe up to their weight limit. However, due to the fact they are typically lightweight and at least 3ft tall, it is strongly recommended to secure them to the wall in order to prevent tipping and injury.

While they aren’t great for a lot of very heavy objects, a ladder bookcase tends to be a unique and attractive storage option due to having a wider base than top. However, like most tall pieces of furniture, they do run the risk of tipping. Keep reading to find out more about ladder bookcases and how to keep them safe and secure.

What is a Ladder Bookcase?

A ladder bookcase is a set of shelves meant to hold books and other, typically heavier objects that takes on a ladder-like appearance with the top shelves being thin and gradually expanding to larger shelves. They are typically small, lightweight, and very chic additions to a space.

Regardless of style, a ladder bookcase tends to be lightweight and attractive in nearly every space, including those that are much tighter than a normal shelf would allow. They are also typically budget friendly to both purchase and to build, requiring few materials to achieve the look. 

However, due to their light weight and height, it is recommended to secure the bookcases to the wall as it is with any similar piece of furniture. Depending on how the bookcase is secured, it can still be easily undone and moved at a later time so there isn’t much of a reason to not secure it. 

Types of Ladder Bookcases

There are two different types of ladder bookcases, both with their own unique look and individual concerns. Which one is better is up to personal preference, especially if they have been built and properly secured.

They come in various materials and aesthetic looks, but they are either one of these two types:

Freestanding

Freestanding ladder bookcases are able to support their own weight by having vertical supports, typically on the back corners of the piece. They take on a triangular look and have increased stability. Even so, they are capable of sitting flush against the wall and can be secured. Due to the stability of the bookcase, it isn’t quite as imperative to secure it and is also better for heavier books and other stored objects.

Freestanding ladder bookcases
Freestanding Ladder Bookcases

Unfortunately, these bookcases tend to be a little harder on the budget and can be difficult to find a style that works with more rustic looks. Some of them also could use an additional diagonal support to keep them from wobbling.

Leaning

A leaning ladder bookcase really looks more like a ladder than its freestanding counterparts. There are no vertical supports and thus the shelf must lean against the wall for support. Anything stored on the shelves also help keep the bookcase more securely in place.

Leaning Ladder Bookcase
Leaning Ladder Bookcase

However, they pose a greater risk of falling than many other bookcase styles, so it is strongly advised to both secure the shelf and keep it out of heavy-traffic areas. Definitely secure this style regardless of height just to ensure total safety of the piece and those around it.

Regardless of the style chosen, any shelf of at least 3ft tall should be secured to the wall. This is true with all pieces of furniture, not just a ladder bookcase.

Why Should a Ladder Bookcase be Secured to the Wall?

Any home with elders, pets, or children in it should have their bookcases secured to prevent hazards. Securing a shelf to the wall helps ensure that it will not tip over accidentally by a nudge, pull, or heavy step nearby. Ladder bookcases in particular tend to be very lightweight and run the risk of tipping and causing damage to their contents and injuring nearby people should they fall. 

They might not be at quite as much of a risk as taller, skinnier pieces but it is still advised to secure any shelf to the wall just for additional safety. In fact, it’s recommended to secure any piece of furniture that is at least 3ft tall in order to prevent tipping and other hazards.

Besides, when securing a shelf to the wall it helps show insurance and other important forces that the effort went into it in order to make it as safe as possible. Some companies won’t ensure the pieces on it if the shelf was not secured. It also helps prevent liabilities from legal teams and repercussions to the owner as everything was put into place to prevent it falling and injuring someone.

Additionally, in areas with frequent heavy storms or earthquakes, securing the bookshelf ensures that the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down when the weather is already at its worst.

How to Tell if a Ladder Bookcase is Unsafe

While a ladder bookcase is a very sleek option for storing books, knickknacks, and various other, often heavy supplies, they can run the risk of being unsafe under certain circumstances. This is due to the fact they are lightweight and are typically taller pieces.

Some ways to tell if the ladder bookcase is unsafe include:

  • If the bookcase wobbles
  • It leans away from the wall
  • The shelves have a bow to them
  • It is at least 3ft tall
  • Elderly persons, children, or pets frequent the room it is in

Fortunately, these issues can be solved by removing the additional weight, replacing the shelves if necessary, ensuring the piece is on a flat surface, and securing the shelf to the wall. Additionally, it runs a greater risk of being a hazard if it is in a room where the elderly, children, or pets frequent and should be secured. This is also true if the area itself is frequented by severe storms or earthquakes.

How do You Secure a Ladder Bookcase?

Securing a ladder bookcase to the wall is extremely simple. It takes only a few minutes to do and only takes a few supplies to accomplish it. Before beginning, keep a few things in mind:

  • Make all marks with pencil so it can be erased
  • Drilling into studs is going to be much safer than drilling into drywall, even with anchors
  • Any piece of furniture 3ft or taller is recommended to be secured
  • Clear off the shelves of the bookcase before moving and securing it
  • Clean off any dust produced from drilling and securing
  • Mount to clean surfaces
  • Get help moving heavier pieces

Be sure to drill directly into the wood of the bookcase, whether that be on the sides or the shelves themselves. Adding in some pilot holes before securing the screws will help from splitting the wood as well. If it is a piece with other materials, using straps secured around the supports or selecting options that do not need to be screwed in are all viable methods.

Securing the Ladder Bookcase to a Wall

If the area is one where it’s appropriate to screw into the wall such as a home office with regular drywall, use this method to secure the bookcase to the wall.

  1. Clear off the bookcase
  2. Locate the studs with a stud finder
  3. Mark the studs with a pencil
  4. Draw a line between them using a yardstick or other straight edge at the height of the bookcase
    1. Use a level if it is to be mounted off the floor
  5. Position the empty shelf over two studs, one as close to each corner as possible
    1. If it is not possible, position the shelf with the center over the stud
  6. Secure with wall brackets or straps

Mounting brackets and straps are easily found at home improvement stores. If needed, they can also have drywall anchors to help add additional security outside of a stud. However, this method is not as secure as mounting directly into the stud and risks eventual falling out and damage to the drywall.

Securing the Ladder Bookcase without Screws

There are times where it is not feasible to put holes into the wall, such as in a rental. There are thankfully still options for securing a shelf to the wall using other options that will not damage the wall.

  1. Velcro Straps
  2. Moldable Glue
  3. Mounting Tape
  4. Command Strips

Remember that most of these options are not intended to hold more than a handful of pounds at a time. Be sure to find an option that has an appropriate rating to suit the intended use of the ladder bookcase. Additionally, make sure that both the wall and the location on the bookcase is clean before attempting to mount it.

Securing the Ladder Bookcase to Brick, Stone, or Cement

Securing the shelf to the wall might seem like an impossible task if it’s made out of brick, stone, or cement. However, there are still viable methods and simple tools that can get the job done quickly, safely, and securely.

  1. Find a brick clamp for recessed brick or stone where the grout is further back and provides a small ledge.
    1. These clamps come with hooks that can be used for further securing
  2. Self-Tapping Brick Anchors are simple to use and install securely
  3. Use heavy-duty Concrete Block, Concrete Screws, or Masonry Screws
  4. If it’s flat enough, using some of the securing methods without screws works as well

These items can typically be found at a hardware store and are not typically expensive. They do almost always require the use of heavier power tools such as a drill or a very strong arm, however. 

No matter what, securing the ladder bookcase to the wall can help improve its stability and keep the entire piece and those around it safe under all circumstances, including extreme weather.

What to do About a Wobbly Ladder Bookcase

If a ladder bookcase is wobbly, there is a problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A wobbly bookcase is a disaster waiting to happen, and not just to young children.

Here are some things to do about a wobbly ladder bookcase:

  • Remove excess weight
  • Ensure that the bookcase is on level ground and not an angle
  • Secure the shelf to the wall
  • Make sure that all of the parts are securely put together
  • Install carpet shims
  • Add or replace adjustable feet
  • Replace the shelves
  • Add on a backing

Unfortunately, if the bookcase comes wobbly out of the box and it’s on level ground, secured, and theoretically in good shape, it might need to be exchanged. If the shelf is getting old and even repairs are still not enough to stabilize, it might be time to replace the shelf entirely.

Conclusion

Ladder bookcases are sleek, attractive options for small spaces to store books and other heavy objects. They are safe up to the weight limit of the materials; however, it is strongly recommended to secure any shelf that is of at least 3ft, is in a space frequented by the elderly, children, or pets, or is in an area that commonly experiences extreme weather.

A ladder bookcase can be secured to any type of wall with the proper supplies. These supplies are typically very cheaply found at a local hardware store and do not take a lot of time or effort to put into place. The benefits of securing the bookcase are great, ranging from added security to preventing insurance or legal repercussions should something happen to the unit.

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