How to Stabilize Your Leaning Bookshelf


How to Stabilize Your Leaning Bookshelf

At some point, every reader has a bookshelf that gets wobbly or starts leaning. If this is happening to your bookshelf right now, you’re probably wondering if there is any way to fix it. How do you stabilize a leaning bookshelf? 

Depending on what you mean by leaning bookshelf, the solution is different. For bookshelves labeled “leaning bookshelves” you need to secure it against a wall or another stable surface. For a bookshelf that’s just wobbly, you could add a furring strip to the back, or secure it to the wall as well.

If you’ve got a wobbly bookshelf that has started leaning, and you want to know what you can do about it, you’ve come to the right place. In the following sections, we’ll break down steps you can take to secure and stabilize your bookshelf. We will provide you with multiple options so you can pick the one that makes the most sense for your bookshelf. 

A Leaning Bookshelf vs a “Leaning Bookshelf” 

There are probably two types of people who’ve found their way to this page. Those who have a bookshelf that is leaning and wobbly, and those who have a “leaning bookshelf.” Confused? Don’t worry, we’ll explain. 

A bookshelf that is leaning and wobbly could be any type, size, or shape. It’s just not supposed to lean and is anyway. A leaning bookshelf, on the other hand, is a type of bookshelf that gets propped against a wall (sometimes it has it’s own back too) kind of like a mini staircase. 

Since we want everyone to be able to get their bookshelf up and running, we will address how to stabilize both. Below we will first start with the actual type of bookshelf called a leaning bookshelf, then we’ll move on to the more common problem of a regular bookshelf that leans or wobbles.

How Do You Stabilize a “Leaning Bookshelf”

The first type of bookshelf we’re going to discuss is actually called a “leaning bookshelf.” It’s important to note these are also sometimes called “ladder bookshelves.” That said, the category of ladder bookshelves also includes some that go straight up and down. If that’s the type you have, the sections on a normal wobbly, leaning bookshelf will be of more help to you. 

Leaning Ladder Bookshelf
Leaning Ladder Bookshelf

To actually stabilize the bookshelf, your best bet is to secure it to the wall. Leaning bookshelves are perfect for this because they already have to lean against a wall anyway. It’s not like other bookshelves where it can sometimes be hard to even get them flush with the wall because of their trim.  

There are a couple of ways you can go about doing this. You could attach L-brackets to the ends of the bookcase that touch the wall, or for a more discrete option, you could simply use screws. 

Whichever you decide to use, make sure that you line the bookshelf up with the studs in your wall first and account for the angle at which the bookshelf makes contact with the wall. It’s good to set everything up the way you want it, and then make marks for where your screws or L-brackets will go. 

Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Fixing a Leaning Bookshelf 

There are a number of reasons why a leaning bookshelf is a problem, ranging from aesthetics to safety. However, because of the nature of these reasons, it’s also important that you address the problem swiftly. 

Below we’ve laid out the four biggest reasons you should fix your bookshelf as soon as possible: 

  • Aesthetics: Books aren’t just fun to read, their colorful covers make beautiful decorations. Their spines alone can look really appealing sitting on your bookshelf. Therefore, you should want them to be on a bookshelf that matches their level of style and sophistication. A leaning bookshelf kind of ruins the aesthetic. 
  • Safety: A leaning bookshelf can present a real hazard once it starts getting piled up with books. This is especially true if your bookshelf is made from a heavier wood like hickory. If you have children, there is a risk they could accidentally knock it over on themselves. That alone makes it worth addressing quickly. 
  • Longevity of the shelf and books: Bookshelves are meant to stand up straight. When they don’t pressure is put in areas where it wasn’t designed to be. This can wear down everything from the shelves to the actual body of the bookshelf itself. Of course, if the shelf eventually falls down, so do all of those beautiful books you collected.
  • In case of emergency: If you live in an area with frequent earthquakes or tornados, stabilizing your furniture is a must. It will keep you safe in the event of an emergency and reduce the amount of cleanup you’ll inevitably have to do after everything passes. It’s a win-win. 

If you address your leaning bookshelf right now it will look better, last longer, and be far safer than if you wait. Fortunately, there are several ways of doing this and they’re all relatively easy. Some of them will take you less than five minutes, but that five minutes could make years’ worth of difference. 

How Do You Stop a Bookshelf From Leaning?

Before you try to stabilize your bookshelf using any of the methods we’ve offered here, make sure that you clear it of anything you might have on it. It will give you a better assessment of which way it’s leaning and why it’s leaning, plus you won’t risk any damage to yourself or the books if it falls over while you’re working on it. 

Once you’ve got all the books off, you’ll be wondering how exactly you’re supposed to stop a bookshelf from leaning. Do you need certain tools and supplies, or can you do it with things you have laying around the house? 

Below we address each of these questions and layout four different methods you can use to stop your bookshelf from leaning today:  

Fixing a Leaning Bookshelf With a Furring Strip 

A furring strip is a long thin piece of wood you can use to brace your bookshelf. They usually run from a dollar to a few dollars at your local home improvement store. They’re certainly not anything that is going to break your bank. They come anywhere from a few inches long to multiple feet. Obviously, you’re going to want one on the longer end, or two to join together.   

Basically, you lay the furring strip longways, down the center of the bookshelf, on the back. Get a strip long enough to go down the entire shelf. 

Once you’re sure the furring strip is perfectly parallel with the straight edges of the bookshelf, add screws (the size screw will depend on your individual bookshelf) every 8 to 10 inches. 

After the furring strip is securely in place, you should be able to lift the bookshelf back up and have it stand straight without wobbling. If you want a little bit more security, feel free to also add some small metal brackets to the back corners on the base of the bookshelf. 

Fixing a Leaning Bookshelf With Your Wall

What better support is there than a wall? I mean, if your wall starts leaning, you’ve got bigger fish to fry than a little bookshelf. It should be perfect. 

All you need to do is pick up a pack or two of furniture wall anchors. These are little metal anchors that hold the furniture to the wall in the event of an earthquake. 

The following two methods will also involve attaching your bookshelf to the wall, however, they will focus on how you do it with things you probably already have laying around your house like screws and metal brackets. 

Fixing a Leaning Bookshelf with Brackets

Metal brackets are one of the most common home remedies to stabilize your bookshelf against a wall. They worked on the “leaning bookshelf,” and they’ll work here as well. The nice thing about them too is that they’re so small they won’t draw any attention to the fact that you’ve added to the bookshelf. It will still look as it did–albeit straighter. 

Heavy-duty L brackets will work perfectly for this. Just place one side against the wall–where the studs are of course–and the other side against the back or side of the bookshelf. Screw them in place with heavy-duty screws of an appropriate length for the material your bookshelf is made from. 

Now your bookshelf should not only stand up straight but be impervious to most minor earthquakes as well. 

Fixing a Leaning Bookshelf With Screws

If you don’t have L brackets hanging around your house, you can just as easily attach your bookshelf to the wall using ordinary, heavy-duty screws, about 3 inches in length.

Start by finding the studs in your wall. Once you’ve found them, measure out where you want the screws to be, both on your shelf and the wall. It’s then you can place the bookshelf appropriately and carefully put in screws near the top, middle and bottom. We would recommend two screws per section, if you have a tall bookshelf.

Unlike L-brackets and furniture anchors/straps, screws really blend in. Most people probably won’t even know your bookshelf is attached to the wall. 

How Do You Balance a Bookshelf? 

Problems rarely come alone. Oftentimes if your bookshelf is leaning it’s also wobbling and out of balance. So, how exactly do you balance a bookshelf that’s a little shaky? 

Balance a Bookshelf
Balance a Bookshelf

Balancing a bookshelf simply requires that you add more support to the structure and weight to the bottom. If you want to prevent your bookshelf from wobbling in the first place, avoid adding a lot of weight to the top and instead concentrate it at the bottom.

Just like with the leaning, there are multiple ways to fix a bookshelf that’s also wobbling. Some of the methods you used like adding a furring strip or attaching the bookshelf to the wall/floor can double as a fix for the wobbling. Still, there are other steps you can take for more stability.   

Ways to Stabilize a Wobbly Bookshelf

If your bookshelf no longer leans to the side, but it still wobbles when you touch it, you’ll want to either choose a different fix that addresses both problems simultaneously, or add just a little bit more to what you’ve already done so there are no more issues. This is why preventing your bookshelf from wobbling often goes hand-in-hand with fixing its leaning problem. 

Below we’ve outlined three ways you can not only stop your bookshelf from leaning, but from wobbling as well: 

Fixing a Wobbly Bookshelf With Bottom Counter Weight 

The simplest solution to a wobbly bookshelf is to add a lot of weight to the bottom shelves and use the top shelves for lighter books like paperbacks. 

The number one reason why a bookshelf will start wobbling (assuming it didn’t out of the box, which many do) is that there is too much weight on top and not enough at the base. 

Essentially, all you need to do is add those books and things that are heavy to the bottom shelf and put everything light on the top. If you have heavy hardcover books like cookbooks and coffee table books, they can make a great counterweight. 

If just your heavy books alone don’t seem to be enough weight at the bottom to keep things steady, two heavy paperweights on each side of the shelf may be able to help.

Fixing a Wobbly Bookshelf With Your Wall 

This method is most highly recommended if your bookshelf is wobbly frontwards and backward instead of side to side. That is particularly dangerous because it’s far more likely to accidentally fall on someone if it falls forward. 

That said, this approach will still work even if your bookshelf is wobbling side to side instead. 

Like you did for the leaning problem, you simply want to anchor your bookshelf to the wall so it has that stability. You can do this using any of the three approaches we outlined in the section on leaning. Just a reminder, those include furniture anchors, L brackets, and screws. 

Fixing a Wobbly Bookshelf With Furniture Straps

If all this talk of drilling holes in your walls has you a little nervous you might make a grievous error that leaves a nasty hole in your wall, fear not. A great alternative that will certainly give your bookshelf more stability is adhesive furniture straps. 

Like with furniture anchors, one end is placed on the bookshelf itself while the other attaches to the wall. They use an extremely powerful adhesive that can easily hold the weight of the bookshelf for a long time. 

For more security, there are also some furniture straps that you can drill into place. If you’re trying to avoid having to put holes in your bookshelf or your wall, this may not be for you. However, if you don’t mind as long as it is done in an elegant way, you will have more a stabile and secure bookshelf. 

Other Things to Watch Out For With Your Bookshelf 

While leaning and wobbling are two of the most common problems people have with their bookshelves, they aren’t the only problems. Once you’ve fixed your bookshelves stability problem, here are five other things you can look for that might spell trouble if they aren’t fixed:

  • Warping of the shelves: While your bookshelf was leaning, there’s a good chance excess pressure was put on the shelves. Watch out if you notice they’re beginning to sag or warp, as they can collapse suddenly, without warning. If you do have a shelf like this you should remove everything from it immediately, and consider trying to replace it. 
  • Damage legs: If your bookshelf sits up on small stands or legs, there is a chance it is leaning and wobbling because the rubber piece that contacts the floor has broken off one of the legs. Always check to make sure they are in proper order. 
  • Discoloration: If the wood on your bookshelf is discolored, that’s a sign that some type of internal damage is going on; most likely water damage.  As the integrity of the wood degrades, this can cause a leaning or sagging effect overall. If this is the case, sadly your best bet is just to replace the shelf and search for the source of the damage. 

As you attach brackets, braces, or screws to stabilize your bookshelf, make sure and look for any of these other problems that might exist. If you’re always vigilant, you can easily double the lifespan of your bookshelf. 

So Really, How Do You Stabilize a Leaning Bookshelf?

Stabilizing your leaning bookshelf really just requires that you add some type of support to the overall structure. 

Whether that support is a long furring strip on the back, brackets/screws attached to the wall, or just plain old furniture anchors, it should keep your bookshelf nice and straight from now on.

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