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How much weight will a french cleat support?

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Forum topic by opalko posted 03-05-2018 01:31 AM 835 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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opalko

148 posts in 3057 days


03-05-2018 01:31 AM

Topic tags/keywords: french cleats cabinets

I’m looking at making a row of cabinets in my shop, each roughly 30” in height by 24” wide. I plan to use a 5” french cleat to support them running the length of the wall, so I can move or add as necessary.

My question is, will the cleats support the weight of the cabinets, the contents therein, AND possibly items stored on top of the cabinet? I would like to use the 12” between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling as additional storage space for rarely used items like power tools I don’t need often, tool cases, etc. Will a single 5” cleat work for the cabinets, their contents, and items on top of the cabinets?

Cheers


15 replies so far

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Woodknack

11763 posts in 2402 days


#1 posted 03-05-2018 02:36 AM

Simple answer is yes, it’s strong enough. Longer answer is it’s all going to depend on how the cleats are attached to the wall and to the cabinet. The most likely fail point will be where the cleat is attached to the cabinet or the cabinet sides will separate from the cabinet back. If you feel like the cabinets are going to be overloaded, like you are filling them with lead weights, add a ledger strip underneath. Most guys overbuild so if you have that tendency, I wouldn’t worry about it.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Andybb

1012 posts in 625 days


#2 posted 03-05-2018 02:53 AM

+1
I have a few of them. Yes the weak spot is how they attach to the cabinets assuming the cleat attached to the wall is in studs. 5” is probably overkill so you should be fine. I started using ledger strips after my first one sagged due to poor cabinet attachment mainly because I stacked gallon paint cans on top. Use hardwood vs pine or fir for extra strength / rigidity.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

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dseidl

19 posts in 646 days


#3 posted 03-06-2018 02:01 AM

I’ll caveat this – in addition to making sure you hit the studs, you’ll want to make sure you use appropriate length screws. I use heavier duty, longer screws (3” deck screws) to attach my cleats. Mine are made out of a 1×4 split down the middle, and have held up some pretty heavy gear and art. An example for me is a solid > 1” thick 2’x4’ oak board which is a display for my antique lock collection. I have approximately 80 locks of various sizes hanging on it, all attached to a single 36” cleat on my living room wall.

If you are building something really heavy, a second lower cleat wouldn’t be a terrible idea, if only to add another support in case of a failure like Woodknack mentioned.

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CaptainSkully

1600 posts in 3580 days


#4 posted 03-06-2018 02:17 AM

You could also run a square cleat underneath the cabinet after its hung to share the load.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

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clin

849 posts in 1018 days


#5 posted 03-06-2018 04:21 AM

Beware, long post ahead.

I agree with everything said. 5” is much larger than needed. Even much narrower wood is not going to break. However, with a wider cleat you can put in more than one screw per stud. In my case, I made my cleats by ripping plywood into 6” wide strips. Then making an angle cut down the middle of these to create two cleats.

These were plenty wide enough to put in two screws on each stud. I used 3” #10, flat head torx screws. I had the nominal 3/4” plywood cleat, then 5/8” drywall. So that was 1 3/8” leaving me 1 5/8” into the stud. I covered 3 walls with cleats, the torx or star drive is the only way to go on this. No slipping of the driver and you chase the screw in rather than having to push to keep a Philips head from popping out.

I built my wall cabinets with 3/4” plywood backs, mostly because it was easier to just make all the cabinets parts from the same sheet material. I then screwed the mating cleat to this back. Using the longest screws I could use without going through the cleat and through the back of the cabinet.

I used quite a few of these screws staggering them in a zig-zag pattern. Probably about 3” apart.

Most of the force is a shearing force. For example, if you loaded the cabinet and had a total weight of 200 lbs (cabinet and contents), you will of course have this 200 lbs shearing the screws. Note: A lot of this shearing force is actually carried by the friction created by the cleat to the wall, or cleat to the cabinet. But worst case, the screws carry the load.

A single #10 won’t shear with 200 lbs. With pairs of screws on each stud, and 1 1/2 studs per cabinet, you’d have an average of 3 screws per wall cleat per cabinet. Of course the cleat itself spreads the load to other studs, all cabinets won’t be loaded to 200 lbs, and if the cleat extends past the cabinets, that’s a bit more support.

The other force you get is the moment that is trying to rotate the cabinet. This is trying to pull the cabinet out at the top cleat, while pushing the bottom of the cabinet into the wall.

For a 30” tall cabinet, assuming the effective point of the cleat is about 6” from the top (probably will be closer to the top, but 6” make the math easier), you have a net 30 – 6 = 24” from the cleat load point to the bottom of the cabinet. Assuming 200 lbs, centered in the cabinet front-to-back, and a 12” deep cabinet, that 200 lbs creates a moment of 200 lbs 12”/2 1ft/12” = 100 lbs-ft.

This 100 lb-ft moment is offset by the pull at the top and the push at the bottom. Since those points are 24” (2 ft) apart the top is pulling out at 100 lb-ft/2 ft = 50 lbs, and the bottom pushes against the wall at 50 lbs.

50 lbs is insignificant on a cleat attached with several #10 screws. Bottom line, you aren’t going to pull the cleat off the wall, or off the back of the cabinet.

While adding a ledger under the cabinets can potentially add more support, it’s indeterminate, meaning you can’t really make sure the cleat and this ledger share the load. Unless you push the ledger tight to the underside of the cabinet, after hanging it, the cleat will still carry most of the load. If you push this ledger too tight, it may carry most of the weight.

What you get with having the ledger is more of a belt and suspenders approach. If the cleat sags, then the ledger will start carrying more of the weight, or vice versa.

In my case, I did not use a ledger. My cabinets are 36” tall by 30” wide, 16” deep. Boxes from 3/4” ply, doors 3/4” melamine. So they are big, relatively heavy construction. Loaded with normal wall cabinet stuff. Jugs of glue, can’s of this and that. Some tools. But no anvils. No sign of any issue. No creaking or groaning when hanging them or adding stuff to the cabinet.

And with my 9 ft ceiling, mine also have about 1 foot of room to store stuff on top of them.

For reference, I don’t think it would be unusual for a typical wall cabinet to be screwed to a wall with 4 screws. Two high and two low. So a cleat system is likely to have as many or more screws per cabinet. It’s just sort of unnerving to have something that large and heavy not actually screwed down.

-- Clin

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BattleRidge

24 posts in 238 days


#6 posted 03-06-2018 06:03 PM

I have yet to use french cleats but am considering them for some upcoming projects. My plan is to use the french cleat as an easy method to level and attach an item to the wall (thereby eliminating the difficulty of trying to simultaneously hold, align and fasten), then to use additional fasteners to complete securing the wall and item together. Future removal (if necessary) would be an easy task by simply reversing the procedure. Most of my projects involve my wife and I, so anything that makes the task less difficult offers an advantage.

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dday

153 posts in 1451 days


#7 posted 03-06-2018 06:33 PM

I bought some surplus commercial upper cabinets , like you’d see in a break room at an office. They are made from vinyl wrapped particle board/mdf and are HEAVY. Hung them with double french cleats, top and bottom which have 2 screws per stud along the 6 ft length of the cabinets. I put some angle brackets inside the cabinets on each of the eight corners, front and back, just to make sure they don’t deconstruct themselves. Been hanging in the garage and the storage room for 2 years with no issues and all kinds of stuff stored within ( screws, power tools, glue, etc)

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

4793 posts in 3265 days


#8 posted 03-06-2018 07:04 PM


Hung them with double french cleats, top and bottom which have 2 screws per stud along the 6 ft length of the cabinets.


Double cleats is overkill. as Clin mentioned in his post, usually only one cleat will be taking the full load. If for any reason, one cleat starts to slip, the weight will transfer to the other cleat. I guess you might consider this as insurance, but totally unnecessary. in my opinion.

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EvanRyan

5 posts in 103 days


#9 posted 03-06-2018 07:16 PM

Thanks for all the info

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2956 posts in 1502 days


#10 posted 03-06-2018 08:48 PM

Curious why use french cleats anyway?

Is it to move a cabinet arrangement around?

Seems like unnecessary work to me I just screw ‘em into the wall.

For alignment just attach a level support strip to the bottom…...

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View opalko's profile

opalko

148 posts in 3057 days


#11 posted 03-06-2018 09:00 PM

For me it will be easier to hang them using cleats. I suppose I could set each cabinet on a level support strip that I’ve already mounted, hope I hit the studs each time while I am trying to hold the cabinet up while balancing the driver and grabbing screws etc, then remove the level strip and fill in the holes….? I dont think that is less work but maybe if I wasn’t installing them by myself?

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BoardButcherer

144 posts in 116 days


#12 posted 03-06-2018 09:08 PM

Double cleat, however, has the advantage of making it easier to slide things around instead of pulling them down to move them, and you can choose to split the functionality of one cleat or another. I.E. putting a smaller cabinet on the bottom cleat, and an open shelf on the upper.


Curious why use french cleats anyway?

Is it to move a cabinet arrangement around?

Seems like unnecessary work to me I just screw em into the wall.

For alignment just attach a level support strip to the bottom…...

- rwe2156

Move it, remove it, replace it, do whatever. French Cleat is handy in a workshop because if something is in your way, you don’t need an extra set of hands to move it. If you want more cabinets, just knock one together and throw it up. No hassle getting it up there, lining it up straight with the others, etc…

It’s cabinets/shelves without the commitment or the setup hassle. It’s what marriages should be.

View jbay's profile

jbay

2331 posts in 921 days


#13 posted 03-06-2018 09:09 PM



For me it will be easier to hang them using cleats. I suppose I could set each cabinet on a level support strip that I ve already mounted, hope I hit the studs each time while I am trying to hold the cabinet up while balancing the driver and grabbing screws etc, then remove the level strip and fill in the holes….? I dont think that is less work but maybe if I wasn t installing them by myself?

- opalko


You forgot while standing on the ladder…:)

View Lee's profile

Lee

116 posts in 900 days


#14 posted 03-06-2018 11:55 PM


Curious why use french cleats anyway?

Is it to move a cabinet arrangement around?

Seems like unnecessary work to me I just screw em into the wall.

For alignment just attach a level support strip to the bottom…...

- rwe2156

Well, for me its the convenients of putting the cabinet where I want it instead of where a stud is.


-- Colombia Custom Woodworking

View clin's profile

clin

849 posts in 1018 days


#15 posted 03-07-2018 12:14 AM



Curious why use french cleats anyway?

Is it to move a cabinet arrangement around?

Seems like unnecessary work to me I just screw em into the wall.

For alignment just attach a level support strip to the bottom…...

- rwe2156

It really is for flexibility. It’s not all about wall cabinets. I’ve covered my shop walls with cleats. In the roughly 2-years I’ve had these up, I’ve made good use of the flexibility. Simple things like, I want to put the floor standing drill place where a wall cabinet is, simple to slide it over or move it to another wall. Want a towel holder somewhere, just attach to a scrap of wood and screw a cleat on the back. I have a stock of cleat material.

It’s certainly a bit of work to make and install all these cleats. A few days and a few hundred screws. But was much cheaper than the commercial grade slat wall I was considering. Another nice thing about cleats is it is so easy to convert it to something else. Want some pegboard, just attached a cleat to a sheet of pegboard, maybe a frame to hold it off the wall a bit. Boom, you have some pegboard storage.

There’s of course many ways to create storage on shop walls. So a lot has to do with what strikes your fancy.

Here’s a few pics of my walls before the shop was complete. Let’s just say the shop is not presentable at the moment, so no recent pics.

-- Clin

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