How much weight will french cleats hold?

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Forum topic by AngieO posted 08-23-2012 03:49 AM 21287 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1267 posts in 2115 days

08-23-2012 03:49 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shelf cleat design weight question skeptchup

Goal: To build a cabinet/shelf unit for storage

Question: How much weight can french cleats hold?

I don’t know exactly how I got to this project… but I’m here now and I’m excited about it. Today I started working on some storage units.

You’ll have to understand that my space in the garage is very limited. My husband has had reign over it for quite some time. He is a musician and a computer “nerd”, so that it where he has all his things. Sawdust and electronics/instruments don’t mix well so until I can get something for my tools and such I have the space in front of the garage door where my workbench sits and some folding tables. The idea is that I can just open the garage door and wheel my stuff into the driveway and work there with the garage door shut. Right now I don’t have wheels on my bench so I’ve been dragging my tools out one by one to the side of the garage in the yard.
So today my DH let me take over some more space. It’s some dead space between the garage door and the wall. The door is also there so this space generally may hold the rake and a broom but nothing else.

I decided to make a small lumber storage for my shorter boards. So after 2-3 different ideas I have decided on one that I like. I am going to put french cleats in. The space is about 42” wide and about 12” deep. At the top my DH has some license plates hanging, so the top 1/3 of the wall is used. After getting one set of cleats cut I decided that I’d make two sets and have some storage shelves on the top and the lumber storage on the bottom.

Two factors came into consideration when I cut my cleats. I used some leftover 3/4” plywood I had and it was 36” long so that’s how long my cleats are. Plus… since it’s a small space there are only two studs to work with. So I have my 36” board attached to the wall. The studs are 16” apart and the board is centered around the studs. What I want to build is a box with one shelf in it. I would like one of the shelves to be at least 9” high. The remaining 3/4 plywood I have is 36” x 19.75. So I went into sketchup and created a drawing for what I want to make.

Don’t laugh… but here is a screen capture of if (it’s the only way I know how to show). And don’t laugh at my crude drawing on it. I just used the sniping tool on my pc to freehand that on there. But here is what I plan to make.

I planned on using 3/4” plywood for everything. But I am wondering if I should make the back out of something else.

So back to my question… how much are these cleats going to hold? As I stated… It is 3/4” plywood cut to 36” long x 3 1/2” wide. The 3 1/2 is the face of the board. It is centered on a 42” wall space attached to two studs that are 16” apart. I put a total of 4 screws. (2 for each stud, if that makes sense). Mostly what I had in mind was to store my stains and finishes on this shelf. I have a few spray cans and some smaller cans. Right now I don’t have any 1 gallon cans. So I’m curious/worried about how much weight it can hold.

Thanks for reading this loooong… draaaaawn out….story. I appreciate your help as always.

20 replies so far

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6912 posts in 2566 days

#1 posted 08-23-2012 04:03 AM

They will hold a lot. More than likely the fastners or glue would fail before the cleats. 1/2” mdf cleats are amazingly strong. You are good with 3/4” ply. Just glue/screw where possible.

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1267 posts in 2115 days

#2 posted 08-23-2012 04:09 AM

Shane!... I installed one set already. I hadn’t thought about gluing them. But I guess one of the great things about screwing them in is being able to unscrew them and go back. I think I may do that tomorrow. With my second set I definitely will. Thanks

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6912 posts in 2566 days

#3 posted 08-23-2012 04:18 AM

No need to glue to the wall…just the cabinet. Plus, if you are still worried, instead of the spacer you could add a second cleat.

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7980 posts in 3344 days

#4 posted 08-23-2012 05:04 AM

If you screw the cleats into the studs, they can hold a lot of weight.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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1021 posts in 2254 days

#5 posted 08-23-2012 05:05 AM

They will hold a lot, assuming that: A) the cleats are glued and screwed to the back of the cabinet, and B) the mating piece is secured to the wall adequately (I use 5” long 1/4” lag bolts into 2×6 studs in my garage). My wall mounted tool chest weighs over two hundred pounds and is hung on one cleat as shown in your drawing (mine is about seven feet long). I do have it secured with ten lag bolts—it will never fall.

-- John, BC, Canada

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1267 posts in 2115 days

#6 posted 08-23-2012 05:20 AM

I will be gluing the cleat to the back of the cabinet and screwing it.

The garage is old. I believe that the studs are 2×4 and the walls are covered with either 1/2” or 3/4” plywood. I used 3” screws to screw the cleat into the wall where the studs are.

View CplSteel's profile


142 posts in 2132 days

#7 posted 08-23-2012 08:39 AM

Screw the cleat into the stud and you can hold plenty, (100lbs with 2 studs, 2 screws per stud would not surprise me in the least). As a design tip- next time, if you have the back of your box inset the width of your cleat, you don’t need the spacer (the bottom and sides will do it for you) and it looks cleaner (to me, others may like seeing the space).

If you want to add even more strength, after the box is hung on the cleat you can screw through the back, though the top half of the cleat, and into the studs. Usually not necessary, but it solves some movement issues.

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115 posts in 2080 days

#8 posted 08-23-2012 11:04 AM


-- Michael T, Pittsburgh, PA

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10 posts in 2576 days

#9 posted 08-23-2012 11:56 AM

The limiting factor to this will be the number and size of fixings used to fix the mating cleat to the wall. The larger or more the better. Both halves of the cleat will be in compression, as will the studs, so their size should be more than adequate – the fixings will be in shear, so if their is any failure, this is where it will happen!

Also, if you use a second cleat ensure that both are supporting the load of the unit. Just the smallest amount of gap will mean that all of the load is only being taken by one support, so the second may as well not be there.

Andy, UK

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528 posts in 2433 days

#10 posted 08-23-2012 02:23 PM

I use two cleats, one upper and one lower and have loaded them up without issue :)

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

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7809 posts in 2118 days

#11 posted 08-23-2012 03:47 PM

Your question was already answered, but I wanted to add this.

In Google Sketchup, there’s a little icon on the top bar that looks like a measuring tape. Click that, then click both edges of the part you want a dimension of and pull it out. It should show the measurement for you. Figured I’d add that since you said you didn’t know how to show it.

So, for the 11” depth measurement on the side of the cabinet, you would click the tool, click the left edge and the right edge and then pull it diagonally down and to the left and it will show you the measurement.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2115 days

#12 posted 08-23-2012 05:41 PM

CplSteel… That sounds like a good idea. And at first I thought I knew exactly how to do that. But now I’m not so sure. How would I do that? I like the idea of it being flush against the wall.

jmartel… I have used the measuring tool before but I could not figure out how to do it. I could measure and see it but I didn’t know how to add the dimension lines. BUT… I figured it out. And as always… whenever I learn something new I love to share it. Here is my “better” pic. lol!

Much cleaner looking and legible.
I went to “view”—-> “toolbars”—-> and clicked on “large tool set”. A new toolbar comes up on the left side of the screen. They are sectioned off. In the fourth section there is the tape measure that you mentioned and then right next to it is another tool that looks like some lines and a “3”. If you hover over it the text says “dimensions”. If you click on that you can measure from one point to another and then pull the dimension lines out. I’ve been wanting to figure out how to do that for a while. Thanks for directing me in the right direction.

Lots of good info here. Thanks for helping guys!

View JimmyJam's profile


31 posts in 2447 days

#13 posted 08-23-2012 10:07 PM

If you wanted to do a row of cabinets and one long cleat on the wall, would you just notch out the back of the cabinet where it would be sitting on the cleat?

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1267 posts in 2115 days

#14 posted 08-24-2012 02:17 AM

Jonathan… thanks for the visual. I was just not seeing it.

The space I’m putting my cabinet in is a small space so I won’t have room for more than one cabinet. Correct me if I’m wrong but the way I’m looking at the pic above is that… in my case… my cleat is 36” long. So I would make my matching cleat 36” long and the cabinet would have an extra 3/4” on either side (using 3/4” plywood). Is that right?
So on Jimmy’s question… would you notch the back of the cabinet or notch the cleat on the wall?

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1267 posts in 2115 days

#15 posted 08-24-2012 02:17 AM

And thanks for the link to the other thread. I really like that program.

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