French Cleat for floating shelves?

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Forum topic by exterminate posted 03-06-2013 03:21 PM 21055 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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136 posts in 2028 days

03-06-2013 03:21 PM

Good morning Jocks,

Is a french cleat strong / secure enough for floating shelves in the kitchen, where there is potential for the shelf to be loaded up with dishes, or heavy can goods? My coworker asked me to help her with her kitchen, but it’s very tiny – 88” x 137.5” – So incorporating floating shelves would solve some storage issues, while trying to keep the space feeling open. I wanted to avoid the rebar in the stud approach, as it is harder to get correct then a french cleat would be, but I’m not sure the holding capacity is there with a FC. The shelves would only be about 3” thick or so, hollow on the inside, and somewhere between 8 and 12 inches deep. Your thoughts and suggestions are appreciated!

Thanks all, and have a great day!

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

6 replies so far

View Bobmedic's profile


379 posts in 2802 days

#1 posted 03-06-2013 03:26 PM

I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I have all of my woodworking clamps on a french cleat and also all of my cabinets are secured with french cleats. Just make sure you have a wide enough cleat for the bottom of the shelf to bear against and it should be fine.

View pendledad's profile


190 posts in 2090 days

#2 posted 03-06-2013 04:02 PM

I don’t claim any of this to be fact or accurate, but I tried to just do some math real quick. I remember from physics class that the force required for equilibrium is equal to the weight of the object times the distance from the fulcrum divided by the length to the fulcrum. In math terms:

F x L = W x X
F = (W x X)/L

If you consider the weight (W) is the weight at the farthest point away from the wall … which would be say 12”. And take a gallon of water which is 8.35 lbs. You’ll probably use 3/4” plywood to make the cleats, so we have:

F = (8.35×12”)/.75” = ~130 lbs.

This is assuming your fulcrum point would be where the cleat points lock together at .75” away from the wall.

This doesn’t account for spreading the surface load across the shelf and cleat, but it offers a simple explanation that a gallon of water 12” away from the wall will require ~130 lbs of force in the opposite direction at 3/4” away from the wall to hold it.

You normally see people add a second 3/4” spacer at the bottom of cabinets to ensure contact against the wall when it hangs on the french cleat. With floating shelves you won’t have any other contact points so you have to take that into account.

Again, I’m not a structural engineer, and I’ve never built floating shelves before, but I’ve had similar concerns when contemplating my upcoming shelving project.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


4577 posts in 2409 days

#3 posted 03-06-2013 04:47 PM

Not to be a critic but why floating shelves? Customer request? Finding old kitchen cabinets takes some time but once you have a old carcass you can do wonders with modifications. All my cabinets in the shop are made in this way one holds 30 gallons of paint inside using the time tested method of a support at the bottom for setting it in place, a skid behind that support for some tilt inboard 1/8” only, and screws into studs at regular intervals. Do be picky and stay away from the new stuff made of something not wood with growth rings ect etc. A customer at my job gave me one of these, I took it apart and used it to make stoarge shelves in the rafters, being creative I did make a small cabinet for pen supplies but I would not put it in the house, for the shop is okay. Better Homes and Gardens does not come to my shop for a photo shoot. (Laughing)

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View a1Jim's profile


117095 posts in 3578 days

#4 posted 03-06-2013 05:02 PM

This is how I would design it and install it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


4577 posts in 2409 days

#5 posted 03-06-2013 05:10 PM

a1Jim, good video

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View exterminate's profile


136 posts in 2028 days

#6 posted 03-06-2013 06:11 PM

Thanks all!
Bobmedic – Are you suggesting adding a visible cleat underneath the bottom of the shelf for added support? I hadn’t thought about that, but that does seem like it would help. Thank you!
Pendledad – I have no idea what you just said! LOL. Thank you though. I’ll try to digest that a bit latter!
Michael – No major reason it has to be floating shelves. She just thought it would look cleaner, which in that small of a kitchen, may be true – Of course we need to balance looks with functionality with a kitchen this size also, so its still up in the air which way to go.
Jim / James – Thank you for the video and suggestions. I think this might be the route we take if we decide to continue down the floating path. That way, I can use a 2x for the cleat to give a bit more support. The top won’t be seen, so screws from the top won’t be an issue.
Seriously – Thank you all for your opinions and suggestions. You guys are awesome.

-- Albert Einstein - "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right."

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