How Far Apart Should Bookshelves Be On Your Bookshelf?

bookshelf height between shelves

Between 8 and 12 inches is decent shelf spacing when you are installing a wooden bookshelf on your wall.

If you have extra-large volumes, you might want to go up to 15 inches instead of the usual 8 to 12 inches.

If you have a collection of big and small books to put on the bookshelf, keep the wide spacing on the bottom to vary the distance between shelves; this will keep your bookshelf from becoming top heavy and falling over due to the weight of the bigger books.

When in doubt, always play it safe and go for wider shelf spacing; you can always use decorative items to fill in the gaps and make the bookshelf look more balanced.

What is Shelf Span?

The term “shelf span” refers to the width of the shelf, not the distance between shelves. It’s generally the distance between wall supports for the shelf.

So, if you have a shelf that is 24 inches wide, the “shelf span” would be 24 inches.

The “span” of a shelf is important to consider when installing a bookshelf because the span will determine how much weight the shelf can hold without collapsing.

Spacing between the wall supports is usually determined by the material. The greater the material’s strength, the more space you may place between wall supports.

So, for example, if you’re using 2x4s for your shelf supports, you would want to space them about 16 inches apart.

But if you’re using metal supports or brackets, you may be able to space them further apart because metal is stronger than wood.

Shelf span limits are also dependent on the type of wood you plan to use for building the shelf.

If you’re planning to use hardwood like oak, you’ll be able to space the supports further apart than if you were using a softer wood like pine.

According to, the longest recommended span between wall supports can be as follows:

1×10 lumber24 inches
1×12 lumber28 inches
2×10 lumber48 inches
2×12 lumber56 inches
3/4-inch-thick plywood36 inches
3/4-inch-thick particleboard28 inches
5/8-inch-thick particleboard24 inches

Just remember, the wider the span, the more weight the shelf can hold without collapsing.

When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and go for wider spacing between wall supports. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

What is the Best Way to Space Bookshelves?

The best way to space bookshelves is to use a tape measure and measure the width of the books you plan to put on the shelves.

When measuring for shelf spacing, keep in mind that the width of the bookshelf itself will also play a role in how much space you’ll need between shelves.

If the bookshelf is particularly wide, you may need to adjust your shelf spacing accordingly.

Once you have your shelf spacing figured out, it’s time to start planning where you want to put your bookshelves.

If you have a specific area in mind, such as next to a window or in the corner of the room, make sure to measure the space before you start shopping for bookshelves.

This will ensure that you get the perfect size bookshelf for the available space.

How Many Brackets will You Need Per Floating Shelf?

Generally, you will need two brackets per floating bookshelf if it’s not more than 36 inches (3 feet) long.

For longer shelves (like 4, 5, or 6 feet), you will need three or more brackets.

When it comes to deciding how many brackets you need for your bookshelves, it’s important to consider the weight of the items you’re planning to store on the shelves.

If you’re planning on storing heavier items on your floating shelves, you may need to use one extra bracket in between to support the weight.

This is particularly important if you’re planning on using the shelves in a high-traffic area, such as in a child’s bedroom where they may be pulling items on and off the shelves frequently.

space between bookshelves

Factors Determining The Standard Height Between Shelves

The standard height you can keep between the shelves is more or less dependent on three factors, namely- the type of books you own, the room décor, and of course, your personal preference.

Type of books-

The standard height between shelves is usually between 8 and 12 inches, but the height, as well as the depth of the shelves, really depends on the type of books you have.

If you have a collection of small paperback books (maximum 8 inches), you can keep the shelves closer to each other as compared to when you have bigger hardcover volumes or coffee table catalogs/magazines that are usually 11 inches to 14 inches.

Alternatively, you may choose to make the shelf spacing of your DIY bookshelves adjustable.

To do this, drill a series of holes on both sides of the container that will fit metal or plastic shelf supports.

As required, you may remove one of the shelves, shift the supports up or down, and replace it.

Room Décor & Personal Preference-

If the room has a lot of other furniture and decorative items, it’s best to keep some distance between the shelves to avoid making the place look cluttered.

In general, it’s a good idea to leave at least 3-4 inches of space between each shelf.

This will give you plenty of room to add and remove books without having to worry about overcrowding the shelves.

This distance will, however, not allow you to place the books in an upright position. But, some people prefer this look as it gives the bookshelf a more aesthetic appeal.

With this height, you will also not be able to put anything else on the shelves like vases or photo frames. If you want to do that, then you might have to keep the shelves further apart.

In the end, it all comes down to your personal preference and what looks best to you. If you feel that having the shelves close together creates a more intimate setting, then go for it.


What wood is best to use for the bookshelf?

The type of wood you use for your bookshelf is really up to you.

Some people prefer using hardwoods, such as oak or cherry because they’re more durable and look nicer. However, these can be more expensive than using softer woods, such as pine.

If you’re on a budget, you can always paint or stain the wood to give it a more finished look.

How thick should wood be for floating shelves?

It’s generally a good choice to use 1-inch thick boards for floating bookshelves.

This is because they’re strong enough to support the weight of books and other items but not so thick that they look out of proportion.

If, however, you have a large room with high ceilings, you may want to use thicker boards (2-3 inches) to fill the space and make a bolder statement.

How high can you place a floating shelf from the floor?

Most people place their floating shelves between 4 and 6 feet from the floor. This is a comfortable height for them to reach without having to strain their arms.

If you have young children in the home, you may want to place the shelves lower (between 2 and 3 feet), so they can easily reach the books.

How do I know how much weight my wood shelves can hold?

The amount of weight your shelves can hold will depend on the type of wood, the thickness of the boards, and the size of the brackets you’re using.

For example, a 1-inch thick board made of pine can typically hold up to 30 pounds, while a 2-inch thick board made of oak can hold up to 60 pounds.

To be safe, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and not overload your shelves. If you’re unsure, you can always ask a professional for advice.

Final Thoughts

Making your own bookshelves in your study or home office is a good DIY project.

Not only will it save you money, but you’ll also end up with a unique piece of furniture that perfectly fits your space.

However, when planning your bookshelves, be sure to take into account the size of your books and the available space in your room.

With a little planning, you’ll be able to create the perfect bookshelf for your needs with all the proper dimensions, including height, width, depth, and spacing between shelves.

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