How Strong is an IKEA Lack Floating Shelf on Plasterboard?

I generally advise customers not to fit floating shelves on drywall if at all possible. No matter how good your fixings are you’re always ultimately limited by the strength of the plasterboard itself. Today I’m finding out how much weight an IKEA Lack shelf can actually take on a hollow wall. Welcome back to Test Tuesday!

You can watch the full test video here:

How strong is an IKEA LACK floating shelf on a hollow wall? Test Tuesday!
Watch this video on YouTube.

How strong is an IKEA Lack floating shelf?

Floating shelves are a challenge for any joiner since the leverage forces applied to the wall are substantial to say the least. You generally want the shelf to be as thin as possible while also supporting stuff it’s really not designed to support. IKEA Lack shelves are a great design and come with a sturdy metal bracket at fixes to the wall. In solid walls these shelves can handle a surprisingly high load. However in plasterboard you’re ultimately limited by the strength of the actual wall.

Test specifications

In this test I’m using a combination of best and worst case scenarios.

  • Fitted using 5 x M5 x 52mm expanding metal drywall anchors
  • The shelf is fitted to standard 12.5mm drywall, deliberately avoiding all studs
  • Applying force on the outer-most edge of the shelf in the centre

The screw configuration used matched IKEA’s installation instructions, two screws above each bracket ‘pole’ and one underside screw in the centre. IKEA’s recommended load for a shelf in this situation is maximum 5kg. Let’s see how much force we can put on it before it completely destroys the wall.

Test results

Force was applied as steadily as possible until we reached a peak load:

  • Peak load before failure: 25.85kg!

That’s a substantial weight before failure – 5 times the recommended loading! Obviously DO NOT put this sort of weight on an IKEA shelf – you will regret it! I’ve only applied this force over a very short period of time – IKEA need to cater for loads sitting on the shelf, potentially for many years without any problems.

However it’s testament to how good both the IKEA metal shelf brackets and the expanding anchors really are. Ultimately it was the plasterboard that completely failed and not the fixing or bracket. There was very limited bending of the bracket itself.

My tips for attaching an IKEA Lack shelf to a hollow wall

As mentioned earlier, in almost all cases it’s the plasterboard that fails, not the fitting or the shelf bracket. If you find your shelf is dropping it’s probably since the bracket is no longer sitting flat on the wall due to imminent failure. Here’s a few tips:

  • Where possibly try to fix in to studs
  • Use IKEA’s recommended hole usage
  • Use expanding drywall anchors with a proper setting tool



Andy Mac
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