Wall come tumbling down?

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Topic by anderskb33 posted 04-29-2011 03:51 PM 3741 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3919 days

04-29-2011 03:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question wall shelves

Hi All,

I just discovered this site while looking for the answer to a very important question. How much weight CAN a wall hold?

We live in a townhouse (technically not a shared wall, the neighbor and I each have our own wall that goes all the way to the foundations). Recently we hung bookshelves on our upstairs semi-shared wall, and filled them with books. Basically, the whole wall is made of books at this point. I am not sure what kind of weight we are talking about, but I could imagine it being well over 1000 pounds. Maybe 2000?

My father came to visit, repeatedly mentioned “I have never seen that many books being held onto a wall,” and successfully made me concerned. The shelves are on the studs and seem very solid, but now I am worried that we are going to pull the actual studs down, probably successfully destroying our house AND the house next to us.

Apologies for being a newbie jumping straight on to the forum with a question, but this is beginning to stress me out pretty considerably.

What do you folks think? Should I be concerned?

View dfletcher's profile


128 posts in 4394 days

04-30-2011 04:35 PM

Well, I design houses and build them and I can tell you this, you have nothing to concern yourself over.

It seems, from what you have written, that you built the shelves to be held in by the studs, which is correct. This gives you the most strength.

The shelves themselves are taking the majority of the load, so, if they are not falling down or bending considerably, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Many houses have libraries built in where they have several walls of books, floor to ceiling, some even with 12’ high ceilings.

I have never seen anyone successfully destroy their house by having a wall of bookshelves filled with books. However, check your bookshelves and make sure they are not overstressed.

View allmyfingers's profile


31 posts in 3980 days

05-01-2011 01:13 AM

the only damage you have to be concerned about is to your eyes from over-reading!!! No worries enjoy your home.

-- caring costs nothing

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

331 posts in 5040 days

05-03-2011 12:47 AM

Collected for notes when I was working on my workshop notes, http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=92407 says that:

The ADS manual for Engineered Wood Construction Structural Lumber Supplement Table 5.2a and 5.2b gives axial compression allowables for 2×4 and 2×6 lumber of various grades and various lengths. The table assumes that the studs are braced along the 2” nominal width and the limiting buckling is the 4” and 6” nominal width. Table 5.2a is for duration 1.0 and 5.2b is for duration 1.15 (snow).

From which my notes say an 8’ 2×4 with basic bracing (ie: nailed or screwed to wallboard) is good to 3,000 lbs, a 2×6 is good to 8,710 lbs(!). At 10’ that goes down to 2010 lbs and 6700 lbs, respectively. If this is a shared wall it’s probably either 2×6, or staggered 2×4 studs on 1’ centers (for better sound and fireproofing). You’ve got to remove some factor for roof weight, which means…

Another way to think of this: Books are made of paper, which floats. Water weighs 65 lbs per square foot. Unless you’re talking art books, hardcovers are usually, what, 8” deep? So if you have an 8’ high wall of solid books, that’s going to weigh less than 780 lbs/ft. At 2’ spacing, that’s 1560 lbs per stud. Heavy, but should still be okay (unless you live in an extreme snow area).

Maybe something to do is pick a random square foot of books and weigh it? (you could use a bathroom scale)

My end takeaway: If your shelf supports aren’t pulling out of the wall, you’re probably not over-stressing your studs yet. But I’d be careful about what’s going on in the downstairs wall if you also had a waterbed in that room.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

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Dan Lyke

331 posts in 5040 days

05-03-2011 06:36 PM

Oh, an additional note: A few years ago I culled my books, and ended up shipping 3 boxes of technical books, which easily filled a 2½’ wide by 6’ high bookshelf, and I think each of those boxes was under 70 lbs.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

View anderskb33's profile


2 posts in 3919 days

05-16-2011 03:28 PM

Thank you so much, you guys. I fell SO much better! The hope is to actually get rid of some of the books, but not having to worry that the wall will fall down while I make those difficult decisions about what books to keep (long term project) is a really good thing.

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