Shelving Spans for Bookcases

Jeff Vandenberg
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Shelving Spans for Bookcases(copy right handyman magazine )

If you’re designing a cabinet or a bookcase, what’s the greatest length (span) a shelf can be without an objectionable sag? There are four factors to consider: 1) how the load is distributed, 2) the expected load, 3) the shelf material, 4) the method of reinforcement.

GUIDELINES. Taking the four factors into consideration, the chart shows some general guidelines for the maximum span for shelves to avoid objectionable sag. Note: The most practical approach is to use 4/4 stock or plywood with reinforcement. This will produce shelves with minimum sag and the best visual appearance.


Shelf Material Maximum Span
3/4" Particle Board 24"
3/4" Plywood 30"
4/4 (13/16") Solid Stock 36"
6/4 (1-5/16") Solid Stock 60"

3/4" Plywood Reinforced with:
1-1/4" wide face strip on edge 36"
1-1/4" wide face strip on side 32"
Aluminum strip underneath 36"
Molding strips underneath 36"

Jeff Vandenberg aka "Woodsconsin"

I personally like to use tongue and groove while reinforcing with the strip on edge.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA