How to Remove Floating Shelves from Walls – Ikea, Target & Others

Updated: | Author: Elissa Huebert | Affiliate links may be present.

If you are anything like me, you like to rearrange items in your home. After all, just moving things around can make old things seem like new again!

However, some items are easier to move than others. Floating shelves are trendy right now, but are they easy to remove?

A floating shelf is attached to the wall without any visible brackets or screws.

There are typically two methods used to attach a floating shelf – internal brackets, or a French cleat. In order to remove a floating shelf, any visible screws need to be removed first, then the shelf can usually be lifted or slid off of the bracket system. Once the shelf is removed, the brackets can be removed from the wall.

What is a Floating Shelf?

A floating shelf like this does not have any visible means of support when it is attached to the wall. In other words, it looks like it is floating against the wall.

How is the Shelf Attached to the Wall?

Bracket and Screws

A floating shelf bracket usually includes a flat panel that is screwed to the wall. Pegs that are approximately the depth of the shelf stick out at a perpendicular or 90-degree angle. The shelf will have openings for the pegs in the back.

To install the shelf, the back panel is secured to the wall, then the shelf is slid onto the pegs. Usually, there is a set screw that is used either on the top or bottom of the shelf to secure the shelf onto the pegs.

French Cleat

A French cleat is a way to attach a floating shelf to the wall. There is a board or metal strip that is screwed to the wall. The top of the mounting plate is angled upward away from the wall. The shelf will include a piece on the back with a corresponding angle. The two pieces connect like a puzzle.

In order to install the shelf, you simply set the shelf on the angled piece and it will stay put. To take the shelf off of the wall, lift the shelf off of the cleat.

Glue or Paint

Whether your shelf is installed with a floating shelf bracket or a French cleat, sometimes it is stuck to the wall in other ways! If the shelf was installed on top of wet or tacky paint or painted around at some point, it could have adhered to the wall with a layer of paint.

Sometimes, an ambitious homeowner will adhere a floating shelf to the wall with glue for extra security. This will make the shelf more difficult to remove and will probably involve drywall repair, or a carefully placed piece of artwork to conceal the damage!

Step-by-Step Instructions to Remove a Floating Shelf

Materials Needed:

Examine the Shelf

Before you jump in, take a good look at your floating shelf! Do you see any external screws? Can you tell how it is attached to the wall just by looking at it? Do you see any signs of glue or stuck paint? Pay attention to these clues!

Remove any External Screws on the Shelf

If there are any visible, external screws, carefully remove them. Some shelves come with small, round stickers that match the finish of the shelf. These stickers are used to conceal screws. Remove the stickers, then the screws.

Loosen Paint

If the shelf is stuck to the wall with paint, use the utility knife or a similar blade and run it around the edges of the shelf. This will loosen the paint and make the shelf easier to remove without damaging the wall.

Lift Up or Out

This is the moment of truth! If you have a shelf that is attached with a French cleat, you will remove the shelf by lifting it up. A traditional bracket and screw installation will require you to slide the shelf forward to remove it.

Remove the Brackets

Your shelf is off of the wall! Now you need to deal with the hardware that held it up. Remove the screws from the bracket until you have removed all of the screws that attached the bracket to the wall.

Remove Drywall Anchors

Drywall anchors add reinforcement to holes in drywall so that things, like floating shelves, can be attached securely to the wall. Floating shelves should be hung with drywall anchors.

Look in the openings left by the screws. Use the needle-nose pliers to remove the drywall anchors from the wall.

Final Thoughts

Floating shelves can add visual interest and storage to your space! Now that you know how to remove them, it should be simple to move them around to suit your space and personal preferences. All you need is a few tools and a little bit of time to get the job done.

About Elissa Huebert

Elissa has been a homeowner for two decades. As a home school mom, she has to spend the majority of her days at home, so it was quite natural for her to become enthusiastic about things like home improvement, DIY and space management. In her free time, she loves reading and writing. She's also an avid runner and recently ran her first ultramarathon.

Leave a Comment