How to Install Shelves (using Corbels) on a Tile Wall
After painstakingly tiling my backsplash, I was more than a bit hesitant to drill holes into the tiles to hang the corbels and open shelving. But, I convinced myself to stop
being a wussy procrastinating and just do it.
I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I didn’t chip or crack a single tile. In hindsight I really didn’t need to stress this project. It was less nerve-wracking than I had anticipated.
Here’s the full tutorial so you can install your own open shelving on a tile wall!
- Diamond drill bit (the same diameter as the screws you are using)
- Wood screws to attach anchor board (must be long enough to go through board, tile, drywall and at least an inch into a stud)
- alternatively: Heavy duty wall anchors (if you aren’t anchoring into a stud or blocking)
- Spray bottle filled with water
- Level (long and a small one if you have one)
- 2 regular drill bits (1 the same diameter as the screw + 1 large enough to create a countersink for the screw head)
- Shelf brackets (I used corbels and a 1″x6″ pine board as an anchor)
- Kreg jig
- Pocket hole screws (long enough to attach corbel to anchor board without going through the board)
- Joint compound or wood putty
Start by determining the height you want your shelves to hang.
I actually pre-determined this when I had my walls open and put in blocking so I could located a stud easier.
If you don’t know where your studs are, it’s not a big deal. But, make sure you purchase very strong wall anchors and screws to use if you drill into a hollow spot.
Mark the top of your anchor/corbel bracket and draw a pencil line horizontally using a level.
Drill holes into your anchor board. Create a countersink hole so the screw head will sit below the surface. (I determined it was best to attach my corbels to an anchor board. The board is just 1″ x 6″ pine plank that I painted using the same distressing technique I used on the corbels.)
Hold the anchor board up on the wall, lining it up with the pencil line. For double accuracy, set a small level on top of the board.
Begin drilling through the holes in the board with a diamond bit blade. Only drill long enough to make a mark on the tile.
Remove the anchor board and continue drilling through the marble in the same spot.
Spray water onto the bit to keep it cool. Remove the bit from the tile periodically to clear the tile dust.
Once the hole has gone through the tile, you should be able to determine if you have hollow space beyond the drywall (the bit goes through to nothing) or a stud (you feel resistance after going through the drywall.) For a stud, use a wood screw. Hollow space will require using an anchor. Set the screw into the hole, but don’t secure yet.
Making sure the anchor board is level, drill through the second hole until you’ve made a mark on the tile.
Remove the anchor board and continue drilling the second hole.
Now you can drive the two screws into the stud (and or wall anchors) and secure it to the wall.
Use a Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes into the top of your corbel. You can review my Kreg Jig tutorial if you haven’t used one in a while (or ever.)
Set the corbel flush with the top of the anchor board. Set the level on top to make sure things are still level. Drive pocket hole screws through the top of the corbels and into the anchor board (the screw shouldn’t touch the tile wall.)
Pre-drill a hole into the bottom of the corbel and drive a screw through the corbel and into the anchor board.
Congrats! You just hung one corbel shelf bracket. From here, you want to hang the second corbel bracket the same way. Be sure to level it with the first support.
If you are installing a second shelf, be sure to mark a plumb line with the lower brackets to keep everything lined up.
In no time you’ll have your shelf brackets secured to the wall.
To complete your shelf, lay the shelf on top of the bracket. Pre-drill a hole through the corbel and into the bottom of the shelf. Secure the shelf with a wood screw.
Fill the exposed screw holes with joint compound or wood putty. When dry, sand lightly and touch up the paint or stain.
Enjoy your new open shelves on a tile wall!
Corbels are from Southern Accents Architectural Antiques
Reclaimed wood shelf from The Reuse Warehouse in Durham, NC
Marble subway tiles from TheBuilderDepot.com
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Again,,, amazing,,, so jealous of the beautiful shelves,,, but I am inspired to start on my project
Planning ahead was so clever! Those corbels are stunning!! XO
Great tutorial & loved that you showed the blocking which few people know about.
I’d add a word of caution to tell readers to check that the horizontal things below and above these (or similar) shelving are also level. In old houses that’s rarely the case and we find that with crown molding we have to adjust it’s height to make the ceiling appear level. It’s all about getting creative about what looks level versus what really is.
Just beautiful Brittany!!! I love everything about this project and your tile is amazing!!! Good job girl.
Wow – this is a fantastic idea – such gorgeous shelves and corbels!
Those corbels are gorgeous!!
I saw your tutorial the other day about these shelves. I didn’t have time to leave a comment that day but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love these! They look so incredibly high end as well as have that aged “old world” look. I must take the time one day to figure this all out. The paint & the aging technique on this is beyond fabulous!