How to Mount Track Systems

Track systems are now so standard in shelving that they deserve a section of their own. They’re adjustable, easy to install, widely available, and inexpensive.

There are two basic types of track systems: tracks and brackets, and track and clips. Tracks are often called standards or pilasters.

There are many bracket styles in several finishes. The most common brackets are sized for 8″, 10″, or 12″-wide lumber, but some systems hold shelves up to 24″ wide. Clips come in two designs: one is bent at an angle (gusseted), and the other is flat and sits flush with the track. The gusted style holds more weight.

Tracks and Brackets

Tracks and brackets are mounted vertically on the wall; tracks are available from 12″ long to ceiling height. Choose your shelf length, then cut shelves (use 1″ or 2″ lumber) or buy them pre-cut.

To install the units, first decide where the shelves should go. Your tracks should be spaced from 16″ to 32″ apart, depending on load. Ideally, you should fasten into wall studs with screws. If the wall is made of gypsum wallboard, plaster, or paneling, look for the studs behind; if it’s not, you’ll need other fasteners. Shelves should extend 4″ to 8″ beyond the outside tracks.

Place the first track in position, drill a small pilot hole through one screw hole, and drive in a screw. Leave the screw loose so you can move the track. Next, check for plumb with a carpenter’s level and mark along the track’s edge for reference. Drill the remaining pilot holes, then install and tighten all screws.

Insert a bracket in the first track, then place a bracket in the matching slot of another track. Lift the second track into position, place a shelf across the brackets – you may need a helper for this – and put a level on the shelf. Level the shelf by moving the track, and mark the track’s top and bottom on the wall. Install the second track as you did the first. Add any other tracks in the same way.

Finally, install the brackets. They should lock into place with a slight downward pull; if they don’t, seat them with a light hammer tap.

Tracks and Support Clips

Tracks and clips are normally added to a shelf unit’s uprights during assembly. These tracks are shallow, and they’re often inset flush with the wood surface.

Whether tracks are inset or not, installation is the same. Measure an inch or two from the edges of each upright, top and bottom, and align the tracks inside these marks. Cut tracks to length, if necessary, but be sure that holes correspond exactly; measure and cut one track, then use it as a pattern for the others.

If you’re insetting the tracks, outline them on the boards and remove. The outlines will show you where to cut the necessary grooves, or dadoes, with a table saw or router. If you’re not insetting, leave the tracks in place and attach them with screws – or use the special nails often provided, drilling pilot holes as required.

Finally, attach the clips and add the shelves. If tracks aren’t inset, adjust shelf length for clearance, or notch the shelves.

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