What type of screws/hardware is used to attach shelves to mdf shiplap?

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We have installed mdf style shiplap in our bathroom. Unfortunately, there isn’t any drywall behind the new shiplap. What kind of hardware can we use to attach a pipe and wood shelf without worrying that may eventually pull out of the shiplap wall? The picture below is identical to the type of shelves we would like to attach to the shiplap.

q how do i attach pipe shelves to mdf style shiplap if there isn t dry
  9 answers
  • Robyn Garner Robyn Garner on May 14, 2019

    I think toggle bolts will do the trick for you. Check at the hardware store for how much weight each size will hold.

  • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 14, 2019

    Here’s what I found. https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/best-practices-guide/solid-wood-machining/why-cant-i-screw-mdf


    I think the article gives an analysis of the problem and the solution. Feel free to show it to the expert at the store. If they seem to be confused, find another expert or another store.


    The size of the recess in the support flange will determine the size of the screw you will need, I suspect a #10. The length should be about a half inch longer than the thickness of the MDF.


    Drilling the proper hole as described in the article is very important. You can experiment on a leftover scrap of MDF


    Adding some epoxy (as suggested) is a good idea but I suspect you could use Gorilla Glue. Let it sit 24 hours before adding the shelf, because it takes longer to cure, but it does swell to ensure a tight fit.


    If if you are lucky enough that a screw hits a stud, just use the same size screw but feel free to go a little longer.


    Hope me this helps.


    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 16, 2019

      Lot’s of advice, I hope you can sort it out.

      I still think my earlier suggestion could be tried. If the screws don’t hold the shelves can be taken down and the hole can be patched, the wall repainted, and then go to plan B.

      I understand the studs aren’t in the right position but consider mounting the flanges to a board and then screwing the board to the studs. You should be able to hit at least one stud and use a wall anchor to keep it from moving.

  • Rymea Rymea on May 14, 2019

    The easiest and best way would be to get a stud finder put the supports where the studs are. They would normally be about 16" apart. Drill pilot holes as John suggested.

    • Heather Heather on May 16, 2019

      Thank you for your response. Finding a stud is not the problem. The shelves aren’t being attached where the stud is.

  • William William on May 14, 2019

    You would have to screw into studs. Mdf doesn't screw well and there are special screws made for mdf. Won't hold the weight either. It's just heat compressed recycled paper with resins. I don't know about building codes in Canada or where you live. Codes in the U.S. states, cities, communities require drywall as a fire barrier. Why would you not put up drywall?!

    • Heather Heather on May 16, 2019

      Thank you for your response. Yes, of course, ideally we would screw into a stud. In this particular case it is not an option as there isn’t a stud where the flanges and pipes will be attached.

      The whole bathroom IS drywalled. (except the small 5’x8’’ portion of one wall which has the mdf shiplap). This was a remodel and there was only a little better than a half inch of room behind the toilet and vanity so my husband removed the existing drywall so we could fit in the shiplap. Obviously removing the drywall wasn’t ideal but we did it in order to fit in the shiplap.

  • Grace Gleason Grace Gleason on May 15, 2019

    MDF Doesn't take water too well either. Why would you use it in the bathroom?

    • Heather Heather on May 16, 2019

      We have an enclosed steam shower. There is very little moisture in the bathroom. MDF shiplap is only on one wall not the whole bathroom.

  • Pamela Pamela on May 15, 2019

    Hi ! I would think it you want to use the plumbing pipe , you need to attach the flanges into a stud !!! Use wood screws . That how I put them up for my wall pantry in my kitchen . Good luck !

    • Heather Heather on May 16, 2019

      Thank you but there isn’t a stud where I am putting up the shelves.

  • William William on May 16, 2019

    I see! Only solution I have is if you can temporarily remove the some of the shiplap where the the shelves are going to go and toe nail 2X4's between studs for support of the hardware.

  • Pat Pat on May 16, 2019

    Can You hang pipe from the ceiling and use an ell for pipes coming out for your shelves? Depends on ceiling height. Otherwise without a stud to hold the weight of your shelves might be a problem.

  • John Biermacher John Biermacher on May 29, 2019

    It’s me again. I just started a project that involves MDF. I knew it didn’t hold screws well, but now realize it hardly holds screws at all!!! I totally understand that supports and the studs DO NOT line up. Therefore I would stick with my earlier recommendation of putting the supports on a backer board that does catch one or more studs.


    in the event you can’t hit two (or any) studs then I would go with someone else’s suggesting and use butterfly toggles.


    Hope this helps.

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