Hackers Help

Published on August 5th, 2012 | by Jules Yap


Hacker help: How to stablize Hemnes shelves?

Materials: Hemnes shelf unit

Description: I have this shelf unit but cannot install the back in the location where it must go. I find the shelves very unstable….they keep falling down at the least disturbance. Can anyone suggest a hack they’ve tried which worked to make this unit more stable?

I’ve tried reversing the shelf pins so that the longer end is out but that made no difference. Everything keeps crashing down…help!

~ Jeannette M Finnigan, Canada

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Melodi Lamp Upgrade
Small computer desk with stand for living room

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Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

43 Responses to Hacker help: How to stablize Hemnes shelves?

  1. FD says:

    Good news, I think the design has been changed by IKEA, the back is no longer nailed in but they are sort of gripper brackets that get screwed in. Also, the front pins for the shelves are now different, with a pin bit slotting into a predrilled hole on the underside of the shelf.

  2. WillH says:

    For any UK readers reading this, this was my solution.
    I wanted to install the bookcase without the back. Without the back in place, there is nothing to stop the shelves sliding backwards, and even the slightest backwards movement will mean the shelf falls off the front shelf support pegs. The first time this happened the middle (integral) shelf was completely destroyed!

    Went to B&Q and bought a bag of 5mm diameter, 20mm long screws and some lightweight brackets. If you want to screw into the existing peg holes then use 6mm diameter screws, but check that 6mm screws will fit the eyelets of the brackets that you buy!
    Replaced the front pegs with the brackets and used IKEA’s pegs at the back. Depending on the length of the brackets that you buy (I think mine were 20mm) then the shelves will just sit on top of the brackets and are unable to fall off even if sliding back. I opted to drill the shelf into the bracket as well to stop them sliding around. With a power drill the screws sink quite easily into the wood.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Same problem here. The shelves collapsed out of the blue after 8 months except for the bottom one. It broke all of our wine glasses. Ikea should recall that product and offer a refund.

  4. Angie says:

    This worked perfectly and it was incredibly affordable!

    “Prime-Line 5 mm 20 lb. Nickel-Plated Steel Shelf Support Pegs” from Home Depot.

    Thank you SO much for the suggestion !!!!!

  5. Karen says:

    I have the same problem. Shelves keep sliding back just enough to miss the tiny pins and fall, causing everything to go crashing to the floor. I think it is because the cardboard backing has gradually loosened (Mine doesn’t fit flush against wall because of my baseboard trim). I would have to take my entire wall unit apart to pull it out to renail the back on tight. And I don’t think it would stay. I did a quick search on Amazon and found other shelf support brackets I am going to try. I just hope they will fit since there will have to be enough room on the sides of the shelves for the L shaped pins. But since they are wider, if they fit they should fix the problem. Otherwise I’m going with the wood glue idea. I don’t understand why ikea doesn’t just make wider pins that the shelves won’t fall off of. Seems simple to me.

  6. tricia says:

    i just spent 4 hours putting the smaller Hemnes together. I couldnt get the shelves to stay up long enuf to put the books on them. No more IKEA for me. I was thinking about having some pine shelves cut slightly larger, and using a different kind of post and bracket. I didnt want to use the cheesy back, I will square it up somehow.

  7. Roderic Rinehart says:

    This was the single most useful page on the entire internet about these shelves. They are by far (in my opinion) the prettiest bookshelves I’ve ever seen and the only ones made of real wood.

    I would love to see IKEA implement reviews on their site, but they are too scared!

    • Meaghan Cooper says:

      Thank you for sharing this.. I’ve had the same problem with this unit.. worst purchase ever. I’m going to try to get the support pegs from Home Depot.. Thanks!!! ;)

  8. NotanIkeafan says:

    I wishI read all of this prior. After almost a year my shelves just crashed and the shelf will not reach the pegs. Weird. Im going to try the above suggestions but Ikea will never see me again.

    • Jennifer says:

      I bought two Hemnes bookcases and the bridge. One bookcase collapsed while we were out. They are in my son’s room. I tried several things before today but nothing worked. This morning I googled it hoping to get lucky. I cannot believe how many people have had this problem. Incredibly frustrating.

      • Angi says:

        Absolute GARBAGE!!!!!!!
        Mine lasted exactly 29 days, and not with a lot of weight on the shelves, mind you.
        AND I just went to the IKEA website, no where is mention made of load capacity! So, unless my toner cartridges, 5 reams of paper, a stack of spirals, marketing packets weighing about 25 lbs….all evenly distributed, exceed that unknown, mysterious and secret capacity…
        I am so annoyed – I have to disassemble what should go to the curb and schlep it back to the store!

  9. Jerry Jaecks says:

    I emptied Hemnes bookcase. laid it sideways on floor and glued back into grooves now I plan to screw the Bowing sides to the shelves. I also bought longer pins on Amazon. IKEA had offered me a credit refund, said any fix would void the warranty

    • Kirsten Shades says:

      Can you tell me what size pegs you purchased? I can’t find the size of the existing pegs anywhere. My case is completely square, level, and tightened.. however my 4th shelf just does not reach all 4 pegs at once.

  10. AKDH says:

    My shelves just collapsed. All of them except the one nearest the bottom. Piece of crap. Broke my china. Product should be recalled. Has anyone informed trading standards?

  11. Rose Fox says:

    Solution for the bottom shelf: #6 screw eyes (Everbilt 803672). Nice and solid. Be careful not to screw them in too far or the tip will poke out the front/back of the bookcase.

    Solution for the other shelves: #12 x 3/4 in screws + 2 1/2 in corner brace (Everbilt 807601 + 339 709). The screws are just the right size for the peg holes, and the braces are big enough to accommodate those screws and nice and long for supporting the shelves. You can screw the braces into the shelves if you want to but I haven’t found that that’s necessary.

    I also drilled screws into the center shelves for additional protection against the bookcases bowing out.

    Thanks to a handful of hardware, I’ve got double-stacked hardcovers on my Hemnes bookcases with no issues at all. Highly recommend these solutions.

    • Nate says:

      This sounds like the most sturdy solution out there. I put small nails in each side of each shelf in one of the bookcases, making it so the shelves can never be taken out (but then can never fall out), but I like your solution more.

      Do you have photos by chance?

    • Emma says:

      Thank you, Rose Fox! This looks perfect! Going to the hardware store RIGHT NOW.

  12. alex says:

    The cause of the problem is threefold. The pegs are pretty short to begin with. Additionally the size of the opening is quite bigger than the shelf, leaving quite some wiggle room. But the killer is the groove at the back of shelves, meant for wires etc. This will easily slip when moved and cause the shelf to fall.

    I’ve found that an interim solution is to reverse the peg in the back corner so that its longer end is exposed. This will adequately support the shelf to where it won’t fall (not sure about the weight carrying capacity)

    Currently searching online for longer pegs. This wouldn’t be an issue of both ends were longer!

  13. Jimmy says:

    I am having the exact same issue as described here and it has quickly become the bane of my existence. This is nothing short of a glaring design flaw. IKEA is really opening themselves up to liability with this product, and I’m surprised they still sell it given the chance of injury or damages to belongings. If I have to rely on after market tooling and reinforcement for your product days after assembly, then the fault is in the design.

  14. Mary Tubridy says:

    Ikea is still selling these shelves. Wish I had googled this information before buying them and spending hours picking up books after loading shelves. Can ikea add word of warning and include brackets with this kit pleasae.

  15. Savannah says:

    I agree with others that this is essentially a design flaw. I have two of these, and the weight of my books seems to hold the shelves in place okay, but I wouldn’t use them for china. I noticed the potential issue while moving homes recently; a nearly empty shelf crashed while I was removing books from it for packing, and broke a vase in the process. I might look into drilling a small hollow along the bottom edges where the metal pins sit – just large enough for the pins, so they sit inside and flush with the shelves rather than below. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but that’s how shelves were secured in all of the other ikea pieces I’ve owned, and they were very stable.

  16. Ed says:

    I just had a flipping disaster this morning — and I can say quite definitively that the problem has almost nothing to with assembly. It’s a design flaw. The shelves aren’t deep enough to begin with, so they slide forwards and backwards. The pins they’re sitting on aren’t very long — not long enough to compensate — at least under certain circumstances which I”ll describe below. When the shelf slides to the back of the unit, it falls off the front pins. I discovered this to my chagrin this morning, as I stood, barefoot, in the middle of a sea of broken glass.

    To reiterate — and to echo what Jess Fix wrote — this happens even on what I’ll call a properly assembled china cabinet unit — with the back on and everything. The unit isn’t stable enough and the doggone shelves aren’t deep enough, and the front pins aren’t long enough. It might make it easier to adjust the height of the shelves, since they’re not in tightly, but it’s a real problem if you have anything of value on the shelves. They slip off the front pins, and then with even the slightest pressure on the front edge of the shelf, the shelf will flip — back part up, sending everything crashing to the floor.

    The stability issue — the back is basically cardboard, nailed on to the back of the unit, with some rather flimsy nails.. As it turns out, if the unit isn’t resting perfectly balanced, it will be under stresses that can cause those nails to loosen. If the cardboard backing loosens the slightest bit — and the sliding shelves probably play a part in a process — the shelves will slide enough to fall off the front pins. None of this was visible or apparent until the shelf flipped and the glasses flew/slid off the shelf, crashing onto our wood floor. In fact, I only noticed the problem with the backing after I first wrote a comment — I’m setting the record straight now about how this problem may have developed. Even under the ideal circumstances, this uint would be flimsy, and the shelves would have some play — would slide. I suspect that puts some pressure on the nails. Also, I know our floor isn’t level — I had to a great deal of adjusting when I assembled this to get the doors to line up well enough to close properly. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that also put some stress on the unit and the nails holding the cardboard backing in place. They loosened slightly, which allowed the shelves to slide around further — and it only takes a couple of millimeters for the shelves to slip off of the front pins.

    This cost us lots of money in smashed barware, today — probably more than the whole unit cost. Then, there’s the hours I spent getting up each sliver of glass, so that the cats could safely walk there. Not happy about it. I’ll have to consider what I can do to remedy this situation, and I’ll consider Jess Fix’s approach. I might also consider what I can do to hold the backing more tightly in place. I might also consider approaching store management. I called customer service line, and after a long search, she couldn’t find a longer pin that would take care of the problem, but she did direct me to this website in search of more definitive help.

  17. David says:

    Wood glue. Front of shelf to frame. Done.

  18. jpadda says:

    If the shelves are slipping/falling then the middle shelf is not securely attached. The bookshelf is essentially bowing out in the middle which is why the shelves fall. Re-tighten the screws that attach the middle shelf to the bookcase and you should be good.

    • Justin W Thomas says:

      This solved my problem! I feel a little silly now, after having been living with unsteady shelves for years, but thanks!

  19. Jess Fix says:

    I had a disaster with a properly installed cabinet version of the Hemnes which involved quite a lot of china smashing as a shelf slipped off the front posts (on Christmas day no less!).

    My fix was to buy a bunch of “Prime-Line 5 mm 20 lb. Nickel-Plated Steel Shelf Support Pegs” from Home Depot and swap out the IKEA standard pegs. These are pegs attached to L-brackets with a small hole for a screw on the underside of the shelf (should you need one). They aren’t very noticeable (which I was concerned about) and only run to about $2 for 8–MUCH less than a cabinet of smashed china.

    The shelves themselves are just not deep enough for the unit, which leads to them slipping backwards (even with a tightly nailed in back) and dropping of the front posts.

  20. femmedemaison says:

    QUESTION: Has anyone figured out how to hack a Hemnes bookcase to make it taller – like 84″ or 96″ ?Billy bookcases are tall, but not sturdy enough.

  21. Kyllein says:

    IF: The shelves are sliding out the back, get an adhesive “foot” and stick it to the underside of the shelf on the inside of the rear support and the inside of the front support…Like: support, sticky foot in the front and sticky foot, support in the rear. That should work if they are sliding out.
    IF: the whole set of shelves are unstable, on the inside of the front install flat “L” brackets with screws. That should keep the thing stable (which is what the back is supposed to do).

  22. WontPontificate says:

    Depending on why you can’t install the back, you might consider cross-bracing it.

    The OBSERVATÖR cross brace for GORM shelving may work:


    The brace itself says it does up to ~32″ shelving, and the bookcase is ~35″ wide, but I’d say its worth a shot. Two of them (one very top, one very bottom) installed with the shelf perfectly square would probably end your wobbliness problems.

    Could also cross-brace with aircraft cable and turnbuckles, but that’d be more obtrusive, complex, and expensive.

    Good Luck!


  23. bikerpro_max says:

    I think your problem is that the shelves themselves are simply sliding out of the back of the unit, am I right? I had the same problem with my Hemnes bookcase. I drilled a small hole 1/8 inch and put a small screw 3/4″ long wood screw at a 45deg angle at the back corner of each shelf, where the electrical wire slot is. This holds the shelves in nicely. Alternatively on another ikea bookcase the shelves have little grooves on the bottom where the pins go, so you could add some of those, but that is harder in my opinion.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You need diagonal bracing of any form. Using the Ivar metal part sounds good. Even Screwing the boards into place will do little to stabilize the whole thing.

  25. Anonymous says:

    You’re saying you want to use this unit of furniture without the back? Is that correct? With the back installed properly (taking time to square it) and the unit secured to the wall (as instructed), mine is very stable.

    However, if you’re sure you want to try it without the back … I haven’t tried it with this unit, but I do have several billys (both tall and short) I use without the backs and I can share how I’ve made that work.

    Disclaimer: Use this idea at your own risk!

    STEP 1: Instead of using the pegs, I attach all shelves using L-brackets. I take 4 small L brackets (from any hardware store) and attach them to each shelf by lining each up with the holes that would hold the pegs (use drill and small screw). Then take 4 more screws that are just wider than the peg holes in the side of the shelf unit (so that the threads will hold … #12 for billy). Decide where you want the shelf and attach the shelf by screwing through all 4 L brackets into all 4 peg holes (into the frame of the shelf unit. Now your shelves are securely attached to the frame using screws and simple L brackets. The shelves are still completely adjustable using a screw driver instead of pulling out the peg, much more stable, and much less likely to be knocked down by a toddler.
    STEP 2: Attach to wall using more L brackets or something else that is solid (not a strap).

  26. Anonymous says:

    You could permanently fix one shelf, preferably the middle one, to the sides with brackets or screws, that ought to hold it square enough.. And if all else fails: duct tape… :D

  27. Wolf says:

    Could try cross braces used for IVAR shelving to keep them square.
    Also the sides could be bowing out, so might need a brace across middle from left to right to pull the sides back in.

  28. Indy Rob says:

    The back panel is an integral part of the book case. If the back is not installed or was installed improperly, the bookcase is not square and is missing a good part of its support. Adding l-supports at the corners may square the bookcase enough, but are probably too short to do any good.

    Empty the bookcase out, remove the back (if not already loose), lay the bookcase on a flat surface (outside if you need to), square the book case using a tape measure (opposite diagonals should be exactly the same measurement), and then install the use the back panel in the square’d bookcase using new brads.

    You may need to go to the hardware store and purchase a tape measure, a hammer, and new brads (little nails) .

  29. Anonymous says:

    lay it face down and position the back in the unit to get the corners perfectly square again. then screw L or angle plates on the corners from the back to keep the unit aligned. position the unit upright before you take the back off again, so you don’t twist it out of alignment. if the load on the bookcase is heavy, you might have to reinforce top and bottom with a strip of lumber and L brackets, and anchor it to the wall that way….kind of like the way kitchen cabinets are installed.

  30. woolywoman says:

    can you cut the back, so that it has a strip of the backing on the top and the bottom? The back on this style shelf is what keeps it square. Perhaps you could cut a triangle shapped piece of the back, one for each corner, and then it would fit? Tell us more about why the back can’t be used- maybe we could come up with a work around.

  31. codis says:

    Item 877.496.00

  32. Anonymous says:

    I agree. L-brackets along the top and bottoms to keep it at 90° so the shelves are stable will do the trick.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I suspect it is going slightly trapezoidal without the back to brace it. The shelves are then too short, and fall down. If you reinforce the right angles with either L-braces on the back or corner braces on the inner surfaces it may solve your problem.

    • Padraic says:

      I think it’s a flaw with the product. I saw the same thing when I was examining the Hemnes bookcase in the display section of an IKEA store. The shelf slipped past the pins and all the books fell on the floor.
      The product should be withdrawn. It’s dangerous.

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