4 ways to put up shelves in a rented home without drilling or using nails – so you don't lose your deposit

Maximise storage in your home, even as a renter

Wooden shelf against white wall with decorative items furnished on top, gold pendant wall light hanging above
(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Shelves are a go-to solution for those wanting to maximise storage in even the smallest of spaces. However, if you're a renter looking to incorporate this nifty storage in your home, then knowing how to put up non-permanent shelves is critical for your deposit's sake.

Although many restrictions often come with decorating a rented home, rest assured that it is possible – it just takes a little bit more creativity is all. Similar to decorating rental walls, the trick to putting up shelves in a rented property simply lies in opting for temporary solutions that can be easily reversed upon the end of your tenancy, steering clear of nails and drilling holes where possible.

While it may seem more hassle than what it's worth, Ryan Nelson, real estate and rental property expert at Rental Real Estate assures, 'With some creativity, renters absolutely can install functional, stylish shelves tailored to their space and needs.'

White shelf with decorative planters, vases, and camera displayed on top

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to put up non-permanent shelves

There are many different ways to put up shelves that are sure to tickle your fancy to enhance your kitchen shelving ideas or add to living room storage – without so much as drilling unnecessary holes into a wall.

Here are a handful of expert-recommended ways to put up non-permanent shelves, using affordable and quick fixes.

1. Command strips

At this point, it's pretty much a given that command strips have solidified themselves as a pillar in decorating a rented home. Therefore, it's no surprise that they're a go-to solution to putting up non-permanent shelves.

'Command strips can be stuck to walls and removed without leaving any adhesive residue behind, making them a great tool for renters,' begins Tim Warren, DIY expert at Adkwik. 'However, these will only work for lightweight shelves, and you will be unable to place heavy objects onto the shelf after it has been mounted.'

'After putting up a shelf using adhesive strips, wait at least an hour before placing anything on the shelf so the adhesive has time to reach maximum strength,' he advises. For a two-in-one shelf and command strip solution, consider these Command Display Ledges, at Amazon.

Open plan house, under stair storage with pegs, hooks, and shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

2. Tension rods

On the other hand, if you're after something a tad sturdier, tension rods might be your answer. Given they're a staple for putting up curtains in a rented home, it's no wonder they also work a treat for putting up non-permanent shelves in narrow spaces. For example, they're great for wardrobe storage and organising larger cabinets.

'This system relies on adjustable rods that can be extended between two walls to create a sturdy base for shelving, without the need for drilling or permanent fixtures,' explains Manny Sahmbi, DIY and property expert at Happy 2 Move Ltd.

Wooden shelf against white wall with decorative items furnished on top, gold pendant wall light hanging above

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

To set up tension rod shelves, you simply need adjustable tension rods and shelves designed to fit onto them like these tension rod shelves, at Amazon.

'Measure the width of the space where you want to place the shelves and adjust the tension rods accordingly,' advises Zoe White at Ray White Builders. 'Once the rods are in place, simply place the shelves onto them at your desired height, and these shelves work well for lightweight items such as books, plants, or decorative pieces.' 

3. Clamp-on shelves

Moving away from walls, if you're looking to enhance storage in a small bedroom or maximise your small kitchen storage solutions, clamp-on shelving might just be the way forward.

As the name suggests, clamp-on shelves do exactly what they say on the tin and come in a myriad of designs to suit your needs. From 2-tier shelving clamp-on shelves, like this at Amazon to models simply serving as a folding bedside shelf, like this at Amazon, it's an instant fix to getting more out of your space.

'You could, for example, keep it in your tiny rental kitchen for extra spice storage. The soft pads will protect the countertop. Bonus points for portability – you can unclamp and stow it away when not in use,' adds Ryan.

4. Freestanding shelves

And of course, if all else fails, freestanding shelves won't disappoint.

'Although the most obvious and easiest route for you to go down, they're a great option as they don't require any installation into the walls, so you don't need any real DIY skills,' assures Zoe. You can simply place them wherever you're lacking storage and adjust them as necessary.

'When choosing freestanding shelves, simply make sure they are sturdy and stable enough to hold your items securely, and it's best to look for shelves with adjustable heights,' continues Zoe.

Choose shelves best suited for your space, keeping in mind whether you need to opt for slimmer and narrower shelves to accommodate tighter spaces or vice versa.

Wooden shelving unit in living room with white sofa and colourful cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)


Can you put up shelves without drilling holes?

Yes, it's possible to put up shelves without drilling holes by opting for methods including command strips and tension rods which can be easily taken down without leaving any damage to the wall.

Can you put shelves up without nails?

Yes, you can put up shelves without nails. Similar to our response above, you can put up non-permanent shelves by using command strips or tension rods to mount shelves to the wall without needing any DIY tools or experience.

'Even though these methods do not involve drilling into the walls, you should still be aware that adhesives can sometimes cause damage or be difficult to remove,' cautions Tim. 'You should also be wary of using certain adhesives that are designed to be permanent, so always double-check before using them.'

'If all else fails, you can try to patch up a wall after removing a mounted shelf if you are moving, preferably using an appropriate filler that can be painted over to return the property to its original state.'

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.