Turn of screw makes shelf a problem It's time to decide whether to shelve this particular problem

Maybe it's time to shelve problem

January 19, 2002|By Rob Kasper

LIKE MOST FOLKS, I want my domicile to look tres magnifique. Especially the master bath.

That attitude explains how I ended up spending several days battling a sagging glass shelf in the bathroom.

It did not help that the installation instructions, left by workmen who put the shelf in some years back, were in French. The stylish glass shelf and companion mirror were made by French speakers.

After the workmen installed it, the glass shelf in the bathroom appeared to be hanging in midair. "Tres bon," I would say to myself (or the American equivalent, "pretty cool") as I set the toothpaste tube on the floating shelf.

The shelf seemed to hover above the vanity, just below the mirror. I could not see what was securing it to the wall.

It turns out the answer was nothing much. That became apparent recently when the shelf started sagging, exposing its support bracket and three screw holes. There were only two screws in the three holes.

Moreover, only one of the screws appeared to have a good grip. The other screw appeared to be a big proponent of "liberte." This free-ranging screw did what it wanted. It spun around like a top when I touched it with a screwdriver.

Getting a screwdriver even close to the screwheads was no small feat. That is because, in a trick of Gallic design to frustrate us uncomprehending Americans, the screws and shelf support bracket ended up tucked behind bottom of the large, expensive mirror.

Like a French beauty, trouble started when you tried to probe its support system.

The screws holding the support bracket played peek-a-boo. I would get a fleeting glance at one, as the shelf sagged. But as I tightened a screw, the shelf would rise, drawing closer to the mirror, blocking my view and virtually pinching the screwdriver held in my hand.

I tried several approaches. I tried using a skinnier screwdriver. I tried using longer screws. I was rebuffed. "Mon Dieu!" I cried, or the American equivalent.

Eventually, I got around to looking at the installation instruction sheet, "feuille d'instruction pour l'installation de la tablette de verre," which also had a drawing.

By looking at the drawing I figured out that the "vis" (screw) was attached to a "piece de support en aluminium" (aluminum bracket) that held the tablette de verre (glass shelf.)

I also figured out, by studying the "position finale du miroir," or final position of the mirror, that I was, as the French might say, screwed. The mirror, a big heavy one, had been installed on top of the shelf bracket. This was the "layered look," I guess.

But it meant that to stop the glass shelf from sagging I would have to first remove the mirror. "Tres impossible!" I said, and stormed out.

A day or so later when my mood shifted, I revisited the sagging shelf problem. Instead of trying to attack the existing support system, I decided to install a new one, underneath the shelf. My idea was to put brackets under the shelf that would lift it up.

This push-up approach turned out to be a challenge. I saw plenty of uplifting shelf brackets in the hardware stores, but none that looked "magnifique."

So as happens with many home repair projects, I ended up with a compromise. I put plastic brackets, which my wife thinks are "tres ugly," under the shelf. They hold the shelf upright, if not quite level. Meanwhile I am keeping my eyes open for another solution.

The other morning while shaving, I thought I had found one. I pushed the shaving cream can beneath the shelf, added a washcloth to the top of the can and - voila! - the "tablette de verre" was level.

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