Adjustable Over-the-Railing Outdoor Planter Shelves

non-standard balcony

Problem: I have a solid construction balcony railing that has a non-standard 7 inch wood railing. I wanted to have planters on/near the railing without (a) having to drill holes into the railing as that was forbidden by my condo association, (b) having any risk of the planters flying off the balcony railing onto my neighbor’s patio and/or head below. None of the standard “over-the-railing” type planters were sized above 6 inches. Most window boxes needed to have supports drilled in or were designed to loop around a metal or wood railing. As you can see from the photos, there is no space to loop anything around the railing. IKEA to the rescue!

Solution: I cut an ÄPPLARÖ wall panel in pieces, attached it to window box brackets and finished the cut ends.

Adjustable Over-the-Railing Outdoor Planter Shelves

Adjustable Over-the-Railing Outdoor Planter Shelves

You will need:

  • 1 ÄPPLARÖ wall panel
  • 3 (or more) ÄPPLARÖ shelves
  • Varda finish or Teak oil
  • 6 window box brackets appropriately sized to your balcony railing. I used 2 x 8 brackets for my 7″ balcony railing as that was the closest I could find.
  • 12 1 1/4″ flat Phillips head bolts and nuts
  • 8 adjustable furniture levelers, at least 1 1/16th inches
  • 8 metal T-nuts sized to fit the furniture levelers (if the T nut that comes with the levelers is plastic)
  • At least 12 1-inch wood screws.
  • wood filler
  • Saw, screwdriver, drill, pliers, sandpaper and other basic tools


1. The ÄPPLARÖ wall panel comes in two pieces, the bottom piece with legs and the upper piece. Saw the legs off of the bottom piece of the ÄPPLARÖ wood wall panel right below the lowest rung.



2. Decide how you want to separate the top piece of the ÄPPLARÖ panel. I ended up doing two panels of 5 rungs, and one panel of 7 rungs. You could easily do three panels of 5 rungs each to keep things symmetrical. You could also get 4 panels of 4 rungs each if you have an especially long balcony. I decided to keep the wall panel as intact as possible to ensure the strength of the panel was not compromised. Saw the top piece of the panel in between rungs into the appropriate sizes.

3. Measure and mark the holes for the brackets. Use a level to ensure the bracket will be straight. Drill the holes the same size as the bolts that you are using. I used bolts that have a flat Phillips end head since I didn’t have two sets of pliers.

mark holes for the brackets

4. If your bracket is sized for your railing, you may not need to do the rest of the steps. I would test out the wall panel on your railing to see if it is stable, and if so, you can skip ahead to step 9. Because the lower part of my balcony railing is recessed further than the lip of the railing, I needed to install metal furniture levelers to keep the wall panel vertically level. I measured the distance between the lower corner of the panels and the wood balcony wall. I could only find 1 1/16th inch furniture levelers in stainless steel, and these were not large enough to bridge the gap between the back of the wall panel and the balcony railing. I needed to install a separate piece of wood on the back of the panels to bridge the gap. Depending on what furniture levelers you have purchased and how big the gap is, you may not need to do this. Be aware, if you don’t install wood pieces, you may have to drill a hole all the way thorough the bottom corner side pieces, and this may not look as nice from the front.

5. If you are proceeding with the wood pieces, use the leftover wood legs and saw them into 4 inch pieces, one for each side piece of your wood panels. For the wall panel with 7 rungs, I used pieces about 8 inches in length to install two furniture levelers each. These wood pieces will be installed on the back of the side pieces on the wood panel and will not be visible from the front.

6. Drill a hole large enough to accommodate the T-nut you have purchased in the middle of the pieces of wood. I drilled the hole straight through to allow space for adjusting the furniture leveler. I used metal T-nuts (coarse) instead of the plastic T-nuts that came with the stainless steel furniture levelers because the reviews for the plastic nuts were dismal. Since I planned to put some heavier pots on the shelves, I thought the metal T-nuts would be more secure and long-lasting. Hammer the metal T-nuts into place. There should be one on each 4 inch piece of wood, and two on the 8 inch pieces of wood.

7. Place a wood piece on the back of the wall panel and drill at least two holes slightly smaller than the wood screws. Screw in the wood screws to attach the spare wood pieces to the back of the wood panels. I also drilled out a small indentation slightly larger than the screw head so that the screws would be flush. I was working with spare wood screws of various sizes, so I indented the hole as much as needed to allow the shorter screws to adequately drill enough into the front wood panel. Ensure that the screws do not go entirely through the front of the wall panel.

install levelers install levelers

8. Install the furniture levelers into the T-nuts. Final piece should look like this:

install levelers

9. There will be holes on the top or bottom of two of the wall panels for wood dowels. I filled these holes with wood fill suitable for outdoor use, let it dry, and sanded it down. Depending where you have installed the brackets, there may also be some pre-drilled holes on the side pieces that will need to be filled. This is a picture after stain has been applied:

Apply stain for outdoor use

10. Finish the exposed wood areas of the wall panel and wood pieces as well as the wood filled areas with teak oil or the Ikea brand Varda stain. I used Teak oil because I forgot to pick up the Varda stain at Ikea. I did 3 coats over the course of an evening and let it dry overnight.

11. Place the brackets over your balcony railing, with the wall panels facing inside, and adjust the furniture levelers until the wall panel is secure and level vertically. Hook on the shelves at the appropriate height for your planters. You now have adjustable shelves you can move up or down depending on the planter size. You can also move the wall panels around on the balcony to maximize the sunlight throughout the seasons, and remove them in winter to store inside. There is no way planters or pots can fall off onto the patio below since the wall panels are on the inside of the balcony.

adjustable Over-the-Railing Outdoor Planter Shelves adjustable Over-the-Railing Outdoor Planter Shelves

~ Beth Leo