The only real difference between the 36″ and 48″ floating shelf is the length of the schooner shelf that sits underneath the television. The shelf arm pieces and hardware are identical. Deciding between these two shelves comes down to two things, the number of components you wish to place on your shelf and the size of your television.
Choosing a Shelf Size Based on Components
Regarding the components, the first thing to do is add up the size of your components (be sure to include the manufacturer’s recommended circulation space). For example, a Sony Google TV box is 13″ wide, a Playstation 3 is close to 14″ wide for a total of 27 inches. Leaving space for air circulation and game controllers, a 36″ shelf with suit these components.
In a additional example, take an HDTV receiver that is 17″ wide, a Xbox 360 that on it’s side is 13″ wide and a 17″ wide DVD or Blu-Ray player. The total width would be 47 inches wide and fit perfectly on a 48″ shelf.
Regarding components, the rule of thumb is a 36″ shelf for two components and a 48″ shelf for three components. Be sure to check the exact sizes of the components that you have or will buy when selecting your shelf and also, if you choose to stack components, it is not recommended that you exceed 30 lbs on the shelf.
Also bear in mind that the height of the floating shelf is adjustable and that certain components can be positioned standing up like the Nintendo Wii.
Determining Shelf Size Based on TV Size
The general rule of thumb is that a 48″ shelf should be used for flat screen televisions 42″ and better. Of course this is a subjective attitude based on a person’s personal preference towards the look of the television when combined with the shelf. Use the examples below to give you a general thought of the aesthetic difference between the two shelf sizes.