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Fastener Guide

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Selecting the right wall fastener for your picture, mirror or artwork will keep your treasures from crashing to the floor.

There's nothing worse than watching a family picture fall from the wall or a bookshelf tumble to the floor.
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Those "accidents" often occur because the wrong type of fastener was chosen for the job - one that was not strong enough or right for the wall.

What follows is a rundown of the different types of fasteners available for do-it-yourselfers, and the jobs they're best for.

Plastic anchors are one of the most popular type of fasteners probably because of their low price. They're designed for plaster or drywall walls, which are hollow.

Resembling ridged sleeves, they come in a wide variety of sizes and are fairly easy to install: Drill the appropriate pilot hole into the wall, push the anchor into the hole, and then gently tap it in all the way with a hammer.

When the appropriately sized screw is inserted into the sleeve, it expands the sleeve, anchoring it to the wall.

There are also hammer-driven plastic anchors that have pointed ends and are planted into a wall like a nail. That allows you to leave the drill in the toolbox.

Plastic anchors are good for light loads on a wall: Hanging a small picture, a bulletin board or a knick-knack. Plastic anchors work best on drywall and plaster walls and may work well with ceramic tile. They are usually not recommended for masonry walls.

The downside is that a plastic anchor is hard to remove and if too much of a load is placed on it, it will easily pull out of the wall. Then, you need to fix the hole or move the anchor.

Expansion anchors or molly bolts: While costlier than plastic anchors, molly bolts can carry more of a load when hanging something on a plaster or drywall wall or ceiling. Bookshelves, heavy pictures and mirrors are all usually adhered with a molly bolt.

To install a molly bolt, drill a hole large enough to insert the molly bolt and its sleeve. Then place the anchor in the wall (it may need a slight tap with a hammer) and turn the screw, which expands the sleeve and locks it into the wall.

Turn the screw counter-clockwise to remove it, hang your shelving bracket, and replace the screw.

Once a molly bolt is expanded, it's in place for good. And be careful that it doesn't get caught up on a stud.

Also, the molly bolt will only be as strong as the drywall or plaster wall it's going into. If the wall is crumbling, cracked or damaged by water, the molly bolt will probably fail.

And like a plastic anchor, a molly bolt anchor is tough to remove from the wall without damaging the area around it.

Toggle bolts install and work in a fashion similar to a molly bolt and cost about the same. A toggle bolt, however, is even stronger than a molly bolt and can take more weight.

A toggle bolt consists of a bolt and a folding spring-loaded wing. To insert a toggle bolt into a wall, drill a hole large enough to squeeze the folded wing through. Work the end of the bolt through the wing and slip it into the hole.

Once on the other side, the wing will open and as you tighten the bolt, it will attach itself to the backside of the wall.

Once the toggle bolt is in the wall, however, it needs to stay in place. Once you remove the bolt, the wing will fall into the wall cavity and you'll have to replace it.

As a result, you need to run the bolt through the hanging fixture - such as a shelving bracket - before inserting it through the hole. This could make a job such as hanging a curio cabinet fairly tricky.

Lead anchors are used for masonry, such as basement walls. Similar to the plastic anchors for drywall or plastic walls, led anchors expand once a screw is inserted into them.

To install a lead anchor, use a masonry bit to drill a hole snug and deep enough for the anchor. The best bet is to target the mortar between bricks, which will be easier to drill.

Then insert the anchor, giving it a slight tap with a hammer if needed. Then insert a screw into the anchor. Do not over tighten as that can cause the anchor to slip in the hole.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. June 10, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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