Explore wall-mounting options
“A 5-ounce bird cannot carry a 1-pound coconut.” So says the castle sentry in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. How about a sheet of drywall? Can it carry a 75-pound or even a 100-pound load? With the proper fastener, finding a wall stud seems to be a lot less critical than once thought.
Okay, we still recommend attaching fasteners directly to wall studs for anything much heavier than a picture. But sometimes the dimensions of the shelf/cabinet/mirror or wall-framing irregularities prevent this, and plain screws will simply not hold in the fragile gypsum drywall core. What are the options?
If there is no way to screw directly into a stud, you can remove a portion of the drywall and carpenter-in the required bracing to carry the load then cover the spot with a drywall patch, coat and paint. This indeed is an elegant approach; it’s also fairly expensive, time-consuming and requires some skill at drywall finish to have a cosmetically acceptable result. If cosmetics are not an issue—I mean, really not an issue—a 1-x-3 or 4-inch ledger board can be used to create a bridge between the existing studs for attachment.
However, the most practical alternative is a screw system designed to allow the drywall itself to support the load. The easiest and, in many ways, cleanest system is based on a plastic expanding sabot. The plastic insert is screwed into the drywall, its deep threads spreading the support. When a screw is driven inside, the sabot is forced outward, locking the fastener securely to the drywall.
Another alternative is a toggle system, which expands the load-bearing surface area of the wall by collapsing a thin metal assembly against the back surface of the drywall. After the position of the screw is determined, a hole is drilled for the toggle, and the toggle assembly is pressed in place (Metal barbs prevent rotation.) When the screw is drilled in, the action draws the collapsing metal down against the back of the drywall, preventing pullout.
Most fastener systems come with weight recommendations, but be conservative, and be sure to calculate loaded weight not just the weight of the cabinet or shelf you want to attach. Remember, too, the presupposition is vertical-weight support; overly energetic handling of doors or drawers might bring all your good work to naught.
Tune in to The Bob and RodMan Home Show every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. on 920 AM-WGKA to learn how to improve your house or apartment. RodMan is a certified home inspector, knows residential property appraisal and is a hands-on home renovator. Bob owned a roofing company, has reclaimed distressed properties for years and has Master Licenses as a plumber, electrician and HVAC mechanic. www.bobandrodman.com