Submitted by togadiz t3_10onfmk in DIY

A friend asked me to help hang some shelves in her newly acquired home. I have done this many times in my current house and previous homes.

Generally I use wall anchors, as the shelving requires attachment at certain places that may or may not be at a stud.

Specifically, I most often use the “plaster screw”-looking anchors for drywall (similar to the ones here: ). I’ve never had a problem with them before. I drill a small hole where I want to insert the anchor, then screw the anchor in.

When I attempted to do this at my friend’s house, the anchor would not screw in. It tore up some of the paint (I think?) on the first layers, resulting in the hole looking like it had been ripped / picked at. It looked similar to a screw going into wood causing it to split.

Why is this happening? It occurred numerous times in different places and on different walls [in her house].

I figure the solution is to use a different anchor (like one that is interred and then expands on the opposite side, rather than gripping the plaster/drywall) but I don’t understand why this is happening, and why I’ve never seen it before?

Photo of one of the holes I made trying to drill the anchor in:



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skinnybuddha t1_j6fpx6y wrote

Those are for wallboard or drywall. The hole looks like it might be plaster or hardiboard, ie not drywall.


togadiz OP t1_j6fq33y wrote

Thank you!

Follow up, would I have known what the wall was made up of ahead of time? Is there a way for a laymen to determine that?


ntyperteasy t1_j6ft3kq wrote

Try sticking a push pin into it. You will be able to insert a pushpin into drywall. Not into a plaster wall or cement board.

Plaster went out of style (well, cheaper alternatives won) in the 1950's to early 1960's. After that, houses were all drywall. Very old houses will have plaster over wood lath. During the 1950's and 1960's it was usually plaster over a product that looked a lot like drywall, but was made to replace the wood lath. The plaster will be thick and quite hard - makes a nice wall!

That said, it's always better to think of ways to land the screws on studs anyway. Try to re-imagine your plan if you can.


togadiz OP t1_j6fvdil wrote

Ah that makes sense! I assumed it had something to do with age - the houses I have installed shelves in were all houses that were built in the 90s, where as my friends house , while newly renovated, was from the early 1900s.

Thank you for your thorough answer, it’s really helpful. I’ll look into trying to find a way to revamp the plan to find a stud as well.


Bearded4Glory t1_j6k3rtj wrote

Plaster over blue board is still common in the northeast. Everywhere else uses drywall. Not sure why.


Sparkykc124 t1_j6ft6mo wrote

Knock on it. Plaster is much more solid, like concrete. Also, a test hole somewhere inconspicuous is a good idea. The good news is looks like a small toggle bolt will work in that hole.


togadiz OP t1_j6fvjl3 wrote

That’s what I was thinking re toggle bolt.

It’s funny you say that re concrete, because I did think to myself that it looked/felt more like concrete than drywall. I shouldn’t be allowed to drill holes when rushing before dinner :)


RearEchelon t1_j6fvt9l wrote

Do yourself a favor and go pick up some of these. I don't use anything else for wall hanging anything that's going to have to support a load.


Sparkykc124 t1_j6fxk4u wrote

Those are great for heavy loads but require pretty decent size holes, which can be difficult in old plaster walls. I have plaster and wood lathe construction walls and have had good luck pre-drilling with a 3/16 masonry bit on high speed with no hammer action, then using a course thread wood screw. If I don’t hit lathe going straight in I angle the screw a bit so I do.


togadiz OP t1_j6fvxyv wrote

AH THANK YOU, great recommendation! Ordering some now !


Life_Of_Nerds t1_j6fzw5o wrote

You can buy similar toggles at most big box hardware stores as well. I get them from home Depot.


RearEchelon t1_j6gpo6h wrote

You can get those exact ones. They're more expensive that way but if you only need a handful it's quicker and easier.


sophiebophieboo t1_j6fzds0 wrote

I use those anytime I have to hang something heavy. I’ve had heavy items in my home hanging on them for ten years with no issues. Second this recommendation.


instaface t1_j6gx936 wrote

Because that's plaster and it's an absolute nightmare. I had it at my last house. The worst


bobthened t1_j6heedh wrote

Try using cavity wall plugs, not sure what they're called in your country, but they push through the hole and then expand on the other side when you screw the screw in.


Gwaiian t1_j6icw7d wrote

If you're not screwing into studs you're setting your friend up for a disaster. Sure it might work for a shelf with a stuffy and a framed picture, but eventually someone will load it with books or a fishtank and it will fail if you're using anchors.


togadiz OP t1_j6idkxv wrote

Thank you for your feedback! In this particular scenario, it’s a small, lightweight, decorative shelf that will just have a few picture frames (not large enough for a fish tank or even multiple books haha) so I think we are safe; but I appreciate your concern.


davogrademe t1_j6g8qlb wrote

That could contain asbestos. If you crush a bit up and it smells like emphysema then its asbestos.