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Consumables - Fixings (back to index)

Introduction

Fixings covers a multitude of devices that enable you to connect one item to another, be it timber to timber, steel or timber to masonry, or brickwork to an existing wall. It is basically a catchall for the range of devices that doesn't fit simply in to the headings nails, screws or brackets.

Fixings use a range of basic and innovative ideas to achieve a strong and reliable join between two separate building components, and because of the wide range of products available, it is necessary to select the most appropriate, and to install it in the correct manner. Incorrectly fitted fixings can be very dangerous, generally because of additional items dependent upon the fixing of the first component.

Things to consider in the selection process include:

  • Is the fixing attaching structural or non-structural components, because those designed for structural work are generally much stronger, and more robust in design?
  • Will the fixing require to be removed at any subsequent time, because some fixings are pretty much irretrievable?
  • What weight will need to be supported? Note that static weight and dynamic weight are important here. Without going into detail, an 85Kg person weighs more when jumping up and down, just as dropping a book on a shelf probably doubles its effective weight, momentarily.
  • What materials are you connecting to what type of surface?
  • Are you confident that you really know to what type of surface, and its load bearing capacity that you are connecting? Some of the clinker bricks used in construction of inner walls are very weak structurally. In fact the render on the walls is probably stronger than the brick behind it.
  • Are there alternative fixing strategies, such as locating the studs behind a plasterboard wall and attaching directly to those studs?

Below we detail some of the more common fixings, and include uses, fitting and removal hints and whether the device is designed to carry dynamic loads (i.e. structural):

Simple Wall Plug

The cheapest to fit and use, simply requires drilling the required size hole to a little deeper than the depth of the screw that will be installed, then inserting the plug and cutting the excess off at wall level, using a wood chisel or blade. The packet will advise drill bit size, which in most cases will need to be a masonry bit, as these plugs are generally used in stone, brick, concrete or plaster. Note that drilling too deep a hole can allow the plug to slide further in and possibly become less effective.

They are non-structural, and relatively simple to remove at a later stage, by half inserting a screw, then pulling the screw and plug out with a set of pliers.

Tapered Wall Plug

A variation on the above, these generally have a lip on the top edge that prohibits them from slipping into the hole, and makes removal a little easier, should the need arise.

They can also be used on plasterboard, but there are better fixings available for this purpose.

Frame Fixers

These are perhaps the ultimate in wall plugs, larger and better made to support greater loads, and to extend further into the base material, particularly useful for old plastered/rendered walls, but specifically designed for mounting window and door frames. Countersinking the hole allows it to be overfilled.

The application method is to drill the required diameter hole through the timber to be attached, and on into the stone, brick, render or concrete behind. Then insert the wall plug through the timber and hammer it home with a small hammer. Following this, insert the screw and tighten it firmly. In some cases, the screw is designed to be hammered home, making the fitting much quicker to install.

Removal is by unscrewing, then removing the timber and wall plugs with a pinch bar or similar type lever.

This type of fitting is suitable for structural work, such as affixing stud walls to masonry walls, but not recommended for dynamic loads.

Eye Bolt

Similar to the above, these bolts allow tie-down of structural ropes, wires and cables.

The application method is to drill the required diameter hole into the masonry (or a pilot into a timber base) then insert the eye bolt. Screwing them in is best performed using the winding handle from the screw jack in most car tool kits.

Removal is by unscrewing, then removing any wall plugs by half inserting a screw, then pulling the screw and plug out with a set of pliers. This may be difficult; they are large plugs.

This type of fitting is suitable for structural work, such as securing inflatable pool domes.

Self Drive Plasterboard Fixings

These fixings are quite sturdy, and quite easy to use. Simply screw the outer casing into the plasterboard, taking care to avoid any wall studs, and then attach the required attachment using the supplied screw which simply threads into the already installed casing. The casing (generally) cuts its own way into the plasterboard, using a phillips head screwdriver to turn it.

Though not structural, these fixings can handle reasonably substantial loads, such as wall speakers for home theatres, and can be completely removed by reversing the process. They are damaging to the wall, and removal will necessitate repairs.

Heavy Duty Plasterboard Fixing

A simple fixing that relies on compression of the back end to close in and clamp the fixing against the plasterboard. They need to be installed carefully, and avoid over tightening so as not to overly damage the inner side of the plasterboard.

Again, not structural, as nothing really can be on a plasterboard base, and can often be removed by loosening the screw and forcing the compressed end back out again, though this can be more difficult than it sounds.

These fixings are particularly useful for projects like attaching bathroom wall cabinets to plasterboard walls.

Spring Toggle Fixing

A simple fixing that relies on expansion of the back end to open and clamp the fixing against the plasterboard. To install, drill an oversize hole to take the screw and toggle, then pull the screw outwards and turn until the toggle locks in place. Then tighten the screw as required. They need to be installed carefully, and avoid over tightening so as not to overly damage the inner side of the plasterboard.

Again, not structural, as nothing really can be on a plasterboard base, and can often be removed by removing the screw and letting the toggle fall back into the cavity.

These fixings are particularly useful for projects like attaching bathroom wall cabinets to plasterboard walls, cavity doors and other panel work.

Rawl Plugs

These are a structural fitting, and installed by drilling the required size hole (diameter of the plug part) in stone, concrete or brick, installing the fixing and then tightening accordingly.

They come with screw heads, bolts, nuts and eyelets, dependent upon who makes them and the stock available at your supplier. The shorter model on the left is suitable for attaching metal brackets etc to a masonry or concrete wall, while the centre model is designed for attaching timber bearers or studs to the same types of wall. The plug is buried in the wall, then the timber, with a pre-drilled hole, is slid over the threaded section and the nut is tightened to firmly attach the timber.

Removal is difficult. In most cases, they are generally cut off at surface level using an angle grinder, but sometimes, with determination, they can be encouraged to come out.

Masonry Bolts

These strange looking bolts have a very coarse, sharp thread that allows them to be screwed directly into a hole in concrete or brick.

The hole should be clean, in a firm surface and drilled to the diameter of the bolts shank (less than the threaded diameter). They are very suited to anchoring equipment or structures to concrete floors.

Removal is simple - just screw them out again!

Joist Hangers

These useful brackets enable one to affix a second piece of timber at 90 degrees (or in some cases, other angles) to an existing timber beam, without nailing in from the back of the beam or skew nailing. Very useful for wall mounted support beams.

They can be attached using product nails (25-30mm galvanised nails with large round, flat heads) or more simply screws, and are deemed to be structural purely by definition of their use. They should handle normal domestic floor loads.

Removal is manageable if installed with screws, but very time consuming if they are nailed in place. Screws are the recommended approach.

Brick Wall Tie

These simple ties enable one to attach and bond a new section of wall into an existing wall, such as bricking up a doorway.

To install first gauge where the next mortar layer will be, then drill using a masonry bit and insert a basic wall plug. Next screw the tie into the plug, and mortar in place the brick under the bracket, then the brick above as the next layer proceeds. The brackets are bendable to assist placement.

Removal is a simple matter of screwing it out - but removing the brickwork may be another matter!

 

Please be advised: gapfilla.com does not purport to be an expert in all facets of diy, but has significant experience in almost all of the topics covered on this site. We suggest that all persons take adequate care in the translation and application of this content to their projects, particularly as projects rarely encounter identical issues and constraints. If in doubt, we suggest you seek advice from a professional tradesperson or advisor. All material copyright gapfilla.com 2005-13