The Workbench: The nuts and bolts of home projects

  • A towel bar's attachment to the wall can become tenuous if the screws holding it are screwed straight into the drywall, which was never meant to hold towel bars that might have pressure put on them. The solution: Mount your towel bars, paper towel holders and other accessories with toggle bolts. (Tom Wilmer)

If you’ve ever tried to fix a dangling towel bar, hang a heavy picture on the wall or smooth a patio deck with protruding screw heads, you know that all fasteners are not created equal.

Solving these and other similar problems can be as simple as choosing the right fastener for the job.

An all too common bathroom problem is the toilet paper holder or towel bar that is the barely hanging on.

It’s rarely the installer’s fault. The culprit is the little bullet-shaped plastic wall anchors that are frequently supplied with bath accessories. They will hold a screw firmly in the wall as long as no one tugs, pulls or leans on the fixture.

The problem is that drywall is made of diatomaceous earth combined with glue, and is basically a stabilized powder. It doesn’t take much force before the drywall’s grip on the anchor is weakened and you’re on your way to dangling towel bar syndrome.

The solution: Mount your towel bars, paper towel holders and other accessories with toggle bolts.

Just slip them through a pre-drilled hole and their spring-loaded ears are deployed at right angles on the backside of the drywall.

Fortunately, some manufacturers now include toggle bolts in their assembly packets rather than the little plastic anchors.

Mike Pierre, owner of Mission Ace Hardware in Santa Rosa, recommends the latest evolution in toggle bolt technology, the E-Z Toggle ($1.39), which has a built-in self-tapping Phillips drill head.

“It cuts a clean 3/8-inch hole, and when you subsequently drive in the screw, it deploys a right-angle toggle that clamps firmly to the backside of the wall,” said Pierre.

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