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.
Rather than removing the old plastic anchor or toggle, he suggests just removing the screw and lightly tapping in the housing until it is just below the surface of the drywall.
Then apply two coats of plaster patch or mud over the anchor. If you plan to reinstall towel bars in the same locale, move your new location up or down a couple inches to find undisturbed drywall.
Another quandary solved by Pierre is a simple way to hang heavy pictures or mirrors.
“First of all, try and lift it,” he said.
“If it’s a struggle, I recommend the PowerHook. It’s rated to hold up to 120 pounds and is a snap to install. Just drill a 1/8-inch hole and then slip in the PowerHook.”
Designed with a J-shaped hook to hold the picture, the PowerHook ($1.29) has a 1-inch vertical arm that slips through a hole in the wall and sets snugly against the backside of the wall.
Look closely at the screw heads on antique door hinges, furniture and hasps, and you’ll see that most have slotted flat heads, which were the norm for hundreds of years.
Fortunately, the advent of the Phillips head made the process of setting screws much easier and less frustrating, with fewer skinned knuckles from screwdriver slippage.
The Phillip head’s x-shaped slot provides a solid bite for the screwdriver tip and resists side slippage and stripping.
Screws with square and star heads are a more recent evolution. The square head has a square recess in the top of the screw and is inserted with screwdrivers and drill bits that are perfectly matched for a snug fit and resistance to slipping in all four directions.