Hanging curtains on a plaster wall with plastic anchors.
June 29, 2010 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out how to hang these curtains before I lose my mind. All I need to do (in theory) is drill a hole in plaster and stick a plastic anchor in it.

I cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm doing wrong here. It said use a 3/16" drill bit. I did. The anchor wouldn't go in more than half way. I tried tapping it in with a hammer and the plastic just got flattened. I tried wiggling it. I tried screwing it. Noting will make these anchors go in past the halfway mark. I know the hole is deep enough. I tried wiggling the drill bit while I was drilling. No dice.

This seems like it should be something anyone can do! I'm irrationally angry! So much that I'm over-punctuating!!
posted by Thin Lizzy to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just installed a towel rack that needed a similar plastic anchor and I had to pound it pretty hard to get it in. Like, the same poundage I would have used for a big nail. But it went in and everything worked out in the end. (For reference, my hole was supposed to be [and was] 5/16") ...
posted by kthxbi at 3:53 PM on June 29, 2010

Are your walls Plaster and Lath? We had to hang our curtains on a plaster and lath wall, and I had to use toggle bolts to ensure a strong enough hold. I'm pretty sure that the plastic anchor's won't work well on a plaster wall, they're made for drywall.

As far as it not going in all the way, is there maybe a stud or brick on the other side of the plaster?
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 3:58 PM on June 29, 2010

forget the plastic anchors. What you want is bamboo skewers, like you use for shishkabobs. Stick the skewer in the hole as far as it'll go, then break it off at the wall, and repeat until there's no longer enough space to stick it in the hole. Then screw into that mass of wood, and it'll hold forever. I've hung curtains, towel racks, and even heavy framed pictures and mirrors on our plaster walls this way.
posted by luvcraft at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2010 [10 favorites]

If you don't have lath and plaster walls check to make sure you didn't hit wood (like the header or a stud) in the wall - and if you did you don't need the anchors. The wood should be much better for holding the curtain rod up.
posted by cftarnas at 4:04 PM on June 29, 2010

I hate those plastic anchors. They act like it's going to be easy! and they're going help you!

In my experience (limited thankfully) you will need roughly 10x the amount of anchors to holes you need, because only 1 in 10 of those little jerks will go in the hole. The other 9 will be horribly mutilated and unusable. Also you might want beer.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:14 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

It all depends on what type of wall you are dealing with. Concrete block and brick walls take one type of anchor. Drywall takes another. Plaster and lath takes another.

What kind of walls do you have?

That said, curtains are pretty light - and I bet luvcraft's idea above will work just fine.
posted by Flood at 4:32 PM on June 29, 2010

Yeah, those things that come with the curtain rod are meant for drywall not plaster. If you really have plaster, you need to use something else.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:18 PM on June 29, 2010

Luvcraft, you have officially made my day -- maybe even my week. Good luck, Thin Lizzy!
posted by shifafa at 7:13 PM on June 29, 2010

Yep, I've got lath and plaster walls... and a few decent sized holes by now. So I went to the grocery store and bought some bamboo skewers because hey, what the heck. They worked reasonably well but I've stripped out a few of the screws. I have houseguests coming this weekend so I really wanted these suckers up, but I think I may call a professional to fix this after that because I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I think I'll have a beer now.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 7:17 PM on June 29, 2010

Advice from my handy-as-heck husband:

I've had this happen so many times while trying to install curtain rods. Usually you just have to make the hole a tiny bit bigger than the plastic anchor and you're good to go. In this case, since you've already got the bamboo skewers in place, you might want to drill a pilot hole into the bamboo. So use a drill bit that's a bit smaller than the screw. You want that pilot hole for this especially because bamboo is a really hard wood and just trying to screw the screws into the un-drilled wood is going to be really hard (and it's why you stripped the screws). Buy some more screws and try the pilot hole before you hire someone. Oh, also, use a power screwdriver if you have one.

For the future, though, just use a drill bit that's slightly larger than the one called for in the instructions when you're using plastic anchors. They expand in the hole when the screw goes in so you won't be dealing with wobbly screws if you choose a bit that's just a little larger.
posted by cooker girl at 7:35 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can put drywall screws directly into plaster, so long as you drill a pilot hole first. Put the screws in by hand, not with a powered driver.

It won't hold much weight, but it works for some things. Light curtains are probably OK if cats won't be climbing up them. Don't try it with breakable things.
posted by yohko at 11:15 PM on June 29, 2010

something like this is what you're looking for...they're called screw anchors or anchor screws, and the ones i've used are a little bit pointier on the end...the one on the left in the pic is 'before' and the one on the right is 'after'.
what you do is drill a small hole and hammer them in, then screw them tight. the little descending points at the top hold the collar in place in the wall, and tightening the screw causes the collar to contract inside the wall, forming a little tripod like in the 'after' image. they are super-sturdy, and you want to make absolutely sure that you've measured properly because once they're in, they're IN. (and don't come out without ripping a big hole in the wall) they'll have them at any hardware store, just ask.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:53 PM on June 29, 2010

alternately, you can try this trick for the plastic anchors: drill the hole, lightly tap in the anchors (up to the point right before they start to smash up and go all haywire), then put the screw in, but just partway/halfway (a few twists with the screwdriver), then hammer the screw and anchor into the wall (until the anchor is flush), then tighten the screw the rest of the way. that's worked for me a bunch of times...sometimes the plastic anchors are just too smooshy and need to be stabilized by having a screw in them.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:01 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

also: worst case scenario, i am also in the L.A. and super-handy... email me ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:04 AM on June 30, 2010

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