shelves on a plasterboard wall?
July 25, 2010 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I want to install some shelves on a wall that sounds hollow when I knock on it. I'm pretty sure it's a plasterboard wall. Can I even do this? Or the whole thing will collapse? Do I need special screws and plugs? Will the drill destroy the wall completely?

The shelves are Ikea's Varde. Here. I don't need to load them with heavy things, just some books and craft supplies.
posted by uauage to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At a minimum, you'll need hollow wall anchors. I would recommend picking up a stud finder and giving it a shot. It would be very strange to not have something in behind. My concern would be that people in the future won't know that the shelf can't handle a lot of load.
posted by wackyvorlon at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2010

Do you have studs? You should be screwing things like this into studs if possible.
posted by ishotjr at 2:25 PM on July 25, 2010

Erp, what wackyvorlon said.
posted by ishotjr at 2:25 PM on July 25, 2010

Best answer: If I am not mistaken is is recommended you find the studs and use them for mounting. I am sure you can google "how to find studs plasterboard"--detecting by sound or magnetic(the presence of nails). There are special anchors which are designed for plasterboard. You can ask at any hardware--they are spirals with deep grooves. Those would probably suffice if it is a relatively light load and a failure would not present a safety hazard or damage valuable articles.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:27 PM on July 25, 2010

You want to screw in to the studs, which are probably on 16" centers, that is, there is 16" from the center of each 2x4 to the next. I can't tell from the picture, but your shelf's vertical supports may be 16" apart to match. You probably want to buy or borrow a stud finder (available at hardware stores/home depot/etc) to figure out where the studs are, or you can probe and patch using a nail or something. Here's a video.
posted by pullayup at 2:28 PM on July 25, 2010

If it is older plasterboard instead of drywall, it would be wise to pre drill your screw holes through the plaster. Without pilot holes, the screws will commonly crack the plasterboard, turning your small hole into a crater.
posted by WhiteWhale at 2:30 PM on July 25, 2010

Save yourself some time and money and go buy a studfinder for $10 at your local hardware store.
posted by 2legit2quit at 2:48 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

FYI, books are heavy. Also big piles of folded fabric.

Not saying your shelf won't work - it should work fine, especially if (as it appears) the base rests on the floor. But take care when choosing your drywall anchors, if you need them. Screwing into studs is better, of course.
posted by amtho at 3:17 PM on July 25, 2010

Best answer: Finding the studs are your best bet, but studs aren't always conveniently placed.

I've used a couple of these spring-loaded cavity-wall plugs before to hang a small flatscreen TV from a hollow wall.

You drill a small hole first, push the clip through closed and it springs back open inside the cavity, spreading the load over a large area. I think if you used enough of them you should be fine; the shelves aren't that deep, so most of the force is going to be straight down rather than horizontally out from the wall. 2 on each side would probably be sufficient, but if you're paranoid, 4 down each side would be overkill.
posted by matsho at 3:31 PM on July 25, 2010

Best answer: Use a stud finder to find at least one or two studs to screw directly into.
A strong magnet will work great as a stud finder - it will find the drywall screws in the wall.

For any spot that requires a screw and there is no stud, use dry-wall anchors
posted by Flood at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2010

My hollow wall anchors didn't hold a towel rack with a wet handtowel. YMMV but I recommend finding the studs.
posted by salvia at 4:38 PM on July 25, 2010

For shelving, I always use the tiniest drill I have and do some exploring to be sure I've found the exact centers of the studs. It's not pretty but you can probably do it in such a way that the holes'll be covered up by the shelf.

If you want to do drywall anchors use this kind. Drill the hole, insert the anchor and tighten it until the "wings" open snug to the backside of the wall (but not so much as the crush and weaken the drywall). Then you can take the threaded bolt part out and use it to attach your shelf.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2010

Depending on the thickness of your drywall, it could conceivable hold up to 75lbs with drywall anchors.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:07 PM on July 25, 2010

Best answer: In my experience, the things matsho describes are called “toggle bolts”, and the things bonobothegreat describes are called “molly bolts”. Molly bolts need a slightly smaller hole, but they both work. I've never had much luck with drywall anchors— they always crumble out pretty soon.

I'm assuming that by plasterboard you mean what's also called drywall or gypsum board or sheetrock (the stuff has a zillion names apparently). If it's an interior wall built after 1950 or so, it presumably is. Connecting something to a plaster-and-lath wall, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
posted by hattifattener at 8:29 PM on July 25, 2010

I am a huge fan of Buildex E-Z Anchors. Yes, they put real sized holes in your walls, but they have never failed me. I always keep the short metal ones (called Stud Solvers) and the long toggle ones around in my screw bins.

Relatedly, I am a huge fan of Ook brand picture hangers. Between the anchors I mention above and these, there are few things I wouldn't hang.
posted by fief at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2010

Response by poster: thanks everyone! I'll be studying all your answers and seeing if my local hardware shop carries any of these contraptions.
posted by uauage at 4:38 AM on July 27, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for the magnet tip.... very clever.
posted by uauage at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2010

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