Attaching shelf to stud wall with metal stud


19 Nov 2006
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United Kingdom
In an attempt to acquire more storage space in my small flat, I am trying to put a shelf in a storage area that sections off the top 1/4 of the space. I want to put an old computer and a laser printer in this space so the requirement is that the shelf has to support a lot of weight (approximately 15 kgs).

The plan is to put small brackets on the left and right walls, and another 2 long brackets on the wall opposite the door, all mounted on the studs.
So I got the area measured, marked the locations of the studs on the 3 walls, went down to B&Q and bought myself an mdf panel cut to measurements, some brackets, a power drill, and some woodscrews.

Upon starting drilling, I found out that my studs were metal rather than wood, which I didn't expect in the least. So I went out again to Robert Dyas and bought a drill bit set that had some bits for metal, and on the recommendation of staff, got masonry/plasterboard plugs (plastic, with arms coming out approximately 3/4 inches from the head) of assorted diameters.

So I started drilling again - first a pilot hole (4mm) into the metal stud, then with a 6mm bit to widen the hole, then an 8mm for just the plaster, to make room for the wider head of the plug. However to my dismay, when I screwed on the bracket and tested the sturdiness by hand, I found the top portion of the bracket was not firmly attached, and I could nearly pull it off the wall without too much effort. And when I screwed out the screw, , I could see that the plastic plug had been split by the screw.

At this point I have several questions:
- What is the best way to fix brackets onto metal studs? Given that once I drill through the surface, the inside is then hollow, I suppose the Robert Dyas staff member's reasoning that I would need some plug, is reasonable. On the other hand, maybe the fact that the hole drilled through the metal is going to be fairly stable (i.e. will not enlarge due to load, as with softer materials), maybe a very snug screw might suffice. Lastly, it occured just an hour ago that I might be able to use spring toggles - but then these things seemed to be fairly wide, and leads to the next question:
- What is the best way to drill into metal studs? I found that drilling into them with any kind of precision was fairly tricky and physically challenging. Also I suspect that the instability arose from my having to drill several times for each plug, increasing the margin of error each time. And while we're on the topic of drilling,
- Why does my plug split? Is it because I used a power drill to screw in the woodscrew? Is it because the woodscrew is too thick?

So all of this makes me lose confidence in pulling this off neatly, which makes me wonder:
- Can I hire someone to do this kind of work? Given the round trips to the shops and money invested in equipment that proved to be much more than my initial estimate, not to mention effort, in retrospect it is making more and more sense to have the work done by an experienced professional. Trouble is, I have no idea who should call, or even what category to look up in the yellow pages, let alone budget. If I were to forego the sense of achievement pulling this off, would there be people that I could hire to do this kind of work?

I await your wise advice.
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Dontcha just love plasterboard stud walls - not.

Safety bit: Got any electrical sockets on the long wall or near the ends of adjacent walls? Watch out where your drilling and how deep as they won't show up with a wiring detector if the cables go through the metal studs.

You could use longer versions of the screws for holding plasterboard to metal studwork but if you're loading a PC & printer then the thread may pull out over time.

Yes you should fix into the metal studwork but try using either a Plasterboard Anchor (e.g. screwfix part 33559) or a Spring Toggle (e.g. screwfix part 34386) as both of these will spread the load across the surrounding metalwork and plasterboard rather than relying on a couple of millimetres of screw thread.

My building contractor who fits our big 40" plasma screens to the office walls uses and epoxy type glue as well as wall anchors for fixing the brackets to studwork - but only if he can't avoid it by putting the screen on a solid wall instead.
Ron Gamma said:
Yes you should fix into the metal studwork but try using either a Plasterboard Anchor (e.g. screwfix part 33559) or a Spring Toggle (e.g. screwfix part 34386) as both of these will spread the load across the surrounding metalwork and plasterboard rather than relying on a couple of millimetres of screw thread.

Thanks Ron, I was worried about the load being concentrated on a very thin area with the threaded screws approach, so it's good to have confirmation that this is a valid concern.
I already have a few spring toggles but all toggles I've seen are probably too lumpy for the holes I can drill in metal studs - which is why the plasterboard anchor looks very interesting. The part you posted, reads '5x37S' - does this mean I can use a 5mm bit to drill the hole that lets the anchor fit snugly in the wall? Or is 5mm simply the diameter of the screw?
ilo said:
big-all said:
hardened wood screw or self taper assuming the metal studs are soft [not hardend]sixes go for 3,5mm pilot eights 4mm pilots[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the reply. So, no plugs needed, just screws straight into the studs will hold the load? (load spread on 6 brackets of course, but still..)

ok you have some reservations because off the weight good point :LOL: :eek: ;)

if your shure the screws would penetrate the metal i would be more than happy that the brackets where as strong as any other method

of course the usual "tests " apply as in pulling the bracket with a bit more force than you expect it to handle ;)

i have never dealt with metal studs but i have used this method in several vans to secure battons to the internal struts to hang very heavy boxes and racking [not nesseserily in contact with the floor] just make shure the screw protrudes at least 6mm through the metal so you have full grip from the thread :D
ok tried an experiment with a piece of alloy[the broken casting from a silicone gun]its about 1 to 1.5 mm thick drilled a 3mm hole
screwed a no10 screw through a bit of 2b1" through a hole in a bit off mdf then into the metal and it tightend up nicely couldnt seperate them :D

then just for good measure started screwing again and the screw head pulled completly through the wood without it splitting

now obviously the studs arnt made from alloy but to me it tells me the grip is fine :LOL: :LOL:

and please note my origional pilot hole sizes where wrong those where the pilot hole sizes for mdf :oops:

they should be no6 2mm no8 2.5mm no 10 3mm
big-all, thanks for the experiment and your sharing of the outcome.

I am still interested in using a cavity anchor, since I fear that with the screws-into-metal approach the threads on the screws may give with pressure on a small contact surface for a long time. However I am not going with the anchors until I am certain I can drill holes through the metal in order to fit them.

The other thing that I thought of doing is to measure the thickness of the plasterboard + stud, so as to avoid buying the wrong anchors if I go this way - I already have a bag of spring toggles, a set of wall plugs etc that I found out is not useful for me!

Of course I'm not ruling out the screws-into-metal method; it's just that longer-term anchors sound more secure. If only I can get them through the wall..
absolutly right dont do what your not happy with :D :D ;)

my only concern with other fixings [bearing in mind i dont know what profile or size metal studs are ;) ] i feel a 10mm hole for your fixings may be a bit hit and miss getting them centraly in the stud
and if near to the edge may weaken it
but as i say i dont know ;)

althought if its 44x76mm like this stuff it should be ok

A 75mm nominal width metal stud partitioning system using
• 44mm metal H Studs set at 900mm centres,
• a horizontal cross nogging and
• one layer of 15mm x 900mm wide Lafarge Homespan wallboard fixed to each side."

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