Elfa storage system wall fixings

18 Apr 2012
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United Kingdom
Hi - Have bought this modular wardrobe system by Elfa which seemingly miraculously only requires a top bar to be screwed in and everything else hung off it. https://www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk/category/elfa-shelving-components

hat sounds almost too good to be true but also puts the pressure on to get those fixings right. So here is my problem. We live in an old stone building and some of the internal walls seem to be constructed from irregular red stone blocks or bricks (not clear which) with very large and again irregular mortar joints between. The result of this is that drilling into the wall involves getting through a layer of plaster and then hitting a substructure that feels either like concrete or cheese. There’s no way of predicting where a mortar joint is so it’s pot luck.

i have bought both types of fixings from Elfa - the screw and anchor hardware (8mm - https://www.aplaceforeverything.co....t/elfa-fixing-kit-solid/ean/ean-7315494706967) and the drywall anchor (10mm - https://www.aplaceforeverything.co..../elfa-fixing-kit-hollow/ean/ean-7315494715969) thinking that maybe I should use the screw and anchor when I hit stone and the drywall when I hit mortar. Pretty disastrous so far. Drilling into a mortar joint spins the drill all over the place and I end up with a massive hole which I have tried putting a drywall anchor in. When I can get it in, the screw doesn’t want to go in after it.

1. Should I actually be using the screw and anchor hardware for both the stone and the mortar bits?
2. Should I just buy some bigger anchors and screws for the massive mortar holes? Assuming I can somehow get the drywall anchor plugs out now.
3. Was it a mistake to use drywall plugs on this wall at all?
4. What does everyone else do with an unpredictable (and f*****g annoying!) wall like this? And
5. Has anyone else used this elfa system and had similar problems/fears but not had the whole lot collapse on you once fitted and full?

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Ha! Thanks - helpful. The system is suitable for all walls - my question was a little more specific!
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3. Was it a mistake to use drywall plugs on this wall at all?
4. What does everyone else do with an unpredictable (and f*****g annoying!) wall
3, Yes. What you have sounds like a rubble infill masonry wall and the plaster is possibly lime plaster. This type of wall was common until the mid 19th Century on rural and larger urban buildings. To get any sort of decent fix you need to be drilling into masonry not mortar, and you need a conventional brown plug (hole drilled using a 7mm masonry drill - possibly 6.5mm or even 6mm if the masonry is extremely soft) and 4.5 to 5.0mm diameter wood screw combination to fix into it, because it just isn't drywall! Because the plaster work can be thick on such walls I tend to go for 100mm screws although in extreme cases I've used 120mm and even 150mm long screws in extreme cases. IMHO resin anchors are a bit extreme and very expensive for a wall like those and are rarely needed

4. Any tradesman worth his salt will carry a range of fixings so that a combination of approaches can be used

Frankly, having at one time had a farm cottage built in about 1600, I can tell you from experience that many of the walls on really old lower grade buildings were rough cast masonry and used random sized stones often of variable hardness with all sorts of stuff thrown in to fill the gaps. IMHO this sort of building is best furnished with free standing furniture, if only because the walls are rarely plumb (they taper towards the top).

In more recent years people modernising such houses have often dot and dabbed boards onto walls to get a plumb wall, but where that has been done you sometimes have a cat in hells chance of carrying any sort of load unless you cut through the board and incorporate some form of timber pattress into the void between the original wall and the plasterboard

Even where you have got masonry beneath a variable depth of plaster getting a row of fixings in a straight line might prove to be impossible and in those instances I have in the past resorted to planting an MDF or softwood pattress on to wall (18 to 25mm thick piece of planed timber or MDF maybe 150 to 300mm wide and as long as is needed) and then drilling multiple holes through the pattress and into the wall until I can get several good fixings along the length of the pattress

On poor quality masonry an SDS drill with a brand new bit in infinitely superior to a hammer drill - the extra impact power of the SDS results in the holes being drilled a lot faster with much less tendency for the bit to wander and therefore a more accurate hole (using a decent quality new drill.bit reduces any chance of the bit enlarging the hole by "helicoptering" - see also the note above about drill bit sizes for brown plugs).

Once the fixings and screws are in place (but loose) wedges or packers can be used to plumb up the pattress before tightening the screws. At this stage it can look pretty random, so the screw holes need to be filled and sanded and the pattress should be painted or at least primed. Almost anything you want can be hung off this sort of pattress

Gaps round the edges can be filled with decorators caulk, if needs be backed by decorators foam piping where the gaps are massive (say more than 6mm)

Of course you could always go "old school" and chop away sections of plaster work to find the mortar joints. Into these joints a series of extra dry timber widges can be hammered and when you have enough the tops of the wedges can be sawn plumb (co-plabar?) with each other and a pattress nailed or screwed onto the wedges. Obviously the pattress should be larger than the section of plaster you've chopped out so you can hide your "butchery"

IMHO the problem isn't that you've bought the wrong system, rather that in old buildings it is sometimes necessary to adopt solutions which are more akin to those originally used when the structure went up
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