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I want to install a mantle on a brick fireplace.
a) Do you recommend plastic or metal wall anchors?
b) Should the holes for the anchors be drilled into the actual bricks or the
mortar between the bricks?
RA from Milpitas, CA
The plastic anchors work just fine as long as they fit tightly into the
holes. Because the anchors act as a wedge to hold the screws into the very hard
cement or brick, you can use a larger screw than you would use if installing the
same anchor in drywall. In other words, if you are using a #6-8 anchor, use
either an #8 or #10 screw. Though the anchor may crack, it will wedge
within the cement so tightly that it will be virtually impossible to pull out!
There are special purpose anchors designed to be used in masonry, made from
lead and steel, but for all but the most heavy duty jobs (such as cabinets) the plastic anchors
will work just fine. In fact, even a tightly fitted wood dowel would expand
enough to firmly hold a screw in masonry, provided the dowel is not too much
larger than the screw. Again, the principle is that the screw when installed
will expand the anchoring medium so that it is tightly wedged against the sides
of the hole in the masonry.
As an aside, this is why plastic expansion anchors
do not work well in drywall. Drywall is fairly soft, so that the anchor
cannot wedge tightly against it. Instead, the drywall deforms slightly,
providing only minimal holding strength.
Back to your question, you may drill into either the brick or the mortar.
However, I prefer to fasten to the mortar for cosmetic reasons… it is easier
to touchup holes in the mortar if you someday take down the mantle. You cannot
do too much to disguise the holes in the brick face unless it is painted or you
are very artistic. In that case the holes can be filled with virtually any
filler suitable for wood or cement prior to being touched up with paint.
Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.
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