When a handyman is faced with the problem of trying to fasten shelves, cabinets or other fixtures to solid masonry walls (in basements or on the outside of the house) , there are a number of different fastening devices that he can use. Suitable for masonry floors as well as walls, these fasteners can also be used when appliances, railings or fixtures must be bolted down on a cellar or garage floor or on an outside terrace.
When furring strips or 2×4’s must be fastened against a masonry surface, the quickest and simplest way to do the job is to use hardened steel nails which are made especially for this purpose. These are much tougher than ordinary nails and can be driven into concrete with a hammer without predrilling pilot holes. They should be driven through the wood first, since the thickness of the wood is needed to keep them from bending while they are being hammered in. Care must be taken to drive them in with powerful, straight blows.
If not struck squarely on the head, the nails tend to break rather than bend. These nails are not recommmended for supporting shelves or other fixtures since they do not offer adequate resistance to pulling out.
When a stronger and more permanent fastener is needed, expansion-type anchors or expansion shields are usually used. The anchors are less expensive and they come in smaller sizes than the shields. Usually made of lead or a special heavy-duty fiber, the anchors start at about 1/8 inch in diameter and are designed to take standard bolts or machine screws. Expansion shields, on the other hand, require a deeper hole and the smallest size takes a 1/4 -inch machine screw or bolt.
Both work on the same general principle. A hole of the proper size to accept the anchor or shield being used is first drilled in the masonry wall. Then, when the proper screw or bolt is inserted, the shield or anchor expands inside its hole to lock itself firmly and permanently in place.
To hold their positions in the holes before the bolts are inserted, most expansion anchors must be “set” by rapping sharply with a hammer and a special punch. This step is not usually required with shields, since these can be slipped into their holes by tapping lightly.