Sunday, April 24, 2011

Attaching Things to Concrete or Masonry Block Walls

I'll get to the subject of the title of this piece eventually. Please bear with me while I grumble a bit.

If I had my life to live over again, I'd devote myself to disinventing the telephone; I hate the things with a passion. But, they are a fact of life and I do have to have one -- even in my workshop.

Some recent rearrangement of things in the workshop has rendered the phone's old perch inoperative, so I have to make a shelf for it. I figure the material in the following photograph is wretched enough to be fit for the cursed instrument.

Once I've built the shelf, I'll have to attach it to a masonry block wall with 3/16" Tapcons[1]. Tapcons are excellent fasteners; I really like the results I get from the things. But any method of fastening things to concrete or masonry is fraught with peril because of the difficulty of getting holes situated with any degree of precision. You can start the hole where you please, but the drill is going to seek the path of least resistance, and concrete and masonry can present large variations in density and hardness as you proceed with a drill.

I've never seen anyone address this difficulty with any helpful information. For whatever it's worth, I'll share what I've learned about it here. If anyone knows of a surefire method for getting holes drilled in concrete exactly where they're wanted, I'd like to hear about it.

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Here's the little patch of bare wall that I had in mind for the shelf to go on. I've spotted the upper two of three Tapcon locations as carefully as I could and centre-punched them. Something I've found helpful is to pencil little circles around the punch marks. They serve as a 'target' that can help you correct any drill wander that wants to happen just as you're starting a hole.

Another thing I do is to build a bit of adjustability into the item to be mounted. That's simply a matter of drilling oversize holes for the Tapcons. If all goes well, you'll be able to adjust the item's position to compensate for slight misplacement of the Tapcons' holes.

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And as it turned out, all went well. Here's the shelf installed and dead level.

The two upper holes through the back of the shelf were 1/4" diameter for 3/16" screws. That gave me enough slop that I could level the shelf successfully, even though my Tapcon hole placements weren't exactly perfect. In the event that a Tapcon hole ends up badly misplaced, and you have to greatly enlarge a mounting hole to get an item levelled, you can use fender washers to make the installation sound.

The single Tapcon at the lower end of the shelf's back was easy to install. The hole through the shelf there was 5/32" -- the size of a Tapcon drill for 3/16" screws. That gave me a guide hole for drilling the third Tapcon hole, after I'd levelled the shelf and securely tightened the two upper screws.

Anyway, it's done. Here it is with the phone in place and on hold.

If you were wondering what the red hook in the opening photograph was for, now you know.

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Addendum -- MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2011

Well, my face is about as red as that 'hold' hook. Shortly after I'd installed the shelf, my son came by, examined the 'hold' hook, and proceeded to show me how you put one of these old phones on 'hold'. It's really simple and easy -- no hook is needed.

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Update -- THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2012

A reader kindly clued me in to the truly correct way to put an old phone on hold. It looks like this.

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[1]Here's the Tapcon website. I have no financial interest in promoting their products, I'm just trying to be informative here.

The Tapcon screws work as advertised. They're widely available. Use their drills in a hammer drill and follow their instructions, and you'll be pleased with the results.

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