Masonry is easily described as anything a Mason puts down. In other words if it is laid by a stonemason or bricklayer it is Masonry. This includes brick, stone, and block walls.
Blockwork walls are made of blocks also known as breeze block, Thermalite block, concrete blocks or cinder block. They are much quicker to lay than bricks so they are usually used for the interior walls of modern houses.
The walls are then usually covered with plaster or plasterboard to give a smooth finish (although not always).
If you have a solid wall it could be brick, block or stone masonry.
Concrete is not masonry, but for the purposes of this project we have included it because the method of drilling into concrete and drilling into brick or stone are roughly the same.
You will also use the same methods of fixing for concrete, stone, block or brick.
Drilling into Masonry
Masonry surfaces are hard if they are in good condition. To get through most masonry surfaces you will need to own or hire a powerful electric drill with a hammer action. DIY Doctor does not suggest you buy one less than 500W.
If you will be using the drill for a sustained time for a one off job – such as battening masonry for a plasterboard wall, then it makes sense to hire your equipment. Discuss your project with the hire shop and they will be able to advise you which is the best tool for the job.
If you are just going to be doing smaller household jobs like putting up curtain poles, fitting shelves, and fixing pictures to walls, then buying your own drill or even drill/driver is worthwhile.
You will also need masonry drill bits of the correct size for your job (more on sizes later). You can tell if a drill bit is for drilling masonry or concrete by the shape of the end.
Masonry drill bits have a flat cutting section at the end which is slightly wider than the shaft of the drill bit.
This allows the drill bit to cut its way through the masonry or concrete and the cut material can escape through the grooves back to the opening of the hole.
Do not buy cheap masonry drill bits. They will make your life very hard work and, if you have a lot to do, will blunt quickly. This makes you push the drill harder, making the drill bit wobble and enlarges the hole beyond the size you want. You also stand the chance of burning out your drill.
If you have a large, say 10mm, hole to drill through a very hard surface, it is asking a lot of the drill bit (and drill) to do this in one go. Especially if you do not have the powerful tools the professionals use.
It is easier to drill a smaller hole first and then increase it with a larger drill bit. You will then end up with a hole the correct size in the exact position you wanted it.
You may think it sounds like a faff to drill two holes rather than one, but you will find that the work is easier and does not take much more time.
Most importantly it will not burn out the motor in your drill, which can make the job and expensive one
Fixing to Masonry
The traditional way of fixing to masonry is to use screws, but you cannot screw directly into a brick, block, or stone wall so you need to drill a hole and then provide a material that can be screwed into but will also hold the screw firmly in place.
The usual method is to drill a hole of the correct size and then insert a plastic wall plug to screw into.
Wall plugs are very versatile and using them you can add fixings for Thermalite blocks, brickwork, stone walls, or concrete, providing the masonry material is in good condition.
You will be familiar with many fixings, but we also have a page explaining many different and unusual fixings for specific jobs.
Where your masonry is not in good condition there are other solutions for fixing to masonry or concrete using chemical resin anchors. We will look at using wall plugs first, then move on to resin fixing solutions.
Fixing with Plastic Wall Plugs
Plastic wall plugs (also known as Rawl plugs) help you to get a secure fitting when you are fixing things to walls.
They work by expanding against the hole you have drilled in the masonry as the screw is screwed into the wall.
This creates a really tight-fitting hold on the screw providing that your wall is made of solid masonry or concrete.
Wall plugs are great for fixing to brick wall (and other masonry walls) but if you have to fix something to a stud wall or plasterboard wall you will need to check out our fixing to Plasterboard Project which will help you with screwing into plasterboard and Fixing to Stud Walls. However if you have a solid wall read on.
Using plastic plugs is an easy way to fix things when you have a perfect wall – that is a wall that is easily drilled, firm and thick enough to take a wall plug.
Wall Plugs Colour Code
Wall plugs sizes are indicated by their colour code to make it easier to identify the one you need while you are fixing things to walls, without the need to carefully scrutinise each wall plug before using it. Essentially they come in four sizes and colours.
When you visit your builder’s merchant or DIY shop, you will see various grey and other coloured plastic plugs on the market and each has a job to do, but for the purposes of this project and to assist you in getting a good fixing to a brick, block or concrete wall or ceiling, we will just deal with the four major wall plug colours (pictured below).
- Yellow plugs fit into holes made by a 5mm drill bit and are for screw sizes 4 – 8
- Red wall plugs fit into a hole made by a 6mm drill bit and are for screw sizes 6 – 10
- Brown wall plugs fit into a hole made by a 7mm drill bit and are for screw sizes 10 – 14
- Blue wall plugs fit into a hole made by a 10mm drill bit and are for screw sizes 14 – 18
Screws for Wall Plugs
Screws come in all shapes and sizes. The larger the number of the screw, the larger the diameter. For example a number 8 screw is smaller than a number 10.
This is the gauge number of a screw and is measured using the head of the screw rather than the diameter of the shaft.
Numbers 8 and 10 are the most popular screw sizes and suitable for most fixings at home.
Obviously screws, and therefore wall plugs for Kitchen Cabinets will be bigger than screws and wall plugs for hanging pictures.
As well as the different gauges (sizes), screws are available in different lengths, and these are often given in millimetres (mm) and in inches. This is why there are two numbers given when you are shopping for screws.
Attaching to Brick Walls – A Tutorial
Fixing a bracket to a brick wall is the example we have pictured, but you would use the same process for attaching things to brick walls as you would for any other masonry surface.
Drilling into concrete, block, or stone walls is very similar to drilling into brick.
Firstly lay out everything you need. Please note that the sizes of your drill bit, wall plugs and screws will vary depending on the job, and we explain this in more detail below. If you prefer to work in inches there is a handy online converter tool at Metric Conversions.
- Electric Drill
- Masonry Bit or Bits depending on the size of hole
- Correct size Plugs Wall plugs also known as Rawl plugs
- Screws of the correct size for the job
- Electrical Tape
- Tape Measure
- Pencil, chalk or a nail to mark where the hole should go
Now you have all of the equipment you need, you can start fixing.
Measure the depth of the hole you wish to drill. This will be determined by the length of the screw which will be in the wall.
Use a little tape of some kind to wrap round your drill bit to indicate how far you want your drill bit to go into the wall (electrical tape is good because it is colourful and sticks well).
In this example we are drilling into an external brick wall to hang a candle sconce, but you would use the same process for hanging a hanging basket bracket or, if you were working inside, for any number of jobs where you are attaching things to walls.
The bracket we are fixing below is 7mm thick and the screw is 50mm long, and there will be 43mm of screw in the wall.
The screw does not go right to the very end of the wall plug, and there is always a little drilling dust left at the end of the hole, so we always add 10mm to the depth of the hole to allow for this.
Therefore in this example we have – 43mm of screw in the wall plus 10mm allowance = a hole 53mm deep.
We are using a size 8, 50mm screw so we need a 6mm masonry drill bit and a red wall plug to fit into a hole (see the colour coded size guide above).
So in this instance you would measure 53mm from the tip of your masonry bit and mark it with a piece of tape (see above). Fix the tape above the line with the bottom edge of the tape on the line. Here you can see we have marked the depth we want the hole on the drill bit using green tape (below).
Next we hold our wall bracket up to the wall (if possible) to mark the position of the screws.
If you do it this way you will see where it looks best, and it is helpful to have two people to judge this; one to hold it, and the boss to confirm it is in the right place!
If this is not possible, or you don’t fancy judging it by eye, then measuring accurately will do the same job.
You may also want to use measurement where you are putting up more than one item at once, such as when you are fixing pictures to walls or putting up picture hooks.
When we measure to drill holes, you will see above, we always mark our position with a V shape.
Using just a dot or a line can result (after an interruptive phone call or a sudden rush to the toilet,) in forgetting just where the dot is or which end of the line you were going to drill to.
If you use the point of the V as the position of where we want to drill the hole, it is much clearer.
This will give you a more accurate measurement than a cross too, as it is easy to end up shifting the drill bit along an "arm" of a cross.
There is no doubt about the marked position if you use a V, and most Pros will use the same method. Try it yourself.
Make sure though that whichever mark you make it will be covered by the work you are hanging.
Next, drill the hole! Make sure the drill is level and going in at right-angles to the wall. Some drills even have a tiny spirit level incorporated in the body of the drill to help you do this accurately.
It is much easier to drill if you can stand in a comfortable upright position with your weight behind the drill, so you may need to stand on a ladder or platform. Do make sure you are using your ladder correctly to avoid accidents.
Apply pressure to the drill, but allow the drill to do the work. You can adjust the torque and the action on many drills. Why not check out DIY Doctor’s tutorial video How To Use a Combi Drill on what the settings mean on your drill/screwdriver and how to safely use an electric drill.
Keep an even pressure on the drill and stop when your tape touches the brickwork. With the drill still running pull it out of the hole, this brings out more brick dust and makes it easier to take the drill bit out of the wall without damaging it.
Push in the wall plug you are using, in this case a red one. Make sure the plastic plug is entirely in the hole.
If it does not fit in the hole it will not work as effectively, so remove it and try either vacuuming in the hole to remove dust or blow into the hole (making sure you are wearing glasses so you don’t get an eyeful of brick dust!).
If the wall plug still doesn’t fit then drill a bit further and try again.
Screw the bracket to the wall so that you get a secure fixing. When attaching to brick walls you normally use at least two fixing points.
In this case the bracket, or sconce, is only going to bear the weight of a candle so it is quite easily supported by one screw, however for most brackets you would want at least two screws to ensure it is secure and will not be easily dislodged if it is nudged from the side. Basically use the holes in the bracket to judge how many screws to use.
You will notice that we are using an electric screwdriver/drill which in our opinion is the most wonderful invention known to man!! You can get a wide range of electric drill and electric screwdrivers online and we have lots of product and tool reviews on our You Tube channel to help you choose the right one.
Finally – standing back and admiring your work is always a good thing to do at this point! Enjoy your work and give yourself a pat on the back.
NOTE: Using wall plugs in wall or floor tiles – Wall plugs expand against the material they are placed into so that they grip the screw.
This puts quite a lot pf pressure on the building material they are placed into, so make sure you push the wall plug right into the hole, beyond the tile, otherwise the wall plug will expand and press against the weaker surface, which could crack the tile.
Fixing Timber Battens to Masonry with Wall Plugs
Timber battens are used to allow you to get a level surface to fix plasterboard or other sheeting material to the wall. It is important that this framework is fitted accurately so that you can get a good final finish.
Even though the battens won’t be seen, if they are badly fitted, badly spaced or uneven then they will make it almost impossible to get a good job at the end, and could cause further problems later.
To fix a timber batten hold the batten into position on the wall, making sure it is level using a spirit level. Mark the wall with a pencil along the side of the batten.
Take the batten down and drill a 5mm hole in the centre of the batten to push a screw through.
See the Drilling into Brick section above for instructions on how to measure the depth of the hole you need and how to mark it on the drill bit.
Put the batten back on the wall to the line you have drawn. Push the screw through the pre drilled hole and wiggle it on the wall to make a mark where you want the hole to be.
Take the batten down and make sure you can see your mark, make the mark more visible by marking a V with the point of the V on the screw mark (see above for an explanation).
Using a 6mm masonry bit, drill a hole to the correct depth. Push in the wall plug and screw the timber up tight to the line.
You can now use the masonry bit to drill right through the timber and the wall (don’t forget to alter your depth marker on your drill bit to take account of the depth of the batten).
Push the wall plug into the timber, turn the screw in a couple of turns and tap it through with a hammer. You will feel the plug slip through the timber into the wall and when you do it is time to screw the screw in.
This method saves you marking each hole individually before you put the batten on the wall, which can lead to mistakes.
To be fair it does eventually blunt the masonry bit slightly but it takes about 650 holes through timber to do this and the time saved, together with the accuracy involved, makes it worth it.
Fixing with Resins and Adhesives
Fixing brackets for shelves, curtain poles, picture rails, dado rails, in fact anything in the home that usually requires you drilling into concrete or masonry, can also be fixed using resins and adhesives.
In some cases plastic wall plugs are not the answer to fixing things to walls because they simply will not work, usually because the masonry is too soft or is cracked. In these cases resins come to the rescue!
Types of Resins, Adhesives and Fillers
These are used for bonding in bolts, studs and screws. You can buy anchor resins online from most building material vendors or from your local DIY store.
Epoxy Thixotrophic Adhesives
These allow you to bond or "glue" items directly to the surface you want.
These fillers provide a base for you to screw or bolt your item to.
Anchoring with Resins
Using a chemical or resin anchor system involves fixing a steel stud, bolt or other type of anchoring fixing, by filling a drilled hole in masonry with a resin-based adhesive and setting the anchoring fixing into the resin and allowing it to set or "cure".
This type of fixing reduces the load-bearing stress in the wall as the resin takes the load rather than the wall, which means they are ideal fixings for soft or crumbling surfaces where a traditional wall plug could not gain purchase and would be pulled out of the masonry wall by the weight of the item being fixed to it.
The chemical anchor is created by mixing two chemical materials together and allowing them to "cure" around the fixing holding it fast which in turn allows things to be fixed to the wall (floor or ceiling) using these anchors.
You may have come across a similar curing system if you have ever used glue with two ingredients such as Araldite.
4 Stage Process Using Resins
There are four simple stages in the process of successfully using resins:
You will require a suitable stud and these are generally available in 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm sizes. You will need a masonry drill bit which is at least 4mm bigger than the stud you are using. For example an 8mm stud will require a 12mm drill bit and so on.
- Measure, mark and drill your hole in the desired location.
- Clean the hole of dust and debris. You can do this using proprietary brushes or by using a compressor to blow air into the hole. You could also use a vacuum cleaner or blowing down a tube (don’t suck, close your eyes and wear a dust mask and eye protection).
- Inject the resin into the hole. The best way to do this is using the applicator skeleton gun fitted with an extension tube of the correct length and diameter to reach the bottom of the hole (see picture above). Inject gently, slowly removing the tube from the hole, to deposit resin without trapping air. For accurate, waste-free injection you can pre-mark the tube with tape just like we did with the masonry bit when we were drilling holes in the project above. Stop operating the trigger when the tape appears. Make sure you set the tape at a distance from the tube end to allow for the resin that will be displaced by the stud, dowel or bar. There are various applicator skeleton guns available, depending on which resin you choose. You may already have the basic 300cc and/or 400cc skeleton gun if you have carried out other work with fillers and sealers.
- Mask the threaded stud with electrical tape over the part required to take the nut, to avoid resin contamination, which might block the threads. Take the stud in a gloved hand and slowly rotate whilst pushing it into the resin filled hole. Complete kits are available for resin fixing if you have a lot to do. If you need to use dowels, for reinforcement or joining materials together these are available in high tensile plated steel or epoxy-glass in 6 – 25mm diameters. You can see an example of dowels being used to repair a joist in the picture below.
Types of Resin for Chemical Anchors
There are two main types of resins used as chemical anchors:
- Epoxies – Epoxies are a group of adhesives, plastics, or other materials made from a class of synthetic (manmade) thermosetting (give off heat as they cure) polymers (a chemical with a large number of similar sized bonds) containing epoxide groups – see the Oxford English Dictionary for definition!
- Polyesters – Polyesters are made up of multiple esters – no we are not sure either, but you will have been used to seeing the term polyester on clothing and the same properties it gives clothes make it suitable as a building material. The fibres are strong, shrink resistant, and hydrophobic (resists moisture). What you need to know is they both form a strong and stable substance to set your fixings into.
They are available in three different setting times to suit the job you are doing, either to give you a quick result or to allow you time to get fixings in place, depending on what you are using the resin for:
- Fast – cures in 3 – 6 minutes
- Medium – cures in 15 – 30 minutes
- Slow – cures in 4 – 6 hours
The formulations are available in three main pack types:
- Single Cartridge Tube – No Hand Mixing Required – This does not require any hand mixing and it fits in a standard skeleton gun. There are two resins inside the tube separated by plastic until they are needed. The two resins mix in the nozzle, inside a spiral, which can be replaced if the resin hardens before the tube is exhausted.
- Dual Cartridge Tube – No Hand Mixing Required – Again no hand mixing required. The two resins are inside twin plastic tubes which are linked together. It requires a specific skeleton gun for each type, depending on the cartridge size and the specific mix ratio. Again the resins mix in the nozzle, inside a spiral, which can be replaced should the resin harden before the tube is emptied.
- Single Cartridge Tube – Hand Mixing Required – As it implies, here the two resins require hand mixing before use. The tube fits standard skeleton guns and mixed resin is pushed into an empty cartridge using a grease pot type pusher plate before it is applied to the surface.
Fixing Timber Battens to Masonry with Resin
Using a resin fixing to secure timber battens to a masonry surface is a little tricky. The one major feature your chosen resin must posses is that it must set very fast so that it secures the timber to the wall without the need to stand there for ages holding it while it sets.
When it comes to what to use, today there is a great range of different construction adhesives available that will securely fix timber battens and other objects to masonry surfaces, in most cases as strongly as any screw.
Products like CT1 and the similar are available from pretty much all DIY stores, just read the packaging to ensure the product will do what you want it to or ask advice from a staff member.
5 Step Process Using Adhesives
- Clean the wall surface with a stiff brush, to remove all loose material, paint, varnish and plaster. You may need to sand the area if the surface is very flaky
- Set the batten on the wall and make sure it is vertical using a spirit level. Mark around the batten with a pencil
- Take the batten down and coat the back of the batten and the marked wall area with your chosen adhesive
- Press the batten against the wall, resin side against the wall obviously! Hold or prop in place for a few minutes until the resin begins to set
- Once the resin has cured you can then use the batten to provide a base for nails or screws, to hold your plasterboard, kitchen cupboard or radiator for example
Fixing Things to Walls
There are some very common objects that are fixed to walls and masonry surface in the home, here follows a quick run down on how these objects should be attached.
Fixing Pictures to Walls
We have mostly dealt with battens and brackets in this project but if you want to know about putting up picture frames, and putting up picture hooks, you can go to our DIY Project which deals with putting up photos on walls and attaching pictures to brick walls.
If you want to know more about putting up heavy pictures or attaching mirrors to walls, then go to our Putting up Mirrors guide because you use the same process for hanging mirrors as you do to hang heavy and large pictures.
Putting Up a Curtain Pole
For more advice on putting up curtain poles and rods we have a DIY Tutorial for that too.
Putting Up Blinds
If you are putting up blinds we have a number of helpful DIY Guides on the site, why not start out on our main Blinds project pages particularly this one if you need more information.
Dry Lined Walls
We have discussed here how to put up the battens for fixing plasterboard to brick, concrete and other masonry (also known as dry lined walls), but you might want to how know more about how to cut plasterboard for a dry lined wall, and how to fix the plasterboard to the battens to get a professional finish. The affore mentioned DIY Projects deal with:
- Dry Lined Walls
- Cutting plasterboard
- Fixing plasterboard to brick
- Fixing plasterboard to walls
- Dry Wall Screws
- Stud Walling
Putting up a Shelf
If you are putting up shelves onto a masonry wall the process for fixing the brackets is very similar to the Attaching to Brick Walls in our picture tutorial above.
Don’t forget you will need to use a spirit level between each of the two supporting shelf brackets, to make sure your shelf will be level when you have finished fixing your brackets.
If you want to make your own shelves you can see an example of fitting shelves into alcoves.
Putting up floating shelves is a slightly different process, where you fit special hidden brackets that the shelf then slots onto. When the floating shelf is on the wall you cannot see the fixings at all.
Putting up Decorative Mouldings
Decorative mouldings include picture rails, dado rails, skirting boards, and coving. See a full description of decorative mouldings, and a full guide to putting up coving in our coving project.
Putting up Door Trim
The process of putting up door liners and frames and also putting up door trim and architrave is quite different to the method of fixing that we have dealt with on this page but you can visit the specific projects linked to at the beginning of this paragraph to find our more.
Hopefully this project will have answered all your questions about fixing to masonry, including using wall plugs and chemical anchor fixings in any type of solid walls.
Don’t forget that although we have used brick walls in our pictures you can use the same methods for fixing into stone, block and even concrete walls and other surfaces.
If you need any further help you can always go to our excellent DIY Forum, and look for your own specific question on there. The forum is used by thousands of Home Improvers and Tradesmen so you are sure to find the answer, and you can always post you own question on there once you have registered.