I am trying to work out what the inner walls of my house are made out of. I want to attach some shelves but have no clue what anchor to use.

I've attached a photo of the area around a light switch, it looks like breeze block ? ( I have a faint memory of someone telling me that it was many years ago but can't remember for sure ).

In some places, although not around this light switch for example, tapping the wall sounds very hollow.

It's an old barn conversion from the mid 20th century, if that helps!

Cheers in advance !


2 Answers 2


It's drywall, also called sheet rock, and it is very typical. It is made of gypsum with a thin paper layer on each side. It is applied directly to the studs with nails or screws. The sheet size is typically 4'x8' which is a size that can fit both 16" oc and 24" oc stud spacing. Longer sheets are available at 10' and 12' The seems are covered with mud and tape.

It is relatively strong and can support normal household level loads such as shelving. There are a large verity of anchors that can be used to attach items to it. They vary in how much load they can hold, how big a hole it makes, and how it is in stalled. My favorite is the self driving screw-in type.

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  • Looks like simulated wood ( not actual wood ) panel about 1/8 thick was put over the drywall. Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 19:07
  • I see either some interesting painting or a wall paper pattern
    – Ack
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 19:10
  • Cheers thank you. Does look some interesting wallpaper, must be 30+ years old! As I have no clue of the depth of the wall, should i just use the self driving screw in type? If I use them, does that mean I don't need to worry about the studs location (I want to attach shelves in a corner and not sure 100% where the studs are). Guessing they will handle more weight as well?
    – WillBill
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 21:07
  • Oops, I meant to add that, probably the dry wall is 1/2". Sometimes 5/8" is used for walls. Re studs, yes independent yet you don't want to be on one (instead use a screw to the stud) or right next to one or it will interfere. They handle much more weight than the push in type but not as much as the toggle type
    – Ack
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 21:19
  • Thanks, I will give it a go. I have used those toggle types years ago (in a different house) but had a problem of not having enough "clearance" / gap in the wall to open up the toggle. Just out of interest, what gives the grew colour dust in the photo I added, is that just the colour of the drywall or the plaster?
    – WillBill
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 23:05

Looking through one of the unused mounting holes in the back of the backbox, I'd say breeze block or similar, hard plastered.

That doesn't mean that wall a metre away isn't something completely different, of course. There were still post-war building materials shortages in the 1950s.

  • I was told many years ago (annoyingly can't remember where it was) that there was breezeblocks with some sort of cork as insulation? The picture I sent of the light switch is close to door frame, which does have a much different sound on percussion than other parts of the wall. Perhaps its brezeblocks in places for structure and then drywall in other places?
    – WillBill
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:27
  • If breeze block then I'll be that it's furred out with 1-1/2 studs and then covered with drywall. That depth matches the box depth (the dry wall is 1/2", the box is about 3 times the drywall)
    – Ack
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 20:48

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