My husband and I just moved into a new apartment and are trying to install our floating wall shelves. When we drill into the wall, the hole gets really big and the edges crumble. It takes a good bit of pressure to drill in.

The walls must be made of a plaster, as it is solid all the way through. Our last place was thick plaster, too, though, and we were able to drill smooth, clean holes that held the shelves no problem.

Is there any way we can install things onto our wall? We've already marred a few spots pretty good. Any advice is appreciated!

  • @DA01 I'm in Virginia, in the US, if that helps. It's a high-rise apartment built some time in the 60s or 70s. If it's not solid plaster, it's solid something. we were able to drill around 2-3 inches in and never broke through anything. I'll look into those screws, but I'm not sure that helps our getting the hole right. Would a masonry bit help with that part? and is there any particular technique involved?
    – Claire83
    Jan 6, 2014 at 2:28
  • 2
    given the era, my guess is they are either concrete or concrete block walls. Any chance you could post a photo?
    – DA01
    Jan 6, 2014 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


Walls aren't made out of solid plaster. Plaster is merely a coating. If its hard and 'crumbling' all the way through, my guess is it's a masonry block (or brick) wall coated in plaster. Knowing what region of the world you live in may help us narrow down the potential building technique for you.

If it is masonry, there are two things you need to do:

1) Make sure it's not a party wall. Party walls are fire walls and you may not be allowed to drill into them to begin with.

2) Invest in masonry drill bits and masonry anchor screws.

  • If it is a really old building (well before 1900-1930s)and there is a sand coat finish, I have seen these type of walls do this too. If there is wood lath behind it, instead of rock lath it will crumble as you describe. Rock lath, (1930-1960s) gives better support and would drill a cleaner hole as you mentioned in you other place
    – Jack
    Jan 6, 2014 at 0:44

here is another option for something that requires a hook to be installed in concrete. They are amazing!

Bulldog Concrete Anchor

  • Those look like they'd handle vertical loads well, but not so sure about lateral/pull-out loads that a shelf may add (depending on the type of shelf, of course).
    – DA01
    Jan 6, 2014 at 5:38

Most likely it’s a cinderblock wall. Depending on how heavy the shelves and what you are going to put on them here is what I’d try. Also it depends on the fastener mechanism that you need to hang the shelf. Here is what I’m picturing your dealing with on the back of your shelf:

  1. Use a masonry drill bit slightly larger than the standard screw that you are wanting to use.
  2. Fill the newly drilled hole with a 5 minute epoxy (don’t let it drip on the floor!)
  3. Insert a standard screw with a head that fits into the bracket on the shelf into the epoxy filled hole - make sure to leave the screw head sticking out far enough to hang the shelf, but not too far.
  4. Wait for the epoxy to dry and then hang your shelf!

The best part is when you move you can still back out the screw with a drill and fill the hole with putty to paint over!

  • 1
    Good answer -- however, self promotional links are frowned upon here. You can (and already did) link to your business in your profile.
    – Johnny
    Jan 6, 2014 at 7:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.