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I live in an apartment building that has concrete/cement walls. I am still not sure which one it is. I included the image which has the wall in the background.

I would like to know which screws i should use to let's say hang shelves or paintings. Do i need to get concrete screws like tapcon and use an impact drive to screw them in? Can i just make a hole and use plastic anchors with regular screws? I did hang a picture on the wall but i had tough time getting the screws in with a cordless drill. Some of the wall chipped a bit.

Also are there beams behind the concrete wall or there is no reason to have them. I can just screw almost anything to it? I have a beam finder and it does detect some beams but i wonder if it's a false positive because it is a concrete wall.

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  • If you live in an apartment it implies that you are in a rental unit. Before getting all involved with making holes in the walls of such place you should really be consulting with the landlord and/or building owner with regard to what you are planning. They may have decidedly different ideas about what you can do. When you do not own the place the definition of DIY is quite different that when you do. – Michael Karas Aug 1 '14 at 12:08
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Cement is a powder, so I doubt your walls are cement! You might have lathe-and-plaster walls. (What country are you in and what year was the apartment built?)

If your wall covering is sandy plaster, then you would attach light shelves and pictures by pre-drilling holes with a masonry bit and using expanding anchors or toggle bolts.

Heavy shelves or cabinets will require screwing to a stud (which you are referring to as a beam)

  • Thanks for the reply. I am from US. As far as i understand the building was built in the 50s and it's fire proof. When i drilled a hole its very rough material maybe its concrete? – Yan Aug 1 '14 at 4:52
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    Sandy plaster looks a lot like concrete and was a pretty common wall covering in the 50's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lath_and_plaster – Paul Aug 1 '14 at 4:55
  • Even if your walls were masonry block or solid concrete, you'd still use a masonry bit and expansion anchor to hang things. – Paul Aug 1 '14 at 5:00
  • If it is Lath and plaster i would see wooden planks if i drill a bit? I did make a whole on top of the closet door and did see that. I am going to go with the plastic expansion anchor that came with the shelf. I wonder though if it is masonry block are there studs in the back of them? – Yan Aug 1 '14 at 5:05
  • Yes, if it is lathe and plaster, there will be lathe planks under the plaster. However, I have a house built in the 6o's and it's sandy plaster on top of sheetrock, so look for that too. Masonry block would not have studs. – Paul Aug 1 '14 at 5:11
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First: as someone said in the comments consult your landlord because he/she might flip out to find you drilling holes in the masonry walls.

Second: During your conversation with the landlord find out whether your walls are masonry block(cinder block) concrete, rendered brick, etc. I think it highly unlikely you have plaster and lathe.

Third: the anchor you use is determined by the material you're working with(different materials require different anchors), and the weight/load of the object you're trying to hang. When I say weight/load I mean both the dead weight of the object plus the torsional load created by its intended use. i.e. a small shelf may only weigh 10 pounds but it might be occasionally used as an arm rest which will put upwards of 100 lb's of stress on the anchors. Determine your bearing load and divide by the number of anchors you can use and then select an appropriate anchor(max loads are listed on the box). In any event you'll need a way to drill through concrete and the only way to do that successfully is with a rotohammer and a masonry bit.

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I realize this post is out-dated, but I wanted to give advice for any future readers.

I, too, live in a 1950s apartment that has about an inch (if I'm lucky) of plaster over cinderblock. Needless to say, the building isn't going anywhere, but it's a pain in the neck to hang anything heavier than a simple picture frame!

My best advice, get a powerful cordless drill and bits meant for concrete. Also, don't waste your time on the little cheap plastic anchors. Go to your local hardware store and invest in anchors made specifically for concrete. This is important, because if you use the cheap anchors that came with whatever you are hanging, all you are going to succeed in doing, is making a bigger hole in the plaster. By spending some extra time and making sure you have the right anchors and screws, you will come out much better in the end. I promise!

Lastly, when you get ready to leave and take all of this stuff down, you're going to see many large holes in the walls. To have some hope of getting your deposit back, use water putty - usually a few bucks at the local hardware store - to fill in the holes. They have videos on YouTube showing the best way to use it.

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