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I have wooden studs, and this (pretty heavy) metal tv mount. The slits it has for attaching to the wall are 5/16" or maybe 6/16" tall.

I bought 1/4" and 5/16" bolts and some washers to go with them, but when I tried to screw them in, I wasn't able to get them to screw in to the holes I had drilled (started at 3/16", then 4/16", then I did 5/16" and the bolts did not seem securely in). I was either unable to ratchet them in or they went in and were feeling loose.

There appears to be about a full inch of drywall (or some material) before the stud, too.

I've seen self-drilling screws, but I feel a screw would not be adequate.

Are bolts the right thing to use here? And if yes, how do I find the right size for the bolts and for the holes?

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The term you are looking for is lag bolts. Those are what came with my tv wall mount (50in) and 4 of them held it tightly for 5 years and pulled the paint off the wall when I took it down.

Drill your holes slightly smaller than the threading on the bolt so the threads dig into the studs as they go in.

  • AH! And I want to drill most of the way, so that the bolt doesn't split the wood? – Mike Manfrin Jun 15 '15 at 20:33
  • Yes. Drill the full depth of the bolt. – kinar Jun 15 '15 at 20:34
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    To help size the drill bit, hold it over the bolt, with the drill aligned parallel to the bolt. You should be able to see some threads sticking out. The drill should be about the size of the solid part of the bolt not counting the threads. – BrianK Jun 16 '15 at 19:08
  • Thanks guys :] lag bolts worked, and I (hope) I used the right size bit; tv holding strong. – Mike Manfrin Jun 17 '15 at 21:47
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You can use structural screws, which, while more expensive then lag bolts, are much easier to install - most do not require you to drill a pilot hole and take only seconds to install.

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