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Fixing devices for solid walls all work on the expand-and-grip principle. You drill a hole in the wall and insert a plug, then drive a screw or bolt into the plug. This grips the screw and expands against the walls of the hole, providing a fixing that resists loads in both downward and outward directions. It's important to match the fixing to the expected load. Fixing devices for timber-framed partition walls and ceilings work in a different way. Since plasterboard is a relatively weak material, cavity fixing devices expand against the inner face of the board once they have been pushed through it, spreading the load and making the fixing more secure. However, the fixing can only be as strong as the board, so these devices are suitable only for medium loads.
The most widely used fixing device for solid walls is the moulded wallplug. This is made of plastic or nylon, and has teeth and two or three expanding wings that grip the hole when a woodscrew is driven into the plug. To make a good fixing, the drill bit and screw size must match the plug precisely. They are suitable for fixings carrying medium loads - a curtain track or modestly-laden shelves or cabinets, for example.
Frame fixers are long plugs, usually supplied with a fixing screw. They are designed for use in fixing door and window frames to masonry in one operation. You drill the hole through the frame and into the wall, then insert the plug through the frame and tighten the screw. Wickes also stocks a special frame fixer for PVCu windows.
Most frame fixers have cross-head screws, but heavier duty types - used to fit a fence post to a wall, for example - have large hexagonally-headed screws that can be driven with a spanner or socket set.
Hammer fixers are frame fixers designed for high-speed installation. You simply position the fixing and hammer in the screw, which can be removed with a screwdriver if the fixing ever has to be undone.
Screwbolts are specially-threaded bolts that can be driven straight into a hole drilled in the wall, using a spanner. They are best used for fixings carrying a downward rather than an outward load. There is also a screwbolt eye version that's ideal for hanging washing lines and the like.
Wall bolts are heavy-duty fixings used to secure structural timbers such as wall plates to walls. They have a metal sleeve containing a conical metal wedge. As the bolt is screwed into it, the wedge is drawn towards the surface and forces the split sleeve against the walls of the hole to anchor it securely in place.
Wickes stocks a similar version with a threaded rod and an external nut, and also a resin anchor system that's ideal for making fixings into misshapen holes in concrete.
Wickes stocks a range of fixings for hollow walls and ceilings. The cavity fixing is a collapsible anchor which is expanded as the integral screw is tightened and grips the inner face of the board. The collar keeps the fixing in place if the screw is removed. Spring toggles have two spring-loaded arms that flip out as the device is inserted, and then press against the inner face of the board as the screw is tightened. The toggle is lost in the cavity if the screw is undone. Both these fixing devices can carry medium loads, especially if several devices are used. Universal fixers are a combination wall plug and cavity fixing which can be used in both solid and hollow walls. They don't provide as strong a fixing as cavity fixings or spring toggles, but can be used to make fixings to hollow doors, which don't have a deep enough cavity to allow a cavity fixing or spring toggle to operate.
For light-duty fixings, the plasterboard selfdrive fixer is ideal. It's a threaded plug which is simply screwed into a small starter hole and cuts its own thread in the board. It stays put if the screw is removed.
How Fixing Devices Work
Wallplug and woodscrew
Frame fixer and screw