Anchors aweigh!

File this under lessons learned: those plastic wall anchors don’t have to be flush with the wall before you can insert the screws. Who knew?

I thought it was strange, moving into a three bedroom house, that the bathroom boasted a single towel bar. I did some initial looking at the (insanely expensive!) double bars, but after the boy moved out, it was really a moot point.

At Target last weekend, I was able to pick up a nice, double towel bar for a clearance steal of $17. Then I realized I needed a much smaller hex key to remove the old one. Thirty-five cents later and I was in business.

Saturday afternoon, hopped up on coffee, I removed the old bar and its brackets. Hoo, boy! There were a whopping seven holes behind one bracket and four behind the other. Apparently some previous owners mis-measured? I hoped that one of the old sets of holes would fit, but no luck.

I used a q-tip to gleefully spackle the gaping old holes, then spent a couple blissfully domestic hours killing time while they dried, baking applesauce cake and doing laundry. Then I dragged the power tools upstairs, measured and marked my new holes, and dug in.

Oops. Too soon. The new holes had to be right next to the old ones, and apparently I got too close and ended up with a drill bit full of spackle. Alas. I re-spackled the hole and decided to take a break to go to the movies.

Hours later, I set off to finish the job. The spackle was nice and solid, drill bit ready, and so was I. I leaned into the drill – I’ve learned that it’s a much more muscle-intensive activity than I had imagined – boring holes into my precarious old walls. I knew I was getting close when I heard bits of plaster falling into the void behind the walls. (I’ve always wondered how far down the void goes – all the way down to the ground floor? Just a couple feet? Might there be treasure in my walls? Regardless, that crumbling plaster sound always fills me with guilt that I’m hurting the house.)

Holes drilled, I pulled out the plastic anchors that came with the towel bar. I used my lighter weight hammer to tap them into the walls. Then a bit more force. Then the bigger hammer. They were stuck, mocking me with the futility of my swings. I didn’t want to hit harder and damage the wall, but they just wouldn’t go in, and each additional tap only crushed the anchor into itself further.

What was I missing? Strength? I’m not that weak. A rubber mallet that would distribute the force more evenly yet gently? A worthy thought. By this point, it was nearing midnight, and I decided to call it a night.

Sunday, while running errands, I picked up a rubber mallet. Even if it wasn’t essential for this project, I’m sure it will get some use in the future. I had plenty of other projects to occupy me (like my taxes) and had plans with Don. By the time we got back, it was late, but I showed him my sorry excuse for an installation. He shook his head, grabbed the bracket and screw, and showed me what I now know forever: anchors don’t need to be flush to the wall before they can do their job. (Though on the right bracket, despite perfectly lining up the holes, the bottom one hit the stud while the top one did not – quite the feat, if I do say so myself.)

I plan on using my new-found knowledge to finally hang the mirror in my bedroom that’s been precariously balanced on my dresser for the last 10 months.

And I’m also adding that little tidbit to the mental checklist of things to someday teach my daughters.


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