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How are steel studs changing the way we decorate?

How Steel Studs Are Changing the way We Decorate
Drywall anchors of various kinds will help you mount lighter items on your walls.
Drywall anchors of various kinds will help you mount lighter items on your walls.

Watch enough home improvement television and you may walk away with the impression that it's a snap to hang your own kitchen cabinets or wall-mount your own plasma TV. Even the most tentative do-it-yourselfers rarely shy away from jobs like hanging a towel bar. Unfortunately, DIY chores that are a breeze with wood studs become a bit more challenging when steel framing is involved.

For one thing, steel is much more dense than wood; so special equipment is necessary to drill through it. Furthermore, drilling through metal will occasionally produce small sparks, creating a risk of fire. Many contractors advise steering clear of drilling through steel studs at all, if you can help it.

Fairly lightweight items can be anchored directly into drywall without drilling through the stud at all. There are a variety of anchors made specifically for securing items in drywall. Winged plastic anchors are inexpensive and much less likely to pull out than regular ribbed plastic anchors. Threaded drywall anchors are even stronger; many boast up to 50 pounds of holding power per anchor. For bigger jobs, like attaching mirrors or shelving, decorators often use strap toggle anchors, which are rated to hold up to 80 pounds [source:].

The downside to drywall anchors is that no matter how sturdy they may be, drywall itself is a soft material. Front-heavy items like towel bars or shelving tend to pull out over time. In order to hang items that need more support, it is possible to drill through metal studs. Titanium or cobalt drill bits are best suited for boring through metal. Once you've drilled your pilot holes, you'll want to use a toggle bolt to safely secure heavy items to the metal stud. Alternately, you could cut open the drywall, secure small sections of wood between the steel studs and then attach very heavy items to the wood.

Steel studs have lots of advantages over wood framing, but ease-of-decorating is not one of them. With the right tools, however, it's possible to hang your pictures, mirrors, shelves and even televisions on walls constructed with steel studs.