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USOB 09-13-2010 11:14 PM

Drilling in brick
I have a gate which adjoins the side of my house, with the latch side against my brick exterior wall. When installed several years aqo, the contractor butted a 2x4 against the brick to hold the stationary part of the gate's latch. The board has become loose so I removed it to find the anchor bolts and screws used to anchor the wood to the brick loose enough to pull out by hand. I have no experience in drilling thru such material but this does not look like a good job. My questions are;

Is it ok to drill through brick? One of the anchor bolts was done this way and now the brick is cracked.

How much distance should there be between any anchors drilled into the mortar? For example, if I have a 4" wide piece of wood to anchor into the wall, and drill into a horizontal mortar line, how many holes can I safely drill into that line? This post will need to take a lot of abuse from the 5' wide gate closing onto it.

What is the best type of bolt/screw to use? The original installation used what looked like drywall screws and what I'd called a "headless" lag bolt anchored into the wall.

I read this link which gave a good description of anchors/mollies.

I don't know how well I described this, so let me know and I can take some pictures to try and make it clearer.
Thanks for any help.

Nestor_Kelebay 09-14-2010 01:24 AM

You should try to avoid drilling into brick if at all possible. You should drill into your horizontal mortar joints instead. That way, if you ever remove that gate, you can repack the holes in the mortar with new mortar for an invisible repair.

Even 1/4 inch diameter plastic anchors should be plenty strong enough to do what you're wanting. You can also use lead anchors and #12 screws for greater strength. I personally think that plastic anchors and lead anchors are one of the best ways to fasten anything to brick because they can be removed fairly easily by just drilling the plastic or lead out of the hole.

If you have a 4 inch wide board and you want to fasten it vertically to a brick wall, I wouldn't use any more than one anchor per horizontal mortar joint. But, I'd alternate the side of the board the anchor is on so that the board doesn't wobble at all. I'd probably put one anchor every 2 horizontal mortar joints (maybe 3) on alternating sides of the board.

Where I live, the kinds of plastic anchors you see below are about the most popular. They're strong enough for what you're wanting to do. They come in 3/16, 1/4 and 5/16 inch sizes for #8, #10 and #!2 size screws respectively. If it were me, I'd use the 1/4 inch size plastic anchors with #10 screws.


For more strength, you can use lead anchors with a #10 or #12 screw:

Also, to drill into brick mortar, you really should use a hammer drill and a masonary bit. These kinds of drill bits don't "cut" a hole the way wood and metal drilling bits do. Instead, they batter a hole in the masonary. So, you need a drill that will provide a simultaneous rotating and battering action, not just rotation. Such drills are called "hammer drills". Percussion type hammer drills are relatively inexpensive, or you could probably borrow one from any of the homeowners you work with or people you know who do home renovations and repairs.

The way I would proceed with installing this board would be to put it in it's desired location on the wall and mark the locations of the horizontal mortar joints on the board.

Then, mark the screw hole locations on the board and drill 1/8 inch diameter holes through the board.

Now, put the board in it's desired location again, and using only two or three holes in the board as a guide, use a 1/8 inch MASONARY BIT and hammer drill to drill 1/8 inch diameter holes into the horizontal mortar joints at those two or three locations.

Now take the board away and use a 1/4 inch masonary bit to enlarge those two or three holes in the mortar joints to 1/4 inch in diameter. Wrap a piece of thin masking tape around the 1/4 inch drill bit as a depth gauge so that you drill the holes to the right depth.

Use a vaccuum cleaner and drinking straw to clean the dust out of the holes, and hammer the plastic anchors into the two or three holes with a small hammer.

Mount the board to the brick wall with screws.

Now drill through all the remaining holes with the 1/8 inch masonary bit, remove the board, enlarge all the holes and drill them to the correct depth, vaccuum out all the dust, hammer in all the anchors and mount the board with screws in every hole.

kok328 09-14-2010 04:56 AM

You will continue to have problems with this type of installation.
I would recommend that you install a post in the ground to recieve the latch.

mudmixer 09-14-2010 07:56 AM

Nestor has the right approach for a sound and easy installation.

Drilling into the mortar is easier and it quite consistent, but brick can have wild ranges in properties such as strength, hardness and brittleness. It is much easier to do a few more anchors in mortar initially if the gate is wide or heavy or can swing wildly.

Digging to put a post in immediately next to a foundation presents many problems because the soil could be uncompacted (no matter how long it was there) or be subject to changing moisture, which also affects the lateral stability. If you go down 4' and pour concrete, that would increase the effective below ground area since the upper foot or so does not do as much a lower foot or so since the lower soil (more passive strength - engineering term).


Nestor_Kelebay 09-14-2010 08:54 AM


I have a gate which adjoins the side of my house, with the latch side against my brick exterior wall. When installed several years aqo, the contractor butted a 2x4 against the brick to hold the stationary part of the gate's latch.
From what I'd reading, the gate latch is mounted on a 2X4 that was fastened to the brick wall. There wouldn't be room for a post here unless he also changes the gate.

And, I just don't see any reason why a gate latch can't be mounted on the side of a brick building without it causing problems. I can't see any benefit in mounting the latch on a post instead of on a brick wall.

USOB 09-14-2010 10:56 AM

Although a great idea, mounting a separate post is not an option for a couple reasons;
A sidewalk runs adjacent to the wall (which is actually the garage wall),
and a downspout runs w/in inches of the existing latch post, along with a pvc tube that descends through the sidewalk into the ground.

I'd like to avoid major re-work if it all possible, but thanks for excellent suggestions and descriptions. Off to the hardware store!

kok328 09-14-2010 10:58 AM

Yea, I agree if it's just the latch portion and not the hinged portion of the gate.
Having a rough day, don't know what I was thinking.

itsreallyconc 09-16-2010 02:56 AM

if you want more cracked bricks, use a hammer drill on brick,,, its ok to use a light 1 ( 3/8" homeowner drill ) on the mortar part but NEVER the brick itself as noted above by the esteemed fishholder :) & his emperor penguin buddy,,, drilling mortar doesn't even req a hammer drill, anyway - just a carbide bit & regular drill,,, ck out some plastic sign letters on brick next time - all the anchors ( stand-off's ) are in the mortar jnts.

plastic/lead anchors - no difference in this application :beer:

USOB 09-16-2010 01:35 PM

Thanks. I checked out hammer drills and out of my budget for this use. I used my 3/8" drill and masonry bit. I used a 1/4" bit w/same size lead anchors into the mortar. They fit in loosely. A couple just spun around when using 1/4" screws. Is that experience normal?

BTW, the gate is done. I applied 1 anchor per horizontal mortar line, alternating sides. Built like a brick sh*t-house now. :)

Thanks for the advice. Saved me some dough.

Nestor_Kelebay 09-16-2010 03:07 PM


Originally Posted by USOB (Post 48675)
I used a 1/4" bit w/same size lead anchors into the mortar. They fit in loosely. A couple just spun around when using 1/4" screws.

No, they shouldn't be that loose.

If that happens again, cut a couple of wooden toothpicks so that they fit inside the lead anchor. Stick them in backwards so that the cut end is at the bottom of the lead anchor. Now when you drive the screw in, the wood toothpicks will both grip the screw thread and expand the lead anchor more than it otherwise would, providing better grip for both the anchor and the screw.

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