Q: Can you help me solve the problem of putting a mirror on my living room wall? I live in an 80-year-old apartment building that has veneer plaster over concrete walls. I've found that the plaster and concrete crumble when I drill into them, so I haven't been able to install an anchor. The mirror weighs about 30 pounds. Any suggestions?

— Sue, Council Bluffs, IA

A: Tom Silva replies: Drilling into plaster and concrete isn't like drilling into wood — you don't always get a nice, clean, uniform hole. The trick is to use a masonry bit and an anchor designed to accommodate any variations in hole size.

First, choose the anchor. What you need is something that will expand in the hole as a screw is driven into it. Since you only have to support 30 pounds, a common lead-sleeve or plastic-sleeve anchor should do just fine — you can get them at any hardware store for pennies. Then choose a masonry drill bit sized specifically for that anchor. If the hole you drill is too small, you won't be able to drive the anchor into it, and if the hole is too large the anchor won't grip properly and may come out when the mirror is hung on it.

Drill the hole about 1/8 inch deeper than the anchor is long and blow out any remaining dust. (A turkey baster is good for this purpose because you can keep your eyes clear of the gritty dust that will come flying out.) Once the hole is clean, tap the anchor into place, drive the screw into the anchor, and hang your mirror.
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