The finer points of choosing Drop-in Anchors & Drop-in Anchor Setting Tools
Drop-in anchors (DIA) and their companion installation tools, called Drop-in Anchor Setting Tools (DIAST), are truly innovations that have endeared themselves to builders and trades people globally. The sheer ingenuity of their design, and simplicity of use – both, of the anchor and the setting tool – gives designers and installers of fixtures on concrete, masonry and walled surfaces greater leeway for creativity. However, the safe and secure use of these two companions does come with certain caveats: The right tool for the right anchor!
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the finer points of choosing drop-in anchors, and using the appropriate drop-in anchor setting tools.
A WORLD BEFORE DROP-IN ANCHORS & SETTING TOOLS
Before the advent of the DIA, and their associated setting tools, into the construction scene, it was common for builders to fasten fixtures and fittings to surfaces using nails, screws, nuts, bolts and other anchoring accessories. But the challenge was that attaching fixtures to concrete, plastered walls, masonry or the ceiling was risky:
- Firstly, trades people drilled holes into these structures, and used nails or screws to affix the fixtures. Sometimes, the holes were too large or exceptionally small, compromising the strength of the installation
- Then, even with a right-sized hole, the target material (concrete, plastered wall, masonry etc.) might have qualities (hardness, smoothness, softness) that caused the fasteners to not hold their grip. This too compromised the reliance of the fixture
Long before today’s anchors and anchor setting tools came into play, builder ingenuity prevailed, and engineers and architects developed a novel method to anchor fixtures to concrete and masonry. Early use of wooden beams, embedded into concrete and plaster, to use as an anchoring target behind the mortar and brick. Another variation was to drill holes into the target brick or concrete, fill them (the holes) with wooden plugs, and then nail or screw the target object into the plugged holes.
Unfortunately, wood tends to rot over time, especially when installed under porous concrete or cement bricks. And, when exposed to the surface, the wooden plugs become easy prey for insects and termites. Both situations cause the anchors to loosen, compromising the anchored fixture.
Over time, engineers shifted to lead anchors. However, when exposed to high temperatures, lead has the tendency to melt/shrink, resulting in unhinged fixtures. The toxicity of lead, as a material for use in construction projects, has also caused anchor makers to discontinue its use for in making anchoring accessories.
ENTER THE DIA & DIAST
With the introduction of the DIA, and the supporting DIAST, builders and installers have a perfect set of safe and secure tools for all their anchoring applications. The drop-in anchor is a female anchor primarily used for concrete applications. It is dropped into a pre-drilled hole, and the setting tool used to expand the anchor inside the hole. This causes the flanged end of the anchor to expand outward, giving the anchor a firm grip into the surface.
The installation itself is simple:
- Measure the minimum embedment for the anchoring application
- Acquire drop-in anchors of the requisite specifications, along with the companion drop-in anchor setting tool
- Drill a hole of the required depth and diameter
- Clean the hole of debris and dirt (use a pressure blower or clean it with a brush)
- Drop the anchor into the hole and tap it gently
- Insert the DIAST into the top of the anchor, and hammer until the anchor is flush with the target surface
You’re all done!
The holding capacity of the DIA depends on the PSI strength of the concrete surface, and the amendment depth of the anchor. Most DIA have smooth outer sides. This provides more surface area of the anchor to come into contact with the target area, and enables the setting tool to achieve better traction when penetrating the anchor through the pre-drilled hole.
When selected correctly, the right DIAST expands the anchor inside the hole, producing a claw-like grip on the installation surface. No amount of moisture, rain or liquid leaks will loosen that grip. And, because the anchors are made from stainless steel or other hardened (or treated) materials, they are safe from insect attacks.
THE RIGHT SETTING TOOL FOR THE RIGHT ANCHOR
Drop-in anchors require a corresponding setting tool to install correctly. Like a couple of participants in a dance competition, it is important to choose the right DIAST for the type of DIA chosen for your project. Failure to match DIA with DIAST may result in a less than secure anchor.
Installation approaches may differ too, but once you appreciate the finer points of installation, you’re likely to better adapt your style and technique for any given project, surface or DIA/DIAST combination. Here are some of the basics:
- Typically, only use DIA in solid surfaces, such as concrete
- All drop-in anchors require a setting tool to complete the installation
- Some installers use steel rods, hammering-pins or round-head screw drivers as DIAST “substitutes”. That’s a huge mistake
- Unlike the setting tool, which manufacturers uniquely calibrate to drive into its companion DIA and expand the flanges to perfection, the substitutes have the tendency to damage the anchor during installation
- Alternately, using a “substitute” setting tool, or a tool that’s not compatible with the dimension or construction of the DIA, may result in an insecure installation. Fixtures anchored to such installations risk unravelling/unhinging and causing considerable loss and risk to life – including that of installation crews
Regardless of what type of installation you intend – be it HVAC ducting, electrical cabling trays, overhead sprinklers or floor-anchored equipment or fixtures. Your choice of the right anchor setting tool guarantees a smooth, secure and long-lasting anchor.