Question: My roommate and I put those screw-in cup hooks underneath one of our kitchen cabinets, and the first time we hung coffee mugs from them, the hooks pulled right out of the wood and the cups all smashed. How do you set hooks so they don’t fall out. Also, how can we fix the damage to the cabinet bottom before the landlord sees it? — Katie J., via email

Answer: From your description, the cabinet bottom is most likely a lightweight wood, maybe particle board, and perhaps a bit old and slightly deteriorated. Cup-hook screws are similar to wood screws, with sharp points and slightly wider screws in order to “bite” securely into the wood. However, between the particle board and heavy mugs, the screws just didn’t have enough to hold onto. Try two things next time: larger hooks and a solid piece of wood. Most cabinets have a brace along the bottom made of solid wood. Pre-drill a hole that is smaller in diameter than the diameter of the hook screw, then screw the hook into place. Another method, if your cups must absolutely hang in a certain place and direction, is to add support to the particle board. Again, do this by selecting larger hooks with longer screws. Purchase a strip of solid wood at least one-half inch thick and about 2 inches longer than the planned line of cup hooks. Put this strip inside the cabinet on the “top side” of the base. Measure the distance from the middle of the wood strip to the outside edge of the cabinet. Mark this same distance on the underside of the cabinet (this will help you locate the screws correctly). Mark the spot where you want each hook. Last, tack down the wood strip with a dot of wood or white glue on either end, just so it doesn’t slide around. Have a partner hold the wood strip in place as you pre-drill the screw holes, going through the cabinet base and into the strip in one straight shot. Continue to support the wood strip as you screw the hooks through the base and into the wood strip. This support strip will allow you to hang most coffee mugs or other lightweight items. I don’t recommend hanging heavy items like pots and pans from the hooks, as the added weight could bring the cabinet base down.

Home Tip: Add another item to your toolkit: earplugs. HEAROS, an earplug manufacturer, recommends all DIY’ers using power tools wear them to protect from hearing loss.

Send your questions or home tips to, or write This Is a Hammer, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. When in doubt as to whether you can safely or effectively complete a project, consult a professional contractor. © 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.

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