How to Use a Drywall Anchor

How to Use a Drywall Anchor

If you need to hang something in your home. It’s always best to drill into wood studs. However, if a wood stud is not available, you can drill directly into your drywall. Drywall provides a solid versatile surface for you to drive a screw. With help from the right drywall anchors, it can hold a surprising amount of weight.

So you want to hang something heavier than the average photo frame from your drywall. Whether you’re putting in a nail to support a towel rack laden with damp bath towels, a paper towel holder that gets regular use, or even a heavy mirror, you’ll certainly want it to stay there and not suddenly rip through the drywall under the weight of whatever it supports.

Fortunately, there are a variety of options for securing a rack (or what have you) to the wall, and one of the most popular ways involves the drywall anchor. These pre-screw installments are designed to grip the brittle drywall and help hold your fastener in place. Follow this illustrated guide for how to use drywall anchors properly in your next project, and you can rest easy knowing that your hard work will hold up.

What Are Drywall Anchors?

Drywall anchors provide support for hanging or installing items on a wall when a stud isn’t available. Different types and sizes of wall anchors support different weights, and some anchors are designed for different locations, such as walls or ceilings, or different materials, including drywall or masonry. Here are the most common types of drywall anchors:

Expansion Anchors

Plastic expansion anchors often have a conical shape and raised rings or barbs along their body to improve grip. They’re often included with items intended for installation on a wall or ceiling. As you drive a screw into the anchor, the shank of the anchor splits and expands into flanges or wings that grip the interior of the drywall, helping secure the anchor and preventing it from pulling out easily. Expansion anchors require a pilot hole for installation.

Self-Drilling Anchors

These anchors also have a conical shape but have threads similar to those on a screw to allow them to function as screw-in anchors. You can install them in the wall without drilling a pilot hole. Like expansion anchors, driving a screw into the anchor splits the body of the anchor to hold it against the drywall. The threads on the anchor give additional holding power. You’ll see metal versions of self-drilling anchors designed to provide extra support in wall studs.

Hollow-Wall Anchors

Sometimes known as molly bolts, hollow-wall anchors include a screw and a pointed metal body with a spiked collar. Like an expansion anchor, they require a pilot hole. Once inserted, spikes on the collar hold the anchor in place while you turn the screw. The screw contracts the anchor body behind the wall, extending flanges that secure it against the back of the wallboard. You can also find plastic anchors that operate with the same principle.

Toggle Bolt or Toggle Anchors

There are a couple of variations for toggle-style anchors — strap and screw. The principle is similar for both types. An anchoring element (the toggle) inserts in a pilot hole and cinches up against the back of the wallboard to provide support. Screw-style toggles have a spring-loaded toggle that provides strong support, but most require a larger pilot hole. You can also find self-drilling anchors that function similar to toggle bolts.

How to Use A Drywall Anchor

Light products are often sold with the screws and plastic sleeves already in the pack. Medium-heavy objects, such as mirrors and or shelving, should be hung using toggle bolts.

If the object being hung is especially fragile or valuable, consider purchasing heavy-duty wall screws, such as Toggler SnapSkrus. These self-piloting sleeves come with their own screws and hold up to 65 pounds each in drywall. While fairly expensive, SnapSkrus provide a more stable anchor than the push-in plastic sleeve anchors that are provided for free with some products.

But if the item is fairly light and isn’t especially valuable, the plastic sleeve anchor screws work fine because they still have a good degree of shear strength.

Step 1: Get the Weight Right

When anchor screws fail, it is often because the installer did not correctly assess the weight of the object. Determine the weight of the object with a scale or by consulting the packaging. Purchase the appropriate anchor and screw sets. The label on the box will indicate the maximum weight that the anchor and screw set will support.

Generally speaking, pictures and objects with a total weight of 15 pounds or less can be hung using plastic screws and sleeve anchors or metal threaded drywall anchors. Mirrors and pictures with glass are both very heavy and will require the sturdiest anchors you can buy.

Step 2: Installing A Plastic Sleeve Anchor

With a pencil, mark the point where you want to hang whatever it is you’re trying to hang.

Drill/make a pilot hole. You can use any variety of tools to accomplish this, though you need to make the pilot hole smaller than the width of the anchor. If a pilot bit doesn’t come with the set, the packaging will tell you which size to use.

Stick the anchor in the pilot hole and tap it into place until the head of the anchor flushes up with the wall. A rubber mallet is best, but a small finish nailer will also work.

Use a screwdriver to set the screw. You can use a drill, but go slow so you don’t overdrive it.

Step 3: Installing a Self-Drilling Threaded Anchor

Mark your hanging point.

With a rubber mallet or hammer, lightly tap the anchor into the wall until you get to the threads.

Use a screwdriver to screw the anchor into the wall until the head of the anchor is flush with the drywall. Again, if you opt to use a drill go slow and be careful.

Set the screw to the depth you want with the same screwdriver or drill.

Step 4: Anchoring With Molly Bolts

You’ve generally got two choices when it comes to molly bolts, or “hollow wall anchors”: pointed and un-pointed. The dull-tipped un-pointed anchors require you to drill a pilot hole into the drywall. Pointed tip styles don’t need a pilot hole; you can just tap these into place with a hammer. You might also find molly bolts with barbed heads. These barbs grip the surface of the drywall and keep the anchor from spinning in its hole.

Mark the point where you’d like to hang stuff.

If a pilot hole is needed, drill one. Check the package to find out the size you’ll need for the pilot hole.

After insertion, tighten the bolt in the sleeve of the molly. This will cause the legs to expand out and grip the other side of the drywall.

Once you tighten down the molly bolt, back the screw out of the sleeve and hang directly from the head of the screw.

Step 5: Installing a Toggle Bolt Drywall Anchor

When you’ve got heavier items to hang, but can’t find a wall stud to hang it on, toggle bolt anchors can save the day. Of course, there are a few things to be aware of before getting started. For one thing, you’ll have to drill a hole that allows for the toggles to pass through. This will require a hole that exceeds the width of the screw head, so toggle bolts can really only be used in conjunction with a bracket that will cover the hole. Also, while these drywall anchors can support a fair amount of weight, your softish drywall will fail if you put too much weight on it.

Mark your hanging point.

Drill a hole big enough to allow for the toggle bolt to slip through when in its folded position. The manufacturer instructions on the side of the box of toggle bolts should give you the necessary specs for drill bit widths.

Put the bolt through the bracket you’ll be attaching to the wall. Then, thread the toggle onto the bolt with the tips facing the screw head.

Squeeze the toggle closed and jam both the toggle and bolt through the wall. When the toggle clears the backside of the drywall, it will open up and grip the wall.

Tighten the bolt until it’s snug.

Best Drywall Anchors of 2021

Our top drywall anchor picks consistently excel in home use and are favorites among DIYers. Unless noted differently, holding powers listed are for standard, 1/2” thick drywall.

1. Qualihome Self Drilling Anchors

Qualihome Self Drilling Anchors

If you need to hang stuff on the walls, you may be interested in using a drywall anchor that’s ‘self-drilling.’ One of the best self-drilling anchors is the Qualihome Self Drilling Anchors. These anchors come with a deep thread design, which makes it easier for you to insert the anchors into the wall, and the threads will keep the anchor from coming out of the wall once you’ve hung something onto the anchor.

The Qualihome self-drilling drywall anchors come with the right sized screws that are used to be inserted inside the anchors so that you won’t need to shop for screws. With these self-drilling anchors, you’ll be able to hang items up to 50 lbs in weight.

  • Affordable and easy to find
  • Reliable performance for lightweight loads
  • Easy to remove, the anchor just drops away inside the wall
  • Other anchors hold far more weight
  • Installation is a bit tricky

2. Toggler – Snap-Toggle BB

Toggler - Snap-Toggle BB

If you want all the load-bearing strength you can get, but the one-inch flange on the WingIts anchors is too big, the Toggler – Snap-Toggle BB anchor might be just what you’re looking for. They also use bigger 1/4″ machine screws, which is a fairly common size that might be a better match for what you’re mounting.

Toggler designed these anchors for a single-use installation: After you make a half-inch hole, the toggle can be inserted through and leveled against the wall with long, plastic positioning straps. You zip a small plastic flange into place — almost like tightening a zip-tie — and snap off the extra length of the straps. At that point Your anchor is ready to receive one of the included 1/4-20 machine screws, which tighten the toggle securely against the back of the wall as you mount your shelf or television.

  • Second-highest weight capacity
  • Works with common 1/4-20 threaded bolts
  • Only 1/2″ hole required
  • Installation is tricky
  • One-time use
  • Straps sometimes break in the box

3. Screw-it Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors

Screw-it Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors

Featuring a durable zinc deep thread design, the hollow wall anchors provide strong and secure engagement in 3/8, 1/2 and 5/8-inch drywall for maximum holding power. The anchors are especially useful for walls that have studs behind them and will not break like plastic anchors.

You can use the drywall mini anchors to mount artwork that weighs 40 lbs and the large anchors can hold up to 50 lbs, which is great for installing shelves.

There is no need to pre-drill a hole as the anchors are self-drilling but you can use a power screwdriver to create a precise hole in the wall, and the anchors are easy to remove.

For convenient storage, the drywall anchors come in a sturdy plastic box.

  • High-quality anchors
  • Great value for money
  • Constructed from durable zinc
  • Deep thread design provides strong engagement
  • Creates a precise hole in all types of drywall
  • Smaller anchors are not as easy to screw into the wall
  • Not ideal for very thick drywall

4. ARROW 160455 Drywall Drill Bit Screw

ARROW 160455 Drywall Drill Bit Screw

You can use the sturdy blue and white plastic expandable ribbed drywall anchors for wall-mounting objects that weigh up to 20 lbs like a small picture, small shelves, or hook rails. The anchors are also especially useful for solid wood walls or wood studs.

The drywall anchor kit contains 36 6-8 x ¾ inch anchors and 36 8-10 x 7/8 inch anchors. You do not have to find extra Phillips head screws as the pack also includes 18 4 X 1-inch screws, 16 8 X 1¼-inch screws, 16 10 x 1½-inch screws, 18 6 X 1-inch screws, and two drill bits: a 3/16-inch and ¼-inch drill bit.

You can keep all your bits fully organized in the durable hard plastic organizer case which has eleven compartments and a snap-tight lid for safe storage.

  • Very good quality
  • Good value for money
  • Very affordable price
  • Ideal for light-duty wall mounting
  • Perfect for beginner DIY’ers and backup emergency anchors
  • Not strong enough for very heavy items
  • Require pre-drilled holes

5. ​Molly Bolt Standard

Molly Bolt Standard

The Molly Bolt is perfect for your drywall anchor needs. With its side flairs, the anchor will securely be fastened into the wall to give your object the safest hanging possible.

The metal structure is also great for putting in the anchor and screw and also removing the screw easily. You will find this product to be exactly what you need to hang your heavy objects around your home. The Molly Bolt is not recommended to be used on thick drywall.

Customers reported that this anchor did not work on their thick sheet rock. That doesn’t mean it can’t for you! Just try it out in an inconspicuous spot.

  • Sides flare out to fully anchor the product in the wall
  • ​Sturdy metal structure
  • Easy screw removal for convenience
  • Not ideal for thicker sheet rock

When to Use Wall Anchors

The weight of what you’re hanging is the primary consideration when it comes to mounting on drywall. Drywall anchors for heavy items are rated to hold a specified amount of weight.

Never exceed the drywall anchors weight limit. Play it safe and stay at half of the weight limit of the anchor, especially if you’re using them to hang valuable items on the wall.

Use multiple anchors in drywall anchor installation for particularly heavy items. This distributes the weight of the mounted item evenly and helps prevent the fasteners from pulling out of the wall. Larger anchors that accept bigger screws are generally more secure.

Learn how to use drywall anchors when you are ready to hang shelves, a full-sized mirror or a TV set. When you’re ready to start your project, shop our wide selection of drywall anchors. Download The Home Depot Mobile App to find the ones you need for your project.

How to Remove Screw Anchors

Almost as important as installing screw anchors is how to remove them without damaging your wall. You have two methods at your disposal. If the first method proves to be too difficult, move to the next method.

  • Twist out screw with screwdriver or power drill.
  • Pry anchor up with flathead screwdriver.
  • Pull anchor out with pliers.

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