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How to Use Drywall Anchors

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How to use wall anchors to hang objects on your wall. Drywall anchors help keep stuff from falling off the wall when you don’t have a stud.

Wall anchors, or drywall anchors, are used to provide additional support for the objects you hang on the wall. Most homes are built using 2x4s or 2x6s (the “studs”) for framing. Insulation is installed between the studs and drywall is placed on your interior wall to cover it all up. Once installed, the drywall is taped and mudded to get a smooth appearance, then primed and painted.

Although drywall works great as a cheap and effective wall, it doesn’t work as well as a stud for hanging heavy objects. The dry mix of gypsum and paper doesn’t provide enough strength to hold frames, mirrors, or shelves. This is where drywall anchors come in. Wall anchors provide the additional support needed to hang anything over a few pounds onto the drywall.

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Without drywall anchors or being attached to a stud, your shelf may fall off the wall. In most cases, you should try to attach heavy shelves to a stud; studs are much better at supporting heavy weight. It’s important to use a stud finder to find the studs behind the drywall.

Studs are usually placed 16″ apart for interior walls, and 24″ apart for the exterior walls in American homes, although this can vary depending on when and where your home was built. A screw to hold a shelf can be driven directly into a stud and provide a lot of support.

A drywall anchor is used when you want to hang something where there isn’t a stud; this often happens when hanging shelves. The hooks for the shelf aren’t always a perfect 16″ apart so you may be able to use a stud to attach one hook, but not the other. In this case, you’ll use a wall anchor to support the other side of the shelf. I always try to hit a stud for at least one hook, if I am hanging something heavy.

Types of Drywall Anchors

It is essential to pick the correct type of drywall anchor so that the required load can be held up, and any damages or accidents can be prevented.

The different types of anchors have different weight limits so depending on the weight of the object to be hung, the necessary anchors should be chosen.

The direction of the hung object also plays a role in what type of anchor to choose. Two items of the same weight might need anchors of different strengths, based on the direction they are hanging. An object with a larger height, for example, might be pulling the anchor downwards and so will need a more heavy-duty anchor like toggle bolts.

Expansion anchors

These usually-plastic anchors are the most common and basic type of drywall anchor. Also known as sleeve anchors, they are good for holding light items such as light shelves. When a screw is threaded into this type of anchor it expands and pushes against the drywall to secure itself in place.

Expansion anchors are one of the easiest to install, but are not meant for use on ceiling drywall.

Get Expansion Anchors from Home Depot

Threaded Anchors

This type of anchor acts like large screws but has larger threads than screws. A smaller screw goes into the larger anchor during the installation process.

Threaded drywall anchors are self-drilling and suitable for hanging light weight objects. Once again, these should not be used on ceilings.

Get Threaded Anchors from Home Depot

Molly Bolts

Molly bolts are one of the stronger wall anchors that can be used for hanging heavier items. These are easy to install but do require a pre-drilled hole. Molly bolts come with a pre-installed screw that needs to be removed after installing the anchor and then re-screwed when hanging something.

The type of molly bolt needed will depend on the thickness of the drywall so always make sure to measure the drywall thickness and then purchase these anchors accordingly.

While these can be used on ceilings, make sure to only do so for light objects like fire alarms.

Get Molly Bolts from Home Depot

Toggle Bolts

Toggle bolts are a type of wing-style anchor. The ‘wings’ are folded when inserted into the wall and once inside they open back up. This type of anchor holds your objects in place as the wings press against the drywall from within.

Toggle bolts and similar wing style wall anchors are the strongest type of anchors and are good for hanging heavy items like TVs. The installation for toggle bolt anchors might be a bit more difficult than that for other anchors.

When deciding on what type of drywall anchor you need, always keep any additional load, such as the books meant to go on a shelf, in mind. This will help make sure that the anchor does not fail after placing things on the object that is hung to the wall.

On the flip side, try not to use an anchor that is more heavy-duty than what you will need if the multiple anchors are installed close to each other. This is to prevent a potential tear or breakage in the drywall.

Get Toggle Bolts from Home Depot

How to Use Drywall Anchors

Drywall anchors, also known as wall anchors, are fairly simple to use and install. To use wall anchors follow these steps.

  1. Mark the point at which you will be installing the anchors. Depending on the item you are hanging, the number of anchors needed, as well as their positions, will vary, so make sure to mark accordingly.
  2.  Choose the type of anchor you need. Different types of anchors will be needed depending on the weight you will be hanging.
  3. Make sure to hold the drill at an exact 90° angle so that the hole is as straight as possible. Usually, the hole created will be slightly smaller than the size of the anchor.
  4. Twist the anchor into the drilled hole until it flush with the drywall surface.
  5. Hang your desired item by screwing it through the hole in the item first and then through the wall anchor. Usually, the screws are longer than the anchors.

How Much Weight Can Drywall Anchors Hold?

The weight capacity of the drywall depends on both the thickness of the drywall as well as the type of anchors used.

Drywall thickness

Usually the greater the thickness of the drywall is, the more weight it will be able to carry. Typically houses have ½” thick drywall which can hold average weights.

Plastic anchors

Plastic anchors are generally good for hanging light items under 10 lbs.

Self-drilling anchors

These are great for holding moderate weights of 10 – 25 lbs.

Molly bolt or toggle bolt

For hanging heavy weights of around 25 to 50 lbs, using a molly or toggle bolt is ideal.

Expansion anchors

These are good for light weights of about 25 lbs.

Threaded anchors

Threaded anchors are ideal for hanging loads of about 25 – 75 lbs.

Even though drywall anchors allow for drywalls to hold much more load than they can by themselves, for heavier weights, it is not recommended to use drywall anchors. If you are looking to hang much heavier objects, look for other supporting elements like studs.

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How to use wall anchors: a guide to how to choose the right drywall anchor and how to use them.


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