So you have a few things to hang, but you don't want them to end up falling off your wall and breaking into a million pieces? A drywall anchor of some type can be your best friend. Typically, you have plastic sleeve anchors, self-drilling thread anchors, molly bolts, and toggle bolt anchors. They both accomplish the same general task by expanding and biting into or gripping drywall. If you're wondering how to use or install drywall anchors, we've covered the basics for you.
Table of contents
- Which drywall anchor should I choose?
- How to Use Drywall Anchor
- Install Plastic Sleeve Anchor
- Install self-drilling threaded anchors
- Fastened with Molly bolts
- Install Toggle Bolt Drywall Anchor
- Install Snaptoggles
- What if the drywall anchor holes are too large?
- What size pilot holes are best for drywall anchors?
- Depth of Drilling Pilot Holes for Drywall Anchor
- Random Interesting Drywall Anchoring Facts
Which drywall anchor should I choose?
Typically, your drywall anchor selection will revolve around the weight of the item you're hanging. While there are actually many types of drywall anchors available, some are more common than others. For brevity, we'll stick with some of the more common types.
- Less than 10 lbs: Plastic sleeve anchors
- 10 to 25 lbs: Self-drilling threaded drywall anchors
- 25 to 50 lbs: Snaptoggle, molly bolt or traditional toggle bolt
- Over 50 lbs: Snaptoggle, toggle bolt, or screw into actual stud
There are some drywall anchors rated at 100 lbs or more. Use caution and test your valuables before hanging them up.
How to Use Drywall Anchor
Install Plastic Sleeve Anchor
- Use a pencil to mark the points where you want to hang whatever you want to hang.
- Drill/make a pilot hole. You can do this with a variety of tools, but you'll need to make the pilot hole smaller than the width of the anchor. If there is no pilot drill in the kit, the package will tell you which size to use.
- Insert the anchor into the pilot hole and tap into place until the head of the anchor is flush with the wall. A rubber mallet is best, but a small finishing nailer will work too.
- Use a screwdriver to secure the screws. You can use a drill, but go slow so you don't drive too fast.
Install self-drilling threaded anchors
- Mark your hardpoints.
- Use a rubber mallet or hammer to gently tap the anchor into the wall until it hits the threads.
- Screw the anchor into the wall with a screwdriver until the head of the anchor is flush with the drywall. Again, if you choose to use a drill, go slow and be careful.
- Use the same screwdriver or drill to set the screws to your desired depth.
Fastened with Molly bolts
When it comes to molly bolts, or "cavity wall anchors," you generally have two options: pointed and non-pointed. Blunt tipless anchors require you to drill a pilot hole into the drywall. The pointed style doesn't need pilot holes; you can just tap them into place with a hammer. You may also find molly bolts with barbed heads. These barbs grip the surface of the drywall and prevent the anchor from spinning in the hole.
- Mark where you want to hang things.
- If a pilot hole is required, drill one. Check the packaging to find out what size pilot holes are needed.
- Once inserted, tighten the bolt in the molly socket. This will cause the legs to stretch out and grab the other side of the drywall.
- After tightening the molly bolt, remove the screw from the socket and hang directly on the screw head.
Install Toggle Bolt Drywall Anchor
A toggle bolt anchor is a time saver when you have heavier items to hang but can't find wall studs to hang them on. Of course, there are a few things to be aware of before getting started. For one thing, you have to drill a hole for the toggle to go through. This would require a hole that exceeds the width of the screw head, so toggle bolts can really only be used with brackets that cover the hole. Also, while these drywall anchors can support a fair amount of weight, if you put too much weight on them, your soft drywall will fail.
- Mark your hardpoints.
- Drill a hole large enough for the toggle bolt to slide through when it is in the folded position. The manufacturer's instructions on the side of the toggle bolt box should give you the necessary drill width specifications.
- Thread the bolts through the brackets you want to attach to the wall. Then, screw the toggle onto the bolt with the tip facing the screw head.
- Squeeze the toggle shut, snapping both the toggle and the bolt to the wall. When the toggle leaves the back of the drywall, it opens up and grips the wall.
- Tighten the bolt until it's snug.
Better than Molly bolts or toggle bolts, we love Snaptoggles. The reason is simple – you can remove the bolt and reinsert it as needed. This is a huge advantage over conventional toggle bolts. They are also easier to install than Molly bolts in our opinion, although they are a few steps:
- Drill holes of the correct size.
- Slide the metal channel of the Snaptoggle through the hole.
- Hold the ends of the strap together and pull with one hand until the metal slot is behind the wall.
- With your other hand, turn the cover along the strap until the edge of the cover is flush with the wall.
- Place your thumb between the straps on the wall and push the thumb from side to side, snapping the straps flush with the brim of the hat.
- Voila – place your item, insert the machined bolts, and tighten until snug.
What if the drywall anchor holes are too large?
Sometimes you accidentally over-drill drywall anchor holes. When this happens, you have several options:
- Pick up a larger drywall anchor
- If using standard toggle bolts, use washers
- If using a threaded anchor, the bolt or screw seems too small, get a bigger one and see if it fits securely
Of course, you can avoid most of these problems by making sure to follow the instructions for the recommended bits. We also recommend drilling the holes as straight as possible, rather than "counterboring" the holes as you drill. This keeps everything at the expected size. If you drill a hole that is too large, you may spin the drywall anchor when you insert the screw.
What size pilot holes are best for drywall anchors?
The great thing about drywall anchors is that they tell you almost exactly what size hole to drill. For our recommended Snaptoggle and FlipToggle anchors, a 1/2" drill bit is required. For self-tapping drywall anchors, you can forego the drill entirely.
Keep an eye on the back of the package, and pick the best drill bits in the store when you get your drywall anchors.
Depth of Drilling Pilot Holes for Drywall Anchor
There are really only a few things you need to worry about when dealing with any drywall anchor that requires pre-drilled holes. First, are you drilling near the studs or just in the drywall cavity? Second, are you drilling into an exterior wall or are there other potential obstructions?
Often, you just need to go through the drywall – which makes for a very easy and quick process. However, if you have to deal with studs, you may want to choose an anchor that can also dig into the wood if needed. You'll want to make sure the depth of your holes matches the drywall anchors, with at least 1/8" extra to account for any protrusion of the screws from the back.
When dealing with facades, we recommend trying to use water edge strips on at least one side. We've found that 3" long Tapcon screws do a good job of securing block walls, provided you follow the instructions and install them properly.
Random Interesting Drywall Anchoring Facts
- Your drywall will fail before the vast majority of drywall anchors fail. The takeaway here is that you probably shouldn't be using drywall anchors to mount your new 65-inch UHD TV to the wall. You'll need to find wall studs for this project, or you'll end up with a very sad day.
- Drywall anchors come in a variety of lengths. It will be helpful to know how thick your drywall actually is so you can plan accordingly.
- A drill bit measurement guide exists. If you don't know the size of your anchor, you can use a drill measuring guide to match the size. You'll want your pilot hole to be a little smaller than the anchor you plan to put in it.
- Want to attach to drywall and studs, but don't want to buy a whole box of individual anchors? Drywall and studs exist, and they're great. Also, accidentally bumping into a stud will not damage the anchor.
- Many other types of drywall anchors exist, some of which are better versions of the ones listed here. Take these Driller Toggle Anchors from Cobra, for example. They work similarly to the toggle bolts we talked about, but don't require a pilot hole. The point is, explore the drywall anchor section of your hardware store. You may find a more streamlined approach to some classic designs.
If you have any tips, tricks and questions on how to use drywall anchors, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.