Buying Guide

How to Choose Drywall Anchors

Anchor Usage and Tips
A person inserting an anchor into a pilot hole.

Drywall is made from compressed gypsum on a paper backing. The material is great for interior walls, but a nail or screw will easily slip out unless it has the additional help that an anchor provides. Similarly, hollow doors and walls made of paneling can use some help holding hardware.

The weight of what you’re hanging is the primary consideration when shopping for the best drywall anchor for your project. Anchors are rated to hold a specified amount of weight. Never exceed the rating. 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.

For particularly heavy items, use multiple anchors to distribute the weight evenly and help prevent the fasteners from pulling out of the wall. Larger anchors that accept bigger screws are generally more secure.

Tip: Whenever possible, secure wall hangings into a stud. Using anchors is the second best method for hanging items on a wall.

Expansion Anchors
A kit containing drywall anchors.

Expansion anchors are often found in picture hanging kits and are commonly used for hanging framed photographs and other wall art around the home. These plastic drywall anchors are sometimes known as conical anchors.

To install this type of drywall anchor, drill a pilot hole through the wall at the desired location. The package will indicate the proper size drill bit to use. Some packages of anchors even have the correct drill bit included with the packaging. Push the anchor into the hole and tap it lightly with a hammer until it fits snugly and its end is flush with the wall.

Then use a manual or electric screwdriver to drive the screw into the anchor. The anchor expands as the screw twists in, locking itself into the surrounding drywall.

Self-Drilling Anchors
A package of hollow door and drywall anchors.

Anchors that don’t require a pilot hole are known as self-drilling or self-tapping anchors. Instead of having ribbed edges, these are threaded like a screw and have a sharp tip that can puncture the surface of the drywall.

Self-drilling anchors can be made from plastic or metal. To install, place the tip at the desired location. Press it firmly and use a screwdriver to twist the thin threads of the anchor into the drywall material for a secure fit. Then insert and tighten the screw into the center of the anchor.

These anchors can be made from plastic, nylon or metal. They are typically rated for heavier loads compared to the common conical anchors. Be sure to check the weight ratings the packaging.

Toggle Bolts
A product display showing the winged nut of a toggle bolt.

Another type of anchor for drywall and other hollow walls, including plaster and lath, is a toggle bolt. These anchors feature a bolt with a nut that has spring-loaded wings that lock into place behind the drywall.

As with other anchors, installation is simple. Drill a hole to the recommended size of the nut. Thread the nut onto the bolt and insert the it through the hole. When the nut reaches the other side, the spring-loaded wings open to provide a base and prevent it from pulling out of the wall. Twist the bolt to tighten while maintaining tension on the nut to keep it from spinning.

Toggle bolts are typically used for heavier items but limits on weight loads can vary, so check packaging and use multiple anchors when necessary for even weight distribution.