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How to Use a Drywall Anchor

How Wall Anchors Work
A person inserts an anchor into a pilot hole.

Drywall is made of compressed gypsum on a paper backing. The material is great for interior walls but is not solid. Similarly, hollow doors and walls made of paneling are not designed to hold hardware.

There are different types of drywall anchors but they operate by the same principle. As the anchor is screwed in, it expands in the opposite side of the wall to create a secure point for hanging. 

How to Use A Drywall Anchor
A hammer and screwdriver with screws and drywall anchors.

The first step of drywall anchor installation is to use a power drill to make a pilot hole in the drywall, door or tile wall. The drill bit for the pilot hole should be smaller than the width of the anchor that is being used. For example, you'll use a 1/4-inch drill bit for the hole to insert a 1 inch plastic anchor.  

  • Place the anchor in the pilot hole and tap it into the wall until the anchor is completely inserted. It is best to use a rubber mallet for this task. 
  • You’ll have to drill a larger pilot hole for toggle bolts and steel hollow wall anchors. 
  • Once the anchor is inserted, use a screwdriver to drive the screw securely into the anchor.
Functionality of Drywall Anchors
A worker screws in a drywall anchor to hold a bracket.

Drywall anchors are stable and secure when installed properly. You must not exceed the listed drywall anchors' weight limit. You can use drywall anchors for these home tasks:

  • TV mounts: It is possible to mount a bracket holding a 30-pound TV on drywall without drilling the bracket into a stud. Toggle bolts are the types of drywall anchors that can support up to 50 pounds, while steel hollow-wall anchors have a drywall anchors weight limit of up to 100 pounds.
  • Art: Expansion anchors are often included in picture hanging kits and are commonly used for hanging framed photographs and other wall art around the home. Use self-drilling drywall anchor installation that can support a heavier drywall anchors weight limit for larger wall art and mirrors.
  • Decorative shelving: Anchors that can support a moderate amount of weight, like self-drilling anchors, are sufficient.
  • Coat Hooks: It is okay to use expansion anchors in hollow doors.

Drywall Anchors for Lighter Items
A winged toggle anchor.
  • Expansion anchor: These types of drywall anchors are also known as conical anchors and winged anchors. Most are made of plastic. When mounting on drywall the anchor expands and locks behind the wall as the screw is twisted in. 
  • Toggle anchors: This anchor is a screw with a spring-loaded winged nut that when inserted through a drilled hole locks into place behind the wall. After drilling the pilot hole, insert the nut and twist the screw to tighten while maintaining tension on the nut to keep it from spinning. The spring-loaded wings open to provide a base and prevent it from pulling out of the wall.

Drywall Anchors for Heavier Items
A set of molly wall anchors.
  • Self-drilling anchors: The anchor is threaded like a screw and has a sharp tip that drives into the drywall surface. The self-drilling anchor threads grip the drywall for a secure fit for drywall anchor installation. The anchor holds in place as the screw is twisted into place. Self-drilling anchors are made of plastic, nylon or metal.
  • Strap toggle anchors: These heavy-duty anchors are designed to hang weighty items like flat-screen TV sets securely. The anchor strap is a plastic or metal leg assembly attached to a steel wing. The anchor is inserted in the pilot hole and screwed into place.
  • Steel hollow-wall anchor: These drywall anchors for heavy items are metal-cased anchors that expand behind the wall when the bolt is screwed.
  • Molly wall anchors: This expansion wall anchor is a screw encased in a metal sleeve that expands. The underside of the molly wall anchor head has sharp tips that piece the drywall surface. The benefit of this wall anchor that can support up to 50 pounds is that the screw can be removed and reinserted for future use.
When to Use Wall Anchors
A shelf and photo attached to a wall with 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.