How to Choose and Use Drywall Anchors

Learn how to use drywall anchors for TV mounts and other common DIY projects

Hollow Wall - Hollow Wall Anchors

An anchor is a fastener best suited for very hard or hollow surfaces where screws are unable to stay firmly in place. They should be inserted into the wall first to provide a strong base, then screws can be inserted inside the anchors. This guide will help you understand which drywall anchor types you should pick for all of your building needs and how to install drywall anchors.

Safety: Before hanging anything, check the weight rating of both the anchor and the wall. Just because the anchor is strong enough doesn't mean the wall is.

Installation & Usage


The type of hollow wall anchor you choose depends on what type of wall you have, how thick it is and how heavy the load is.

When hanging anything on a wall, it is subject to two types of pulls: the force of gravity, which pulls objects down, and the weight of the object, which pulls it outward away from the wall.

Use drywall anchors for heavy items that you need to attach to a wall. Anchors are rated to hold a specified amount of weight, but to be on the safe side it’s recommended that you use them for ¼ of their stated limit. For particularly heavy items, use multiple anchors. 

Larger anchors that accept bigger screws are generally more secure. Drywall, plaster, lath, brick and concrete all have different densities and can bear different loads. 

Some anchors need pilot holes to be drilled before insertion. You can use a drill, screwdriver, awl or hammer to drill these holes and aid in insertion. Drill a hole that is about the same diameter as the drywall anchor. Place anchor into the opening and gently tap into place with a hammer until the anchor is flush with the wall. If the anchor resists, the hole is too small; use an awl to slightly enlarge the hole, then insert the drywall anchor as noted above. Drive in the screw and stop when it becomes hard to turn.

Drywall Anchor Removal


Remove the screw from the wall before attempting to remove the drywall anchor.

Grasp the head of the anchor with needle-nose pliers and gently try to wiggle it free of the wall. This works best with plastic anchors. If it holds fast, stop and try the second method.

Pick out a screwdriver that snugly fits the opening of the anchor and gently tap it with a hammer to secure. Then, turn the screwdriver to the left to get the anchor to back out of the wall.

Although some varieties can be removed by this method, the easiest way to eliminate any drywall anchor is by not removing it at all – knock the anchor back through the wall and then close up the hole with spackle or patching compound.

Types of Wall Anchors

Different wall anchors are specifically designed for different types of walls.

Cement board screw

  • • Well-suited for exterior use or use in moist areas such as bathrooms 
  • • Nibbed, bugle head countersinks itself 
  • • Features a dual-depth thread that provides a strong hold

Expansion anchor

  • • Used in solid materials like concrete, brick, mortar and more
  • • Anchor spreads open once inserted in the wall to provide a stronger hold

Hollow wall anchor

  • • Designed for medium- to heavy-duty applications, including paintings or solid shelving 
  • • Available for use with various wall thicknesses 
  • • Requires a pilot hole to be drilled prior to insertion; may be inserted with hammer or drill 
  • • Expands as the screw is tightened to provide a more secure grip 
  • • Also referred to as "molly bolts"; “molly setters” can be used to expand

Plastic hollow wall plug

  • • Best for light-duty applications in drywall or plaster where it's not possible to anchor to a beam 
  • • Requires a pilot hole to be drilled prior to insertion 
  • • Inserting a screw causes the plug to expand and lock into place

Threaded anchor

  • • Ideal for medium-duty applications, such as anchoring open shelving units like closet organizer kits 
  • • Requires a pilot hole 
  • • Easy to install; simply use a screwdriver to secure into the wall 
  • • May be made of plastic, nylon or zinc-coated, die-cast metal 
  • • May be removed and reused 
  • • Threads cut deeply to provide a secure hold and resist pull-out

Toggle bolt

  • • Designed for heavy items such as mirrors and shelves 
  • • Can be used to hang items from ceilings 
  • • Available in both square and slot-drive configurations
  • • Requires a pilot hole
  • • Features wings that lock into place behind wall for strong holding power
  • • Sized by both the length and diameter of the machine screw 
  • • To install: Collapse the wings and slide the toggle into the hole. Once in place, pull the wings until they lock into place against the back of the drywall and then tighten the screw.

Winged plastic anchor

  • • Best for medium-duty applications, such as hanging towel bars and toilet paper holders
  • • Requires a pilot hole
  • • A special tool is used to expand the wings once it's inserted into a wall


Features

Color Coding – Classification system that makes it easy to choose an appropriate corresponding screw.

Anti-Rotation Fins – Prevents anchors from spinning while they are being inserted, strengthening their hold once inside wall.