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How to Use a Drywall Anchor

Drywall anchors are a handyman’s secret weapon, providing the strength and support needed to hang heavy objects on walls that cannot support the weight on their own. Here is a detailed guide on how to use drywall anchors effectively and safely.

What are Drywall Anchors?

What are Drywall Anchors

Before dwelling into the usage of drywall anchors, it's crucial to understand what they are and why they are necessary. Drywall anchors are tools used to give extra support to screws that hold up pictures, shelves, or other objects on the wall. They work by spreading the weight of the hung item across a larger area, thereby not only preventing the screws from tearing out of the drywall but also supporting heavier items that would otherwise be impossible to hang on drywall alone.

Types of Drywall Anchors

There are several types of drywall anchors, and each has a different level of strength, ease of installation, and proper usage situation. Here are the main types:

  • Expansion Anchors: These are the simplest type of drywall anchors and work by expanding as a screw is inserted. They are best for light to medium-duty applications.
  • Threaded Drywall Anchors: Also known as self-drilling or EZ anchors, these are larger and have wider threads. They are easier to install and hold more weight than simple expandable anchors.
  • Molly Bolts: These are a type of expandable anchor with "legs" that unfold behind the drywall. They provide a very secure hold and can support more weight than expansion anchors or threaded anchors.
  • Toggle Bolts: These are the strongest type of drywall anchors and can hold very heavy items. The "toggle" part flips open behind the drywall to provide a large, stable point of contact.

Tools Required

You will need the following tools:

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • The item you want to hang
  • The appropriate type of drywall anchor and matching screws

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Drywall Anchors

Step 1: Choose the Right Drywall Anchor

The first step is choosing the right drywall anchor for your project. This depends on the weight of the item you wish to hang and the type of drywall you have. For light items, expansion anchors or threaded drywall anchors will generally suffice. For heavier items, you may need molly bolts or toggle bolts.

Step 2: Mark the Spot

Use a pencil to mark the spot where you want to install the anchor. Make sure it's level (use a leveling tool if necessary) and that the spot isn't near any electrical wiring or pipes.

Step 3: Drill a Guide Hole (If Necessary)

Some drywall anchors, like molly bolts and toggle bolts, require a pre-drilled hole. Use a drill bit that's the same size or slightly smaller than the anchor. Drill a hole where you made your pencil mark.

Note: Self-drilling anchors do not require a pre-drilled hole. You can screw them directly into the drywall.

Step 4: Insert the Anchor

Place the tip of the anchor into the pre-drilled hole and apply pressure as you screw it into place. If you're using an anchor that requires a setting tool, like a molly bolt, use the tool to expand the anchor behind the drywall.

Step 5: Insert the Screw

Place the item you're hanging over the anchor, aligning the mounting hole with the anchor. Insert the screw through the item and into the anchor, then tighten it with a screwdriver. Don't overtighten, as this could cause the anchor to lose grip.

Possible Problems and Solutions

Problem 1: The Anchor is Loose

If an anchor doesn't hold securely, it's often because the hole is too big. You can try using a larger anchor or fill the hole with a filler, let it dry, and then re-drill the hole.

Problem 2: The Anchor Won't Go into the Wall

If the anchor won't go into the wall, the hole might be too small. Try using a larger drill bit and enlarge the hole slightly.

Problem 3: The Screw Won't Go into the Anchor

If the screw won't go into the anchor, it could be because the screw is too large for the anchor. Make sure to use the correct size screw for your anchor.


Drywall anchors are a reliable solution for hanging heavy objects on drywall. They distribute the weight of the object over a larger area, preventing damage to the wall. With a bit of patience and the right tools, anyone can install drywall anchors. Whether you're hanging a mirror, a piece of art, or installing shelves, drywall anchors can provide the strength and stability you need to get the job done right.

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