Feb 02, 2024

How to Use and Install Drywall Anchors: Tips from the Pros

So you’ve got some items to hang, but you don’t want them eventually falling off of your wall and shattering into a million pieces? Some type of drywall anchor will likely be your best friend. Commonly, you’ve got your plastic sleeve anchors, your self-drilling threaded anchors, molly bolts, and toggle bolt anchors. All of them accomplish the same general task by expanding and biting into or gripping the drywall. If you’re wondering how to use or install drywall anchors, we’ve got the basics covered for you.

Generally, your drywall anchor selection will revolve around the weight of the item you wish to hang. While there are actually many types of drywall anchors available, some are more common than others. For the sake of brevity, we’ll stick with some of the more common types.

There are some drywall anchors rated for 100 pounds or more. Use these with discretion and test them prior to hanging expensive items from them.

You’ve generally got two choices when it comes to molly bolts, or “hollow wall anchors”: pointed and un-pointed. The dull-tipped un-pointed anchors require you to drill a pilot hole into the drywall. Pointed tip styles don’t need a pilot hole; you can just tap these into place with a hammer. You might also find molly bolts with barbed heads. These barbs grip the surface of the drywall and keep the anchor from spinning in its hole.

When you’ve got heavier items to hang, but can’t find a wall stud to hang it on, toggle bolt anchors can save the day. Of course, there are a few things to be aware of before getting started. For one thing, you’ll have to drill a hole that allows for the toggles to pass through. This will require a hole that exceeds the width of the screw head, so toggle bolts can really only be used in conjunction with a bracket that will cover the hole. Also, while these drywall anchors can support a fair amount of weight, your softish drywall will fail if you put too much weight on it.

Even 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 presents a huge advantage over traditional toggle bolts. They also install easier than Molly bolts in our opinion, though they have a couple of steps:

Sometimes you accidentally overdrill the drywall anchor hole. When this happens, you have several options:

Of course, you can avoid most of these problems by ensuring you follow the directions for recommended bits. We also recommend drilling as straight as possible and not “reaming out” the hole when you drill. This keeps everything at the intended size. If you drill too large a hole, you risk allowing the drywall anchor to spin when you insert the screw.

The great thing about drywall anchors is they pretty much tell you exactly what size hole to drill. For our recommended Snaptoggle and FlipToggle anchors, a 1/2-inch drill bit is needed. For self-tap drywall anchors, you can forgo the drill bit altogether.

Pay attention to the back of the packaging, and pick up the best drill bit at the store when you get the drywall anchors.

When dealing with any kind of drywall anchor that requires pre-drilling, you really only need to worry about a couple of things. First, are you near a stud or simply drilling into a drywall cavity? Second, are you drilling into an exterior block wall or is there some other potential obstruction?

Typically, you only need to get through the drywall—which lends itself to a very simple and quick process. If, however, you have to deal with a stud, you may want to opt for an anchor that can also dig into the wood as needed. You want to make sure your hole depth matches the drywall anchor with at least an extra 1/8-inch to account for any protrusion of the screw out the back.

When dealing with exterior block walls, we recommend trying to pick up at least one side with a furring strip. We’ve found that 3-inch long Tapcon screws provide excellent hold for block walls, provided you follow the instructions and install them correctly.

If you have any tips, tricks, questions about how to use a drywall anchor, feel free to leave it in the comments section below.