When you’re unable to access a wall stud using your stud finder, drywall anchors allow you to still safely and effectively mount items to your walls. Plus, since they’re available in a variety of sizes and types, you can secure a wide range of items, from lighter objects like smoke detectors, to heavier art pieces that can weigh over 100 pounds.
We know they can be intimidating for first-timers, but once you understand how drywall anchors work, they’re relatively simple to install. Typically, all that’s required is a drill and screwdriver to insert them in place.
What Are Drywall Anchors?
Drywall anchors provide support for hanging or installing items on a wall when a stud isn’t available. Different types and sizes of wall anchors support different weights, and some anchors are designed for different locations, such as walls or ceilings, or different materials, including drywall or masonry. Here are the most common types of drywall anchors:
Plastic expansion anchors often have a conical shape and raised rings or barbs along their body to improve grip. They’re often included with items intended for installation on a wall or ceiling. As you drive a screw into the anchor, the shank of the anchor splits and expands into flanges or wings that grip the interior of the drywall, helping secure the anchor and preventing it from pulling out easily. Expansion anchors require a pilot hole for installation.
These anchors also have a conical shape but have threads similar to those on a screw to allow them to function as screw-in anchors. You can install them in the wall without drilling a pilot hole. Like expansion anchors, driving a screw into the anchor splits the body of the anchor to hold it against the drywall. The threads on the anchor give additional holding power. You’ll see metal versions of self-drilling anchors designed to provide extra support in wall studs.
Sometimes known as molly bolts, hollow-wall anchors include a screw and a pointed metal body with a spiked collar. Like an expansion anchor, they require a pilot hole. Once inserted, spikes on the collar hold the anchor in place while you turn the screw. The screw contracts the anchor body behind the wall, extending flanges that secure it against the back of the wallboard. You can also find plastic anchors that operate with the same principle.
Toggle Bolt or Toggle Anchors
There are a couple of variations for toggle-style anchors — strap and screw. The principle is similar for both types. An anchoring element (the toggle) inserts in a pilot hole and cinches up against the back of the wallboard to provide support. Screw-style toggles have a spring-loaded toggle that provides strong support, but most require a larger pilot hole. You can also find self-drilling anchors that function similar to toggle bolts.
What to Consider
There are several factors to consider when choosing a drywall anchor, the most important being the weight of the item you plan on securing to your wall. Luckily, the weight limit is usually clearly marked on the anchor’s packaging. Just to be safe though, we usually like to subtract about 1/4 of the recommended weight, just to take into account wall differences, as well as any awkwardness or imbalances of the item you’re mounting.
The type of anchor will help you choose the one best for your specific application. Basic expanding anchors typically have the lowest weight limits and require you to drill a pilot hole first before inserting them into the drywall. Self-drilling anchors provide a bit more strength and can be drilled directly into the wall (although we usually give them a couple taps with a hammer to get them started). Toggle anchors will give you the most support and use a bar to press against the back of the drywall, giving the entire anchor a really sturdy support system.
The Best Drywall Anchors in 2021:
Our top drywall anchor picks consistently excel in home use and are favorites among DIYers. Unless noted differently, holding powers listed are for standard, 1/2” thick drywall.
For reliable support in light-duty situations (up to 15 pounds), rely on the Qualihome Ribbed Plastic Drywall Anchor Kit. It comes with 201 pieces (100 pairs of anchors and screws), so you’ll have plenty of anchors on hand. The anchor shanks are split, allowing them to expand (with screw insertion) for snug attachment.
With a 265-pound weight limit, these Snaptoggle anchors are the strongest option on our list, and are essential for hanging or mounting heavy items. This set includes 20 toggles, which comes out to about $1 a piece. Even though this is a bit more expensive than others, we’ve found that the peace of mind they provide is worth the extra price. These might look a little intimidating to use, but the majority of the plastic is snapped off once the metal channel is inside the wall, and ends up being about the same size as any other toggle anchor.
These mid-range anchors are great for medium-weight items like curtain rods, shelving, or framed artwork, up to 75 pounds. The necessary 1 1/4-inch screws are included in the kit, and their light color helps them blend into white or cream colored walls. We’ve found these anchors really easy to install, and even though they can be used by screwing directly into the wall, we usually give them a few taps with a hammer first to get them started. As with all plastic self drilling anchors, be careful to not strip the head while screwing it.
When you’re in need of reliable, strong wall fixings for securely hanging items of up to 50 pounds, RIFAA’s self-drilling drywall anchors are the solution. They are made from heavy-duty durable nylon and have a unique design that once in place, will not budge. No pre-drilling is necessary, and one satisfied customer commented, “It was so easy to use and provided a very sturdy solution to hang two heavy mirrors. No need to bring your drill to make a hole, no need for a hammer to tap it in. Great price for a decent product.”
Screw-it’s drywall anchors are heavy-duty and made from a super-strong and durable zinc metal that can last for years. Great for hollow wall, these anchors can hold up to 50 pounds of weight and no holes are required for preparation as they are self-drilling. A happy shopper wrote that they “hung a huge heavy mirror with two of these. Easy to use too. Very happy with this purchase.”
Getting some of the heavier items securely up on a wall can be a challenge, but not with the Qualihome self-drilling drywall plastic anchors, which are constructed from strong durable plastic that can handle loads of up to 75 pounds. These anchors are made in the USA to the highest quality, and no hole prep is required. One satisfied customer wrote, “I hung a curtain rod that is holding heavy winter drapes; there was no stud, these worked perfectly. Nice and tight. Good hold.”
For even more load-bearing capacity, the WingIts – Master Anchor uses a set of three plastic legs to spread force evenly over a wide area. The legs are flexible, so they also absorb more shock than other fasteners without slipping.
If you need to mount a grab rail, television, or some other piece of hardware that absolutely has to be secure, drilling into wooden studs is always a must. But if you can only get one or two screws into a stud, and there’s no way to add a piece of wood to span the studs you have access to, then these are the anchors we would trust with the heaviest weight.
This set of 300 anchors and screws contains everything you need to deal with multiple different drywall types and sizes, giving you different anchor and screw sizes ranging from 25mm to 80mm. They are perfectly designed for screwing a wide range of different objects and surfaces into one another, and the included screws have a high level of stress strength to prevent them from breaking or slipping. The ribs on each anchor also add plenty more stability once they are inside the drywall, ensuring they won’t come apart easily or start to wear down from heavier weights.
This bolt and wing nut set comes with all the parts you need to create a durable and reliable mount in drywall, using a screw-based system that unfolds on the other side of a surface to create a nearly-unbreakable hold. This also means that they will take a huge amount of force to break and won’t slip out if they are rotated or pulled in a certain way. The durable zinc used in their design also helps them endure regular wear and tear, as well as preventing them from breaking down due to old age or constant pressure.
For versatility in the molly bolt category, go with the Glarks Heavy Duty Zinc Plated Steel Molly Bolt Assortment Kit. It comes with 42 anchors in six sizes, and is intended for use on 1/2”, 5/8”, and 3/4” drywall (two anchor sizes for each drywall thickness). Made of zinc-plated carbon steel, the largest of these sleeve-type wall anchors will safely hold items up to 50 pounds when installed in 3/4” drywall. The smallest anchors hold up to 18 pounds in 1/2” drywall, and the medium-size anchors hold up to 25 pounds in 5/8” drywall. You’ll find these mollies suitable for hanging coat racks, mirrors, and other medium-weight items.
When to Use 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 anchor’s 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.
How To Use Drywall Anchors
Installing a drywall anchor is relatively easy.