Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are a common topic for cable shows and YouTube channels. Although some tasks require professional help, many things can be done by anyone with a few tools and some basic instruction. One of the most useful skills is learning how to use drywall anchors. With these small anchors, one can attach furniture, hang frames, and decorate freely anywhere along bare drywall. Only a few simple tools are required, and strength is not required for their installation.
What Are Dry Wall Anchors?
There are two ways to hang a frame on wall. First, one can locate the 2X4 studs, drill a screw directly into the wood, and hang the frame off those screws. However, what if one wants to hang something in a different spot, away from the studs? That is where one uses a drywall anchor. These are small metal or plastic devices that allow screws to be securely attached directly to the drywall, with no stud required. With these, frames can be hung or furniture can be attached anywhere along drywall.
Are There Different Types of Drywall Anchors?
Yes, different types of drywall anchors exist for different tasks and they come in various sizes. Although they all attach a screw to drywall, they vary in material and weight-bearing capacity.
Plastic Expansion Anchors
These are the weakest and least expensive of the types, featuring a small tube of plastic that spreads out somewhat when a screw is inserted. They often come included with certain decorations. The weight capacity of these is limited to around ten pounds.
Winged Plastic Anchors
These anchors hold 25-35 pounds; significantly more weight than the plastic expansion anchors. They feature wings that fully expand and are essentially an improved design.
These can be made of plastic or metal and hold more weight than the plastic expansion anchors. Their advantage is ease of use, as they are simply screwed into a hole in the wall. They are sufficient for hanging most things on walls. Even though they are screwed into walls, a pilot hole is still usually required for their installation.
Hollow Wall Anchors (Molly Bolts)
These are generally made of metal and grip around drywall when a screw is inserted. They can hold more weight, up to 50 pounds, though that may vary by size. However, once they attach to a wall, they are generally not easily removed.
Toggle Bolt Anchors
These are the strongest anchors, capable of over 50 pounds, and can be used to attach objects to ceilings. They feature a metal clamp that opens once inserted inside a hole. As with hollow wall anchors, these cannot be easily removed.
Are Dry Wall Anchors Necessary?
Yes. Dry wall anchors are an essential for hanging large frames on walls or attaching furniture to drywall. Without them, people are restricted to the locations of the studs for putting up decorations. Adhesive hooks exist, but they have a much smaller weight capacity, restricting their use to small frames.
How to Use Drywall Anchors
There are a number of steps to follow, but this guide can teach anyone how to use drywall anchors properly.
Some tools are required. Drywall anchors often come with matching screws, which are usually Phillips head screws.
- Power drill
- Screwdriver – usually Phillips
- Drywall anchors – with screws
Before installing the drywall anchor, a few key steps must be taken.
1. Select the Right Drywall Anchor
There are many different types of anchors, as listed above. Also, these anchors come in different sizes and will be designed for different weights. It is important that the anchor chosen can properly handle the load applied.
2. Select the Right Spot
Before making a hole, it is important to decide on the spot. This may seem basic, but when people do not take the time to carefully select the right spot, they end up with walls that resemble Swiss cheese. Just like the old adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” pick your spot carefully and drill once. This is especially important for hollow wall anchors and other anchors that cannot be easily removed.
Also, once the spot is selected, use a stud finder to make sure that there is not a 2×4 under the desired location. If a stud does sit under the spot, then a drywall anchor is not appropriate for this location. Instead, one should insert a screw directly into the wooden stud.
3. Mark the Spot With a Pencil
Again, this seems simple, but failing to do these simple steps creates most of the problems with anchors. People often learn how to use drywall anchors, but run into trouble by skipping steps and drilling holes in the wrong spot.
Installing Drywall Anchors
Making a Pilot Hole
This step involves drilling a hole into the wall in the desired location. First, select a drill bit appropriately sized for your drywall anchors. The package of anchors may indicate the proper size or even include an appropriately sized bit. Next, lock the drill bit into the power drill. This will vary depending on the model and make of the power drill and may require the use of another tool; a chuck. However, most power drills simply require the user to tighten a ring, thus locking the bit into the drill. If the drill bit is not locked, the drill will not make a hole.
With the proper bit locked into the drill, place the bit onto the pencil mark which was made earlier. This may be a good time to take a final look and be certain about the mounting location. Once certain, align the drill bit to be perpendicular to the drywall, making a perfect 90-degree angle. Then gently squeeze the trigger on the power drill. The bit should begin to spin and make a hole. Once it starts spinning, squeeze a little harder to increase the speed and press towards the wall. The drill should easily enter the wall.
When drilling, it is important to note that drywall is not as solid as concrete, so a power drill should easily penetrate the drywall. If it does not, the drill may be spinning the wrong direction. A button on the side of the power drill, usually near your thumb, reverses the direction of the drill.
Finally, drywall is only an inch thick. Once the hole is completely through, the power drill will spin much faster as it no longer encounters resistance. At this point, one should release the trigger and remove the drill bit from the hole. Do not make the hole deeper than necessary and do not drill completely through the wall to the other side.
Inserting the Anchor
If the pilot hole was properly drilled, inserting a drywall anchor is easy for most types. Simply insert the anchor into the hole; a ring at the end of the anchor will keep it from falling into the hole. If the anchor does not insert easily, tap gently with the hammer until it enters the hole. Once in, the ring will often protrude slightly from the wall. Do not pound the anchor repeatedly trying to make it flush against the wall.
With threaded anchors, one needs to screw them in place with a screwdriver or an electric screwdriver if they are too tight. Generally, they will be larger than the pilot hole, though a hole is usually required for proper installation. Place the tip into the pilot hold and screw clockwise until the anchor is locked in place.
For toggle bolt anchors, fold down the wings and insert them into the pilot hole. The wings must be inserted deeply enough for them to open, so listen for the sound of the bolts unfolding. If they do not unfold inside the wall, they may require the screw to be turned or the use of another mechanism listed on the packaging.
Inserting the Screw
The final step for how to use drywall anchors is to insert the screw into the hole in the anchor and turn clockwise with a screwdriver. It is important to know if the screw should be fully screwed down or not. For example, if the drywall anchor is used to attach a cabinet to the wall, then the screw should be completely inserted. However, if a frame is to be hung off the anchor, then do not screw it all the way down. Either way, do not over-torque the screw, especially for plastic anchors.
Drywall anchors are an essential part of construction and home ownership. They allow heavier frames to be hung and provide attachment for furniture anywhere along a wall. Also, their use is simple enough that anyone can learn how to use drywall anchors. With their use, whether for decorations or window treatments, one does not need to feel intimidated by many DIY projects.