When you need to hang something on drywall the safest solution is to detect a stud and use a wood screw. But sometimes this is simply not possible if for example you need to place the hanged item very precisely on that wall. In this situation you have to use one of the solution available for hollow walls. But not all the anchors and fasteners for drywall and hollow walls are created equal.

Reading a little bit on the subject will allow you to make an informed decision and avoid that expensive mirror to fall and break while also leaving horrible dents in the hardwood floor.

When you pick a fastener or anchor to hang something on hollow walls like draywall you have to consider a few factors:

  1. The nature of the wall (for example the drywall thickness is important)
  2. The weight of the object you want to hang.
  3. The sape of the object you want to hang – this is important because while a picture will pull mainly down, a cabinet will also pull away from the wall and this distribution of forces will have a huge impact on how good the anchor or fastener will behave.
  4. And of course the anchor type and material.

There are two main categories of anchors and fasteners:

Expansion anchors

  • Designed for hard materials like concrete and masonery.
  • They are inserted in a pre-drilled hole in the wall.
  • They work using the friction between the anchor material and the hole walls created by the expansion of the anchor created when a screw or bolt is inserted in the anchor.
  • They are not designed and should not be used in most cases in soft materials like drywall.
  • They can be used to help keep and object in position (like a toilet paper support) but only as a helper not as the main weight bearing anchor.
  • You have the option of plastic (expansion plastic sleeves) or lead anchors but for drywall a lead anchor will not help. Actually it might even be a worse choice than plastic since it reqires more force to put the screw in the anchor and this extra force might make the anchor turn in drywall. So for this supporting roles use a plastic anchor.
  • In concrete on the other hand, a lead anchor is recommended.
  • To install drill a hole that allows a snug fit for the anchor then tap the anchor in with a hammer. Drive a screw into the sleeve.

Hallow wall anchors

  • They are designed for hollow walls.
  • They usually have a part that expands behind the surface of the hollow wall.
  • They are inserted in the wall usually through a pre-drilled hole and when they expand behind the surface of the hollow wall they can’t be pulled back.

Threaded drywall anchors / Self tapping screw anchor

  • Made of plastic (nylon) or metal (zinc).
  • Theoretically the don’t need predrilling but using an awl to make a leading hole is advisable for precision.
  • Can be installed using just a Phillips screwdriver.
  • Can be removed and reused.
  • AKA “EZ-Ancor” or “Zip-It”.

Nylon toggle anchor (winged)

  • Installs through a pre-drilled hole.
  • Wings will keep them in if installed properly. Use the provided pointed tool to open the wings behind the drywall.

Sleeve-Type Hollow Wall Anchors (Molly Bolts)

  • Installed through a pre-drilled hole (some are designed to be driven into the wall with a hammer).
  • Tap in the sleeve unti its head rests against the wall surface.
  • By turning the screw the sleeve will bend and grab the wall.

Toggle Bolts

  • Can support heavy loads in drywall, plaster and hollow-core concrete block. This isthe strongest of all the drywall anchors and fasteners.
  • Installed through a pre-drilled hole big enough to accomodate the toggle. Might require a washer.
  • The installation is anot aa precise as with other anchors due to the bigger hole.
  • The recommended choice for ceiling mountings.

One piece threaded fastener

  • Leaves a much smaller hole compared to other systems.
  • Installs with a screwdriver, no pre-drilling is required.

Flat tap-in expansion anchor (The Legs)

  • Expansion anchor with a sharp tip, requiring no pre-drilling.
  • Install it horizontally.
  • Easy removal leaving just a small slit in the wall.

Strap toggle anchor

  • Designed for hollow wals like drywall.
  • Preassembled with a carbon steel wing and a locking cap/ratchet leg assembly molded from engineered plastic.
  • Does not require fixture or screw to set.
  • Installed through a small hole in the wall.

Angled picture hooks (The more nails it requires, the stronger it is)

Tools used to install anchors and fasteners

  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdriver
  3. Awl
  4. Electric drill

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