Interior

7 Types of Drywall Anchors Every Homeowner Should Know

Drywall anchors are used to hold everything from lightweight pictures to heavy cabinets, but which one is right for which job?
Bob Beacham Avatar
Expanding drywall anchors, screw, and bolts of various sizes in a toolbox
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Trying to screw directly into drywall without using any type of drywall anchor is not a good idea. Either the screw will pull straight back out or it will work loose after a few days, and whatever was hung will come crashing down.

A stud may provide adequate support, but these are seldom conveniently placed. Meanwhile, drywall anchors are affordable, easy to install, and provide the necessary security to ensure the safe fixing of anything from lightweight picture frames to heavy cabinets.

There are many different types of drywall anchors available, each with strengths and weaknesses worth learning to help you pick the best drywall anchors for any DIY project.

1. Expansion Drywall Anchors

types of drywall anchors - blue anchor and drill kit
Photo: amazon.com

Expansion drywall anchors are low-cost, easy to use, and among the most common fixings in general use. They have ribbed or serrated plastic bodies with a split down the middle, and expand to grip a hole when a screw is inserted.

Plastic drywall anchors are very versatile and can be used to hang pictures, mirrors, and small shelves. They aren’t just for drywall either; expansion anchors can be inserted into cinder block, brick, concrete, and more. However, they lack the strength of metal drywall anchor alternatives, so expansion anchors can only bear about 25 pounds, even when several are used together.

Expansion drywall anchor installation is simple. A pilot hole is made in the drywall using a drill, and the anchor is pushed in. A suitable type of screw is then inserted in the anchor, forcing the body to grip the drywall. Because the hold is modest, they are usually easy to remove by inserting a screw into the anchor, gripping it with pliers, and pulling it out of the wall.

Best For: Pictures, mirrors, and small shelves up to 25 pounds
Our Recommendation: Qualihome Ribbed Plastic Drywall Anchor Kit at Amazon for $12.99.
This Qualihome kit bundles 100 drywall anchors, matching screws, and a drill bit together for convenience.

2. Threaded Drywall Anchors

types of drywall anchors - box of drywall screws with anchors
Photo: amazon.com

Another popular low-cost option, threaded drywall anchors can be made either from hard plastic or metal. They have a sharp point and an external screw thread that cuts into drywall, so they can be installed using a screwdriver without any pre-drilling. Some also split, like expansion anchors, to increase grip further.

Self-drilling drywall anchors like these provide greater support than expansion anchors, with some rated for loads of up to 75 pounds. Care needs to be taken when installing threaded drywall anchors, however, as over-tightening can cause the thread to damage the drywall and loosen the hold. Removal is simple: Just turn the anchor anti-clockwise to back it out of the wall.

Best For: Pictures, mirrors, and shelves up to 75 pounds
Our Recommendation: E-Z Ancor Twist-n-Lock Drywall Anchor at The Home Depot for $24.97.
These threaded anchors are strong, budget-friendly choices that make an audible click indicating when they’re correctly installed.

3. Molly Bolts

types of drywall anchors - box of different molly bolts
Photo: amazon.com

Molly bolts (or mollies for short) are one of the most popular drywall anchors for heavy items. They comprise a bolt and an outer casing. To install molly bolts, a hole is drilled and the casing is pushed through. As the bolt tightens, part of the casing expands and pulls it tight behind the wall.

This is not only very secure, but it also spreads the load of the item being hung. This allows molly bolts to support up to 100 pounds. It also means molly bolts can be used for ceiling fixings, whereas expanding and threaded drywall anchors might pull free.

One slight drawback is that installing drywall anchors of this type requires a special setting tool, though these are inexpensive. It is also difficult to remove drywall anchors of this type. Molly bolts either need to be cut around, creating a larger hole, or forced through into the cavity.

Best For: Cabinets, curtain rails, and ceiling fixings up to 100 pounds
Our Recommendation: Glarks Heavy-Duty Steel Molly Bolts at Amazon for $13.88.
This versatile pack contains six rust-resistant, zinc-plated molly bolt sizes for a wide variety of mounting tasks.

4. Winged Plastic Anchors

types of drywall anchors - white winged plastic anchors with screws
Photo: amazon.com

Winged plastic drywall anchors (also known as butterfly drywall anchors) are a relatively recent innovation, and an interesting hybrid. They combine the low cost of expansion and threaded drywall anchors with the added security of molly bolts. Like the latter, they have a winged casing that expands behind the board, though—unlike molly bolts—winged anchors only require a pilot hole rather than a special setting tool.

The spread wing means these winged plastic anchors can be used for lightweight ceiling items like smoke alarms. However, they don’t have the strength of molly bolts, so their weight capacity is limited to around 25 pounds. They can also be challenging to remove. The easiest way to get rid of them is probably to cut off the outer head and push the anchor through.

Best For: Pictures, small shelves, window blinds, and smoke alarms up to 25 pounds
Our Recommendation: USonline911 Drywall Anchor Assortment Kit at Amazon for $10.99.
This pack includes 30 low-cost anchor and screw combinations in white plastic with corrosion-resistant stainless steel screws.

5. Toggle Bolts

types of drywall anchors - toggle bolts kit
Photo: amazon.com

Toggle bolts (or drywall toggle anchors) are among the strongest drywall anchor types available. Usually made of rust-resistant, zinc-plated steel or stainless steel, they consist of a bolt and a pair of spring activated wings. These open automatically when pushed through an appropriately sized hole and are then tightened using the included bolt. The wings spread a load well, so toggle anchors can hold 100 pounds or more depending on drywall strength.

Although among the strongest drywall anchors, toggle bolts can be fiddly because they need to be inserted through the bracket or shelf being hung before fixing to the wall. Also, once opened the wings cannot be closed, so the only way to remove toggle bolts is to push them through into the cavity behind the drywall.

Best For: Heavy shelving, cabinets, bookcases, and large ceiling fixings
Our Recommendation: Swpeet Assorted Toggle Bolt and Wing Nut Kit at Amazon for $11.26.
A useful starter selection of 24 metal toggle bolts in three sizes: 1/8 inch, 3/16 inch, and 1/4 inch.

6. Self-Drilling Toggle Anchors

types of drywall anchors - self drilling toggle anchor kit
Photo: amazon.com

The drawback with most heavy-duty drywall anchors is that holes have to be pre-drilled, a special tool might be needed, or they are difficult to remove. Self-drilling toggle anchors overcome all these challenges.

Self-drilling toggle anchors are usually made of rust-resistant zinc-plated steel. A sharp tip punches its own hole in drywall, and once inserted, a toggle bar drops in place behind the wall, allowing support for loads of 100 pounds. Loosening the screw will drop the toggle so it’s possible the anchor can be removed and reused. These are more expensive than most alternatives, but they’re arguably the best type of drywall anchor for all-round use.

Best For: All-purpose, but especially good for heavy items on walls or ceilings
Our Recommendation: Unvert Toggle Anchors at Amazon for $35.99.
These American-made toggle anchors are durable, corrosion-resistant, multi-purpose solutions for heavy-duty mounting.

7. Strap Toggle Anchors

types of drywall anchors - strap toggle anchors
Photo: amazon.com

Among the several types of drywall anchors listed here, trap toggle drywall anchors offer perhaps the best combination of strength and simplicity for DIY users with limited experience. They combine a steel toggle with plastic ratchet straps and a threaded cap. They’re very quick and easy to install in drywall, too. After drilling a small pilot hole, the anchor is inserted. Then, the cap slides along the straps until it meets the wall. The straps are removed, leaving a neat hole for fixing the desired item.

Most strap toggle anchors are rated for 80 pounds or more. This, combined with their ease of installation, makes them one of the best drywall anchors for TV mounts. They are also an effective ceiling drywall anchor. Removal is a case of cutting off the head. The remainder will then fall inside the wall.

Best For: Shelves, medium-weight cabinets, curtain rails, and TV mounts
Our Recommendation: Toggler Snaptoggle Drywall Anchors at Amazon for $19.99.
This strap toggle anchor is an easy-to-use, versatile, and strong fixing for use on drywall up to 3 3/8 inches thick.

The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on February 28, 2023.