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How-To: Set Drywall Anchors

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How-To Tuesdays
What do you want to hang on the wall? Is it a shelf? A photo? Do you have a neat magnetic organizer that needs to go up? Or just a hook for hanging your towels? No matter what you need to mount to the wall, it’s always best to do the job right, and there’s nothing better than a good drywall anchor. They come in many shapes and sizes, so follow my tips for setting 4 different types of anchors — for whatever load they might need to bear.



Various drywall anchors Each anchor will require different tools.
Measuring tape

Note: Before you go punching holes in the walls with drill or hammer, always measure, then measure again! Use the end of a screw to mark the spot.
The Plastic Flip-Up Kind: This drywall anchor is a small plastic sleeve that is inserted in the wall, and then when the screw is inserted into the anchor, the plastic part flips up in the back to secure the load. The packaging for mine calls itself “Tap-n-Lock,” and it has a diagram on the package so you know what you are getting.
To set it: Find the arrow on the front of the plastic bit. Make sure it’s pointing up, and then hammer it into the wall. Use a screwdriver to add the screw.
The Metal Expanding-Anchor Kind: This is an all-in-one anchor. The screw is already in this anchor, and when you turn the screw, it expands the metal fasteners behind the wall until they have clamped down to bear the weight.
To set it: Hammer it into the wall. Tighten the loose screw until it is firmly grasping the wall. Once you have the anchor tight, back the screw out to hang a hook or picture.
The Plastic Screw-In Kind: This is the easiest type of drywall anchor. Like the others, it’s hammered into the wall, but it simply grips the wall with it’s giant threads.
To set it: Hammer it in to get it started, then screw the anchor directly into the wall with a screwdriver. Just put the screwdriver right into the hole that the screw will go in, and tighten it down until it is set.
The Folding-Metal Jaw-Anchor Kind: This anchor is the most hardcore. It is super heavy duty, and requires a drill to first create a hole in the wall. But once you have this one in the wall, it can hold the heaviest of loads out of all the anchors I’ve outlined.
To set it: Drill a hole in the wall that is the same size as the anchor assembly. Then pinch the jaw closed and insert it into the hole. You might need to work the metal jaw into the hole a bit. Once the metal is in the wall, it opens right up. Grip the thread of the post, and add a hook.

10 thoughts on “How-To: Set Drywall Anchors

  1. Nate says:

    …a little more detail on what kind of loads each type is good for would be beneficial.
    For instance, in my experience, any of the plastic anchors aren’t worth using. If they don’t get mangled when you’re installing them, they simply don’t last very long.
    My suggestion is to *always* get a metal anchor. The extra buck or two is worth it.

  2. Nate says:

    Sorry, I should have been been a little more constructive…just one of those days :(
    I really do like the “behind the wall” pictures; that’s a great addition. It’s nice to see exactly how they’re working.
    It’s a good post, Brooklynne, and despite my cynicism, I’m sure others will find it helpful :)

  3. Yarnivore says:

    I agree with Nate that more detail about the different reasons for using each type of anchor would be great; still, this is helpful. I have never been able to make the plastic anchors work in my apartment walls–I think partly because of all the layers of paint they’d have to go through before reaching the drywall.

  4. kt says:

    I am a fan of the self-drilling anchors. You just use brute force and a Phillips screwdriver to drill that sucker in. Good for people like me without a drill.

  5. Dirk McQuigly says:

    If you ever need to remove the metal type and don’t want to damage the wall here is a tip: Back the screw out approx 1″ and tap the screw with a firm hammer strike. This will “stretch out” the anchor somewhat and allow the anchor to be pulled out of the wall a small bit. Remove the screw. Side cutters can then be used to cut off the top part of the anchor (cut where the anchor has an opening in the side). The back expanded part can then be pushed into the wall cavity and the hole filled.

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