There's no doubt about it. It's tricky to fasten something to drywall when it has to go between studs. Plaster walls and hollow-core doors are no picnic to work on either. These surfaces separate space, not support weight. But, fortunately, there is an anchor for just about any hanging job you can think of.
Why Use Hanging Hardware?
Put together your own collection, and you won't need to run to the store every time a hanging job comes up—or worry about your wall art crashing to the ground. Here are the best fasteners for common household hang-ups.
Types of Fasteners
Expanding Plastic Sleeves
Available in several varieties, these work well for light (less than 10 pounds) and medium loads (10 pounds to 25 pounds). Anchors like the blue one don't expand enough to grab well in drywall; they work better in plaster and best in masonry. Anchors designed to spread their "wings" (right) are less susceptible to withdrawal.
How to use them: Drill a hole that allows a snug fit for the sleeve. You should need to tap it home with a hammer until the anchor flange seats against the surface. Fasten by driving a screw into the sleeve. Depending on size, sleeves will take #4, #6 or #8 screws.
Best for: Heavy picture frames, bulletin boards, smoke alarms, doorbell chimes, lightweight shelving, wall-mounted light fixtures, and wall-mounted mirrors on plaster walls.
The most popular all-purpose drywall anchor. These are great for light (less than 10 pounds) to medium loads (10 pounds to 25 pounds), and are available in metal and plastic.
How to use it: Simply screw the anchor into the wall with a Phillips screwdriver or cordless drill fitted with a Phillips bit. Attach the item by driving a #6 or #8 screw into the anchor hole.
Best for: Heavy picture frames, bulletin boards, smoke alarms, door chimes, lightweight shelving, wall-mounted light fixtures, wall-mounted mirrors on drywall.
Picture-Frame Hangers and Nails
It's good to have a selection of these on hand in different sizes. Large versions installed with an angled nail can support up to 20 lbs. For heavier loads (25 pounds to 50 pounds), use a flat-mounted hook and an anchor.
Best for: Picture frames (up to 20 pounds) on drywall and plaster.
These are not as easy to use as other drywall anchors, but they're still good to have on hand for medium (10 pounds to 25 pounds) to heavy loads (25 pounds to 50 pounds). Pointed mollys (right) can be tapped into place with a hammer. Nonpointed versions require an installation hole, and work well in old plaster-and-lath walls.
How to use them: Seat the round flange flush with the wall surface by tapping the screwhead. Turn the screw to "mushroom" the slotted sleeve against the back wall surface. Take care not to overtighten; you'll know this is happening if the anchor flange starts to depress the surface of the plaster or drywall. Once the molly is secure, unscrew the bolt and then replace it with the item in place.
Best for: Towel racks on plaster, heavy-duty shelving on drywall and plaster, curtain rod supports on drywall and plaster, and wall-mounted mirrors (over 20 pounds) on plaster.
Tap-In Expanding Anchors
These easy-to-use fasteners are best for light loads (less than 10 pounds).
How to use it: Tap the pointed end and flat shank into wall until the top flange is flush with the wall surface. Install item by driving a #6 screw into the flange hole.
Hollow-Core Door Anchors
These miniature molly bolts will hold light (less than 10 pounds) to heavy loads (25 pounds to 50 pounds) in hollow-core doors and ¼-inch-thick paneling. Plastic versions are also available.
How to use it: Use the same technique as for standard molly bolts.
Best for: Picture frames (up to 20 pounds), heavy frames and bulletin boards, smoke alarms and doorbell chimes, towel racks, lightweight shelving, and wall-mounted mirrors (up to and over 20 pounds).
Metal toggle bolts can support heavy loads (25 pounds to 50 pounds) in drywall, plaster and hollow-core concrete block. Plastic versions hold medium loads (10 pounds to 25 pounds) in drywall and plaster.
How to use them: Bore a hole in the wall large enough to accommodate the toggle. Fit the item to be anchored over the bolt, then insert the toggle and tighten. You can trim a plastic bolt flush with its nut after installation.
Use L-shaped plastic retainers for installing wall-mounted, frameless mirrors.