Hollow wall and drywall anchors are types of screws with added sleeves or parts that secure to the inside of a wall for a more secure hold. They provide that extra protection when hanging up your prized pictures, heavier mirrors, or shelves on the wall. They work in conjunction with the screw or nail and prevent them from pulling out of the wall, keeping your wall hangings safe and stabilized. They are especially handy when there is not a wall stud to nail or screw into for hanging your items.
Selecting the right fastener can be a challenge. The type of anchor for your project will depend on the wall material, the weight of the load being hung, and how it can be installed and removed. Here is a list of the most commonly used wall anchor types and their applications to help guide you.
Watch Now: How to Install 3 Types of Anchor Screws
01 of 10
Cement Board Screw Anchor
Best for: Attaching cement board to wood or steel
Cement board screw anchors are straight steel screws that do not require pre-drilling. They have a wafer head (for screws that do not require pre-drilling) and have tiny notches under the head designed to burrow into the material for a stronger grip. Though this type of anchor is best used for attaching cement board to wood and steel. It can also be used with high-density exterior sheathing and for bathtub attachments, countertops, flooring applications, and more. They are considered specialty screws and higher cost than typical screws.
02 of 10
Best for: Heavy-duty grip with masonry
Expansion anchors, also called wedge anchors, are expensive specialized items made from galvanized carbon steel screws with nuts and washers. They are heavily threaded and made to be used with concrete, masonry, and more. Less costly versions are made from zinc-plated steel. They're designed to spread open once they're anchored to provide a stronger hold.
03 of 10
Hollow Wall Anchor
Best for: Medium-duty jobs
Hollow wall anchors, sometimes called molly bolts, are made of steel and designed with sides that flair out once it is inserted into hollow walls. They are used for medium-duty applications, such as hanging light decorative shelves (as long as there are no heavy objects placed on top once installed) or a piece of artwork, but one molly bolt holds a couple of pounds at most. Hollow wall anchors are common and usually come in affordable packs of 50 or more. They'll normally add permanent screw threads to any material to which they're attached.
These types of anchors also expand as the screw is tightened and driven into the cavity. This anchor can be installed using a hammer or a drill and can be used with various wall thicknesses.
04 of 10
Plastic Hollow Wall Plug
Best for: Light-duty jobs
These plastic anchors are normally used in drywall or plaster for light-duty applications, such as hanging artwork or a floating shelf (providing you do not add anything too heavy on top of the shelf once it's installed). Plastic hollow wall plug anchors require that you first drill a pilot hole. When the screw is installed, the plug will expand and lock into place.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Threaded Drywall Anchor
Best for: Medium-duty holding power in drywall
This common anchor is recommended for medium-duty applications and is very easy to install because it does not need a pre-drilled hole to insert. It's also known as a self-drilling or self-tapping anchor. These anchors can be made from plastic, nylon, or zinc-coated. The threads cut deep into the material to provide a secure hold and a pull-out resistant grip. The large threads are intended to hold firmly in drywall and will accept #6 or #8 sheet metal screws. Though you can install one with just a screwdriver, it's always best to drill it into the wall to make sure it goes straight into the surface.
06 of 10
Best for: Heavy-duty holding power in drywall
Toggle bolts are the traditional anchor method and the preferred solution for heavy items. This type of anchor has two parts: the toggle and the machine bolt. Toggle bolts are sized by the diameter of the screw and its length. They are typically used for mounting a sink to a wall, hanging heavy shelves, anchoring furniture against the wall for stability, and attaching a wall mount for a TV.
As the bolt becomes larger, the toggle will also increase in size, and as it gets longer, the more it can accommodate a thicker wall. They require a pilot hole, and the wings that lock into place behind drywall provide strong holding power. They are common bolts and not expensive.
07 of 10
Winged Plastic Anchor
Best for: Medium-duty jobs
Winged plastic anchors are used for medium-duty applications and require pilot holes as well. A special tool is used to expand the wings after the anchor has been inserted. They offer twice as much strength as regular plastic expansion anchors.
A special pointed tool is supplied with the anchor to push the center of the wings out so that they properly expand inside the wall. The anchor won't function properly unless this is done, even though it might feel strong when it's screwed in.
The wings are pulled firmly against the wall after the screw is installed. Plastic anchors should be installed carefully to prevent them from being damaged.
08 of 10
Best for: Holding springs to moving or stationary surfaces
Spring anchors are actual springs that attach to other springs to hold them securely. They hold expansion springs to help support the weight the springs are bearing. They secure both ends of the springs, allowing for easy adjustment of the extension. Known for their convenience as well as ease of implementation, spring anchors do all this without being prohibitively expensive (though these specialty items are more costly than other types of screws), which is always a plus.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Best for: Heavy-duty structural jobs attaching metal to masonry or masonry to masonry
These anchors are often used in high-traffic infrastructures, which should give you an idea of how strong they are. They serve equally as well in home improvement projects and in construction. The adhesive is typically epoxy-based, and these anchors work with rebar and both threaded and smooth dowels. They also hold up under almost any climate, moisture, or weather conditions.
10 of 10
Best for: Heavy masonry jobs
Sleeve anchors work best with masonry and concrete fixtures. They can be used for applications, such as attaching a sign to concrete or installing an outdoor light on masonry. They can also be used to attach metal hatchway doors to masonry and foundations.
As with most anchors, you must drill a hole for the anchor first, and the size of the hole should be a very close match to the size of the anchor itself. As the screw is tightened into the hole, the sleeve will expand.
Choosing Hollow Wall and Drywall Anchors
Determining the correct wall anchor to use for your project comes down to the material of the wall and, more importantly, the weight of the item being hung. Make sure not to go over the anchor's allowed weight limit, and it's best to stay a bit below the maximum amount.
Some anchors may require special tools to install or "set." Chemical anchors shouldn't be installed in cold weather, something to keep in mind if you're working in a northern climate. Also keep in mind some anchors won't work for overhead applications, such as a hanging pot rack or hanging a chair from the ceiling, which both require eye bolts screwed into ceiling joists or special hanging kits.