Different types of drywall & sheetrock anchor screws: TV mount & more

Now that your house is finished, it is time to mount the TV onto the wall in your living room. Perhaps you can add a shelf here and a cabinet there while you’re at it. With your Saturday plan clear, you got to work. It all seemed like a good idea until the disaster occurred. In one fell swoop, your beautiful decorations shattered on the ground. Where did I go wrong, you may think? Once you pick up the broken shards and what remains of your dignity, read on.

In this article, we will tell you about all the different types of anchor screws used to hang the item to your drywall. Rather than driving your new Porsche to Home Depot, we’ll teach you everything there is to know.

drywall screw gun

Why do I need anchors?

Your inner walls might appear stalwart and unbreakable, but looks can be deceiving. And in this case, they truly are. Walls tend to be covered with thin plasters made from gypsum. Thus, you are not drilling the hangers into the brick. You only pass through this outer layer called drywall. Gypsum is a deceptively soft mineral. It can’t handle much weight. Therefore, screws tend to fall out.

Anchor screws were invented to circumvent this shortcoming. Placed into the drywall, they are a secure way to hang your items even when there is no stud behind the wall.

Anchors are sometimes called wall plugs.

Drywall vs. sheetrock

Drywall refers to sheets of gypsum covered in thick paper. It is used to cover the inner side of walls for insulation. These gypsum panels prevent heat loss and protect against vermin. The mineral itself is common and cheap, which is why it is so popular. And unlike wooden panels, it is not flammable.

When prowling the Internet for information related to wall fasteners, you might have stumbled upon the term sheetrock. Sheetrock is a renowned brand that manufactures drywall panels. Because of its popularity, many people use the name interchangeably with drywall.

How do wall anchors work?

Studs are part of the framework behind each wall. These long wooden or metallic beams provide additional stability for your house. Because of their durability, you can drive screws directly into them. However, they are each about 20 inches apart. It might limit your decorative options. Technically, you don’t need to drive screws strictly into studs. However, the support won’t be as stable.

But creativity should not be limited. And thanks to wall plugs, it doesn’t have to be. You just place these fasteners into pre-drilled holes. Thanks to their design, they provide a better grip for your screws. No more falling accidents!

Types of drywall anchors

Now that you are familiar with these handy tools, you might be tempted to visit the nearest hardware store and purchase some. Before you do, you should know that they come in many different types. Some might work better than others, so read on to learn more.

Drywall anchors can be divided into two categories, based on how they work.

Expansion anchors

Expansion anchors were originally designed to be mounted into firm materials such as brick or mortar. However, they can also be used in drywalls when you want to hang a kitchen island light object. Since they don’t provide much support, they are only as strong as the material in which you place them. They will loosen and fall out if you hang heavy objects on them. You should only use them for an item such as light picture frames.

Most plastic fasteners are in fact expansion anchors. Despite not being very strong, they are affordable and remain a good option for hanging light items.

This type includes most plastic fasteners and self-driving plugs.

Hollow-wall anchors

Hollow-wall anchors are manufactured with spreading that expands as you install it. Once in, they are difficult to remove precisely because of this spreading. However, it also means they distribute the weight across a broader area. Thus, their weight limit is significantly higher.

Butterfly bolts, molly bolts, and strap toggle anchors are all types of hollow-wall fasteners.

Weight limit

Though we’ve listed the estimated maximum weight different types can hold (per one fastener), take these numbers with a grain of salt. Different factors will affect how much load your anchor can take. To know the exact amount, check the packaging for product details.

Anchor type

Fasteners made from metal are generally sturdier than plastic ones. Also, fasteners with a spreading provide better support.

Anchor size

As you might have guessed, bigger and longer plugs can withstand heavier loads.

Drywall thickness

Thinner panels won’t be able to support heavy items.

Number of anchors

Even though a single one might only bear up to 100 pounds, you can support an object with multiple anchors. By doing so, you’ll distribute the weight across a broader area. You’ll then have no problems hanging 200-lb objects or heavier.

Heavy-duty anchors for heavy items

When it comes to hanging heavy items, toggle bolts are arguably the best option. Even though they are costly, a single toggle bolt can support over 100 pounds with ease. What’s more, their wings allow for ceiling installation. However, make sure you don’t hang anything heavier than 15 pounds on the ceiling. Gravity greatly reduces their weight limit.

Molly bolts are the second best option. They might not be as strong as toggle bolts, but they don’t fall behind by much.

Strap toggle and alligator wall plugs are also decent choices.

Plastic anchors

Plastic expansion anchor

Plastic expansion anchors are long sleeves of plastic that hold the screws in. Though flexible and durable enough, they distribute the weight of the hanging object poorly. This means they should not be used with items that weigh more than 10 pounds. They are a single-use-only option, as the plastic coat deforms when you hammer it in.

Installation is simple enough, although you’ll need a power drill. Expansion plugs are suitable for light objects such as picture frames.

Winged plastic anchor

Though they look similar to toggle bolts, these plugs feature wings made of plastic. This makes them hold more securely to your drywall. They can shoulder more weight than expansion plugs. However, they still can’t match the strength of metal fasteners – they can only bear up to 20 pounds. Their one advantage is that winged plastic fasteners don’t damage the wall panel when you pull them out.

Alligator anchor

Alligator anchors make for very versatile fasteners. Made of propylene plastic, these plugs can be installed into drywall and ceiling alike. They hold very firmly, and their unique design prevents screws from countersinking. Though an alligator plug might be considered a unique type of plastic expansion fastener, it can easily support up to 80 pounds.

They are used to install smoke detectors, alarms, and cabinets. But they will do the job for almost any item you wish to hang, provided it is below the weight limit.

Sleeve anchors

Sleeve anchors come in handy whenever you need to evenly distribute the hanging object’s weight evenly. Thus, they are most commonly used to install electric radiators and public seating. They can be made of zinc, stainless steel, or plastic. The expandable sleeve ensures a tight grip on the wall.

Sleeve fasteners can only bear up to 20 pounds.

Metal drywall anchors

Butterfly anchor (toggle bolt)

toggle bolts in a box

Toggle bolts or butterfly bolts are among the strongest fasteners. Made of metal, they will also last for a very long time. Butterfly plugs got their name thanks to the wings located at their end. The wings expand inside the drywall and evenly distribute the hanging item’s weight evenly. Thanks to this, toggle bolts are perfect to hang heavy roof gutters, window blinds, shelves, and cabinets. They are also ideal for securing ceiling fans, as the wings resist gravity well.

The weight limit of one toggle bolt easily exceeds 100 pounds.

Molly Bolt

molly bolts

Made mostly of steel, molly bolts feature an expandable sleeve that opens as you drive the fastener into the wall. Their design makes them a good option for medium-weight objects such as:

  • heavy curtain rods
  • large picture frames
  • towel racks
  • and coat hangers.

Though they are not the strongest, they are good value for money.

Molly bolts can hold objects from 50 to 100 pounds.

Self-drilling drywall anchors

self-drilling anchor

True to their name, self-drilling anchors (SDA) drill themselves into the wall as you hammer them. Because they sport many sharp treads along their length, they are sometimes called threaded anchors. These fasteners are arguably the easiest to install. You hammer them into the wall and watch them drill their way in. Then, you just turn in the screw.

However, they are no Hercules when It comes to strength. A high-quality SDA can hold only up to 75 pounds. Moreover, they lose shape as you hammer them and are unfit for more than one use. You’d better install them correctly!

Strap Toggle Anchor

A strap (sometimes snap) toggle anchor is a heavy-duty fastener. It consists of a carbon steel wing and a long plastic leg. Though it cannot compete with its metallic counterpart in terms of strength, it is cheap and beginner-friendly. You can easily install it by drilling a hole and pulling the wing in. Then, you just strap it with the ratchet leg. Strap toggle is an excellent choice for medium-weight objects such as:

  • smaller TVs
  • picture frames
  • and mirrors.

Strap toggle fasteners should handle weight up to 80 pounds well.

Best drywall anchors

Not sure which plugs are right for you? Here are some products we recommend.

Toggle bolts – Swpeet

For only $11.26, you’ll get a kit of 24 toggle bolts. They come in 3 sizes, so you’re bound to find the right fit for your DIY project. Thanks to their zinc coating, you won’t have to worry about rust. We didn’t find anything to nitpick about these Swpeet bolts.

Molly bolts – Glarks

If molly bolts caught your attention, you can’t go wrong with these zinc-coated Glarks fasteners. The package contains 30 pieces, so you’ll have some in stock for quite some time. We didn’t have to spend much money either. We purchased a 5x52mm kit for $12.99, but they come in many dimensions.

The company also produces an assortment set. For $18.82, you’ll get 80 molly bolts of various sizes. If you are passionate about DIY projects, this will be a dream come true!

Sleeve anchors – Hillman

sleeve anchor

We recommend opting for these sleeve wall plugs to install electrical radiators or window frames. This 12-pack kit costs $20.07. It might sound like a lot, but metal fasteners are generally costlier.

Thanks to their zinc coating, you won’t have to worry about corrosion.

Alligator anchors

Toggler is something of a celebrity among drywall product manufacturers. It’s no surprise that their alligator plugs are so reliable. A Toggler kit of 100 pieces costs $21.99. They combine the durability of toggle bolts with the easy installation of standard plastic wall plugs. You can also use them on the ceiling. They resist gravity well, so you can use them to install ceiling fans or light fixtures.

Strap toggle anchors – Toggler

Another great product from Toggler, these strap toggle anchors can easily hold 200-lb objects in ½-inch drywall. Whether you want to hang TVs or floating shelves, you’ll like these quality fasteners. This kit comes with 20 pieces and costs $19.99.

Plastic expansion

These expansion wall plugs are the best choice when hanging lightweight items such as picture frames. They are the cheapest option out there. They cost only $18.99. It might seem like a lot, but you get 300 pieces for this price.

Winged plastic – AXTCHO

If you’re looking for a great value-for-money option, you’ll fall in love with these winged plastic anchors. They are easy to install and can support heavier loads than common plastic wall plugs. The kit comes with 20 pieces and costs merely $8.99.

Self-drilling – KURUI

If it’s an easy installation you’re looking for, these durable threaded anchors. This 50-piece package will last you for quite a while and costs only $12.99. These are the wall plugs to go for if you are not confident in your abilities. They will do most of the job for you.

How to use & install drywall anchors

In case you’ve never installed wall fasteners before, don’t worry. We’ve prepared this guide to help you.

How to drill the pilot hole

Pilot holes are pre-drilled holes used to guide the wall plug into a wall. You will need to drill these holes to install most fasteners. It also tends to be the hardest part of the installation. Driving in the fastener itself is then a piece of cake.

  1. Grab a pencil, electric drill, and measuring tape. Don’t forget the plugs too.
  2. Mark the spot where you want to place the fastener.
  3. If you’re installing more than one fastener, precision will be important. Use a measuring tape to gauge the distance between the two plugs. Make sure they form a parallel line with the floor, or your items will lean to one side.
  4. Find the dimensions of your fastener. They are typically written on the packaging. Pay extra attention to this step. A hole that’s too big won’t hold the plug properly. If you’re unsure about the right size, it’s better to go under than over. You can always expand the pilot hole if it is too small.
  5. Hold your electric drill perpendicularly to the wall and start drilling. Be patient while drilling. If you drill at the wrong angle, the slanted plug won’t work properly.
  6. Repeat this process as many times as you need. Once done, you are ready to place in the fasteners.

How to install expansion anchors

These are among the easiest to install. Just slip the plastic coat inside the hole and press it firmly. Once fully in, you can place the screw in. Make sure you use these wall plugs only for lightweight objects.

How to install threaded (self-drilling) anchors

Threaded wall plugs don’t need to be installed into a pilot hole. Instead, you must press them against the wall and drive them in with a screwdriver. A hammer also works.

How to install hollow-wall anchors

These include toggle and molly bolts. Use a hammer to drive them in. Then, tighten the screw with a screwdriver.

Molly bolts vs. toggle bolts

toggle bolts, unopened box

Toggle bolts are metallic fasteners that expand into wings. These wings help diffuse the weight of the hanging item evenly. Because of this, they are considered the strongest among wall plugs. Toggle bolts are suitable for hanging heavy objects, such as ceiling fans or shelves.

Molly bolts are a different type of fastener. They feature a metallic sleeve that expands as you drive it into the wall. Just like with toggle bolts, this mechanism helps to evenly distribute weight. You can use molly bolts for coat hangers and TVs below 100 pounds.

toggle bolts

Both types are reliable, but toggle bolts can carry greater weights. They’re also the more expensive choice.

FAQ

How much weight can drywall anchors hold?

It depends on three factors: type, size, and drywall width. Big metal anchors are sturdier than small plastic ones. In thin walls, anchors are prone to loosening. Depending on these factors, the weight limit ranges from 10 to over 100 pounds per fastener.

How do you install plastic wall anchors without a drill?

If you prefer easy-to-install fasteners, buy threaded plugs. All you have to do is hammer them into the wall.

In case you really don’t want to use a drill, you could grab a screw and hammer a hole into the wall this way. However, we don’t recommend using this unconventional method.

What are the plastic things that come with screws?

These plastic coats are called wall plugs. They enable you to drive screws into walls made of soft and brittle material. Without them, screws are prone to falling out.

How much weight can a toggle bolt hold?

A single toggle bolt can easily support objects heavier than 100 pounds.

Conclusion

Anchors or wall plugs are fasteners used when installing hanging items such as floating shelves. Because drywall is made of soft material, placing screws directly into is not a good idea. The screw will loosen over time, and your items will fall. Different types of wall plugs can support different weights. Choosing the correct one depends on your budget and the weight of the object you plan to install.