Selecting the Right Hanging Hardware Is No Easy Task: Get it Right Every Time With These Tips

It can’t be denied that its tricky to fasten something to drywall when it has to go between studs. Plaster walls aren’t fun either. These surfaces separate space, not support weight. But, fortunately, there is an anchor for just about any hanging job you can think of. Here are the best fasteners to solve any common wall or hanging issues you might come across. 

Expanding plastic sleeves

These are available in several varieties, these work well for light (less than 10 pounds) and medium loads (10-25 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 are less susceptible to falling down.

To use an anchor, 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.  This type of hardware works beat for heavy picture frames, bulletin boards, smoke alarms, doorbell chimes, lightweight shelving, wall-mounted light fixtures, and wall-mounted mirrors on plaster walls. 

Screw-in anchors

This is by far the most popular all-purpose drywall anchor. These are great for light (less than 10 pounds) to medium loads (10-25 pounds), and are available in metal and plastic. To use, 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 screw into the anchor hole. This type of hardware is 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 (25-50 pounds), use a flat-mounted hook and an anchor. This hardware works best for picture frames (up to 20 pounds) on drywall and plaster.

Molly bolts

These are not as easy to use as other drywall anchors, but they’re still good to have on hand for medium (10-25 pounds) to heavy loads (25-50 pounds). Pointed mollys can be tapped into place with a hammer. Nonpointed versions require an installation hole, and work well in old plaster-and-lath walls. 

To use, 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. This hardware works best for things such as 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). To use, 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. 

Metal toggle bolts

Metal toggle bolts can support heavy loads (25-50 pounds) in drywall, plaster and hollow-core concrete block. Plastic versions hold medium loads (10 pounds to 25 pounds) in drywall and plaster. To use, 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.


2 thoughts on “Selecting the Right Hanging Hardware Is No Easy Task: Get it Right Every Time With These Tips

  1. Have to say…I’ve been guilty of using a shoe as a hammer before to hang a picture 🙂 I really like this article though. There are some pieces that you really do need to use the proper hardware for, if you aren’t hanging a tiny picture or something of the sort. I’ve seen some pretty big messes on the wall from not using the right hanging tools.

  2. Agreed. A friend of mine had a flatscreen he wanted to hang in the living room. Problem was…the walls are plaster. He did it without using a stud finder, he just tapped on the walls to guess where the studs were. Well, guess what? He guessed wrong..

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