Use the Right Anchor to Prevent Falling Art and Shelving

    Thinking of creating your own art show? Well now you know which fasteners to use to hang heavy pictures. Photo: Rob React/FlickrEver try to hang a heavily-framed picture with a small brad nail, only to come home and find it has fallen to the floor? Or installed shelving, piled on the books, then watched them fall, ripping a hole in the drywall? Although fasteners may initially feel like they have adequate holding power, over time the weight of a load causes tension and stress upon the material they were installed into, or upon the fastener itself. Knowing that the cost to install built-in shelving can be pricey enough that you wouldn’t want to do it twice, it’s best to get it right the first time.

    Unless you're hanging something excessively lightweight, plastic anchors are a poor choice for most jobs. "Economy" anchors are typically included with kits as a courtesy. Avoid them. Better quality anchors are only slightly more expensive.

    How to choose your anchor

    Choose according to the material you will be adhering to as well as the weight of the item you want to hang – weight limitations are listed on packages. Here's a guide:

    • Lightweight loads are 10 lbs. or less

    • Medium loads are 10 – 25 lbs.

    • Heavyweight loads are over 25 lbs.

    When in doubt, use an anchor that exceeds the weight of the item you're hanging. Look for brands with more ribbing for the greatest holding power.  

    Two main types of anchor

    Expansion Type: Used for concrete, brick, metal or dense wood, these anchors expand as a screw or bolt is threaded into them. These are terrific when installing shelves on basement walls. 

    Hollow Wall Type: Designed to be used in thin materials (specifically, hollow core doors) or hollow walls. Once installed, they cannot be pulled back through the installation hole. Before installing, drill a small hole the same size as the anchor, then tap the anchor level with the surface before screwing object into place.

    The right anchor for the job

    1. Threaded drywall anchors are a perfect choice for drywall. Though they come in both plastic and metal, metal is more durable and extremely easy to install. Make a small starter hole in the exact spot you need to hang something, and then screw the anchor in with a Phillips screwdriver till the anchor is flush with the wall.

    Use threaded drywall anchors for: lightweight shelving, wall-mounted light fixtures, smoke alarms, doorbells, heavy pictures with flat-mount hooks, wall-mounted mirrors.

    2. Molly bolts are an expansion anchor very easy to install by drilling a hole the diameter of the molly (for larger sizes) or by using an awl or punch (for smaller sizes). Tap the molly into the hole making it flush with the surface of the wall. Screw clockwise, until you feel the metal teeth of the molly pull it tight, locking it into place. 

    Use molly bolts for: towel racks, light- to heavy-duty shelving, curtain rods, wall-mounted mirrors.

    3. Hollow-core door anchors are made specifically for hollow-core doors of all types, holding light to heavy loads depending on size. Install these like molly bolts.  

    Use hollow-core door anchors for: towel racks, lightweight shelving only, wall-mount mirrors (with clips).

    4. Toggle bolts are reserved for big jobs – the best hollow-wall anchors if you want to guarantee a heavy item isn't going anywhere! They comprise both a bolt and a "toggle" (a pair of metal spring-loaded wings). Follow this simple rule of thumb: the larger the diameter, the stronger the toggle. Longer bolts are used for thicker walls, so choose the appropriate length of bolt as well as diameter. To install, bore a hole in the wall large enough to accommodate the toggle.  

    Use toggle bolts for: Heavy curtain rods and sconces, heavy shelving, towel racks.

    Laura Foster-Bobroff writes for

    Updated June 19, 2018. 

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