DIY Home

PSA: Please Don't Skip the Drywall Anchor

Tempted as you may be to get a picture hung in a jiffy.

February 22, 2022
Photo by Bobbi Lin

I’ve hung a lot of things on the walls of my apartments (past and present). Floating shelves, picture frames, mirrors, TVs—you name it, I’ve probably attached it to the wall. As a result, I get asked a comparable amount of questions about hanging things. “Can I use a nail for this? Do I need a laser level? What about a Command Hook?” But the most common question, hands down, is “Do I really need a drywall anchor?”

Well… unfortunately, you probably do. Not in all cases, but in a lot of them.

Drywall (what most of our modern walls are made from) can only hold about 5 to 10 pounds with a nail, but even so, it’s a very brittle material that easily bends and crumbles, which means it’s likely that a nail holding a heavy item can start to slide or slope, putting your item in danger of falling down—but that’s where drywall anchors come in.

A drywall anchor (or just called a wall anchor) is a nifty little product, usually made from plastic or metal, that helps distribute the weight of whatever you’re mourning to the wall by expanding into the drywall. Some, like standard plastic expansion anchors, get hammered into pre-drilled pilot holes, and others, like self-drilling anchors, have a pointy tip and are shaped like a screw, so they can be installed without pre-drilling. Whichever anchor you pick for the job (or comes with the item you’re mounting), just be sure to read through the instructions before installing.

The good news? Drywall anchors really aren’t difficult to install, and the extra five minutes you take to do it will spare you from cleaning up broken glass from a fallen frame or having a patch a big hole in the wall from a torn-out screw. Below, a quick list of when you can skip them, as well as when you’ll surely need them.

When You Don’t:

Lightweight Items

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone has hung a picture frame on the wall with one or two little nails, and it’s all gone just fine. That’s because it is fine! Anything that weighs less than five pounds (picture frames, canvasses, candle holders, etc.) will usually hold up well with a nail or two.


Okay this is a bit misleading, because while you don’t need wall anchors to mount a TV, you will need to find studs in the wall with a stud finder, and mount it directly into them. This will require buying (or borrowing!) a stud finder, but the good news is, you don’t have to pre-drill and hammer in a bunch of wall anchors!

Alternative Mounting Solutions

Drywall anchors aren’t the only way to mount heavy things, though they’re certainly very popular and relatively easy to use. There are other products on the market, like High & Mighty Picture Hangers, which can hold up to 40 pounds and install easily with just some pressure from your hands, or heavy-duty Command Strips that hold up to 16 pounds and successfully circumvent the need for a wall anchor. Another thing you can do, if you’ve already got the stud finder, is mount heavy art directly into the studs—but since there may not be a stud right where you want something mounted, this only works in some cases. For some more art-hanging ideas (all sans nails) check here.

When You Do:

Heavy Frames

Any oversized frames that weigh approximately more than five to ten pounds will need some extra oomph to keep them from falling off the wall, and it’s certainly worth it to protect a large piece of art.


The last thing you want to happen to a wall-mounted mirror is for it to come crashing down and shatter in the process (you know, seven years of bad luck and all). Glass tends to be quite heavy, and it’s really not fun to clean up in shards, so trust me—take the extra precaution and use a wall anchor.


Whether they be floating shelves or shelves with brackets—always, always use drywall anchors to mount them (if you’re not screwing them into studs, that is). There is little to no chance of your shelf staying properly affixed to the wall with just screws (they’ll strip the hole in the drywall in nothing flat), and even if you manage to get it upn on the wall, the likelihood of it falling down is about… 99 percent.

Curtain Rods

Yep, curtain rods are annoying to install, I’m the first to commiserate with you on this one. I’ve done it many times, and each time, I’m surprised by how time-consuming it can be, what with all the measuring and leveling. But skipping the anchors here is a bad idea, since your curtains will likely be opened and closed daily, which puts a good amount of strain on the brackets that hold the rod in place.

Wall Hooks

If you're installing a coat hook or some kind of storage hook (say for scarves, hats, ties, what have you), you'll definitely need reinforcement in the form of a wall anchor. Since they're usually high-traffic items that get a lot of use, hooks need to be properly mounted to ensure they'll hold even the heaviest winter puffer.

Anything we missed on the drywall anchor list? Tell us below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.

1 Comment

Smaug February 22, 2022
Anchors or Molly bolts are OK for pictures if you're careful, but they should really be avoided for any sort of live load applications like shelves, musical instrument hangers, chargers, as they're apt to fail over time. Picture moldings- a molding high on the wall from which pictures can be hung- are still encountered sometimes, but they don't seem to get used for that purpose a lot. They were popular when walls were mostly plaster, which is pretty problematic for hanging things. My mother used to use little hangers with a pin angled downwards and a hook very tight to the wall (leverage is your enemy here), which were surprisingly (to me) effective; couldn't be used for really heavy loads, but I'd say well over 5 lbs.