How To Use Wall Anchors: DIY Step by Step Guide for Beginners

concrete anchors

Getting the Most From Wall Anchors

At some stage, everyone wants to hang something on a wall, be it drywall, plaster, brick or concrete. With so many wall anchors and wall fixings on the market to choose from, finding the one best for the job can be confusing.

let’s go through what types of wall anchors are available and which ones are best used for what you are about to hang.

Wall anchors are designed to attach things to walls where glues or nail-in type fixings won’t cut it. The main type of wall we are concerned about is drywall walls and ceilings, hollow core doors, concrete, brickwork or timber, and composite wall paneling. Let’s face it, folks, you can’t put screws directly into drywall!

There are many types of wall fasteners on the market, each is capable of performing specific purposes, what we need to find out is which types will suit our requirements.

Which Wall Anchors To Use For;

Fixing to plasterplastic anchors, toggles.
Fixing to Brick – Plastic anchors, metal sleeve anchors, chemical anchors, screw bolts.
Fixing to drywall – plastic plugs and screw anchors, metal toggles.
Fixing shelves – Fix shelf brackets using toggle bolts. Can use plastic screw anchors for very light loads.
Fixing to stuccometal sleeve anchors, chemical anchors.
Fixing to concrete -metal sleeve anchors, chemical anchors, plastic plugs, wedge anchors, concrete screw bolts.
Fixing to panelingWall toggles, plastic.
Fixing floating shelves – Fix floating shelf mountings to wall studs.
Fixing to resistance bands – Fix with a heavy-duty hook to wall studs.
Fixing a heavy mirror – Fix timber mounting board or frame bracket to wall studs.
Fixing cabinets – Find wall studs if possible, and can use a combination of wall studs and plastic screw anchors or wall toggles.
Hanging Pictures and ArtworkPicture hooks, single or double, plastic wall fixing with picture hook screwed on. Picture puppy.
Hanging Bookshelves -Fix to wall studs, find studs with a wall stud finder

Hanging a Dryer – Wall studs, Fix mounting rail to wall, attach dryer hanger brackets

When To Use Wall Anchors

Note! – If you have purchased an item such as an exterior garden fitting, or interior fitting such as a  bathroom rail, small cabinet or the like, most of these come with wall plugs or fixings that simply aren’t up to the job. They are usually zinc plated poorly treated for corrosion and have inferior plastic plugs.

Do yourself a favor and dump these for something that will be capable of not only better supporting your new item but will be more corrosion resistant.

For example, if you are fixing an exterior wall, concrete, brick, or timber, you will ideally use bolts or screws that are either hot-dip galvanized or made from stainless steel. Use stainless steel fixings in bathrooms and areas inside where water or steam is likely.

For stainless steel bolt fixings, there are two stainless steel grades to consider. The first is stainless and the lower quality grade is stainless 304. Use this if you are in an inland area. The next grade and better quality is stainless grade 316. this grade should be used if you are closer to saltwater, coastal and high corrosive regions.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are less than 4 miles (6.5 Km) then you should use grade 316 stainless steel bolts, screws, and fixings.  Further inland than that then grades 304 is fine.

How do wall anchors work

There are basically two types of wall anchor fixings, hollow wall anchors and expansion anchors.

plastic wall anchors plastic wall plugsThe most common hollow wall anchors (also called raw-plugs) are designed to spread inside the wall once a screw has been inserted. Typically this type of fixing would be used on walls from 1/8th of an inch (3mm) to a maximum of just over half an inch (15 mm) in thickness.

Some hollow wall anchors are screwed into a wall much the same as a screw and rely on the special thread to hold to the wall panel. Others have small retainers that hold inside the plasterboard once inserted. These types are predominately plastic.

spring wall anchorsOther types of hollow walls are metal and are often called toggle bolts. Spring wall fixings have a threaded bolt fixed to spring-loaded arms that spread in behind the wall once inserted. The screw is then attached to whatever you wish to hold and it’s simply a matter of winding the screw to tighten.

You can use hollow wall anchors on materials up to half an inch or so. Commonly used for hanging lighter items to drywall, doors, timber panel, and composite wall linings, and in any other situation where you may need to attach to a thin wall surface.

Best used for – As shown, these can be used as a hanging hook or a plain screw bolt fixing. Better strength than plastic fittings so use on heavier objects like towel rails, utility brackets, and light shelves.

How To Insert – Pre-drill hole to suit toggle size, push through the hole until you hear the springs snap, and tighten the screw.

This type of fixing is generally difficult to remove without causing damage to the wall as the internal spread won’t allow removal. However one type of fixing is removable, that being the screw-type wall fixing.

Plastic Screw Drywall Anchors

screw wall anchorThis type of hollow wall anchor would be one of the most useful and effective for drywall and plaster. Easy to install and screw into this anchor will hold most light to medium loads. Suitable for holding picture hooks, smaller mirrors, towel rails, and the like.

Installation couldn’t be easier, the fixing has a pre-molded self-drilling tip that allows drilling the fixing directly into the wall. Or, as I prefer, you can pre-drill the hole to say a 1/4 inch and then screw in the anchor. Pre-drilling is more accurate and sometimes can prevent the anchor from twisting sideways. This stops the drill bit to punch an unwanted hole in your wall. This type is available in plastic and metal.

Best used for – plasterboard and drywall. Small rails,

How To Insert – Mark location and predrill a 1/4″ pilot hole, screw in the anchor using Phillips screwdriver or battery drill.

Types And Uses Of Expansion Anchors

Expansion anchors type relies on the anchor expanding to a tight fit once the fixing screw is installed. Typically used for installations in concrete, brick, or mortar. This type of anchor also varies in strength capabilities. Remember that the parent material, ie concrete, needs to be capable of supporting the anchor.

Wedge expansion anchors

wedge anchorWedge anchors are designed to be used in solid concrete. Ideal for the fixing metal or aluminum sections to concrete, also timber framework, and plywood paneling. Other uses include fixing of signage, awnings, handrails, balustrades, and timber battens. And anything that requires tig weld type strength and security in a fixing.

Available in galvanized and stainless steel finishes, these are hardcore industrial fittings for heavy-duty anchoring into concrete. Not easily removed.

Best used for – Solid concrete. Holding heavy brackets and steel sections.

How To Insert – Hammer drill hole to specified size using a masonry bit, hammer into the hole making sure that the nut covers the top of the thread, and tighten.

Sleeve Expansion Anchors

concrete anchors

Are for light to medium applications, Great for solid concrete, grout-filled concrete block and hollow concrete block, and even brick. Similar to wedge anchors these have a larger pull area that allows them more scope for use. Perhaps not as strong in solid concrete as the wedge anchor

Best used for – Concrete, hollow block, brick.

How To Insert -Drill hole to specified size using a masonry drill bit, hammer into the hole making sure that the nut covers the top of the thread, and tighten.

This type of anchor, in my opinion, is somewhat old school. They are not always bulletproof as some of the more specialized fixings are now available for concrete. They are however the cheaper of the concrete anchor range and are easily removed if needed.

My preference nowadays for this type of fixing would be the screw anchor.

Concrete Screw Anchors – Easy and Versatile.

concrete screw anchorsI do like these for many reasons. These are available in a variety of sizes and head styles, from 1/4 inch (4mm) up to 3/4 of an inch (20mm) and up to 7 1/2 inches long (200MM).

Made from case hardened boron steel they can be used both in solid concrete and a variety of softer materials including timber. Screw anchors, when installing, cut a thread into the concrete itself.

These guys are fast and easy to install, simply drill the correct size hole (generally shown on the product packaging) and screw them in. Best screwed in using a socket wrench, especially if you have multiple screws to put in.

Once they reach the end of the tread the holding power is instant. They can be used close to the edge of the formed concrete and can be unscrewed and re-screwed several times without compromising the thread in the concrete.

Best used for – Concrete, concrete block, brick, timber, mortar.

How To Insert – Predrill hole to screw-bolt specifications. Screw in the bolt as you would insert a woodscrew.

Hammer set-in wall fixings.

These guys are great for attaching small brackets to walls such as you would use to run electrical conduit or irrigation piping. They come pre-assembled if you like with a plastic fitting and nail all in one.

Easy to use, it’s a matter of drilling the required hole size, fixing to the bracket, and fitting it into the drilled hole. then just hammer in the nail to expand the anchor and complete the fixing process.

Best used for – Fixing small brackets or wall panels to Concrete, concrete block, brick, timber, and mortar.

How To Insert – Drill hole, attach bracket, insert to hole, hammer in the pin.

Note; Always check the quality of the wall you are trying to fix too. Tying to add a heavy object using an expansion anchor to material such as mortar is asking for trouble as the material is soft and porous.

What Wall Fasteners Material To Use Inside and Outside

Interior Applications – Use plastic or zinc plated anchors. For wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry, use plastic, galvanized, or stainless steel. Zinc plated products will rust over time in wet areas.

Exterior – Use only galvanized or stainless steel for longevity, again zinc products will rust over time, and plastic while durable, is not as secure as other fixings such as screw bolts.

How Much Weight Can Wall Fixings Hold

Average DIY fixings include items such as pictures and artwork, towel rails, wall-mounted mirrors, brackets, shelves, etc. All of these are suited to using plastic anchors or toggles into plaster, timber paneling, and drywall.

Generally, when buying wall fixings of any type, there should be a load rating on the packaging. However, you would need to take into account the type of wall material you are fixing into.

Drywall is probably the least strong material that day-to-day DIY people are likely to encounter. No matter how strong the raw plug is, trying to hang several pounds if one hook will just rip the fixing from the wall.

If you were to hang a heavy mirror into drywall, for example, you would be best to spread the load by inserting several screw anchors, spaced about 10 inches apart.

For heavy items on light-duty interior walls, pot plants, brackets, bookshelves, cabinets, floating shelves, wall speakers, and so on, should really be fixed to wall studs.

Fixing Heavy items to wall Studs.

What size wall anchor do I need to fix heavy items? The best way to fix any heavy object to an interior wall is to find and fix to the wall studs inside the wall. Most commonly these will be made from timber and sometimes metal. The best way to locate a wall stud is to use a stud finder.

Once located you can screw a bracket or hanger hooks directly into the wall studs using heavy-duty screws. Interior wall studs are usually spaced at 16 or 24 inches apart.

One other method for heavy items such as fixing a Clothes Dryer to a wall, or fixing large heavy mirrors. Find the wall studs and fix approximately a  3/4 x 3″ timber board across two or more studs, then attach the dryer brackets or mounting hooks to the timber mount board.


Wall anchors are an essential part of any home improvement or repair project that involves attaching something to a wall. Whether you’re hanging a mirror, mounting a TV, or installing shelves, wall anchors provide the stability you need to ensure that your project stays in place. There are many different types of wall anchors available, each designed for a specific type of wall and weight load. Selecting the right wall anchor is critical to the success of your project, so it’s important to do your research before you begin. Once you’ve chosen the right wall anchor for your needs, installation is quick and easy. In most cases, all you need is a drill and a screwdriver. With a few simple tools and a little bit of know-how, you can keep your walls looking great for years to come.

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