How to Put in Plastic Wall Anchors: A Step-by-Step Guide

When hanging items like picture frames, shelves, or mirrors on a hollow wall, it can be frustrating to feel like there’s nothing solid for your screws to grip onto. That’s where plastic wall anchors come in—they offer a reliable solution for hanging objects securely in drywall or other hollow wall constructions where there are no wooden studs. Simple to install and widely available, plastic wall anchors expand behind the wall, creating a strong hold that spreads out the weight of the hung object over a larger area.

A hand holding a drill inserts plastic wall anchors into a white wall. A screwdriver tightens the anchors securely

I find that using the correct type of plastic anchor is crucial for the job at hand. Not all anchors are created equal, and they’re rated for different weights and sizes. It’s also essential to have the right tools. While a screwdriver and a hammer might suffice for basic jobs, a drill can ensure precision and ease of installation. Once you’ve determined the anchor size and acquired the proper tools, installation becomes a straightforward task: drill a hole, tap in the anchor, and then insert the screw.

Key Takeaways

  • Plastic wall anchors secure items to hollow walls where no studs are present.
  • Choosing the right anchor and tools is essential for a successful installation.
  • The installation process is simple and requires drilling a hole, inserting the anchor, and securing with a screw.

Understanding Wall Anchors

Installing wall anchors correctly is essential for hanging items safely. I will explain the different types of wall anchors available, how to choose the correct anchor for your project, and the importance of considering weight capacity and wall materials.

Types of Wall Anchors

There are several kinds of wall anchors, each designed for specific applications and wall materials:

  • Expansion Anchors: These are commonly used in sturdy materials like concrete, brick, and sometimes drywall. They expand against the material as you tighten the screw.
  • Threaded Anchors: Known for their strength, they can be used in drywall, wood, and masonry. They cut deep threads into the material to provide a strong hold.
  • Ribbed Anchors: They offer extra grip in drywall, due to the ribbing that prevents them from turning while the screw is driven.
  • Molly Bolt: A type of hollow wall anchor that expands behind the wall when the screw is tightened. Suitable for both hollow walls and solid materials.
  • Toggle Bolt: These are anchors used for heavy items and have “wings” that open behind hollow walls to distribute weight evenly.
  • Sleeve Anchor: Usually used in masonry or concrete, this metal anchor expands as the screw is driven into it.

Choosing the Right Anchor for Your Project

Choosing the right wall anchor requires considering:

  1. Material of the Wall: Drywall anchors are suitable for sheetrock or plaster, while concrete or brick walls might require a sleeve or expansion anchor.
  2. Weight of the Object: A heavier object might need a toggle bolt or molly bolt, whereas lightweight items can be hung with plastic wall anchors.

Weight Capacity and Wall Materials

Anchors are rated by the weight they can support, and it’s crucial to use one that exceeds the weight of the object you’re hanging:

  • Hollow Walls: Toggle bolt anchors and molly bolts are suitable for supporting substantial weight.
  • Drywall: Drywall anchors should be matched to the weight of the item and the thickness of the wall.
  • Concrete and Brick: Expansion and sleeve anchors are used due to their ability to withstand higher weights.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for weight capacities to ensure safety and stability.

Tools and Materials

When I’m about to install plastic wall anchors, there are several tools and materials I make sure to have on hand to ensure a smooth process. Here’s a clear breakdown of what I’ll need:


  • Hammer: For gently tapping the anchors into the wall.
  • Screwdriver or Power Drill: If I’m using a screwdriver, I make sure it’s the correct size for my screws. For efficiency, a power drill or electric drill can double as a screwdriver with the right bit.
  • Drill Bits: Crucial for pre-drilling holes if the material I’m working on requires it.
  • Pliers: Sometimes useful for holding the anchor if I need to hammer it in.


  • Plastic Wall Anchors: Choosing the right size and type for the weight of the object I’m hanging is crucial.
  • Screws: These should be compatible with the anchors I’ve selected.

Here’s the simple process I follow:

  1. Mark the Spot: I use a pencil to precisely mark where I want to place the anchor.
  2. Pre-Drill a Hole (if necessary): With an appropriately sized drill bit on my power drill, I carefully create a hole where I’ve marked.
  3. Insert the Anchor: I align the tip of the plastic anchor with the hole and press it in by hand or lightly tap it with a hammer.

For objects that require more holding power or for walls made of harder materials, I ensure to use a drill instead of trying to manually push in the anchor with an awl or a screwdriver. The drill creates a clean hole which is key for the anchor to fit properly and hold securely.

Always, I check the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific requirements. Not every job will require all the above tools, but it’s best to have them available in case I do.


Before installing plastic wall anchors, it’s crucial to prepare the wall correctly to avoid unnecessary damage and ensure a secure fitting. This preparation involves two main steps: locating the studs in the wall and marking and pre-drilling where the anchors will be placed.

Locating the Stud

I start by determining the location of wall studs using a electronic stud finder. A stud is a vertical framing component in the walls, and it’s important to know if the spot where I plan to install the anchor is on a stud or not. Anchors are designed for use in drywall, not studs, and hitting a stud can be counterproductive.

  1. Turn on the stud finder: Slide it horizontally across the wall.
  2. Wait for a signal: The stud finder alerts me with a beep or light when over a stud.
  3. Mark the edges: I use a pencil to gently mark the edges of the stud on the wall.

Detecting the stud helps me avoid it, ensuring I have the right spot for the plastic anchor, which is not meant to be driven into studs but rather the areas in between them.

Marking and Pre-Drilling

After confirming the location is suitable and devoid of studs, I proceed by marking the exact placement for the anchor with a pencil. I then prepare to pre-drill a pilot hole, which allows the anchor to be inserted smoothly and reduces the risk of the drywall cracking. Here’s how I handle the process:

  1. Mark the anchor point: Press the sharp end of the pencil against the wall with enough force to leave a visible but small mark where I want the anchor.
  2. Drill the pilot hole: With a power drill, I carefully drill a hole at the marked point, slightly narrower than the anchor diameter to ensure a tight fit.

By pre-drilling, I minimize the chance of wall damage and create a guide that makes the insertion of the anchor easier and more precise. I always double-check to make sure the hole’s diameter matches the anchor’s requirements, as indicated on the packaging or instruction leaflet.

It is critical to remember: the pilot hole should be the right size—too small, and the anchor won’t fit; too large, and the anchor won’t hold securely.

Installation Process

Installing plastic wall anchors correctly is essential for ensuring that the mounted objects on drywall will have adequate support and grip. I’ll guide you through inserting the anchors and securing the screw with precision, using the right tools and techniques.

Inserting Wall Anchors

Firstly, I identify the exact spot on the wall where the anchor needs to go. It’s vital to ensure that the hole I make is slightly smaller than the diameter of the anchor for a tight fit. I carefully drill a hole into the wall at the marked spot, matching the size of the hole to the anchor’s diameter.

For a ribbed anchor, simply aligning it with the hole and pushing it in is sufficient. If it’s a snug fit, I may use a hammer to tap it flush against the wall. As for a plastic sleeve anchor, I make sure the flange is seated against the wall surface without any gaps.

Here’s the short and sweet of it:

  • Mark the location: I use a pencil to mark the spot.
  • Drill the hole: The drill bit size should match the anchor size.
  • Insert the anchor:
    • Ribbed Anchor: Push in and tap with hammer if necessary.
    • Plastic Sleeve Anchor: Push in until the flange is flush.

Securing the Screw

With the anchor in place, I take the screw and begin turning it into the center of the anchor using a screwdriver. With a firm grip, I keep turning until the screw is firmly seated within the anchor. The anchor will expand against the drywall, providing strong support and hold for whatever hardware I’m looking to hang.

It’s crucial not to overtighten, as this could compromise the anchor’s grip or damage the wall. The goal is to achieve a secure hold that doesn’t budge. Here are the steps I follow:

  • Align the screw: Insert it into the anchor.
  • Tighten with a screwdriver: Turn until it feels snug but not overly tight.

This installation process ensures that the wall anchors are adequately fixed into the wall, preserving the wall’s integrity and providing a reliable support system for the mounted objects.

Hanging Items and Final Touches

Before diving into the specifics of mounting shelves and cabinets or hanging decorative items, it’s essential to ensure that the plastic wall anchors have been correctly installed. The sturdiness of these anchors determines the weight they can support and the security with which your items will hang.

Mounting Shelves and Cabinets

When I mount shelves or cabinets, my first step is to confirm the weight limit for my plastic wall anchors; this is crucial for the safety and longevity of the installation. I make sure to use anchors that can support at least twice the weight of the shelf or cabinet. I align the bracket or mounting frame with the wall, mark the anchor points precisely, and drill pilot holes if I haven’t done so already. Once the anchors are in place, I securely fasten the bracket with screws, ensuring they’re tight enough to hold the shelf or cabinet firmly against the wall.

For heavier items like cabinets, I often use multiple anchors to evenly distribute the load. It’s important to verify that the anchors are flush with the wall and that the bracket or cabinet does not wobble once mounted.

Hanging Decorative Items

Decorative items like picture frames, mirrors, or towel racks usually require less support than shelving units, but their placement still needs careful consideration.

  • Mirrors and Picture Frames: For hanging something like a picture frame, I check the frame’s weight and select a suitable plastic anchor. I typically use a level to mark the exact spot on the wall where the frame will hang. After inserting the anchor, I fix the screw leaving a portion exposed, which allows me to hang the frame securely. For mirrors, which are often heavier, I ensure to use anchors rated for the additional weight.

  • Towel Racks and Towel Bars: Towel racks and bars must be sturdily mounted to support the daily pull of towels being removed and replaced. I always use anchors that exceed the expected weight limit, considering the force exerted on the bar. Installation follows the same process: mark the points, insert the anchors, and then affix with screws until the fixture is secured against the wall.

Remembering that the weight limit for each anchor type is not just a suggestion but a strict guideline to ensure safety and functionality is part of my installation process. With the correct anchors and careful installation, shelves, cabinets, and decorative items will all hold securely, maintaining both aesthetics and function.

Frequently Asked Questions

A hand holding a plastic wall anchor, a screwdriver inserting the anchor into a wall, and a piece of artwork or mirror being hung on the wall

When it comes to installing plastic wall anchors, precision and the right technique ensure a reliable hold. I’m here to provide clear answers to the most common questions.

What is the correct way to install plastic wall anchors in drywall?

For a secure installation, I first drill an appropriately sized hole into the drywall. Then, I gently tap the plastic wall anchor into the hole until flush with the wall surface. It’s important that the hole matches the size of the anchor for a snug fit.

Which tools are necessary for inserting plastic anchors without a drill?

If I’m without a drill, I use a screwdriver to press and twist the anchor into a pre-made hole in the drywall. It’s also possible to make the initial hole with a sharp tool or nail, depending on the thickness of the drywall and the anchor size.

How do you secure screws into plastic wall anchors effectively?

To securely fasten a screw in a plastic wall anchor, I align the screw with the center of the anchor and turn it clockwise until it’s tight. The screw should fit snugly, expanding the anchor against the drywall for a firm hold.

What are the different types of plastic wall anchors and their uses?

There are ribbed anchors, hollow wall anchors, and toggle bolts among other types. Ribbed anchors are suited for lighter items, while toggle bolts support heavier loads. Choosing the right plastic anchor depends on the weight and type of object I’m hanging.

Can plastic wall anchors be used effectively without a stud?

Yes, plastic wall anchors can be effective in drywall without a stud. They’re specifically designed to anchor into the drywall itself and spread the load over a larger area to hold securely.

How do expanding plastic screw anchors function for hanging items?

Expanding plastic screw anchors work by enlarging within the drilled hole once a screw is inserted and tightened. Their expansion firmly presses against the wall material, increasing the anchor’s grip and supporting the weight of the hung item.

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