Drywall anchors can be really helpful for hanging relatively heavy objects like shelves, heavy frames, and so on. In some cases, it’s an absolute necessity. After all, drywall isn’t the strongest material out there, and heavy objects hung with run-of-the-mill nails will eventually pull away the drywall. But what do you do when a drywall anchor won’t go into the wall? That’s its job!
So, what’s the problem? Well, it’s possible you aren’t installing the drywall anchor correctly. It’s also just as likely there’s another layer behind the drywall that’s preventing the anchor from going in all the way.
Why Won’t My Drywall Anchor Go In
There are very few reasons why your drywall anchor isn’t working. It’s either the environment it’s subjected to or you’re installing it improperly. First, let’s start with the proper environment.
1. Another Layer Lies Behind
Not all walls are made equally. One house might have a drywall that leads to the skeleton of the house. Other houses have paneling with drywall behind it. Unless you had the house built yourself or tear a wall down, you won’t know for sure what’s behind it.
Drywall anchors are—if it wasn’t obvious—supposed to work with drywall. They’re designed to bite into the surrounding material and add considerable strength to the walls, giving drywall the ability to hold heavy objects that it otherwise would not have by itself. Then there’s plaster and lathe.
It’s possible a plaster and lathe wall lies behind your drywall. And if that’s the case, it can make inserting a drywall anchor that much harder. It’s incredibly annoying to deal with, preventing anchors from going in all the way. What’s happening is your anchor is going in and then finding resistance against the plaster between the lathe (which is wood).
But that’s just one of several possibilities. There could be a concrete foundation behind the wall. Plywood, studs, plumbing, even load bearing columns.
2. An Improper Anchor Installation
It isn’t easy to admit you made a mistake. Everyone has been there at one point or another, sometimes more than people care to express. But it does happen, and it’s best to at least humor the possibility.
Drywall anchors are easy to install, but also really easy to screw up. The goal is to first create a hole for the anchor. It can’t be too big. If it’s too big, the anchor is pretty much useless. On the other hand, if it’s too little, the drywall anchor won’t have enough space to fit. On that same note, you should never create a hole that’s the same size as the anchor.
The hole for the anchor can’t be too big, and it can’t be too small. There needs to be enough drywall for the anchor to bite into the nearby material. That’s what helps give it its strength.
3. Wood Stud Behind
If there’s a wood stud above the drywall that you’re trying to install the anchor into, this can prevent the installation from going smoothly. If this is the case, you need to screw into the same spot but without the anchor. Since it’s wood, you don’t need an anchor for the screw to be sturdy as it’ll remain sturdy in wood. Whereas drywall needs an anchor in order for the screw to be sturdy. A wall stud is a vertical repetitive framing member in a building’s wall. It is a fundamental element in frame building and it might be located in a place where you think drywall is located.
4. The Wall Is Too Weak
If the area of the wall that you’re trying to put the drywall anchor into is extremely weak, then it won’t be able to go into the wall without it feeling loose. Sometimes in drywall, there can be areas that can be weak and contain holes which makes installing things like a drywall anchor harder. To remedy this, you just need to move the location a few inches to the right or left to avoid that part of the drywall that isn’t as strong as the rest.
5. The Hole Is Too Small
If the hole that you’re trying to screw the drywall anchor into is too small, the drywall isn’t going to be able to go in and you’ll need to expand the hole. You can use the drill machine in such a way that the drill bit is pressing on the sides of the hole. You can use a bigger drill bit if the hole isn’t large enough. If you have a round file, you can use it to remove extra material to make the hole wider. Once the hole is slightly larger, then you can try to screw in the drywall anchor.
6. The Whole Is Too Large
If you’ve over-drilled, you might find that the drywall hole is slightly large. If you find that the drywall anchor easily falls out, then you can pick up a larger drywall anchor (view on Amazon). If you’re using a standard toggle bolt, then you should proceed with a washer. If the bolt or screw seems too small and you’re using a threaded anchor, grab a larger one and see if you can get a snug fit.
You should make sure to avoid reaming out the hole when you drill. Drilling as straight as possible will ensure that the whole isn’t larger than it needs to be. If you have made the hole larger than needed then you’ll risk the drywall anchor spinning when you insert the screw and drill it.
If the hole is too big, using a toothpick, you can wedge a few into the anchor towards the sides. Make sure not to use substances like glue to fill up a hole thats too big – it can end up sticking to the soft plastic in the anchors. Once the toothpicks are in place, drive the screw in and you’ll notice that the toothpicks are pushed outwards.
7. Plumbing Pipe Behind
If the area of the wall that you’re trying to put the drywall anchor into has a plumping pipe behind it, it’ll feel like it’s impossible to install the anchor. The plumbing pipe connects all of the various elements to complete a system within a commercial or residential property and your drywall has to be built around these pipes. So if you’ve come around a section of your home that you want to install the drywall anchor into and you’re struggling to even make a hole, there’s a small chance that it’s a plumbing pipe. To remedy this, you just need to move the location a few inches to the right or left to avoid the plumbing pipe.
8. Concrete Foundation Behind
If you’ve mistaken the area of the wall that you’re trying to put the drywall anchor into for concrete, it’ll feel like it’s impossible to install the anchor. Some homes have both drywall and concrete walls and concrete is a lot stronger than drywall. If you’ve come around a section of your home that you want to install the drywall anchor into and you’re struggling to even make a hole, there’s a small chance that it’s actually a concrete wall. To remedy this, you just need to move to a location of the wall that’s drywall and not concrete. One simple test to determine if the wall is concrete or drywall is to attempt to press a simple push pin into your wall. Drywall is relatively soft, and a push pin can usually be pressed into the wall with thumb pressure.
9. Load-Bearing Column Behind
If the area of the wall that you’re trying to put the drywall anchor into has a load-bearing column behind it, it’ll feel like it’s impossible to install the anchor. A load-bearing structure has the components of a building that carries and transfers the load to the ground safely. So if you’ve come around a section of your home that you want to install the drywall anchor into and you’re struggling to even make a hole, there’s a small chance that it’s a load-bearing column. To remedy this, you just need to move the location a few inches to the right or left to avoid the load-bearing column.
10. Plaster and Lath Instead Of Drywall
If you’ve mistaken the area of the wall that you’re trying to put the drywall anchor into for lath and plaster, it’ll feel like it’s impossible to install the anchor. Some homes have both drywall and lath and plaster walls – lath and plaster are a lot stronger than drywall. If you’ve come around a section of your home that you want to install the drywall anchor into and you’re struggling to even make a hole, there’s a small chance that it’s actually a lath and plaster wall. To remedy this, you just need to move to a location of the wall that’s drywall and not concrete. One simple test to determine if the wall is concrete or drywall is to attempt to press a simple push pin into your wall. Drywall is relatively soft, and a push pin can usually be pressed into the wall with thumb pressure.
How to Install a Drywall Anchor
There are all kinds of anchors available and each one is installed in the same general way, though each does have its own unique use. Let’s take a look at how to install the most common anchors.
Regardless of what anchor you have, you’ll need a few important tools:
- Power drill
- Drill bit set
- Your anchor
Installing an Expansion Anchor
Typically plastic and not exactly strong, but do serve their purpose for small shelves with a few knick-knacks.
- Start by drilling into the drywall with a drill bit that’s just a hair smaller than the anchor.
- Press the anchor into the hole as far as it will go and use a hammer to pound it in the rest of the way, but gently.
- Drill the screw into the anchor and you’re done!
Installing Threaded Anchors
If you look at a threaded anchor, you’ll notice that it’s basically a screw, but plastic.
- Drill a hole into your wall that’s the same diameter as the tip of the anchor and no more.
- Use your drill to drill the anchor into the hole.
- Drill the nail into the anchor.
Installing a Molly Bolt
Molly bolts (view on Amazon) look like the first two inches of a pencil tip, but metal. Molly bolts are the kind of anchors you use if you want to install really heavy objects.
- Use a drill bit that’s about the same size as the anchor, just a hair smaller, and drill a hole in the wall. Don’t be alarmed if the anchor stops.
- Take your hammer and tap on the end of the anchor. This will drive the teeth into the wall.
- Carefully drill the nail into the anchor with the washer underneath the nail.
Installing Toggle Bolts
Rather than using a drywall anchor, you can install a toggle bolt (view on Amazon). With a toggle bolt, you can hang heavier items. There are a few things you need to know before you install a toggle bolt such as you need to drill a hole that allows the toggles to go through. The hole needs to be bigger than the screw head so that the toggle bolts can only be used in conjunction with a bracket that will cover the hole.
- Locate your hanging point.
- Drill a hole that’s big enough for the toggle bolt to go through when it’s in a folded position. If the bolts have instructions that came with them, there should be specs for the drill bits.
- You need to put the bolt through the bracket you’ll be attaching to the wall.
- Put the toggle onto the bolt with the tips facing the head of the screw.
- Squeeze the toggle closed and jam the toggle and the bolt through the wall together. When the toggle goes through the backside of the drywall, it will open up and grip the wall.
- Tighten the bolt until it’s snug.
An even better option, better than Molly bolts or toggle bolts, are Snaptoggles (view on Amazon). A snap toggle allows you to remove the bolt and reinsert it as you wish and this gives you advantages over toggle bolts. They are easier to install than molly bolts.
- Drill a hole.
- Put the Snaptoggle’s metal through the hole.
- Hold the ends of straps together and pull with one hand until the metal channel rests behind the wall.
- Ratchet the cap with the straps using your other hand until the cap’s flange is flush with the wall.
- Push your thumb side to side between the straps at the wall whilst snapping off the straps level with the cap’s flange.
- Place your item, insert the machined bolt, and tighten until snug.
When installed properly, anchors can be a godsend. Its ability to give drywall the strength it needs to hold heavy objects is invaluable. But when a drywall anchor refuses to go in, it can be understandably annoying and frustrating. After all, you might not have the luxury of tearing a bit of your wall back to see the root cause. Instead, it’s better to examine your technique, if anything, before you consider it’s the fault of the wall.