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someone inserting a drywall anchor into a hole

DRYWALL ANCHORS? MOUNTING PLATES ARE MUCH STRONGER!

Sep 23, 2023

I’m not a big fan of drywall anchors. Of course, they have their time and place, but I think people use them too often. Or in situations where they’re not really effective. They hang heavy things from them. And use them to mount fixtures that get touched and jostled a lot. Those fixtures work loose over time.

Here’s Ethan’s video presentation of the ideas in this post:

DRYWALL ANCHORS

Drywall anchors are pushed or screwed directly into drywall. Then screws are driven through the anchor, holding a hook or other hanger. Unfortunately, the anchors often pull out and your object crashes to the floor! They tear out because you use them only where there’s no stud. (If there’s a stud where you need one, just use a screw and a hook.)

Note: these photos are affiliate links if you want to shop them on Amazon.


3 drywall anchor types

MOLLY BOLTS

Typically, molly bolts are driven into the drywall, like nails. Then, using a power drill, you carefully turn the bit clockwise. The central legs of the molly bend outward and compress until they tightly hug the back of the drywall.


Molly bolt

TOGGLE BOLTS

Toggle bolts consist of a bolt and a spring-loaded pair of arms.


Expanded toggle bolt

To use one, you first drill a hole in the drywall. That hole needs to be big enough that the collapsed arms fit through it. Now you back the bolt all the way out of the arms. Put the bolt through a hole in your hook or hanger. Screw it back into the arms. As you can imagine, your hanger is now between the bolt head and the arms.

Squeeze the arms against the bolt and insert them through your drilled hole. When you’ve pushed them all the way through the drywall, the spring causes them to snap open. Again, drive the bolt clockwise with your drill. The arms compress against the back of the drywall. When tight, your hanger is snug against the wall.

THE PROBLEM WITH ALL THREE

As I mentioned above, you only use these drywall hangers where there are no studs. To stay in the wall, they rely upon the strength of your drywall. Which is not much. Hence the pullout, and your pictures ending up on the floor with the glass broken.

Also, as you can see by their design, they are for hanging only one (fairly light) thing. What if you want to hang multiple objects?

SOLUTION: REPLACE DRYWALL HANGERS WITH MOUNTING PLATES

As a carpenter, I fastened into a stud when I could. But, there’s not always a stud in the right place. Or you may want to add a row of hangers, hooks, or clips. In this case, drywall anchors aren’t the solution.

So what do you use? Here’s a simple and affordable option to consider: mounting plates. Basically, a mounting plate is just a strip of (generally) wood, longer than the stud spacing of your wall. The plate is fastened securely to two or more studs. No need for drywall anchors!

MOUNTING PLATES ARE ALL OVER

Actually, a mounting plate is just a concept. You’ve seen them before; you just didn’t notice the concept. For instance, here’s a set of coat racks on Amazon:

pair of coat racks

A pair of coat racks (actually mounting plates).

Here’s another, for tools:

rack for multiple tools

A rack for multiple tools.

Both of these examples share characteristics of mounting plates.:

  • They are longer than a typical stud bay.
  • The mounting plate is tall enough and strong enough to resist flexing.
  • They have multiple points for hanging things

Note: Mounting plates are often a component of a French cleat system. Click the link to see what French cleats are all about.

YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN!

The racks above are for sale. But they may not meet your needs. In any case, you can always build ones to your own specs and requirements.

Depending upon their location, they can be as utilitarian–or as beautiful–as you want. Here’s one that Ethan made out of scrap plywood for one of his shop spaces:


Tool rack with mounting plate

Essentially, his cost for the mounting plate was zero. He just paid for hangers and hooks. On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a cute one from Amazon:

cute coat rack and shelf

A cute coat rack, with shelf

You can borrow ideas from racks that you see online. Or even in friends’ houses. Use cheap or expensive materials. Make quick, down and dirty ones. Make works of art. All you need to do is keep the concept of mounting plates in mind!

Thanks for reading. I’m Ross James with The Honest Carpenter.

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