Whether it’s a priceless work of art or a collection of family photographs, it’s important that what you hang on your walls stays put. While attaching directly to studs provides the most security, they are often not located in the ideal spot, and screws and nails provide little support in drywall alone.
We put some of the more common fasteners to the test to see which ones held the most weight in drywall, caused the least damage, and are easiest to use. For shear holding power, anchors that spread out behind the wall did the best, but they also did the most damage to the wall. Since most pictures weigh less than ten pounds, the size of the hole and ease of installation may be more important than the actual holding ability of the fastener.
Tests were conducted using downward pressure on a hollow section of standard ½” drywall. While all of these fasteners can be used in plaster as well, the holding power may vary and precautions should be taken to keep the wall from cracking.
Toggle Bolt (1/4″ bolt)
Molly Bolt (1/8″ bolt)
Threaded Anchor (brass)
Threaded Anchor (plastic)
Plastic Anchor (medium)
Picture Hanger (large)
Picture Hanger (medium)
Picture Hanger (small)
Picture Hanger (WallBiter™)
Prices are approximate and may differ depending on brand and quantity. While the fasteners pulled out of the wall at the pounds listed (except for toggles, which remained intact), they started showing signs of failure at 10-30 pounds less, so be sure to include an adequate safety margin in your calculations.
Toggle bolts are available in various diameters and lengths to accommodate different wall thicknesses. While the clear winner for sheer holding power, they require drilling a large opening to insert the spring loaded toggle, leaving them wallowing in an oversized hole. Also, they are almost impossible to remove without the toggle falling off inside the wall.
New self-drilling threaded toggles offer improvements over traditional ones since the hole fits tightly around the anchor and the center screw can be removed while the toggle body remains in place. They are easy to install, though difficult to remove. For maximum holding power with hanging objects, position them so the long arm of the toggle points up. This also makes it possible to remove them without tearing up the wall. On the downside, threaded toggles leave a substantial hole and are the most expensive of any of the anchors tested.
Like toggles, molly bolts work by spreading out behind the wall. They are installed by hammering them into the wall then tightening the bolt, which causes the casing to flair out. Mollies have an annoying tendency to spin in drywall when being tightened and are impossible to remove once installed. Your best bet is to hammer them below the surface of the wall and spackle over them. On the positive side, mollies fit snuggly in the hole and the center bolt can be removed and replaced as needed.
The oversized threads on these anchors are designed to screw directly into drywall. They’re available in nylon or brass and come with either a center screw or picture hook. The brass version with hook held more weight than the center screw type. While threaded anchors hold well and are easy to install and remove, they leave a nice sized hole behind should you decide to redecorate in the future.
These often used fasteners are hammered in a hole drilled in the wall and press against the sides when a screw is inserted. Though they work well in hard materials, such as brick and concrete block, they are not the best choice in drywall. For best results use ribbed anchors that are split, which allows them to spread out a bit behind the wall.
Traditional metal picture hangers come in several sizes and are nailed into the wall. While they don’t support as much weight as many other fasteners, they are easy to install and remove, and leave a much smaller hole.
A new twist is the WallBiter™ which is available in either plastic or brass. This molded one piece hanger has two curved prongs that are hammered into the wall. While only rated at 25 pounds, the large plastic version we tested held 80 pounds before beginning to show signs of failure. On the down side, it causes more damage to the wall than traditional picture hangers and costs more.
Another newcomer to picture hanging is a curved spring steel wire that can be inserted in the wall without tools in a matter of seconds (sold under brand names such as Heavy Duty Wall Hanger, Hercules Hook, and Monkey Hook). While some brands claim they hold up to 150 pounds, in our tests they began to pull out of drywall at around 40 pounds and failed at 50, which is still more than most pictures weigh. Wire hangers are easy to remove and leave a small hole. However, they cost more than traditional picture hangers and will only work where there is not a stud or other obstruction present in the wall.
The PowerHook is a more robust hanger that works on the same principle. While we didn’t test it, it’s claimed to hold up to 120 pounds, though it leave a larger hole than wire hangers.
The latest innovation in picture hanging hardware is a thin curved spring steel wire