If you currently have wall planters, pictures, or ceramic pieces you want to hang on exterior stucco walls, you need to take the appropriate steps to secure these pieces correctly. Otherwise, you risk having your prized items fall, break, or damage your walls. 

    Haphazardly driving nails and screws into stucco isn’t the right approach and can be less sturdy than alternatives such as expansion anchors. Keep reading for our in-depth guide on how to correctly hang these items on your exterior stucco walls without cracking the wall.

    How To Use Expansion Anchors To Hang Items on Stucco Walls

    In our experience, randomly hammering nails and screws into stucco isn’t the best practice for hanging items on the wall

    The optimal solution is to use expansion anchors. They come in various sizes for different weight capacities. The steps below explain exactly how to choose your anchor, space it, and hang your items.

    1. Choose The Correct Expansion Anchor (Size and Strength)

    Start by selecting an anchor apt for stucco (make sure to pick the right size) to hold each item’s load securely. Consider both the anchor diameter and its weight rating when selecting a product. Measure and weigh your wall planters or decorations to pick the right anchor. Standard sizes are 3/16″, 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ diameters. The weight rating indicates how much load the anchor can hold securely. 

    Matching the anchor to the fastener size and weight of the hanging item is crucial for safety. Refer to the manufacturer’s specs to choose appropriately.

    2. Properly Plan Anchor Spacing

    When pre-drilling the wall, properly space anchors apart to avoid compromising the structure. 

    Follow these guidelines:

    • Space each anchor at least 2 inches apart horizontally and 4 inches vertically between anchor centers.
    • Keep a minimum of 4 inches between anchors and corners or edges.
    • Expand spacing to 3 inches of horizontal separation and 6 inches of vertical separation for heavy loads.
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    Mark your planned holes on the wall accordingly before starting. Proper layout keeps the stucco intact and prevents cracks.

    3. Drill Holes for Expansion Anchors and Hang Items 

    Once you have your anchor, use an electric drill and masonry bit to pre-drill holes in the stucco where you want to install each anchor. 

    After drilling the hole, remove debris and insert silicone caulk inside. Then, place the anchor into the caulk-filled hole. Lightly tap it with a hammer to fully seat it. Finally, drive in a screw matched to the anchor size. The deeper it’s inserted, the more the anchor expands for greater holding power.

    Follow These Drilling Tips for Stucco Walls

    Properly drilling into stucco is crucial for a smooth anchor installation. Follow these tips when drilling holes for your expansion anchors:

    1. Set the drill to low speed to avoid cracking the material. 
    2. Apply light pressure when drilling and let the masonry bit do the work. Excessive force may crack the surface.
    3. Use a hammer drill with a masonry bit for smoother drilling and more manageable penetration if you’re making a larger hole. Standard drills tend to create unsightly chatter marks on stucco, so we recommend avoiding these if possible.
    4. Drill at least 1 inch deep to allow full anchor expansion. Shallow holes won’t hold well.
    5. Clear all dust and debris from holes so anchors sit flush with the surface.
    6. Wear eye protection from flying fragments. We also recommend dust masks and other appropriate safety equipment to protect yourself from debris. 

    Helpful Products for Hanging Items on Stucco

    Along with high-quality anchors, certain home improvement products can further enhance your ability to securely hang items on stucco walls:

    • Silicone caulk. Caulk adds holding power when inserted in holes before anchors. It won’t shrink or crack over time.
    • Masonry drill bits. These drill bits easily push through stucco and concrete without cracking. Read the label to find the recommended size for your anchors.
    • Hammer drills. These drills provide hammering action to drive bits into stucco easily and prevent unsightly drill chatter marks.
    • Anchoring epoxy. Pour a two-part epoxy poured into holes for maximum strength. This is a must-take step if you’re dealing with a heavy object.
    • Plastic anchors. Lightweight plastic anchors work for items under five pounds. However, they require smaller holes, so consider this when planning this project. 

    How To Prevent Cracks Around Anchors

    Hairline cracks sometimes form around stucco anchors over time. While it can be difficult to prevent all cracking, proper installation techniques can significantly reduce these issues. Here are tips to minimize cracks from occurring: 

    • Seal anchors with flexible silicone caulk rather than rigid epoxy.
    • Use appropriately sized anchors for holes because undersized anchors in large holes often crack.
    • Pre-drill carefully at low speeds to prevent spider cracks around holes.
    • Opt for plastic anchors when hanging lightweight items to reduce stress on the stucco.
    • Apply a protective sealer finish to help control minor surface cracking.
    • Check for new cracks periodically and inject sealant as needed.
    • Paint the stucco for a more seamless finish. 

    So, Is Hanging Items on Stucco Difficult?

    Installing expansion anchors on stucco is doable for most DIYers. The process involves pre-drilling holes, correctly sizing and placing anchors, and using caulk and matched fasteners for the load. Although stucco is prone to cracking, following best practices for spacing, careful drilling, and flexible adhesives can prevent most problems. Start your project strong by collecting the right supplies, then carefully plan where you’ll drill so you can safely hang planters, decorations, and other lightweight objects on your stucco walls.

    FAQs About Hanging Items on Stucco Walls

    Does stucco need special anchors?

    Yes, stucco requires special anchors designed for concrete materials. Plastic drywall anchors can work if the items are very light. Otherwise, use sleeve anchors or toggler bolts explicitly made for masonry.

    How do you prevent anchors from cracking stucco?

    1. Pre-drill holes at low speed to prevent cracks.
    2. Use silicone caulk under anchors for greater flexibility.
    3. Double-check that your anchors are the correct size and match the hole diameters.
    4. Use plastic anchors for lightweight items to reduce stress on the stucco.
    5. Apply a stucco sealer to control surface cracks.

    How much weight can stucco walls hold?

    Stucco can securely hold over 50 pounds per anchor when using proper expansion anchors. For heavier items over 100 pounds, use ½-inch  toggle bolts anchored into the wall framing to ensure the decorations have adequate support.

    What screws should be used in stucco?

    Always check that the screws match the recommended size for your expansion anchors. We recommend opting for stainless steel or coated deck screws that resist corrosion instead of standard drywall screws for the best results.

    Should you pre-drill stucco?

    Yes, always pre-drill stucco when installing screws or anchors. Drilling a pilot hole prevents cracking and allows easier screw insertion. Use hammer drills and masonry bits on stucco to reduce damage and make penetration easier.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Amy DeYoung

    Amy DeYoung


    Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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    photo of Lori Zaino

    Lori Zaino

    Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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