How Much Weight Can a Drywall Anchor Hold?

It’s important when mounting an object on drywall that your fastener can bear the weight. There are many hollow wall anchors, but how much can each drywall anchor hold? Many factors play into their ability to hold up an object, including the type of anchor, number of anchors, size, and location. 

Sometimes you have a precise location where you want an item – like curtain rods and towel racks, and a convenient wood stud isn’t available. Drywall anchors are perfect for this. 

Let’s look at how much different drywall anchors can hold in different scenarios, how to pick the appropriate drywall anchor, and tips for maximum holding power. 

how much weight can a drywall anchor hold

How Much Can One Drywall Anchor Hold? 

Since there are so many factors, the range for any single drywall anchor is between. Why is there such a broad range? Well, there is a lot to consider. 

Hold rating

You’ll find ratings, including hold ratings and pull-out ratings listed on drywall anchor packaging. Pay attention that you’re looking at the drywall rating – multi-purpose anchors will have different ratings for concrete, plaster, and drywall. Pull-out load is the force it takes to remove an anchor straight from the wall, while something like ‘hanging strength’ or shear calculates force exerted down on the screw and anchor. 

Type of force

Bulky objects and shelves will exert more tension on the anchors, while mirrors and pictures will pull down. The same pressure might not hold if it’s applied to the anchor differently. That’s usually why it’s advised not to use simple drywall anchors in ceiling drywall except for light objects like smoke alarms. 

Type of drywall

Anchors have higher hold ratings in thicker drywall, like 5/8 inch, than standard 1/2 inch drywall. They also may have higher ratings listed for concrete, hollow core doors, and plaster. 

Screw size

When it comes to expansion anchors, larger-sized screws are rated to hold more weight, though since sleeve-type anchors are used in much smaller applications, a larger screw might not be feasible. 

Type of Anchor

There are three main styles of anchors, each with different weight ratings. This is the biggest determiner of how much weight an anchor will hold. Here’s a basic chart of how much each type of anchor.

Type of AnchorHold Weight WallHold Weight Ceiling
Expansion5-25 lbs> 10oz
Self Setting25-75 lbsup to 15 lbs
Molly Bolt25-50 lbsup to 15 lbs
Toggle Bolt50-100 lbsup to 15 lbs

The packaging may list shear ratings and tension ratings much higher, but the failure point should be divided by 4 for actual use of the anchor over time. For stronger anchors, like metal toggle bolts, it’s likely the drywall will fail before the anchor comes out of the drywall. Between ceiling joists, heavy objects will cause panels to sag and pull away from the strapping causing screw pops. 

When hanging heavier items like a large picture, shelves, and mirrors, it’s always best to attach them to a wall stud. Drywall anchors should be used for small and light hanging and when necessary. 

Related: Do drywall anchors go into studs?

Types of Anchors

You know which holds the most, but which is the appropriate drywall anchor for your hanging project. There is more than just weight to take into account. 

Expansion Anchors

Also called drywall plugs, these plastic anchors come in various screw sizes. They are for lightweight items, like small picture frames and several wall materials, including concrete, hollow doors, and drywall. It’s a simple plastic sleeve around a screw. These simple fasteners give extra power to screws by pressing out on the walls, creating a wedge behind the drywall. They require a pilot hole. Tap the plastic expansion anchor flush into the wall, and you’re free to drive the screw.

Self-Setting Anchors

Also called threaded anchors or coil type anchors, and can be metal, plastic, or nylon. These get their gripping strength from extra wide threads. The largest size holds a significant amount of weight, though ceiling applications are still discouraged for all but the smallest items. These are self-drilling anchors, so you only need to top it in until the threads, then drive it flush to the surface with a screwdriver or screw gun. Some are also a hybrid wedge anchor and flair at the tip. These are for medium-duty applications, and since you can back the screws out and reinsert them, they’re a good choice for towel bars, toilet paper holders, or anything else you might want to swap out or move eventually. 

Molly Bolts.

These metal bolts feature metal or plastic wing toggles that expand when the molly bolt is anchored into the wall, creating a tight bond against the drywall. 

Installation is easy- drill a pilot hole, insert the metal sleeve, and drive the anchor head flush to the wall. Wings open on the other side of the drywall. Accurate installation is important since once these are inserted and tightened, there’s no getting them out. They tend to cause a lot of damage if they fail or you must remove the sleeves. These are good for medium weight hangings, 

Toggle Bolts 

Also called butterfly anchors, these are for medium loads to heavy loads. You can find metal and plastic toggles and many holding strengths. The maximum strength toggle bolt is unnecessary – the drywall will fail before the actual pull-out strength is maxed. To install, drill your installation hole just big enough for the spring-loaded metal wings, then insert it into the toggle hole. Drive the machine screw into the wall, sandwiching the drywall between the screw and wings.

Installation gets difficult with large objects since the hardware must be attached before you secure the item to the wall. Unlike with other sleeve anchors, you can’t simply take the screw out and leave the anchor sleeve in the wall. Toggle anchor removal can be tricky – the hardware can’t be removed in one piece, and you can end up losing the wings into the hollow wall. These anchors are good for heavy pictures and shelving. 

Calculating Holding Power

If you’re using more than one anchor in drywall for your hanging item, a simple linear calculation isn’t enough to determine if you’ve got the right holding power between the anchors. There are several reasons for this. 

Type of object. As was mentioned before, bulky items and items causing tension are more likely to cause anchors to fail than ones causing shear pressure. This also goes for static vs. dynamic objects. A dynamic object that moves, like a ceiling fan or a tv mount that swivels, will experience more stress on the wall surface. 

The number of anchors. More anchors don’t necessarily mean more holding power; with every additional drywall anchor used across a length of drywall, the holding power of an individual anchor decrease. Anchors placed too close together won’t do much good, and anchors place lower (like when installing cabinets) won’t be holding much at all. Eventually, the drywall is the mitigating factor in how much drywall anchors can hold. 

Keep in mind

Always overestimate the weight of what you’re hanging, including the combined weight of a shelf + objects or a towel rack and towels. 

Do not use drywall anchors on ceilings. Especially sleeve-type wall anchors. Hung items, especially from the ceiling, are very dangerous. Sleeve anchors should only be used on very light and simple items. 

Check your weight distribution. Don’t overload shelves to one side, and don’t count on lower anchors to support as much as the top anchors. Use heavier-duty anchors whenever possible. 

Install your anchors correctly. Make sure sleeve anchors and self-tapping anchors are flush with the surface of the drywall for maximum hold, and listen for molly bolts to ‘pop’ the wings out behind the drywall. Attempt to keep toggle bolts level as you tighten the machine screws. Finally, be precise when installing large objects, like shelves with installation holes on drywall – anchors that aren’t precisely distanced will create additional loads when the screws are tightened. They pull or push against each other. 

Whenever you can, use a wall stud. This is by far the safest way to hang anything on drywall. You can even add wall studs or use a wood panel across studs (for shelves and cabinets) if you’ve got the know-how. 

Drywall anchors are an easy solution to hanging things on your drywall at perfect locations. There are plenty of drywall anchor types for every application. Always make sure you’re buying the correct anchor by checking the listed drywall thickness, screw size, anchor material, and load capacity. Ensure you have the correct screwdriver and a cordless drill and drill bit if you need to create a pilot hole. 

Overestimate the weight of any item you’re hanging, and never secure heavy or dynamic times to ceiling drywall. If you’re still running into problems with anchors failing and items falling, you may need to revise your location to take advantage of a wall stud or add stud to your framing. Always check local building codes when embarking on any major projects. 

Related: Do edges of drywall need to be on the stud?