How to Use and Install Self-Setting Drywall Anchors

Self-drilling, threaded or coil-type drywall anchors are the anchors of choice for many hanging applications. They come in many different sizes, materials, and styles. Self-setting drywall anchors are versatile and easy to install and can hold a good amount of weight, depending on size and material. You might choose a threaded anchor for very light items or when a wall stud isn’t available in the perfect spot. 

Let’s look at installing self-setting drywall anchors for maximum hold capacity and some tips on choosing the best anchor for your hanging project. 

What You’ll Need

When installing self-setting drywall screws, you don’t need much – that’s part of what makes this type of anchor so appealing to DIYers. There are two ways you can install a threaded anchor. The first is the most rudimentary way, and you’ll simply need:

  • Threaded Drywall Anchors Sleeves and Screws
  • Philip’s Head Screwdriver
  • Hammer or Rubber Mallet

That is all you need. This method involves using the hammer or rubber mallet to tap the anchor first. The following video features an alternate method that involves a power drill or screw gun. For this quicker installation, you’ll need:

  • Threaded Drywall Anchor Sleeves and Screws
  • Power Drill or Screw Gun
  • Philip’s Head Drill Bit (check the size of your screws)

It’s also important you know where your studs are. If you don’t already know, you’ll have to use a stud finder, or if you’re familiar with how your house is framed, a tape measure. 

This video is a simple rundown of how to install a self-setting drywall anchor with a power drill. This article will also explain how you can set a drywall anchor with no power tools. 

How To Install A Drywall Anchor With A Drill

Here is a walk-through on how to quickly set an anchor, as per the Youtube video. This is the quickest method for driving in anchors but can be tricky for novices. Go slow. 

Step 1) Check for Studs

You might already know where your wood studs are, and that’s why you’ve elected to use drywall anchors, but if you don’t, you need to check. Threaded drywall anchors will break if they hit a stud and will rip up the drywall. 

You can use a stud finder tool like this inexpensive Stud Finder Sensor Wall Scanner. Or if you know that your studs are standard 16 inches on center, just measure out from the edges. You can also drill a small pilot hole if you’re still unsure. 

Step 2) Insert the Anchor

Holding the anchor perpendicular to the wall, drive the anchor straight into the drywall. The head should be flush with the surface. Some threaded anchors have an additional wing-tip or expansion at the end, and you may be able to hear a small ‘pop’ when it’s inserted correctly. 

Go slowly and apply light pressure. If you press too hard, you could strip out the drywall or break the tip of the sleeve. Don’t screw too deeply, or you will break through the drywall paper and strip the drywall, and you’ll have to back out the anchor and repair the hole. 

Step 3) Insert the Screw

Make sure you’ve got the right-sized screw for the sleeve. Kits may have different lengths and diameters of screws and sleeves. Make sure the screw diameter matches the sleeve diameter. You can use whatever length screw that’s appropriate for what you’re hanging.

Drive the screw straight into the anchor. If you’re going to hang something right from the screw – leave a small gap between the screw head and the wall, and if you’re mounting something, of course, insert the screw through the hardware before you drive it into the anchor.

How To Install A Drywall Anchor Without Power Tools

There is still a way to effectively install drywall anchors without a cordless drill. You can use a good old-fashioned screwdriver, hammer, and some elbow grease. This takes a little more time but is good for beginners because it’s less likely you’ll strip out the drywall.

Step 1) Check For Studs

Just like with the previous how-to, you’ll need to know where your studs are. The good thing about installing the anchor manually is that you’ll notice immediately and won’t do much damage to your wall or anchor if you do hit a wall stud. If you don’t have a stud finder, simply measure out from the edge of the wall in 16-inch lengths. That’s the middle of your studs. 

Step 2) Hammer in The Tip

This works better with metal self-setting anchors, but you can do it with plastic or nylon anchors too, just be more gentle. Tap the head of the anchor with a hammer or rubber mallet into the drywall until you hit the threads. There isn’t much damage you can do if you continue to hit the anchor once you’ve reached the threading. 

Step 3) Screw in The Anchor

Using a simple Phillip’s head screwdriver, press firmly on the head of the anchor and twist it into the drywall. Stop when the anchor is flush with the surface of the wall. Though it’s much harder to drive the anchor too deep with a manual screwdriver, you could still strip out the drywall.  

Step 4) Insert the Screw

Put the screw through the hardware (if you’re mounting something) or simply screw the head into the wall anchor. Super simple! Leave a bit of a gap, and you can hang directly on the screw. 

Self-setting drywall anchors are some of the simplest anchors you can use. There are quite a few different styles you can choose from, but they are all installed the same way. Let’s look at some different types of drywall anchors and choose the correct size and type for your hanging needs. 

Types of Self Setting Drywall Anchors

Simple Self Drilling Anchors

These are the types of anchors featured in the Youtube tutorial. They’re generally the cheapest and feature a plastic or metal sleeve. They work by grabbing the drywall with wide, coarse threads. They come in all screw sizes, and you can buy them in various kits or as single sizes like these Self Drilling Drywall Plastic Anchors with Screws Kit.

These classic fasteners have medium weight capacities and can be used for mirrors, pictures, and towel racks.

Locking Self Drilling Anchors

These are a sort of hybrid between plastic expansion anchors and self-drilling anchors. Something like these TOGGLER SnapSkru SP Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors has an extra ‘locking’ feature on the plastic sleeve. The tip expands when fully inserted into the wall for extra hold, especially for vibrations. They’re good for your average photo frame or picture that you don’t want being shaken off the wall. The weight capacity is about the same as a typical self-setting drywall anchor. 

Wedge Type Self Drilling Anchors

These light-duty anchors aren’t screwed in, but they are self-setting. They’re thin wedges like these: Rustark 100 Sets Drywall Anchor Kit. Simply tap the anchors horizontally into your drywall and drive in the screw. The metal flaps open up and secure it to the drywall. These should only be used for light applications like small paper towel racks and light picture frames.

Things to Consider

When choosing the right hollow wall anchor, you will want to make sure the anchor can support the weight they’re rated for, but that’s more complicated than it sounds. 

How bulky is your item? Items like shelves and cabinets exert force outward on the anchors. Some drywall anchors list hold rating for only hanging or shear force. When you’re installing something bulky, it reduces the amount the drywall anchor can hold. Always overestimate. 

How many drywall anchors will you use? The holding power of drywall anchors does not increase linearly with additional fasteners. Each additional anchor along a drywall panel becomes weaker. Eventually, the drywall itself becomes the mitigating factor in how much you can hang with just anchors. Drywall will eventually fail and pull away from the framing.

Where is your item located? Anchors have much less holding power on ceilings- about 1/3 of the holding power. Self-setting drywall anchors should not be used on ceiling drywall, and even the most heavy-duty toggle bolts can only hold so much. 

What type of drywall do you have? Drywall thickness impacts the holding power of self-setting drywall anchors. Most anchors are rated for both 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch drywall. Always check the packaging. Anchors are stronger in thicker drywall. 

Alternatives to Self-Setting Drywall Anchors. 

Threaded drywall anchors are some of the easiest anchors to use and install, but sometimes a stronger option is needed. Never max out the holding capacity of a drywall anchor. Many of these anchors will cause significant damage to your drywall. 

Molly Bolts

These anchors have metal or plastic flanges that expand when fully inserted. The screw can be removed while the anchor stays in place. The wings lock the bolt against the drywall, giving them a higher tension rating. 

These require a pilot hole and are difficult to remove once fully sunk – you’ll have to cut the anchors out. They hold more weight than self-setting anchors but are more expensive. They are good for curtain rods and small shelves. 

Toggle Bolts

These are heavy-duty anchors used for heavier items. They also require a pilot hole. When the bolt is inserted, metal or plastic wings spring out, and you drive the machine bolt into the wall until it’s sandwiched between the screw head and the toggle wings. 

These can hold up to 100 lbs, though they are tricky to install. You have to have the hardware together before you drive the machine screw in. You can just take the screw out and replace it, which makes it difficult to move anything you’ve hung – you’ll likely lose the toggle into the hollow wall. 

More Studs

It’s always safest to install anything onto a wall stud. If you have something very heavy and you have a very particular spot you’d like, the best option is to remove the drywall and add another stud. You can also use a wood panel to span existing studs and mount onto larger objects like cabinets. 


Don’t hang from ceilings. Only very light items, like smoke detectors, should be hung from the drywall on ceilings. The load-bearing capacity of any drywall anchor maxes out at around 15 lbs on ceilings. They’ll pull on the panels and cause sagging and screw pop. Heavier items like chandeliers or plants must be hung from joists. 

Correctly calculate the weight of your item. Make sure you consider the combined weight of the item you’re hanging, whether that’s loaded shelves, full cabinets, or hardware holding another item. 

Make sure your drywall is safe to hang on. You should never hang something from wet, compromised, or brittle drywall. It’s not only unsafe but will severely damage drywall when your anchors fail. Check for wet spots, cracks, and signs of deterioration before you install anchors. 

If you ever want to remove the anchor, it’s fairly simple. Unlike molly bolts that cause a lot of damage, cleaning up after removing self-drilling anchors is easy. Remove the screw and grab the collar of the anchor with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Wiggle the anchor back and forth as the pull firmly. The anchor should come out with very little damage. Simply fill the hole back up with compound. 

Using and installing drywall anchors is easy, and with correct placement, you should have a strong base to hang pictures, mirrors, towel rods, and more. What did you think about the tutorial? Do you feel prepared to choose and install self-setting drywall anchors?

Ensure you have the correct materials, whether you’re using a power drill and drill bit or a hammer and manual screwdriver. Always check your drywall for cracks and water damage and know where your studs are located before installing any drywall anchors. 

Always play it safe and only hang heavy items on wall studs, and know your local building codes for any major projects.