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How To Hang Things On Drywall & Plaster

Updated on February 27, 2010

You're sitting quietly in your house when all of a sudden you hear a CRASH from the living room. Investigating, you find the new picture you bought and hung two weeks ago lying in a heap on the living-room floor, its cover glass shattered. What went wrong?

The perpetrator was the wrong fastener. You hung the picture on the wall with a couple of those adhesive-backed hangers with the hook attached. The moisture in the air caused the glue to let go. Your picture, fairly heavy because of its frame and glass, was the victim.

Hanging objects on walls made of plaster or drywall is something no one teaches us how to do; frequently we use what's handy: a nail, a tack or a screw. But if you screw or nail something directly into drywall or plaster, you'll find out that it doesn't take much for plaster or drywall to crumble away. The person at the hardware store suggests a molly bolt. A what? It's time to be mollified.

Molly bolts, or hollow wall expansion anchors, are among several fasteners you can choose for attaching things to walls. Each is designed to handle different loads. Let's take a look at some of the most popular.

Light objects (small pictures, light objects), Adhesive hooks are OK, but you may prefer a hook-style picture hanger. Install by putting the flat part of the hanger against the wall, then nail it in at an angle from above. Humidity won't affect it. Most have the weight rating listed on the package.

Light to medium objects (medium-size pictures, decorative shelves, fabric), A wall anchor might just be what you need. These give the screw something to hold onto in the wall, a "liner" for the plaster that won't crumble. They can be made of plastic, lead or fiber.

Drill a hole just a shade smaller in diameter than the anchor and just deep enough for it to fit. Push or hammer it into the wall so the open end is even with the wall's surface. Put the screw in and tighten (clockwise). These can be screwed and unscrewed a few times if you want to make changes.

Medium to heavy objects (mirrors, larger pictures, light weight-bearing shelves), Molly bolts work by expanding as they're screwed into the wall, handling a more substantial load when you can't find a stud.

To install them, drill a hole in the wall that's slightly larger than the molly bolt assembly. The package usually tells you the right size. Push the assembly in and tighten (clockwise) the bolt. That will start the molly expanding. Newer versions can be hammered or screwed directly into the wall, eliminating the hole-drilling step.

Heavy or weight-bearing objects (large mirrors, railings, heavy shelves), Toggle bolts are ideal for more weight. They're a two-piece arrangement made up of the bolt and a separate expanding "toggle head" that folds up so it can pass through a hole and grab on from behind the drywall. It looks like it has wings.

To use one, drill a hole big enough so that the toggle will pass through the wall. But before you pass anything through the wall, put the bolt through whatever it is you're hanging, then thread it onto the toggle head just enough so it won't fall off.

Make sure the ends of the toggle's "wings" point toward the bolt's head. Fold the wings against the screw and grasp them with your fingers. Push the toggle into the hole wings first, releasing the wings until you hear them snap open behind the wall. Tighten (turn clockwise) the bolt. The toggle will grab on from behind. You'll need another toggle bolt if you ever take this one out because once you unscrew it, the toggle head will fall back behind the wall.

Remember, with each of these fasteners, if you ever want to remove the object from the wall, you'll be left with a hole. But you can easily fill it in with spackling, then dab on a little spare wall paint. It is a lot easier than cleaning up the broken glass from that picture that fell off the wall.


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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Molly bolts are everywhere. Rona, Crappy Tire, Home DePot... you name it. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi, where can i finf Molly bolt in Toronto or on internet ?

      I have a big TV to put very high on a wall ;) and i use Molly in France for everything. Its very strong and powerful product.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      What I don't understand is how people can just put in a nail in hollow plaster and expect it to hold anything! :)

    • quicksand profile image


      8 years ago

      Well I took half a day to relocate a fluorescent light since after relocation it stopped working and I had to dismantle it completely to check out where the connection had gotten disengaged. It was the choke.

      I like the idea of measuring, drilling, patching up with plaster of paris ... inserting those plugs and then discovering that you have done a precise job when you place the brackets in position ... the screwing part too! :)


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