What is a Wall Anchor?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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The wall anchor is a simple hardware device that is utilized to secure items of light to moderate weight to walls constructed with drywall and other lightweight materials. Wall anchors make it possible to hang framed pictures and similar items at any point along the surface of the wall, even if a wall stud is not present at that location. The anchor is used in conjunction with a screw, and prevents the screw from ripping out of drywall and other hollow types of wall materials, while offering adequate support for shelves and other forms of wall decorations.

There is more than one type of wall anchor. A basic plastic anchor is in the shape of a narrow cone, with an opening located at the wide end. A small lip surrounds the hole at the wide end, a feature that is helpful in keeping the anchor in position. Installing this type of wall anchor involves drilling a hole in the wall, then lightly tapping the body of the anchor into that hole. Once the wide end of the device is flush with the wall surface, the screw is inserted into the hole and turned clockwise, until the head of the screw is close to the wall. Anchors of this type are ideal for hanging lighter items on a wall.


A different type of anchor is known as the hollow wall anchor. This device is shaped somewhat like the basic plastic model, but may be constructed of lightweight metal as well as plastic. Sometimes referred to as a Molly bolt, the hollow wall anchor functions by slowly expanding the body of the device outward as the screw is moved into position. This creates a situation where the expanded body grips the interior of the wall, making it possible to hang shelves or other wall ornaments that are of medium weight.

All types of wall anchors are available in a range of sizes. Some manufacturers include guidelines on the packaging to help customers determine which size is appropriate for supporting wall decorations of different types and dimensions. It is also possible to purchase anchor kits that contain several different sizes of the anchors, along with matching screws.

Every type of wall anchor is very inexpensive, and can be purchased at a number of retail locations. A local hardware store is likely to carry all sizes and types of anchors. Smaller anchors can often be found in the housewares section of a supermarket or drugstore. Discount retail stores are also likely to carry a wide selection of wall anchor systems in a hardware or housewares section. The devices are often included in picture hanging kits, along with wire and other small hardware items.


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