Why Do Drywall Anchors Break? 4 Common Reasons

A drywall anchor is a mount that grips the wall in a way that allows you to hang things from it. The convenience of using these anchors is why its sales have been predicted to grow by 5.8% by 2028. However, these anchors can break in specific cases, and it’s crucial to know why this might happen. 

A drywall anchor can break if it’s the wrong type of anchor, if the anchor isn’t installed properly, if the drywall is weak, or if there’s too much load on the anchor. Thankfully, most drywall anchors have a load description so you know how much weight to add.

In this guide, I will show you the most common reasons why a drywall anchor might break and offer a few possible solutions.

Why Do Drywall Anchors Break

1. Wrong Anchor Type

Using the wrong type of anchor is the main reason for this problem. Say you have a drywall anchor designed to only carry pictures. In this case it may break when you hang something heavier than a picture.

There are different types of drywall anchors produced by brands across the world. You can classify them based on various characteristics, however, according to Family Handyman, there are five main types of anchors.

1. Toggle Bolts 

The toggle bolt anchor is the most robust and durable type of anchor you’ll find. It may be more expensive than other varieties, but there’s nothing you can’t hang from a toggle bolt anchor.

Drywall is basically gypsum compressed between papers, and this slim structure makes it easy to install toggle bolt anchors.

To install this type of anchor, first create a hole with a drill bit and insert the toggle bolt. While screwing the bolts into the hole, the toggle (which is folded) will open up completely using a spring mechanism.

When the toggle bolt opens it increases the surface area of the anchor, transferring some weight onto the wall. As such, it’s impossible to remove or break this bolt without damaging the drywall.

There are different types of toggle bolts, including: 

  • Plastic toggle bolts
  • Metal toggle bolts – usually the strongest
  • Flip toggle bolts

2. Metal Anchors

Metal anchors, also known as steel hollow bolts or molly bolts, are the oldest wall anchors and have existed for over a century.

The parts of a metal anchor include: 

  • The anchor
  • The metal sleeve
  • Screws to keep it in place 

Metal anchors work just like expansion anchors, with the major difference being the metal used. The metal anchor pierces the drywall to make a flare at the back. This flare ensures that the anchor sits well, like a toggle bolt. 

An advantage of using molly bolts is that you can remove them after installation without damaging the walls. This feature allows you to use it for different items and change the bolts when necessary.

3. Pull Toggle Anchors

Pull toggle anchors aren’t too popular yet because they’re still new. This type of anchor doesn’t require a big hole thanks to its design. The installation process is similar to that of a toggle bolt anchor, but instead of a spring at the back, you stick it to the wall using a plastic strap.

4. Expansion Anchors

Also known as conical anchors, expansion anchors are commonly used across the world. While these anchors are easy to install, they’re not efficient for carrying weighted items. 

To install an expansion anchor, you need to drill a hole for it and insert the anchor with a hammer. Once the anchor fits, you screw it tight to the drywall, and the part behind the wall will eventually expand, holding it in place. These anchors don’t have the strongest grip, so you can’t hang too much weight from them.

5. Self-Drill Anchor

As the name suggests, the most convenient feature of the self-drill anchor is its installation. This anchor works like an expansion anchor, only this time you don’t have to drill a hole. This anchor is designed like a screw, so all you have to do is screw it into the wall.

These are the different kinds of anchors in descending order of their strength. If your drywall anchor snaps while holding a weight, figure out which type you used and replace it with a stronger option.

  1. Wrong Installation Technique

After buying a drywall anchor, properly installing it is a separate challenge that must be approached with care. If you don’t install it correctly, you won’t be able to make use of the strength expected from that anchor. 

Most of the time, drywall anchors come with information on their packs, showing you their maximum capacities and the best way to install them. So you can set them up yourself with the right information.

For more information, check out my guide on getting drywall anchors to hold. It discusses the various reasons drywall anchors can fall out – specifically due to improper installation – and possible ways to fix and prevent these mishaps. [Why Won’t Your Drywall Anchors Hold? 3 Solutions]

It’s usually better to have an expert install the drywall anchors while they’re setting up the wall. However, in some cases you will need to install them yourself, and this can be a bit complicated.

Some common mistakes you might make while installing a drywall anchor include: 

  • You may cut a smaller or bigger hole than required. 
  • You may get the wrong alignment, putting the load on one anchor more than another.
  • You can damage the drywall anchor when setting it up.
  • You may try to fix the drywall anchor where there are wires behind the wall. 

Here is the procedure for installing a drywall anchor properly: 

Choosing the Right Location

Fixing the right location to place your anchor is a crucial part of the installation process. Some things to consider when choosing the area for a drywall anchor include:

  • Safety. You must ensure there are no electrical wires in the spot you choose to fix the anchor. 
  • Space. First consider the size of the frame you want to hang and pick a location that allows for adequate space.
  • Good height. If you’re going to replace items on the anchor often, it’s best to fix it at a height that’s within convenient reach.

Understanding Installation Requirements 

A drywall anchor has different installation techniques depending on the type you choose. As mentioned earlier, some drywall anchor packs come with a description of how to install them.

However, in some cases you may not receive specific instructions. If the pack doesn’t describe the best process to install your anchor, the right technique will depend on the anchor type.

  • The self-drill anchor requires you to screw it directly without creating a hole. 
  • Toggle and molly bolts require you to create the same-sized hole before installation, and screw in the bolts to expand the anchor. 
  • The expansion anchors only require a hole, and screwing it in ensures the anchor stays firm on the wall. 

3. Drywall Weakness

Drywall isn’t a very strong or robust type of wall, but it can hold up to 2.1 pounds (0.95 kg) of weight for every square foot. However, like any other wall, these walls deteriorate and weaken over time.

This weakness can cause the anchors to break and, in most cases, damage the drywall. There are two main ways to fix an anchor on a weak drywall:

Finding a Stud

Drywall usually has wooden or metal studs installed at intervals to ensure it is strong enough to hold items. 

Installing an anchor on the drywall directly can cause the wall to crack. However, when you install the anchor on one of the studs, it’s almost impossible for it to break.

You can purchase a stud finder to locate the wall studs in a particular area. I’d recommend the CRAFTSMAN Stud Finder (available on Amazon.com) for this job. This tool works to locate stud edges of both wood and metal studs, and is both shock and water resistant.

You can also find wall studs without the help of a stud finder. This video will give a clear explanation: 

It's EASY to Find Studs WITHOUT A STUD FINDER!!!!!

Using Plywood

Plywood is an excellent solution to fix an anchor without worrying about breaking the drywall. It’s best to cut a square or rectangular shape on the plywood and place it at the back of the drywall, so you can install the anchors without damaging the wall. 

4. Heavy Items

If the weight of an item is more than the capacity of the drywall, it will cause the anchor and/or the drywall to break. So before you install an anchor, it’s best to know the weight capacity so you can install it properly and figure out what items to hang. 

Most drywall anchors have a description of the weight they can carry on their packs, so it’s best to check before hanging anything. However, here’s a general idea of the weight per drywall anchor type:

  • Toggle bolts can hold up to 300 pounds (136 kg)
  • Metal bolts can hold up to 50 pounds (23 kg)
  • Expansion bolts can hold up to 25 pounds (11 kg)
  • A self-drill anchor can hold up to 75 pounds (34 kg).

Final Thoughts

Now you have a clearer idea of why a drywall anchor might break, even when you’ve installed it properly. So spend some time figuring out what type of anchor you need, what you want to hang from it, and which one is most suited for your purposes before investing in one.

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