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Essential Core Skills
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  • How to Attach to a Wall
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    Essential Core Skills: Attaching to a Wall

    Common Mistakes

    • Thinking a small nail will hold 50 pounds
    • Not using the right anchor, screws, etc.


    • Tape measure
    • Screwdriver
    • Pencil
    • Drill and bit (for sleeve-type anchor)
    • Appropriate anchors and screws
    • Hammer

    Most things are secured to a wall by screws, nails, bolts, glue or even double-sided tape (although not a good long term solution).

    Your decision on how to attach something to a wall should be determined on the function of the object, materials, size, aesthetics, safety and load bearing requirements.

    Most people just like putting up a nail and hanging off it. Unfortunately, this is a short-term solution and many find that their objects fall off easily.

    But some items like a towel rack, hooks, shelves, curtain rods, etc., are attached using brackets that need to be screwed in.

    Using anchors may provide enough strength to hold up an item. But if you have something very heavy, for example, a closet organizer, bookshelves, you really need to find the wood stud and screw into it for support.

    Lightweight Objects

    Extremely lightweight objects can be supported with double-stick tape, small nail or picture hanger. A metal hook on a long tapered nail driven at an angle can support objects with a wide variety of weight. There are specialty hook packages that already have an angled hole in order to drive your nail at an angle and they come in packages of different sizes depending on the weight to be supported.

    Mediumweight Objects

    Use anchors (as discussed under “Drilling”).

    Heavyweight Objects

    Heavy objects can be supported with a molly style hollow wall fastener, self-drilling anchors or a toggle bolt. Drill a hole through the wall to fit the size of hollow wall (molly) fastener - be sure not to get the hole too big or you may have difficulty turning the bolt without having the connector turn. Push it in and turn the bolt clockwise until it feels tight and flush to the wall. The fastener has expanded and should stay tight. Remove the bolt and attach the object screwing the bolt in tight. Do not over tighten or you may pull the fastener loose.

    Molly Bolts

    Use: Use a molly bolt for medium loads, such as a heavy, framed mirror or for a shelf bracket that will hold heavy books. This anchor is designed for use in wallboard, plaster, or other hollow walls, such as tiled wallboard.

    Choosing a Molly Bolt:
    Choose a molly bolt sized to match the thickness of your wall or ceiling. Use a standard type for plaster and a drive type for gypsum wallboard.

    Installation: Drill a pilot hole using the appropriate size drill bit and tap in the anchor with a hammer. The teeth on the anchor help keep the sleeve from turning in the hole as you turn the screw in the next step.

    Secure the Anchor: Turn the screw clockwise to clamp the anchor to the wall. Turn slowly and press in firmly as you tighten the screw. You'll feel the sleeve collapse and stop when it is locked against the backside of the wall or ceiling.

    Attach Object: Remove the screw to insert it though the mounting hole in the object you wish to hang. Then drive the screw into the anchor until the object is held tight to the surface.

    Self-Drilling Anchor

    Use: for medium and heavy items. A Self Drilling Anchor (spiral) cuts its own hole, and uses a separate screw. Not to be used in ceilings.

    Installation: Use a self-drilling anchor in drywall 3/8 to 5/8 inch thick for light to medium loads, such as a shelf bracket or towel bar on a wall.

    Press in Anchor: Mark the anchor location on the surface, insert a screwdriver into the recess in the anchor and press the point of the anchor into the wall.

    Turn the Anchor: Press in lightly and twist the anchor into the wallboard. Stop turning when the flange is flush with the surface.

    Attach Object: Insert screw through the object being attached and drive the screw into the anchor until it feels secure. Don't over tighten the screw or you strip the hole.

    Toggle bolts

    Use: For heavy items.

    Installation : Mark the anchor location on the surface. Drill a hole through the wall. Wiggle it until it comes loose and you can pull it out.

    Press in Bolt : Put a small screwdriver, knife, or piece of metal into the hole and carefully enlarge until the toggle will slide through.

    Attach Object : Assemble the object on the bolt and push the toggle into the hole until you can feel it spring open. (Now you cannot remove the bolt without losing the toggle in the wall). Tighten by turning clockwise. A toggle bolt should be used where the object will be drawn up tight to the wall because the hole must be large enough to receive the toggle.