4 Tips for Choosing Anchors
1. Probe the wall before choosing an anchor. Before you shop for anchors, probe the wall to determine the thickness of the covering, the depth of the cavity and the presence of any obstructions. This simple step will only take a few minutes and can make the difference between a smooth installation and a frustrating experience. Drill a 1/8-in. hole through the drywall or plaster at the anchor locations. Bend a 1-in. long, 90-degree hook on the end of a coat hanger or other stiff wire and slide it through the hole. Twirl it to feel for obstructions. Push it all the way in and make a mark flush to the wall with a marker or tape. Now pull it tight to the backside of the wall covering and make a second mark. Remove the wire and measure from the bend to your marks to determine the thickness of the wall covering and the depth of the cavity. With this information, you can select the best anchor and install it without the risk of hitting a plumbing pipe or electrical cable.
2. Match the anchor to the wall thickness. Check the package to see what type and thickness of wall the anchors work in. For example, some plastic toggles have a grip range of 3/8 in. to 1/2 in. and won’t work on plaster walls that are 3/4 in. thick. Most anchors are available in a number of sizes with different “grip ranges,” so it shouldn’t be hard to locate one that will work.
3. Use the right screw for the anchor. Some anchors come with sheet metal screws, but you can usually substitute a similar size wood screw or drywall screw. Metal toggles, on the other hand, only accept screws that match their threads. If screws are provided with the anchors, check the package for the “maximum fixture thickness.” If you’re hanging a 3/4-in. thick wood shelf, for example, and the maximum fixture thickness listed is 5/8 in., you’ll have to buy longer screws of the same type. If you want to use the decorative screws that are included with the item you’re installing, then look for an anchor that will work with those screws.
4. Make sure there’s room in the wall. All of the anchors we show here work in standard 2x4 walls, as long as they don’t hit pipes, ducts, wood blocking or other obstructions. But choose your anchor carefully if you’re mounting to exterior basement walls, walls in manufactured homes or other unusual wall types. Metal toggles, for example, require a certain amount of depth and space for the toggle to flip open. You can’t use them in thin walls or walls with rigid foam insulation.