What’s the Difference: Hollow-wall anchors
Which is strongest: plastic anchors, auger anchors, mollies, or toggle bolts?
It’s not uncommon to have to install a wall-mounted fixture long after a kitchen or bathroom is buttoned up with drywall. When you can’t secure the item to a stud or 2x blocking, a hollow-wall anchor is your best option. The anchors shown here, commonly found at home centers, often come with strength ratings. Some manufacturers (but not all) apply a safety factor when creating this rating to ensure performance under the listed load. Check to be sure. You might have to apply your own safety factor by dividing the listed maximum load value by four, per industry standards. The general load values listed here reflect the applied safety factor.
Plastic anchors serve the lightest duty. You can be comfortable hanging a small picture with these anchors, but not much else. They are not designed for use in ceilings and are the most susceptible to failing under heavy loads.
Auger anchors are the easiest to install. They don’t require a pilot hole, which speeds up installation and minimizes damage should the anchor need to be removed. The strength of most auger anchors is comparable to that of plastic anchors, so their applications are similar.
Mollies are for permanent fixtures only. One type of molly needs a pilot hole; the other can be nailed. Both have a screw that flares the legs of the anchor to secure it. Mollies can be used in walls and ceilings, but removing this anchor causes significant damage.
Toggle bolts hold the most weight but are finicky to install. They require a large pilot hole and rely on a sprung toggle for support, which can limit their use. When used in walls filled with rigid or spray-foam insulation, toggles can’t expand properly. These anchors perform well in most walls and ceilings.
Photos by: Dan Thornton