Toggle Bolts vs. Plastic Anchors In Sheetrock

Sheetrock, which is a brand of drywall or gypsum wallboard, is a versatile wall and ceiling material for interior home spaces.

Toggle Bolts

Although it has advantages as a building material, Sheetrock doesn’t do well with nails or screws for hanging pictures, shelving or fixtures. These fasteners have very little grip in drywall and can’t hold up anything heavy. To address this shortcoming, people often use devices known as toggle bolts and plastic expansion anchors, which have different advantages and drawbacks.

One solution to fastening items to Sheetrock is the toggle bolt. This is the strongest of all hollow-wall anchors, consisting of a pair of spring-loaded wings called a toggle that’s threaded onto a machine bolt. Toggle bolts are sized by the diameter of the machine bolt. A toggle bolt is far stronger than plastic anchors. A 1/8-inch toggle bolt can support 50 lbs. while a 3/8-inch toggle bolt can hold 100 lbs. They require drilling a hole in the wall slightly larger than the size of the folded wings.

Using Bolts

Toggle bolts are harder to use than plastic anchors. To use, you thread the bolt through the mounting hole of the piece you are attaching, thread the toggle onto the bolt, raise the piece into position and push the toggle through the hole in the wall. The wings should spring out. Pull back on the bolt until the wings grip the back of the wall, and keep pressure on as you tighten the bolt. When the bolt is almost fully tight, put the item in final position and complete the tightening..

Plastic Anchors

Another solution for hanging things on Sheetrock walls is the plastic expansion anchor. Although far weaker than toggle bolts, plastic anchors are much easier to use. Plastic anchors are good with light loads, under 10 lbs. Plastic anchors come in a wide variety of sizes. When a screw is driven into a plastic anchor, it expands to grip the material surrounding it. Plastic anchors are only as strong as the material in which they are installed.

Using Anchors

Plastic anchors can be used for light loads that are perpendicular to the anchor. They have no strength for loads parallel to the anchor and can pull out easily. To install a plastic anchor, drill a hole in the wall just slightly smaller than the maximum width of the anchor. Insert the anchor all the way into the hole, position the piece to be mounted, insert the screw and tighten it. Variations on the basic plastic expansion anchor include toggle anchors that spread plastic wings as the screw is tightened and screw anchors that have screw threads to help hold the anchor in the wall.

About the Author

Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.