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How To Install Plastic Wall Anchors Without a Drill

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Recently, my drill ran out of charge right in the middle of hanging up a “backpack” rack on the wall of our mudroom. Rather than plugging in and waiting, I went ahead and installed it without the drill. It actually isn’t that difficult and will hold just as well.

Here’s how to install plastic wall anchors without a drill:

  1. Obtain an appropriate anchor for your task.
  2. Create a guide hole using a nail or screw. 
  3. Install the anchor using a mallet or with your hands.
  4. Screw a metal screw into the anchor using a screwdriver.

In this article, I’ll walk you through these steps for installing plastic wall anchors without using a drill. I’ll also discuss when plastic anchors are necessary and when they’re not, and what you can use instead of plastic anchors.

How To Install Plastic Wall Anchors (No Drill Necessary!)

This is actually an easy task, and the hardest part is finding the proper supplies. Luckily, a drill is not one of them.

1. Obtain an Appropriate Anchor for Your Task

Hand-Holding-a-Plastic-Anchor-and-a-Screw
This is what I used in a recent project.

Regardless of the type you choose, be sure the screws and wall anchors you purchase are of a compatible size. For the anchor to expand and grip the drywall correctly, the screw must be big enough to expand the anchor, but not so big that it’ll crack it. The anchor’s packaging should say what size of screw you should purchase. 

Ultimately the most important thing is to purchase the correct type of plastic wall anchor. If you’re installing a heavier item, you’ll want to use threaded corkscrew anchors. However,  if you’re installing something super light, you can go with the cheaper sleeve anchors. 

Drywall Sleeve Anchor

A drywall sleeve anchor is just what it sounds like. It looks something like a hollow plastic screw and is used to help anchor a screw into drywall. You’ll first install the drywall sleeve anchor, and then you’ll screw the metal screw into it using a screwdriver. This will make the drywall sleeve anchor expand, which will help it grip into the drywall. 

If you’re going to use a sleeve anchor, keep in mind that they’re only made to support light weights. So while they may be suitable for hanging a small painting or some Christmas garlands, if you’re hanging something heavier, like a cabinet, you’ll want to go with a sturdier wall anchor. Typically, the recommended weight range for a sleeve anchor is anywhere from five to 20 pounds (2.3 to 9 kg). 

Drywall Threaded Corkscrew Anchor

The second most common type of plastic wall anchor is a drywall threaded corkscrew anchor. Although their function is similar, to expand as the actual metal screw is inserted to grip the drywall, they’re a far more robust product. They can come in plastic or metal and are very thick, designed to hold heavier items such as cabinets or heavier metal wall decor. 

They are far more expensive than sleeve anchors, but it’s worth making the investment if you need to hang something on the heavier side. You don’t want to install something only to have it come crashing down a few weeks later because the wall anchor you used was not sturdy enough to support its weight. 

2. Create a Guide Hole Using a Nail or Screw

A-Screw-Being-Screwed-in-by-a-Screwdriver-Creating-a-Guide-Hole-in-a-Wall
This is unpainted drywall, thus the “cratering” effect.

When you’re ready to start installing your plastic wall anchors, first create a guide or pilot hole. This guide hole will help you to get the screwing process started more easily. You can do this by using a thin nail or screw to tap a small hole into the outer portion of the drywall.

Try to find one that is larger than the anchor screw but not as large as the anchor itself.

Once inserted fully through the drywall, wiggle the nail or screw around in the hole to ream it out until it appears to be slightly smaller than the anchor. You may have to take out and reinsert the nail or screw a few times and get it to the right size through trial and error.

If your anchor is large enough, you can use a screwdriver to ream out the hole.

A-Screwdriver-Reaming-Out-a-Hole-in-a-Wall
Use circular motions to make the hole bigger and bigger.

Once the anchor is a really tight fit but can be forced in without damaging the anchor, you are good to go.

3. Insert the Anchor Using a Hammer/Mallet or With Your Fingers

A-Plastic-Anchor-Being-Tapped-Into-a-Wall-by-a-Hammer
Use gentle taps until the anchor is flush with the wall.

For a sleeve anchor, you have two options: 

  • Tap the anchor in with a rubber mallet or carefully with a hammer
  • Push or twist the anchor in using your hands 

Whichever one you decide on is fine, and it should be a straightforward process. If you choose to use a mallet, be sure to tap the anchor very gently and avoid hitting the actual wall.

If you’re using a plastic corkscrew anchor, you’re in luck because they require even fewer supplies as they’re considered self-drilling. You don’t technically need a pilot hole, but many people find it easier to get the anchor straight into the wall if they create one first. Then, you’ll simply start screwing. Since these are more heavy-duty, they’re more difficult to get into the wall. But just keep persisting and take breaks if your hands are tired; it’ll go in eventually. 

4. Screw a Metal Screw Into the Anchor Using a Screwdriver

Screwdriver-Screwing-a-Screw-Into-a-Plastic-Anchor-in-the-Wall
The easy part.

Once your plastic wall anchor is firmly fixed in the wall, you’ll insert the metal screw. The metal screw is what you will actually be hanging something on. The wall anchor is just there to provide additional grip and stability. To add the screw, you’ll need your screwdriver, and you’ll simply screw it into the hollow center of the plastic wall anchor. 

The screw is what actually expands the plastic anchor as you screw it in, giving it some grip into the drywall. That’s why it’s important to get an appropriately sized screw; if the plastic anchor doesn’t expand properly, then it won’t function as it was intended to.

Here is a video showing how to install an anchor using just a screwdriver:

Should You Install Wall Anchors Without a Drill?

Ideally, when hanging something on the wall, you should drill into the beams. That way, whatever you’re drilling has a solid surface to grip into, and you won’t have to worry about the weight of whatever you’re hanging. (Usually, this requires a drill to accomplish.)

However, depending on where you want to hang something, a beam may not be available. In this case, the drywall would be responsible for supporting the screw and whatever object is hung upon it. Drywall is far too fragile of a material to handle this, so that’s where plastic wall anchors come in. 

But for the same reason the drywall can’t support heavier objects is the same reason a drill is not needed (and ought to be avoided) when installing wall anchors.

You can (and should) install wall anchors without a drill.  Wall anchors are made of plastic and require very few rotations to screw into drywall, and you could easily strip the anchor, rendering it ineffective. It’s best to use a screwdriver or your bare hands to install wall anchors.

Are Plastic Anchors Necessary?

At this point, you may be wondering if plastic anchors are necessary at all. After all, most of us grew up just hammering a nail into the wall and calling it a day. However, if you’re hanging something heavier, like a large portrait or wall fixture such as a cabinet, you may want to reconsider your approach. 

Plastic wall anchors are necessary when hanging something of heavier weight on an area of a wall where no support beam is located. Drywall is not naturally stable enough to hold up a lot of weight, and regular screws will quickly loosen. Plastic anchors help to secure the screws in the wall. 

Drywall isn’t like wood. It doesn’t have natural fibers woven through it that hold the material together. You’ll notice that there’s a big difference between the dust that comes from drilling drywall and sawdust. If you look closely, you’ll see that sawdust is still in little fibrous pieces. On the other hand, drywall dust is literally just a powder. 

When you put a screw in wood, the wood fibers can hold the screw in place. When you place a screw in drywall, there are no such fibers, and over time, the drywall surrounding the screw will break down, resulting in a loose screw that will eventually fall out. 

What Can I Use Instead of Drywall Anchors?

Although plastic wall anchors are a great way to mount heavier items on your walls, they do have one major downside. Once you remove them, there’s a pretty large, very noticeable hole left over. To cover it up, you’ll need to patch the hole and repaint over it, which not everyone wants to do. Fortunately, if you’ve decided plastic wall anchors aren’t for you, there are some great alternatives. 

Common alternatives you can use instead of drywall anchors include picture hangers, a drywall screw at an angle, or command strips. The other alternative is to change the location of what you’re hanging so you can screw or nail something directly into a beam, which requires no anchor.

Picture Hangers

If you’re installing a larger picture that would usually require wall anchors, but you don’t want to leave big holes, try using a couple of picture hangers instead. Picture hangers use a screw or a nail but make use of a bracket on the outside to distribute weight more evenly. The small screw or bracket allows you to minimize the damage to your wall, so you won’t have to do nearly as much patching, if any at all, once they’re removed. 

If you choose to use picture hangers instead of wall anchors, I recommend using several so the risk of them eventually coming loose and slipping is lower. 

Drywall Screw at an Angle

The next possible solution is to use a drywall screw, like the kind that often comes with plastic wall anchors. It’s important to use a drywall screw instead of a wood screw because they are actually made differently. Drywall screws have a gritty material along the threads that allow the screw to better grip into the fine grain of drywall. Wood screws have no grit and will come loose more quickly and easily. 

When you’re installing the screw, place it directly into the drywall at an upwards angle. This will give it more grip and help keep it from falling out of the drywall. If you put it at a 90-degree angle to the wall then hang something on it, the screw will quickly start to sag and eventually slip out of the wall. 

Command Strips

Command strips are another great option if you would rather avoid anything puncturing your drywall. They come in many different sizes and strengths and are specially made to come on and off of paint with ease. For heavier items, you’ll want to use multiple command strips, but, for the most part, anything can be hung with command strips, as long as you’re using enough. 

Nail Directly Into a Beam

Photo-of-female-hands-holding-using-stud-finder-and-pencil-against-interior-home-white-wall

Sometimes even using the strongest wall anchor in your drywall won’t be enough to hold the weight of whatever you’re trying to hang. In these cases, it’s best to nail or screw directly into a beam. By using a beam, you’ll be able to use whatever kind of screw or nail you want, and you won’t have to worry about the drywall cracking or to crumble under the weight of your installment. However, this will limit hanging things as beams are in short supply. 

Try Self-Drilling Wall Anchors

If you’re looking for something that will reliably hold weight but is even easier to install, I recommend self-drilling wall anchors. This drywall anchors and screws kit (available on Amazon) is a good example of a self-drilling threaded corkscrew anchor. It’s made of a premium plastic and is easier to install than other anchors. It can easily get through the thickest of drywall and handles up to 50 lbs (22.68 kg). 

Final Thoughts

The purpose of a plastic wall anchor is to provide support when hanging something on drywall. Drywall is naturally thin and doesn’t hold onto screws or weight well, and a plastic anchor provides the grip necessary to stay secure in the wall.

Plastic anchors are easy to install without a drill because they’re designed that way. All you need to do is create a guide hole with a nail or screw and twist the plastic anchor in, which can often be done by hand. Then you can insert the metal screw to expand the wall anchor. This provides the screws you use some extra grip so they don’t slip out of the drywall. 

If you’d rather avoid using wall anchors, you can simply use drywall screws, picture hangers, command strips, or nail into a beam in the wall for added support.

For more, check out Is It Okay to Drill Into Vinyl Siding? (With an Alternative).

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