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How Much Weight Can Drywall Hold? More Than What You Think


Weight support of drywall.

Family photos, shelving units, and home décor items are just a few of the many things you might want to hang on your walls to give your home a certain look. But how much is too much when it comes to hanging things from the drywall?

Thin drywall will hold 1.2 to 1.6 pounds per square foot without some type of support. Thicker drywall will hold 1.5-2.1 pounds per square foot without additional support. Shear and tension affect the weight supported.

While that is the short answer, it is not the definitive answer. There are many variables that must be considered. What type of drywall do you have?  What kinds of objects are you hanging? Read the article to discover what my research and testing uncovered.

Not All Drywall is Alike

Drywall comes in varying thicknesses, from 1/4” to 5/8”. Thicker drywall will support more weight than thinner drywall, but other factors need to be considered before you start hanging things from the walls.

What Should You Consider Before Hanging Objects? 

Your drywall can withstand weight if you hang items securely and with the proper preparation. Anchors play a big part in how much weight a wall can hold. There are different types of anchors for different applications. 

Not only the weight of the object but also the shape and size will determine the best way to hang the object. Small, flat objects are easier to hang than objects that stick out away from the wall. The reason for this is shear and tension (source).

  • Shear is the amount of downward pull an object puts on a fastener.
  • Tension is the amount of forward pull an object puts on a fastener.

Think of it this way, if you hang a small picture frame on the wall, the frame will be flat against the wall. There should not be any forward tension, but there will be shear as the frame pulls down on the nail.

Because the picture frame is small and is only pulling downward, the nail will most likely hold the frame on the wall.   

Now imagine that same nail trying to hold a shelf on the wall. The shelf is not only pulling down on the fastener, it is also pulling forward because the shelf is not a flat object like a picture frame. This is creating tension on the fastener and the nail will likely pull out of the wall and the shelf will fall. 

Does that mean you can’t hang things on your walls? Absolutely not! You just need the right type of hanging device to do so.

After doing some research and product testing, we have selected the best products and methods for hanging different types of items on drywall.

The Types of Hanging Devices Available

There are many different types of hanging devices available, and each has its own pros and cons. Let’s go in-depth into how each works, why it is or is not the most effective for a certain application, and how to properly install each type of hanger. 

Type of HangerProsCons
Common nailInexpensive, easiest to useEasily pulled out, not sturdy
Plastic anchorsInexpensive, easy to usePredrill hole, lightweight objects
Self-drilling screwsNo need to predrill holeLeaves a big hole if removed
Molly boltHolds more weightPredrill/tap in with hammer
Flip toggle boltStrongest, longest lastingRequire larger hole in wall
Adhesive backedNo hole in wall, easy to removeCan fail, for light objects

This YouTube video gives an excellent overview of different types of wall anchor supports for drywall:

All About Drywall Anchors

What Are You Hanging?

Drywall anchors are designed to hold objects in a certain weight class. To choose the best anchor, you need to know the weight of the object you are hanging.

If you are hanging a basket or shelf that will hold items, be sure to add the weight of those items when deciding which type of anchor to use.

Larger items will require the use of more than one evenly spaced hanger. For example, a 3-foot-wide mirror weighing 90 pounds will require three self-drilling screws placed 1 foot apart, or one flip toggle bolt on each end.

For quick reference, have a look at this chart.                                                   

Type of HangerSuggested weight
Plastic AnchorsUp to 20 lbs.
Self-drilling screwsUp to 30 lbs.
Molly boltUp to 70 lbs.
Flip toggle boltUp to 50 lbs.
Adhesive backedUp to 50 lbs.
(Note: recommendations are based on a single anchor and painted, ½” drywall)

Where Are You Hanging it?

Consider the location of the item you are hanging. An adhesive type hanger will not be as effective as a screw-in anchor if applied on a frequently damp bathroom wall. Over time, the dampness will permeate the glue strip that holds the hanger, breaking down the adhesive and weakening its hold.  

A shelf or rack where items are regularly removed and replaced will need stronger anchor points than a simply decorative shelf. (i.e. A pot rack or a bookshelf).

Anything placed where a child can pull or climb on it should be anchored with the strongest bolts possible in several anchor points. 

Tools Needed for Installation

  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Phillips screwdriver.

Some anchors also require you to predrill a hole in the wall. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on the package to see what size drill bit you will need.

Using Plastic Anchors 

Plastic anchors are readily available at most retail stores. They are inexpensive and easy to use if you have the proper tools. Plastic anchors are not as strong as some others, so they should not be used to hold heavy and or large items.

Required items: plastic anchors, tape measure, level, drill, hammer, screwdriver.

  • Use a tape measure and level to mark the location(s) of the anchor(s).
  • Use a power drill to make the recommended size hole (refer to package)
  • Use a hammer to tap the anchor into the wall.
  • Insert the screw point into the anchor and tighten.
  • Hang your item and level it.

Plastic anchors (link to Amazon).

Using Self Drilling Anchors

Self-drilling anchors are often used by home decorators for hanging pictures and clocks. As the screw is tightened, the flange on the anchor expands to hug the drywall.

They support heavier objects fairly well but will pull out of the wall and leave a large gaping hole if too much weight is placed on them. 

Required items: self-drilling anchors, tape measure, level, screwdriver.

  • Use a tape measure and level to mark the location(s) of the anchor(s).
  • Screw the self-drilling anchor into the wall.
  • Insert the included screw into the anchor and tighten.
  • Hang your item and level it.

Self-drilling anchors (link to Amazon).

Using Molly Bolts

Molly bolts are preferred by many contractors for commercial applications.  Like the self-drilling anchors, the molly bolt is screwed in and the expanding flange on the back expands to support heavier items.

Several molly bolts used in conjunction with one another will support heavy items like wall mirrors, flat-screen TV’s, or bookshelves. 

  • Mark the location(s) of the anchor(s) with a tape measure and level.
  • Use a power drill to make the recommended size hole (refer to package)
  • Use a hammer to tap the anchor into the wall.
  • Insert the screw point into the anchor and tighten.
  • Hang your item and level it.

Molly bolts (link to Amazon).

Using Flip Toggle Bolts

The flip toggle bolt is the sturdiest of the drywall anchors. A long toggle bolt is threaded through a collapsible butterfly-shaped device. To install the flip toggle bolt, you compress the wings of the fastener and place it inside the wall through a predrilled hole.  

Materials needed: Flip toggle bolts, tape measure, level, drill, screwdriver.

  • Use a tape measure and level to mark the location(s) of the anchor(s).
  • Use a power drill to make the recommended size hole (refer to package)
  • Squeeze the wings closed and insert the device into the drilled hole.
  • Tighten the bolt until the hanger is snug against the wall.
  • Hang your item and level it.

Flip toggle bolts (link to Amazon).

Using Adhesive backed hangers

While different from the drywall anchors previously described, we included adhesive backed hangers because of their popularity and ease of use.

Manufacturers claim that these removable, adhesive-backed fasteners can hold up to 75 pounds. This has not been our experience. While the initial bond between the wall and the fastener is secure, it tends to weaken over time, and eventually, the item falls.

These fasteners are best suited for hanging lightweight items like calendars, document frames, and pictures. 

  • Use a tape measure and level to mark the location(s) of the anchor(s).
  • Clean the area with alcohol on a lint-free cloth.
  • Allow the area to dry completely
  • Remove the protective covering from the adhesive strip.
  • Firmly press the hanger to the wall.

Adhesive backed hangers (link to Amazon).

Summary

The weight that drywall can hold depends on the anchor. Using the proper drywall anchor will allow you to hang decorative and practical items in your home without worry. It is important to know the best type of hanger for your situation and install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

When hanging heavy or oversized items, use multiple hangers at evenly spaced intervals. Be sure to mark a level line when using more than one anchor.

For best results, place one anchor at each end of an oversized item and a third anchor in the center if possible.

Related Reading:

How Far Apart Should Drywall Screws be Placed?

Paul

As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I've learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.

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