Wall Anchor Vs Stud: Which Should You Use?

So you need to hang something heavy, and you know better than to hang the object to the drywall alone. But which is better for supporting the weight, a drywall anchor or a stud?

A stud is always going to be the more secure way to hang something heavy when compared to a drywall anchor. However, wall anchors are great options when needing to hang objects where studs are not available.

There are a few more things to consider, though, so keep reading!

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Choosing Between Drywall Anchors and Studs

Wall anchors and studs are both great ways to support heavier objects on the wall.

Which one you opt to use will depend on two main things: the weight of the object, and location you’re planning to hang the object.

How Heavy is the Object?

This is always the first (and most important) question I ask myself. If the wall is going to be supporting more than 15 pounds, I use a stud.

That might mean changing the location of my object so that it can be hung on a stud.

So be it.

While drywall anchors are often rated for higher than 15 pounds, they’re not as strong as studs. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk of the wall anchor failing and ruining your item and the wall.

And if that wasn’t enough to sell you on a stud, the heavier the object you’re hanging, the more likely it is to injure someone if it falls. How fun would it be to have a massive shelf of books come falling down on you as you slept?

Plus, heavy objects are usually expensive. You’re better off being safe and hanging heavy objects from studs.

It’s worth noting that if you’re hanging something large and heavy, you can get support from both studs and wall anchors. For example, when hanging the upper wall cabinets in my kitchen, I first hung this handy rail provided by Ikea:

Ikea kitchen cabinet rail on wall

The cabinets hang from the rail.

The rail is secured to studs in at least two places, one on either side of the rail. But the circles on the rail didn’t always line up to stud locations, so between the two studs I was able to hit, I used drywall anchors.

The Exception

The one exception to this rule is if the weight of the heavy object won’t actually be on the wall. For example, the dresser in my bedroom is secured to the wall with a wall anchor, not a stud, because the majority of the weight of the dresser is actually on the floor.

The connection to the wall is simply to stop the dresser from tipping over when the drawers are open.

Is a Stud Easily Accessible?

Drywall anchors are great, but studs are always the more secure option. If it’s easy to hit a stud, you should hang your object from a stud.

Wall anchors are a great backup when you want your item to go in a specific place, and there isn’t a stud there.

But if there is a stud, use a stud.

And if you’re not sure how to find the stud, take a look at this post on finding studs without a stud finder.

If there isn’t a stud and your item isn’t too heavy (see above,) then a wall anchor is a great choice.

Other Considerations

The weight of the object and the stud location are the two most important things to consider. However, there are a few other things that might impact your decision.

Fragility and Expense

There is some amount of risk involved when using drywall anchors to hang things.

First off, they can fail. Secondly, it’s fairly easy to install them wrong.

(Fun fact, I have a whole article where I test a bunch of different wall anchors and determine which ones are the most foolproof. Go take a look, especially if you’re about to hang something fragile with a wall anchor.)

So, because wall anchors are riskier than studs, I usually won’t hang something that is particularly fragile or expensive with a wall anchor, just because I don’t want to risk breaking it.

This includes plasma TVs. Don’t hang your TV with a wall anchor. Find a stud.

Size of Object

The size of the object also plays a part. The larger the object, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to find a stud.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you can hit a stud, you should use the stud. It will always be the more secure option.

I have a whole article on different ways to hang things from studs, but my favorite option is to make a rail:

Rail on wall

This picture is technically multiple rails, but you get the idea.

It’s best if you can hit a stud on both sides of the rail, but even if you have to hang the rail with one stud and one drywall anchor, it’s still going to be better than using drywall anchors alone.

Then once you have the rail secured, you can hang your object anywhere along the rail. It gives you more flexibility for hanging your object, while taking advantage of the security supplied by the stud.

Ease of Installation

Rails are great. They’re a super secure way to hang something.

But hanging a rail is a giant pain, especially if you can only hit one stud and have get the second screw into a drywall anchor. You feel inclined to get things level even though it doesn’t really matter, and you have to get the rail at the exact right height for your object to be the correct height.

So sometimes, even though my object is a little heavy, and I could hit a stud if I built a rail… I stick a drywall anchor in and decide it’ll be fine.

Drywall anchors are easy, given you buy a good drywall anchor. And they’re pretty darn secure. Not a good as a stud, but pretty decent.

I have three of these DIY resin art pieces hanging in my office. They are heavy, because resin is heavy. I stuck one on a scale, and it weighs 11.8 pounds.

Artwork on scale

They’re 20″ square, so there’s probably a stud back there somewhere.

But guess what? They’ve been hanging on wall anchors for 9 months, and they haven’t fallen down yet.

So, sometimes it’s worth weighing the ease of installation as well. Note, though, that I’d never do this with something breakable and expensive.

Don’t hang your fancy TVs with wall anchors, people.

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