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Should You Always Use Anchors Inside Studs?

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When most people think of wall anchors, they’re imagining the kind of anchors that go into the drywall, creating a better grip with the wall anchor than a regular nail or alone screw would, since sheetrock is not the most stable thing in the world when it comes to holding weight.

If you’re looking for or need to use an anchor for a stud, then your best choice will be an expansion anchor.

In most cases, you’re not going to need an anchor in the stud, unless the wall is going to be holding a significant amount of weight. 

Not only should there be a lot of weight before you consider using an anchor inside of a stud, but you should also drill the hole out first, just like you would create a hole in the sheetrock to fit your drywall anchor into before inserting a screw. 

different type of steel stud anchor bolts

What Instances Require a Stud Anchor?

There are several instances where you should consider using an expansion anchor in a stud. Mostly, it comes down to the weight of the object that is going to be placed on the wall, but that’s not always the case. 

  • Big Screen TVs with heavy wall hangers
  • Cabinetry
  • Hanging fireplaces
  • Large and heavy shelves
  • Bookcases
  • Appliances

These are all pretty heavy items, with the possible exception of the cabinets, however, cabinets are one of those things that are generally going to be permanent fixtures in your home.

Regardless of whether or not you are going to be putting heavy items in the cabinets, you should still go with the added layer of security and use anchors in the studs. 

Everything else is just a matter of being too heavy for you to solely rely on drywall anchors to keep it stable and held up for long.

Extremely heavy items will just tear their way back out of the drywall or worse, pull large chunks of the drywall out with it. 

plastic anchor for wood or concrete on wooden table

What Types of Anchors are Used for Studs?

There is really only one kind of expansion anchor that is used strictly for wood in terms of studs and not wood paneling.

Alligator anchors are considered to be ‘all-purpose’ anchors, which include most masonry hollow brick, wood, and even drywall. 

Depending on the material that they are being used in, they can hold up to 550lbs. Outside of alligator anchors, there is really not much in the way of anchors that are specifically designed or even advisable for use in wood studs. 

Most of the time, you would simply use screws for hanging things directly on the stud, such as hex drive screws , steel-wood screws , stainless steel wood screws , and metric stainless steel wood screws 

What you don’t want to do is use an anchor that is rated for something else.

Concrete anchors and drywall anchors are designed for their respective applications and not for wood studs. 

If you want to hang something on a wood stud because it’s extremely heavy and you want to use an anchor, stick with alligator anchors since they are the ones that are rated for use in wood.

Otherwise, use the specific screws described above. 

side view of young man drilling wall with electric drill at home

How to Place an Anchor in a Stud

The first thing that you need to do is locate the exact center of the stud. If you are going to put an alligator or expansion anchor in a stud, you are going to be drilling a slightly larger hole to accommodate the diameter of the stud.

You don’t want to be off-center because you risk damaging the stud or splitting the wood off the sides. Dead center lowers the chance that you will split the stud. 

  • Use a premium stud finder to find the exact center of the stud
  • Use a drill bit that matches the diameter of the anchor
  • Drill down ¼” deeper than the length of the anchor
  • Insert the anchor into the hole you just drilled
  • Use a hammer to tap it the rest of the way in, until it is flush with the wall
  • Place the item you are about to hang or set your screw
  • Screw it in either by hand or with a drill
  • Be sure to stop when the head of the screw is seated

That’s all there is to it and with an alligator expansion anchor in place, the stud is capable of holding several hundred pounds of weight.

However, only concrete can hold 550lbs so don’t think you can use your stud anchor to hold half of your gym weights.

Using Alligator All-Purpose Anchors

These anchors are designed to hold a lot of weight and you can either use them on the walls or even on the ceiling.

If you want to hang something like a punching bag, which is extremely heavy, an alligator anchor the same diameter as a hook screw may be just the thing. 

Alligator anchors are manufactured out of polypropylene, which is a hardcore plastic often used in helmets and such for high impact resistance.

It’s made to completely bond to the hole when the screw is inserted so nothing else can. Get in our out, including moisture.

It’s also good for more than just wood and is even designed to expand and bond to hollow blocks, like cinder blocks or thin brick/mortar material. 

Father and Son Hanging Picture Frame in the living room

Exceptions You Should Consider

Look, we’re just being honest when we say that you are not going to need an anchor for your wall stud if you’re hanging a picture of grandma in the den.

That’s true even if it’s one of those giant, old-school frames made out of heavy oak, mahogany, or ash. 

Using an anchor in the stud to hang lightweight items is a waste of energy and time. Standard drywall anchors are more than enough to hang pictures and even lightweight shelving or corner bookshelves.

You also shouldn’t use anchors in your studs on load-bearing walls.

The reason behind this is anchors make for a lot larger hole than just the screw alone would create. The more holes you have in your load-bearing studs, the weaker the studs become. 

It wouldn’t be pleasant to have a whole string of stud anchored cabinets or shelving up just for your wall and ceiling to start bowing in. 

Anchor Alternatives

As we mentioned above, there are a lot of different screws that are specifically designed to go into studs for hanging items. Some are smoother than others and some have a more grainy surface texture, which is better for gripping.

Hex drive screws are a popular choice as are stainless steel screws. Both have elongated heads on them that stick out from the wall once the threaded portion is fully seated in the stud.

Although they lack the strength of an anchored screw, a lone screw in a wall stud is surprisingly durable and several of them combined can hold an awful lot of weight. 

hex stainless (nuts, washers, screws) on wooden background.

Final Thoughts

While you can use anchors in studs, it’s not the most common thing to do and in most situations, it’s not even necessary, especially when you consider the alternatives and the potential negative impacts over the long-term, like load-bearing walls. 

If you have to go with something that is going to be able to hold a serious amount of weight, your best choice is to go with Alligator All-Purpose Anchors for the maximum staying and holding power you can get. 


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