How Much Weight can Drywall Hold? All You Need to Know

How Much Weight can Drywall Hold? All You Need to Know

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Picture frames, wall arts, and shelving units are just some of the many items you might want to hang on your walls to give your home an elegant look. However, the last thing any homeowner wants is to rip out pieces of their wall from hanging too much weight on their drywall. So, how much weight can drywall hold?  

The drywall’s weight capacity depends on how and where the weight is mounted. For example, a thin nail in hollow drywall will leave even a light picture frame on the floor, but your vertical drywall can hold up to 100 pounds with the right hardware and technique.

This article covers the ins and outs of hanging weight on drywall, from understanding weight maximums to knowing the right wall anchors. Delve in!

What is Drywall

Drywall is a sheeting of thin gypsum plaster sandwiched by two sheets of paper boards. Gypsum plaster is a cementing material made of calcium with strong binding properties. Drywall is usually installed in the interiors of the walls and ceilings. The gypsum plaster is mixed with fiberglass, foaming agent, paper fiber, or other materials that can reduce water absorption, mildew, and flammability.

Drywall

Image Credits: bobvila.com

Consequently, gypsum plaster is a terrific material for creating drywall. Because drywall is sturdy, fire-resistant, and cheap, it has become common in home building and construction projects. The most common types of drywall available include

  • Mold Resistant Drywall
  • Soundproof Drywall
  • Fire Resistant Drywall
  • VOC Absorbing Drywall
  • Regular Drywall

How Much Weight can Drywall Hold

The weight drywall can hold depends on what you use to hang the objects and the angle at which the objects are mounted on the wall. Typical drywall can hold up to 1.5 pounds per square foot, while thicker drywall can hold about 2 pounds per square foot without additional assistance. However, with the appropriate tools, your drywall can hang up to 100 pounds of shear weight, also known as vertical weight.

How much weight can drywall hold

Image Credits: en-n.decorexpro.com

But, if you use inappropriate tools, your drywall can hold only a few pounds. In addition, drywall is incredibly thin and brittle. For instance, when you use only a nail to hold up the shelf, painting, and mirror, the high volume weight will drag the nail through the drywall and tear the wall, creating a large hole.

To prevent this, homeowners should use proper studs and anchors to create enough strength to maintain big weights. Selecting right picture frames for your arts could also save your drywall from ripping out.

What to Consider Before Hanging an Object

1. Drywall Thickness

Drywall thickness affects how much weight drywall can hold. Drywall is available in various thicknesses, from ¼ of an inch to ⅝ of an inch. Thick drywalls support more weight than thinner ones.

2. Hanging tools

With proper and safe hardware, drywall can withstand the weight added to it. Anchors and studs greatly impact the weight a drywall can support. Different hanging tools are designed for various reasons, so ensure you make the appropriate choice.

3. Objects’ shape and size

Weight is not the only factor determining an object’s ideal suspension. For example, small, flat objects are easier to hang than large, lumpy objects. This is because of shear and tension.

Shear is the downward pull that an object puts on a fastener, while tension is the amount of forwarding force an object exerts on a fastener.

Types of Hardware that Hold Weight on the Drywall

1. Wall Stud and Stud Finder

As versatile and sturdy as it is, drywall is relatively fragile and cannot hold weight on nails the way a brick, plaster, or wood wall can. A nail in drywall alone can hang up only a few pounds at most, but it won’t hold reliably.

Wall stud

Image Credits: roofingsuperstore.co.uk

If you hang objects properly and use suitable preparation, the drywall can withstand a lot of weight. However, this doesn’t work when hanging objects on a hollow drywall. Therefore, you should aim to hang your objects on wall studs.

Wall studs are vertical framing members placed 16 – 24 inches apart behind the drywall surface. It’s an essential component in the construction of wall frames. Wall studs can keep screws more firmly than other wall materials when the screws are driven up to 1 inch into the stud and at an angle of 45 degrees

There are three ways to locate where your studs are:

  1. Stud finder: This is a machine used to find wall studs. It identifies attachments in the wall and relays the information to the user when the magnet moves to a metal attachment.
  2. Tap the wall: If you don’t have a stud finder, knock on the wall horizontally until you hear a solid sound instead of the regular hollow sound.
  3. Find an electric outlet: Power outlets are mostly built on studs. Look for an electrical socket and then follow straight up the wall where you’d want to drill a hole

2. Ceiling Joists

A ceiling joist is a horizontal structural part running across an open area to transfer loads into vertical parts. Joists are often used for hanging ceiling fans or lights. Because of the direct downward pull of gravity, ceiling joists can hold 15 to 20 pounds, irrespective of the type of drywall hardware used.

Ceiling joists

Image Credits: professionalroofers.com

It is also possible to add more weight, but this will require special reinforcement on the joists. An example is installing Blocking between the joists. Blocking uses short dimensional wood pieces to support the joists and provide a safe location for hanging items.

You can also find ceiling joists with the same techniques as a wall stud.

3. Drywall Anchors and Bolts

Drywall anchors and bolts are hanging hardware that provides additional support to hold weight in drywall. They are laid against the wall, increasing the surface area the screw uses to grip the drywall. To use anchors and toggle bolts, install them in the drywall first, then drive the screw in.

Drywall anchors

Image Credits: hgtv.com

Different anchors are available, and the right one for the job depends on the weight you want to hang. Each anchor packaging states the holding power, and this weight should meet or exceed the weight of the object you want to hang. Moreover, for ceilings, you can only use bolts. So choose the hardware that will suit your needs. Here are some of the common drywall anchors available

i) Expansion anchors

These kinds of anchors are also known as drywall plugs. Expansion anchors expand as soon as they are fastened. Despite being quite affordable, they can only hold between 5 to 25 pounds on drywall surfaces and are unsuitable for ceilings. Wall products, such as small towel racks and lightweight photo frames, are usually provided with these inexpensive plastic anchors.

ii) Threaded drywall anchors

Self-drilling drywall anchors

Image Credits: walmart.com

These anchors are made of solid metal that can support 25 to 75 pounds. Despite being thicker than the expansion anchors, they are also unsuitable for drywall ceilings. Unlike expansion anchors, threaded anchors don’t need a pilot hole to push them through. Instead, they have a sharp, pointed end that can drill holes into the drywall independently.

iii) Plastic hollow anchors

Plastic plug anchors can hold 10 to 50 pounds; hence they are used for light-duty applications in drywalls such as doorbells, light shelves, and smoke alarms. You must first drill a pilot hole to install a plastic plug anchor. The screw is then fitted through the hollow center as the plug enlarges and locks into position.

iv) Toggle bolts

Toggle bolts, also known as butterfly anchors, are the greatest at holding objects on the drywall.  They are available in two types, plastic and metal toggle bolts. Plastic toggle bolts can hold up to 20 pounds, while metal bolts hold up to 100 pounds. Metal bolts are great for ceilings but can only handle about 15 pounds.

Even though they are a bit trickier to install, they are more reliable in their holding capacity.

v) Molly bolts

Molly bolts

Image Credits: thehandymansdaughter.com

Molly bolts are good for the wall and ceiling. They have a holding capacity of 25 to 50 pounds on the wall and up to 10 pounds on the ceiling. Molly bolts are best for heavy-duty shelves and towel racks.

Frequently Asked Questions

i) How Do I Improve the Weight Capacity of My Drywall?

To get the most out of your drywall and hanging options, use wall anchors or nails and screws directly to wall studs.

ii) Can I Hang a Large Mirror on the Drywall?

Yes, you can hang a large mirror on drywall. However, you must take proper measures to ensure that the mirror remains on the wall. You need heavy-duty drywall anchors to achieve this. Use molly and toggle bolts to secure heavy objects on the drywall. If your mirror is heavier than 50 pounds, use toggle bolts because they are the most suitable for heavier objects. 

iii) What is the Strongest Wall Anchor? 

Many types of drywall anchors exist, but the metal toggle bolts are undoubtedly the strongest. However, these bolts are difficult to install since you’ll need to drill holes thrice the size of the bolt’s diameter to insert the bolt correctly.

iv) How Much Weight can Drywall Hold Per Square Foot?

Drywall can hold about 1.5 pounds of weight per square foot. However, this depends on your type of drywall. Thicker drywall can hold heavier loads of up to 2.1 pounds of weight per square foot

Bottom Line 

Drywall may seem fragile, but it can hold almost anything if you hang it properly. Take advantage of the wall studs when possible, but when that’s not an option, a drywall anchor will give you the extra holding capacity you need to hang your shelves, picture frames, and planters.

Featured Image Credits: alphabuildingsinspection.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.