Interested in drywall fastening? Gypsum board, sheet rock, plasterboard, buster board….no matter what name you know it by, drywall is arguably the most common construction material next to wood and concrete used today. Consisting of an extruded calcium sulfate dihydrate plaster layer held together between two paper sheets, drywall panels make up the interior walls and ceilings of most of our residential, retail, office, and occupied commercial spaces.
Fastening drywall requires a unique approach. Strength is required to hold large sheeted areas securely, yet delicacy is needed to avoid damaging a drywall sheet’s fragile faces, edges, and core. Drywall sheets are brittle, moisture sensitive, and prone to fractures when handled individually, before being installed. However, once hanged, finished and painted, drywall gains much more durability, taking rigidity from the studs each sheet is mounted to, and surface abrasion tolerance from paint and texture finishes. For these reasons, we break drywall fasteners into two categories: one category used to secure the drywall during installation, and another category for post-installation mounting to drywall (such as in hanging pictures, shelving, and other common wall fixtures).
We’ll start our review of drywall fasteners by exploring options used to secure drywall during installation. Drywall is commonly installed by nailing, screwing, or adhesive bonding panels to building studs and framing members.
Nails are the economical, basic choice for securing drywall to wood studs. These fasteners are available with smooth or ringed shanks, flat or cupped heads, and phosphate or black oxide coatings. Most projects would benefit from selecting versions with ringed shanks to help retain the nails after installation, and with cupped heads which can be covered with drywall compound for a smooth final finish. While many argue that comparing nails versus screws is a matter of preference, nails do typically offer a slightly reduced cost and a slightly faster installation time (in using a nail gun versus a screw gun). However, nails do often eventually loosen over time, causing nail head exposure and sheet gaps (especially in ceiling sheets) to occur.
An improved option over nails is to use drywall screws for sheetrock installation. Screws fasten drywall tighter and more consistently than nails, with their threads engaging wood or metal studs with higher resistance to disengagement. Screws are available in countersunk or trim heads, both specially designed with ‘bugle’ tapers that will not tear the sheetrock’s paper surface when fully engaged, and each are easily finished over. A screw gun or automatic driver tool can install screws quickly. Screws are available in fine, coarse, and self-tapping thread styles, depending on the stud material being used. Screws are largely the standard fastener for drywall installation these days, though some cost-sensitive projects will choose to use screws in overhead sheets and nails in walls.
Drywall adhesives are increasingly popular for securing drywall sheets to metal and wood studs. Adhesives allow for fewer fasteners to be used, speeding up installation time and reducing nail disengagement (when used with nails). You’ll still need enough fasteners to pull in the sheet to the studs, and spaced frequently enough that the front surface of the sheet won’t pull away from the adhered side. A unique benefit of adhesive bonding is that it provides a continuous seal along stud interfaces, lowering airspace leakage which can deaden sound transfer between rooms. Adhesive can also be used as a gap filler, straightening out sheetrock surfaces when attached to irregular studs.
Do you have a drywall fastening application but are unsure of which specialty fastener might be best to use? E&T Fasteners offers expert support and product selection between the above options and more! Contact us to discuss your application, or to see our standard fastener offerings, visit our product selection here.
Attaching to Drywall
With our drywall hanged using the above fasteners, now let’s look at attaching fixtures and furnishings to our new walls. Drywall fasteners are generally categorized by their weight capacity. Ideally, heavy fixtures should be mounted directly to studs through the drywall, but lighter weights can be supported by the sheetrock using special fasteners. Drywall can hold up surprisingly high weights if spread out over large enough surface areas, and especially if the weight crosses stud locations (allowing the stud to carry a portion of the weight indirectly and to resist deflection).
Angled Nail Hangers
Hanging pictures, art and mirrors to drywall is perhaps the most common application of a drywall hanger. Framed furnishings are usually lightweight and in need of only a single anchor point to hold the piece up against gravity. Most people will have at some point installed a small nail right into the drywall to hang pictures, only to find after some time that the weight of the piece has pulled the nail down in its hole, eventually pulling out entirely and falling to the floor. A modern improvement over a simple nail is an angled nail hanger, which consists of a small metal hook set to a nail guide, with the nail angle being inclined up towards the ceiling to solve the pull-out problem. Small drywall hangers are usually available with between 10 and 25 pound capacities.
Ribbed Plastic Expanding Inserts
Plastic expanding anchors utilize a ribbed plastic insert and a metal screw, where tightening the screw causes the plastic insert to expand into the drywall sheet. The friction created by the expanded anchor provides the holding strength of the fastener, typically in the 10 to 100 pound range. Expanding anchors are designed for use in multiple wall materials, not just drywall – concrete, plastic board, and more. For this reason, make sure to check the weight capacity of each anchor specifically in drywall, as the capacities change between wall materials.
This anchor type builds on the concept of the above plastic insert, but instead of using expansion friction for its holding strength, it uses large threads to grip into the drywall. Available in both plastic and metallic materials, self-drilling anchors screw directly into the drywall (without the need for a pilot hole). These types of anchors are commonly available in 25 to 100 pound capacities, and are used for more resilient applications such as installing shelves, light fixtures, tool hangers, and speakers.
All of the above drywall fasteners have relied on the surface area of the hole through the sheet to retain the fastener to the wall. A different approach utilizes the rear surface of the sheetrock to retain the anchor, as we’ll see with our next two anchor styles. The first style is referred to as a toggle bolt, which features a butterfly clip on a long screw which pushes through the drywall into the hollow space between the studs, and once pushed fully through, expands out to grip onto the back of the sheet. Toggle bolts come in a variety of diameters and butterfly wing lengths, typically ranging in capacity from 5 to 100 pounds. Toggle bolts are especially useful for overhead mounting where the butterfly wing design cannot pull out of a hole. Note that toggle bolts cannot be removed and reused – there is no practical way to re-collapse and extract the butterfly wing once installed.
Simply put, molly bolts can be described as toggle bolts that are reusable. Molly bolts consist of an expanding sheath that grips the backing surface of drywall in the same way that a toggle bolt does. However, the expanding wings on a molly bolt are expanded and collapsed by turning the mounting screw, allowing them to be fully retracted after installation. Mollies are typically rated for 25 to 50 pound loads, and are available in both plastic and metallic materials.
E&T Fasteners is here to help you navigate fastener and accessory options. Price quotes, availability, lead times, delivery confirmations, unique application suggestions – whatever your need, we’re here to take your call or email. For support and advice from our fully trained staff, speak with an E&T sales representative today.
About E&T Fasteners
With sales and support teams spanning the Continental US, E&T Fasteners is here to serve your hardware, fastening, and component needs both domestically and internationally. We are a stocking distributor of metallic, plastic, and exotic alloy fasteners, backed by our technical staff directly experienced in your unique applications. We can assist your specifying and selection efforts, providing engineered solutions, record-fast lead times, and stellar customer service from quote through delivery. Please let us know how we can help!