Drywall Anchors Won’t Go In? Here’s What to Do!

Few things are more frustrating than attempting to fasten a drywall anchor to the wall and it failing to go into the wall. It can seem that no matter what you try, your drywall anchors simply won’t go in!

Several possible causes could be preventing your drywall anchor from going in, so you’ll need to perform a bit of troubleshooting to find the source.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of this issue, as well as how you can remedy them.

Reasons Your Drywall Anchor May Not be Going in

Wall Material

This is a fairly common issue in older buildings that have a thin layer of drywall covering up an older plaster, concrete, or brick wall. Typically, the drywall layer is too thin to drive an anchor into, and the material behind is far too difficult to drill through with a normal drywall anchor.

Drywall anchors are designed to work with drywall. As such, they’re designed to break apart after passing through the drywall to create a sturdy mounting surface. Other materials like plaster, concrete, or brick are far too solid to drive a drywall anchor through. You could also be bumping into a stud, plumbing, or a load-bearing column – but more on that later.

Anchor Type

Drywall anchors come in a variety of different types. This includes the common plastic anchors, but also toggle bolts, expansion anchors, and sleeve anchors. It’s important to use the correct type of anchor for the specific application.

drywall anchor and screw
Plastic alligator drywall anchor.

The wrong anchor type can lead to installation issues, especially if the anchor is too light for the job at hand.

Wrong Sized Pilot Hole

Realistically, this is probably the most common issue you’re likely to run into when trying to install a drywall anchor in the wall. Drywall anchors can be extremely finicky to get right, and if you make the pilot hole too large, the anchor won’t fasten properly in the wall.

Alternatively, if the pilot hole is too small, the anchor may not go into the wall cleanly or it will require excessive force.

If you forgot to drill a pilot hole – hey, it can happen to any of us – then you’ll run into similar issues as if the pilot hole was too small.


The most common obstruction you are likely to run into while driving drywall anchors is a stud behind the drywall. You can use a stud finder to map out the stud locations to avoid this issue, or if you encounter a stud, you can simply toss the drywall anchor aside and fasten your screw directly into the stud.

Other than studs, you could run into plumbing, electrical, or a concrete foundation or load-bearing column.

Poor Technique

While none of us want to think our DIY skills are lacking, the reality is drywall screws can even present problems to seasoned carpenters. If you don’t get the pilot hole size right, or if you drive the anchor too quickly/hard, you won’t get a good hold in the drywall and you may need to restart with a new pilot hole.

drilling a pilot hole in drywall
Drilling the right-sized pilot hole is key to success with drywall anchors.

Try to follow the manufacturer’s directions precisely when using drywall anchors, and don’t assume that because you know how to use one type of anchor you know how they all work.

Another common mistake that’s easy to make is driving the anchor too far into the drywall. This will expand and loosen the hole in the drywall so it won’t hold well.  When it seems like the anchor is close to being fastened, you can leave a little bit of it protruding without affecting the anchor’s performance.

What to Do if a Drywall Anchor Fails?

If you’re in the middle of hanging a shelf, TV mount or coat rack, and one of your drywall anchors comes loose or won’t go in the wall properly, then what do you do?

This can present a serious issue, as depending on your installation, you may not have the option of simply sliding over an inch or two and trying again. In this instance, the best thing to do is replace the loose anchor with a larger one or if you want it to be extra sturdy – use a toggle bolt or molly bolt. Toggle bolts and molly bolts clamp against the back of the drywall, so they’ll work even if the pilot hole was drilled too large.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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