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I had a small shelf mounted to the wall by four screws inserted into four anchors. The top two pulled out of the wall - the anchors, not just the screws. As a result, I now have two holes in the wall, and two anchors where I more carefully unscrewed it.

Two holes in wall

Four holes indicate shelf span

What should I do to remount it?

  1. Find a bigger anchor for that large hole?
  2. Re-drill an inch lower and use better anchors? What is a better anchor?
  3. ...? Something I don't know to ask about.

As requested, pictures of the dead anchors. Both appear to have failed catastrophically, but some of that may have been me pulling the shelf down from the wall after the original damage.

Dead anchor #1

Dead anchor #2


I belatedly realized it might help to show the entire shelf with arms (and a coffee mug for size estimation). You can even see the little hook on the side for the hair dryer.

Whole shelf with arms and coffee

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    Show us a pic of the "anchors" which pulled out. I'll bet they're the type which just expand a little as you screw into them and, imo, really aren't appropriate for drywall.
    – brhans
    Mar 26, 2022 at 4:04
  • Also consider what you are putting on the shelves... Too much mass and the supports will fail.
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 26, 2022 at 8:44
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    Install a 3/4" thick plank on the wall, using 6-8 screws and decent anchors. (If you can hit studs that's great.) Then install the shelves on the plank.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 26, 2022 at 13:08
  • @SolarMike good call... this happened 3 months after I bought my son a hair dryer and added a hook to the shelf for hanging it from.
    – gowenfawr
    Mar 26, 2022 at 14:01
  • @brhans pics added... kind of hard to tell how the were designed after Gravity and I both took our best shots at them.
    – gowenfawr
    Mar 26, 2022 at 14:02

2 Answers 2

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Use More-Suitable Anchors

If you have drywall, I'd start with a self-drilling drywall anchor, which has a very wide and coarse thread to grab the drywall paper from behind with very little clearance required. You can drive these into the existing holes with a manual screwdriver.

They provide plenty of support for a small shelf with mostly a downward load.

Should you bottom-out due to some obstruction behind the drywall, mark how deep they went, withdraw, trim the tip with a knife or scissors and re-drive them into the same hole.

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For loads from a long moment arm (e.g. deep shelves) requiring more heavy pull out holding power, I would go with a toggle anchor which will lock more firmly behind the drywall.

enter image description here

You should definitely avoid a masonry anchor because these are designed to provide friction in tight and un-deformable holes in masonry, concrete, cement, tiles etc... Brittle drywall does not qualify for this.

enter image description here

I'm guessing the blue one above is the kind you have now.

Install a Ledger

In cases where the anchors do not provide the desired holding strength, I resort to installing a ledger under the shelf so that at least one joist is covered by it.

It's far more work, but a relatively easy strong alternative.

A ledger is a strip of wood, almost as long as the shelf, mounted flat against the wall, right under where the shelf goes. The ledger must be wide enough for the height of the brackets, so 4 to 5in I'm guessing in your case.

The ledger is screwed into the stud near the top of the ledger, maybe 0.5in from the top, and a second screw 2in from the top. That's where the pull out strength is required.

The screw should not penetrate the stud more than 1 inch, to avoid any electrical wiring, plumbing etc... So a screw length of 2.75 to 3in is needed. (1in into stud, plus 0.5in for the drywall, 0.5in or 0.75in for the ledger, 0.125in for the bracket). Add a washer if you are more than 1in into the stud.

The ledger does not have to run the full length of the shelf. You should add a third screw for horizontal stability and alignment, and this one can be mounted with a drywall anchor as far away from the stud screws as aesthetically possible.

Then screw the brackets into the ledger, with the top of the brackets flush with the top edge of the ledger.

Dry fit the arrangement to make sure the ledger, shelf and brackets align well. If you don't have enough hands, you can use painters' tape to hold the bracket/shelf/ledger assembly together as you hold it to the wall.

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    I'd go for toggle anchors in this case - it looks like OP already end up with pretty big holes and "self-drilling drywall anchor" likely will not have enough good quality drywall to hold (and instead will make hole even bigger). Plus it looks like OP has single shelf which would be "a long moment arm" case anyway. Mar 26, 2022 at 5:55
  • Betting the OP miss finding the studs by just a few inches with that outlet there by the holes.
    – crip659
    Mar 26, 2022 at 11:16
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    @crip659 the stud is indeed on the side of the outlet, but shifting the shelf so that the arms of the shelf line up with it means it'll run out of room (on the corner-wall site) or extend 50% under the cabinet and with an inch or two of space between shelf and cabinet bottom... I checked the whole wall with a stud sensor before giving up on hitting a stud with the shelf as designed.
    – gowenfawr
    Mar 26, 2022 at 14:08
  • Those self-drilling anchors are not suitable for a shelf. They're okay for something like a photo which never has any jostling or load changes.
    – isherwood
    Mar 26, 2022 at 16:13
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This turns out to be an XY Problem as finally identified here:

the stud is indeed on the side of the outlet, but shifting the shelf so that the arms of the shelf line up with it means it'll run out of room (on the corner-wall site) or extend 50% under the cabinet and with an inch or two of space between shelf and cabinet bottom... I checked the whole wall with a stud sensor before giving up on hitting a stud with the shelf as designed.
gowenfawr 31 mins ago

  1. Remove the support brackets from the shelf.
  2. Install the brackets into the studs on the wall.
  3. Line the shelf up on top of the brackets as closely as possible to the desired location while still covering the brackets.
  4. Screw the shelf to the brackets.

If it's impossible to line up both brackets with studs and have the shelf span the brackets then securely mount one bracket into a stud then adjust the spacing of the other bracket to make an eye pleasing arrangement and use quality wall anchor as described in P2000's answer to hold it up. The one bracket mounted securely into the stud (do not use any sort of a plastic anchor for this) will help take the stress off the other bracket held up only by anchors.

Having the brackets spaced nicely and evenly under the shelf is nice. Having the shelf not tear off the wall because you don't have anything solid to mount it to is even better.

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