Drywall anchors are incredibly helpful for hanging heavy pictures, shelves, and a hundred other things on hollow walls, but there will come a time when you need to move one of them, and part of the process will be to first remove the existing drywall anchor. With the correct tools and technique, removing a drywall anchor is easy.
To remove a drywall anchor, follow these steps: screw a regular screw halfway into the empty drywall anchor, pull the screw, and anchor with a claw hammer until it comes out. If you do not have a screw or claw hammer, the anchor can be pulled out with needle nose pliers. Then patch the hole.
Removing a drywall anchor can be tricky or cause more damage than necessary if it is removed incorrectly. But if you know how a drywall anchor works and follow the steps below, you will have it removed in no time with the least amount of mess and fuss.
Top Tip: Check which type of drywall anchor you are dealing with. This post gives the steps for removing common plastic drywall anchors. Other types may require a different method of removal.
How to Remove Drywall Anchors
- Claw hammer
- Needle nose pliers
Step 1: Check if the Anchor Is Loose in the Wall
First, check if the drywall anchor is loose and can be pulled out with your fingers. In some cases, use over time and removing the screw loosen the anchor enough to make it possible.
If it does not move, consider how a drywall anchor secures into the wall. The drywall anchor is activated by a screw when it is first installed.
An anchor splits down the middle halfway down its shaft, creating two arms that a screw can push apart. When a drywall anchor is first inserted into a hole, and a screw is fastened into it, these halves are pushed apart.
The combined volume of both arms and the screw makes the end of the anchor that is in the wall wider than the end at the surface of the wall. This size increase secures the anchor in place and gives it its strength.
In addition, the ridges, or rough edges, on each arm are forced into the soft plaster of the drywall to give it extra grip and resistance with the drywall so that the anchor cannot pull it out easily.
Once the screw is removed from the drywall anchor, however, there is no longer internal pressure in the anchor, and the anchor can be pulled out more easily, but the ridges may still give some resistance.
Top Tip: Twisting or rotating the empty anchor with a pair of needle nose pliers before moving to step two may loosen the drywall plaster immediately around the anchor, allowing the anchor to come out a little easier.
Step 2: Screw a Regular Screw Halfway Into the Anchor
Find a screw that will fit into the opening of the anchor without being too tight or needing to be forced in.
Using a screwdriver, fasten the screw halfway into the drywall anchor or just enough so that the screw grips the anchor without pushing each arm back into the drywall. Doing this step by hand may be better than using a screwdriver, as you can feel how much pressure the screw places on the anchor.
Top Tip: A drywall screw or a screw with substantially raised thread works best to remove a drywall anchor as it gives the maximum amount of grip without being fastened deep into the anchor. A screw with substantial thread will give enough grip when pulled out, but it won't need to be screwed too deeply into the anchor.
Step 3: Pull the Screw and Anchor Out With a Claw Hammer
With the screw fastened enough to grip the drywall anchor but not so far as to put pressure on the arms of the anchor, use a claw end of a claw hammer to grip the screw and lever both the screw and the attached anchor out.
Move the hammer back and forth in a gentle but firm rocking motion to allow the ridges of the anchor to loosen in the drywall and eventually come out.
Avoid pulling as hard as you can on the hammer's handle or bashing the hammer against the drywall, as this will either make a larger than necessary hole in the drywall or damage the area surrounding the anchor hole.
Top Tip: Place a thin piece of plywood or a plastic board between the head of the hammer and the drywall so that the drywall does not become damaged by the motion or movement of the hammer.
Step 4: The Drywall Anchor Will Be Successfully Removed
Once the anchor and the screw are free from the hole, it has been successfully removed. Detach the screw from the anchor. If you are confident that a drywall anchor has not been damaged or stretched in its first use, it is possible to use it again.
Wipe away excess dust or debris from the hole with a dry cloth and
inspect it to see that nothing is still jutting from the hole or causing it to
have an uneven surface at the opening.
If the plastic anchor and the screw are not too damaged, you may want to keep them for future use. Still, many people prefer not to reuse plastic drywall anchors as the threads of the screw have notched the plastic, weakened, stretched by tightening a screw into it, and scuffed or damaged when removed.
Top Tip: Reusabledrywall anchors are available if you plan to use them more than once.
To patch over a drywall anchor hole, fill the hole with drywall compound using a putty knife. Fill the hole with putty using the flat edge of the putty knife to push the putty completely into the hole. Keeping the flat edge flush with the wall, move it back and forth over the hole to achieve an even finish.
If the drywall hole is larger than 1/2 in, place compound tape over the hole before applying the drywall compound.
Leave the putty to dry for the recommended time on the compound package.
Once dry, use medium-grade sandpaper to lightly sand the patched area to a smooth finish. Wipe away excess dust before painting the patched area.
Step 5: Remove Anchor Using Pliers as an Alternative
If you do not have a screw available, the drywall anchor can be removed by force with a pair of needle nose pliers. Note, however, this will likely leave a bigger and messier hole in your drywall, and because it does not have the leverage of the hammer's handle, it may be more difficult to pull the anchor out with pliers.
To remove a drywall anchor with a pair of needle nose pliers, you should grip the collar of the anchor so that one jaw of the pliers is inside the anchor hole and the other is gripping the outside of the exposed collar. Squeeze the handles as tightly as you can.
Once you have a good grip on the anchor, begin by twisting and turning the anchor to loosen the grip of the anchor's ridges inside the drywall. Then alternate pulling and pushing the anchor in and out of the hole until it works itself free.
Top Tip: Because the anchor's collar is usually badly damaged using this method, it is recommended that you dispose of the plastic anchor as it may not be suitable for use again.
Another alternative method to remove a plastic drywall anchor is, instead of pulling the anchor out of the front of the wall, to push it through the wall and let it fall into the cavity.
Push the anchor through the wall by cutting the plastic collar off with a utility knife, and then push the anchor through the wall with an appropriately sized screwdriver. Because this allows to anchor to move in the direction of the ridges on the shaft, there is less resistance and less damage to the drywall.
The hole can then be patched and painted using the method above.
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