The walls in your home are likely made of drywall, also known as wallboard. While they are strong in many ways, they don't withstand the pull of a nail or screw, especially when it's supporting something heavy like a picture frame or mirror. Use a wall anchor to add strength to the screw. Expanding wall anchors are particularly good for heavy objects, but when its time to remove one, it can be a lot of trouble to do it right without damaging the wall too much.
About Wall Anchors
Wall anchors, thin sleeves that are inserted into the wall before a screw, can bear a greater amount of weight than screws or nails alone. Wall anchors prevent the object's weight from damaging the drywall or masonry. It absorbs the stress of gravity pulling the nail or screw down and withstands the pull of the screw toward the hanging object. Expanding wall anchors feature components that expand once inserted, providing a strong hold without cutting into the drywall.
Types of Expanding Wall Anchors
A plastic hollow wall plug is one type of expanding wall anchor that gets inserted into the wall, and then expands as the screw is driven in. The expanding pieces press against the inside of the hole, making a tight fit. A winged plastic anchor also fits into a predrilled hole, but requires a special tool to open metal "wings" that brace against the inside of the wall. Toggle bolts, while not technically anchors, function in much the same way, with metal wings that open up once inserted.
Removing the expanding wall anchor completely would require cutting the drywall around the anchor and prying it out. After the hole is enlarged, you would need to patch it with drywall patching compound. The hole needs to be large enough to use needle-nose pliers to retrieve the anchor. This method is successful in removing expanding anchor bolts, but it is not necessarily the best way.
Rather than creating a larger hole than what exists with the wall anchor, use a method that removes the wall anchor from the hole in the wall. Instead of enlarging a hole to pull the anchor out, simply place a screwdriver on the anchor. Tap the end with a hammer until the anchor loosens and falls inside the wall cavity. While you won't retrieve it, the anchor is effectively removed and the hole in the wall is no bigger than it ever was. Simply patch it with a drywall patch kit, and prime and paint for a wall that looks like new.
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