The best way to reuse a stripped screw hole in drywall is to insert a snug-fitting drywall anchor, then drive a screw into the anchor. If the hole is too large for a drywall anchor to fit tightly, insert a toggle bolt to create a far more secure and durable way to hang items on drywall. Finally, if your drywall is too damaged for these methods, you will have to remove a section of drywall and patch it with new drywall. Avoid faulty shortcuts that involve using wood toothpicks, adhesive, or simply patching the hole with joint compound.
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Can You Reuse Screw Holes in Drywall?
If you have properly inserted a plastic wall anchor, toggle bolt, or molly bolt, you can reuse the screw hole to hang new items. These methods of securing screws in drywall resist damage and can be removed and replaced without stripping the hole. In the rare cases where these measures fail, typically, a wall repair is in order. If an item is too heavy to be supported by a toggle bolt, then it should be held in place by screws driven directly into wall studs.
- A hole that has been fitted with a wall anchor, toggle bolt, or molly bolt can be reused.
- If an anchor, toggle bolt, or molly bolt tears free, the hole typically cannot be reused without repair.
- Never drive a screw directly into drywall without first installing a wall anchor.
- Unanchored screws in drywall will rip free of your wall, making it difficult to reuse the hole.
You should never drive a screw into drywall without first inserting a wall anchor. Screws driven into drywall are unsafe and extremely prone to tearing out of your wall, leaving a ragged hole. When your wall has been damaged in this way, it can be tough to hang something in the same location without extensive repairs.
3 Ways to Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Drywall
If a screw hole in your drywall has been stripped to the point that a screw or anchor won’t remain in place, don’t look for a larger screw—it’s time to try another hanging method. If these methods aren’t feasible, you’ll have to repair the drywall. Here are the best solutions for stripped screw holes in drywall.
If a screw was driven into drywall without installing an anchor, the hole is extremely likely to become stripped. If the damage is minimal, attempt to install a drywall anchor in this location. Use a drill to drive a self-tapping drywall anchor into the hole. If the anchor fits snugly, you can drive a screw into the anchor to secure items to the wall.
- If there is no anchor present in the hole, install one of these self-tapping drywall anchors. Then, drive your screw into place.
- If the hole is too large for a drywall anchor, or a drywall anchor failed, move on to the next method.
If the hole in your drywall is too large for a drywall anchor to fit—or if the screw was previously anchored and the anchor itself came loose—move on to the next method on this list. You likely need a wall hanger that can handle more weight than a simple drywall anchor.
Toggle Bolt or Molly Bolt
If your screw hole is too stripped to receive a drywall anchor, or you are hanging a heavy object, use a toggle bolt or molly bolt. These hangers work by bracing against the rear of the drywall, distributing the load, and preventing the hanger from tearing free. Even better, these bolts have a larger diameter than screws, so you will typically have to enlarge the stripped screw hole for installation.
- Use these toggle bolts in holes that are too stripped to accept a drywall anchor.
- Molly bolts another great option for securing items on drywall.
- Bolts have a larger diameter than screws, so you may need to use a drill to enlarge the stripped hole before installing your bolt.
- Toggle and molly bolts can hold twice as much weight as an anchored screw.
While plastic drywall anchors can support about 25 pounds (11 kilos), toggle bolts and molly bolts can support up to 50 pounds (22 kilos) when installed in drywall. Not only is a stripped screw or anchor hole the ideal size to accept one of these hangers, but you’ll also wind up with a much more durable installation.
Cut and Patch Drywall
If the screw holes in the drywall are larger than the diameter of a toggle bolt or molly bolt, it’s time to repair and patch your drywall. There isn’t any other fix that will provide a permanent solution. To make this repair:
- Cut out a section of drywall 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) tall and 16–24 inches (40–60 cm) wide. The goal is to cut out an entire strip of drywall between two wall studs.
- Remove an additional ¾ inch (2 cm) of drywall at either end of the opening. This should reveal half the width of the wall stud on either side.
- Cut a section of 2×4 board to span the distance between the studs.
- Secure the 2×4 board between the studs. You should now have a hole in your drywall that is backed by a new section of 2×4.
- Cut a new piece of drywall to fit the opening.
- Use drywall screws to secure the drywall patch to the existing studs at either end of the opening.
- Secure the drywall patch to the new 2×4 backer board with additional drywall screws.
With a new drywall patch in place, follow the steps for patching drywall with tape and joint compound before repainting. This may seem like a daunting job, but it really is the best solution for seriously damaged drywall.
3 Methods to Avoid When Repairing Screw Holes in Drywall
Several suggested methods for repairing screw holes in drywall don’t work as advertised. The following methods won’t hold up for long and will lead to more headaches in the future. Avoid the following tactics:
Inserting toothpicks into a stripped screw hole in drywall and securing them with drops of wood glue is a poor fix. Wood glue and other adhesives bond weakly with the gypsum in drywall. Gypsum is crumbly and porous, so the plug of toothpicks and glue is likely to tear out of your wall soon, taking more drywall with it.
As much as you’d like to, you can’t simply patch stripped screw holes with joint compound. Joint compound is a plaster substance and pulverizes easily. Unlike paper-backed drywall sheets, joint compound won’t hold a screw, anchor, or bolt in place.
Filling a hole in your drywall with automotive filler, construction adhesive, or wood glue won’t last long. A screw or anchor secured in this way will only tear loose again. Drywall doesn’t bond well to adhesives, so you’ll essentially be inserting a loose plug of another substance into your wall. If you put any substantial weight on a repair of this nature, it will tear out of your wall.
How Do You Fix a Stripped Screw Hole in Drywall?
If you have a stripped hole in your drywall, there are a few solutions. Which solution is right for you depends on the severity and size of the hole.
- Small Holes: Insert a plastic drywall anchor, then drive a screw into the anchor.
- Medium-sized Holes: If the hole is too large for an anchor to fit snugly, insert a toggle bolt or molly bolt.
- Large Holes: In the case of a hole larger than the diameter of a toggle bolt, cut out a section of drywall and patch it with new drywall.
Each of these methods will stand the test of time when used correctly. Steer clear of quick fixes that involve toothpicks, adhesive, or rely only on joint compound. These will quickly crumble, inflicting more damage on your drywall.