How To Hang A Shelf On Drywall Without Studs

How To Hang A Shelf On Drywall Without Studs

Since drywall is thin, heavy items like shelves can rip through if they don’t have support from studs. And unfortunately, there’s not always a stud where you’d like to hang your shelf.

If you find yourself in a position where there are no studs available to you, you’ll have to rely on another method.

Here’s how to hang a shelf on drywall without studs.

3 Ways to Hang a Shelf on Drywall without Studs

Use Drywall Anchors

using drywall anchors

Drywall anchors are plastic pieces that resemble a screw. If your shelf came with hardware, it might even include plastic drywall anchors.

These anchors grip the wall and help distribute the weight of the item you’re hanging for a stronger hold.

Most plastic drywall anchors can hold about 20 pounds total. So keep this in mind when decorating your shelf.

Here’s how to hang your shelf with drywall anchors.

Step 1: Determine Where You Want Your Shelf and Mark it With a Pencil

Start by determining where you’d like to hang your shelf. Use a level to ensure your shelf will be straight and even, and mark the bracket holes on the wall using a pencil.

Step 2: Drill Pilot Holes

Use a drill bit that’s the same width as your drywall anchor and drill pilot holes in the wall where you made your pencil markings.

Step 3: Insert the Anchor

Now, take the pointed end of the drywall anchor and place it in the pilot hole. Tap it with a hammer until the head slightly protrudes from the wall.

Repeat for all holes.

Step 4: Screw the Anchor into the Wall

Take a Phillips head screwdriver, insert it into the head of the anchor and screw until the anchor is flush with the wall. Don’t over screw.

Repeat for all anchors.

Step 5: Screw on the Bracket

Grab your shelf’s bracket and line up the holes over top of the anchors. Now take your screws and thread them through the bracket holes into the anchors.

Screw with a screwdriver or drill until secure. Repeat for each anchor.

Step 6: Hang Your Shelf

For your final step, attach your shelf to your mounting brackets. 

Install Molly Bolts

Installing Molly Bolts

If you have medium-sized shelving or plan on using more than 20 pounds worth of decor, molly bolts are better than plastic drywall anchors.

Most molly bolts will support up to 50 pounds of weight.

Here’s how to install them.

Step 1: Determine Where You Want Your Shelf and Mark It

Determine where you’d like to place your shelf. Make sure it’s level, and then mark the bracket holes with a pencil.

Step 2: Drill Pilot Holes

Next, drill your pilot holes on your markings. The holes should be slightly smaller than the sleeve of the molly bolt.

Step 3: Tap Your Molly Bolts Into Place and Secure with a Screwdriver

Insert the tip of your molly bolt into the hole and use a hammer to tap it into place. Do so until the head of the bolt is flush with the wall.

Now take a screwdriver and turn the bolt tightly until you feel resistance. This will set the bolt in the wall.

Step 4: Remove the Screws

Once you’ve set the molly bolt, you’ll need to remove the screws. Do this with a screwdriver, turning it counterclockwise.

Set the screws aside.

Step 5: Line Up the Bracket and Screw it In

Now, line up your shelf’s bracket over the molly bolt openings. Use the screws you just removed to secure the bracket to the wall.

Repeat for each molly bolt.

Step 6: Attach Your Shelf

Now that you’ve installed your bracket you can add your shelving.

Use Toggle Bolts

Use Toggle Bolts

Toggle bolts are another excellent solution for medium-sized shelving and hold up to 50 pounds.

Here’s how to install them.

Step 1: Mark Your Shelving

Determine where you’d like your shelves, make sure they’re level and mark the bracket holes on the wall with a pencil.

Step 2: Create a Pilot Hole

Use your drill to create a pilot hole for the toggle bolts. 

Toggle bolts require a pilot hole that’s a little larger than they are. For example, for a 3/16 inch toggle bolt, you’ll need a ½ inch pilot hole.

Refer to your packaging for specifics.

Step 3: Place the Metal End Into the Holes

Now, place the metal end of the toggle bolts into all of the pilot holes you drilled. The plastic piece should be facing outward.

Step 4: Secure the Bolt

Your bolts should have a plastic cord-like piece and a small plastic ring. Use one hand to push the plastic ring toward the wall and your other hand to pull the plastic cord toward you.

Doing this will open the flange on the bolt, securing it to the wall.

Step 5: Detach the Plastic

You can now detach the plastic end from the bolt. Bend it up and down until it comes off. 

Step 6: Screw the Bracket On

With the plastic pieces off the wall, you’ll be able to see the screw holes. Place the bracket over the toggle bolt holes and add the screws.

Step 7: Attach Your Shelf

You’re now ready to attach your shelf to the mounting bracket.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to drywall anchors, you don’t need studs to hang a shelf on the wall. If you’re hanging a small shelf that will hold minimal weight, the easiest method is plastic drywall anchors.

If you’re hanging a larger shelf that will hold up to 50 pounds, you’ll need to switch to a molly or toggle bolt. Both will keep your shelf on the wall securely.