Can you screw directly into plasterboard?

By Sam Wood •  Updated: 09/20/21 

Maybe you just want to hang a picture on your wall, and you’re wondering if you can just screw directly into plasterboard? Or do you need to find a wooden stud? Or is there something else you can do? Well worry not, we have the answer for you right here.

Can you screw directly into plasterboard?

No, you should never just screw into plasterboard. Even if the screw feels tight and strong at first it will soon start to come straight out of the wall. Fixing in this way offers zero strength and as soon as you put weight on the screw it will fall out.

Different types of plasterboard wall

The first thing you need to think about is that not all plasterboard walls are the same. Some walls will have a large cavity behind the plasterboard and others may be attached via the dot and dab method straight onto a masonry wall behind.

Each style of wall will require a different fixing method in order to work correctly. So first things first you need to identify what type of plasterboard wall you have.

The easiest rule of thumb to think about is if the wall is an exterior wall or an interior wall.

An exterior wall is going to be made of blockwork or brick with the plasterboard likely being dot and dabbed on top. In this case, there is no cavity behind the board so a lot of plasterboard fixings will not work. What will work is a long fixing into the brick or blockwork.

So just use a regular plug and a long drill bit, this will give you a really strong fixing.

If you try to use a plasterboard fixing, which tend to have some sort of anchor that comes out behind the wall then it will not work. This is because there is no room for the anchors to go into as your wall has no cavity.

If your wall is an interior wall then it is likely to be plasterboard onto a timber frame, in this case, you will usually have a cavity behind the plasterboard. With this there is nothing to drill into, so to give plasterboard fixings strength they normally have some sort of “wing” which comes out behind the plasterboard.

So what are my options then?

If you have a plasterboard wall with a cavity then the simplest thing to do is to use plasterboard fixings. These plugs are designed specifically for use in plasterboard and as such are a little different to regular wall plugs. Plasterboard plugs come in a few different styles. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses so I will break a few of the more popular options down for you.

Self Tapping

A self-tapping fixing is the easiest to use, but also the weakest. These fixings just screw into the wall and create their own hole as they go. So if using these you don’t even need a drill. The downside to these fixings is that they are not overly strong, so useful for hanging a picture but nothing really heavier than that.

Fischer Self Drilling Metal Fixings for Plasterboard
£3.99
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12/03/2021 07:51 am GMT

Wall Anchors

These metal bolts have a sort of butterfly that expands behind the plasterboard, this provides a really strong fixing. You do need to use a setting tool in order to use them correctly, the pack below does come with a setting tool. Very good for medium weight.

Wall Anchor Setting Tool and Anchors for plasterboard
£19.99
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12/03/2021 12:04 am GMT

Specialist Fixings

There are some really specialist fixings that you can get for plasterboard. These can hold a lot of weight, so much that the plasterboard itself is more likely to fail before the fixing does. Useful for hanging really heavy objects such as radiators and TV’s. There are a couple of specialist fixings I have used myself and can recommend. These are the GeeFix and GripIts. The Gripits are the easier fixings to fit but the Geefix ones are stronger. Either of these fixings can take a serious amount of weight.

Gripit Plasterboard Fixing Kit - Supports Up To 113kg
£8.25
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12/03/2021 12:04 am GMT
GeeFix Plasterboard Cavity Wall Fixings
£8.95
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12/03/2021 12:05 am GMT

Sam Wood

Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!