When I started DIYing (and didn’t even have BASIC knowledge of tools)–one of the most confusing things to learn about was installing things into the wall.
What I mean by that is when to use a nail vs. a screw vs. a drywall anchor…. what the heck even IS a wall anchor? How do you find a stud? Why is every stud finder so confusing? And so on…
For some reason these simple questions can get really confusing to understand, but the good news is that the solutions are actually very easy.
So in this post, I want to answer just one of those questions: Can you nail into drywall?
More specifically, can you nail into drywall when there IS a stud behind the wall and when there ISN’T a stud behind the wall?
The quick answer is YES, to both questions. But let’s explain a little better:
How to Nail into Drywall (with a stud)
Nailing into wall studs is the easiest solution of all. Using either a nail and a hammer OR a nail gun and brad nails (depending on what type of project you’re doing), you can simply drive your nail through the drywall and into the wall stud.
Important note: My nail gun recommendation is the Ryobi nail gun, although you’ll also see me using the corded Dewalt nail gun.
In fact, you SHOULD nail into a stud when you have a chance! Driving nails into a stud makes them really secure.
This concept also applies exactly to screws. You technically *can* put a screw through hollow drywall and hang something from it, but that ain’t gonna last you long.
Instead, when you screw directly through drywall, into a stud, you can potentially install something that can hold hundreds of pounds.
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How to Nail into Drywall (without a stud)
What about when you need to secure something to a wall in a spot where there isn’t a stud?
Now, you can technically do the same thing as above and just drive your nail through the drywall. It’s going to go in much easier, because drywall is typically only about 3/8ths or 1/2 inch thick.
However, your nail will be MUCH LESS secure because it’s just sticking out of your drywall in the back, where you can’t see it. Just chilling back there with no support. What is basically holding it there is gravity.
So, you CAN nail straight into drywall without a stud. However, this is not recommended for most DIY projects and purposes because it’s really not secure, won’t hold much weight, and generally won’t stand up to the test of time.
HOWEVER, I have good news! All hope is not lost!
This does NOT mean that you can only ever attach things to your wall at the studs.
If that were the case, molding walls, board and batten walls, and most other types of accent walls just wouldn’t be possible.
Pssst, I did a full tutorial on my geometric accent wall–a.k.a., the easiest accent wall ever made. Make sure you read that for tips, even if you’re planning a much different design!
There are just a few tricks to know…
How to Nail into Drywall for an Accent Wall
For accent walls, keep in mind that you’ll almost always be using a nail gun instead of a nail and a hammer, so that’s what this step describes.
Important note: Ironically, I actually did use ONLY a nail and a hammer in the geometric accent wall I mentioned above. Since the wood pieces I used were so thin and light, it’s worked perfectly and it has held up perfectly for two years! For board and batten walls, however, this would absolutely not be the case.
Here’s the trick for accent walls: Instead of nailing perpendicularly into your board, think about making an X.
Put your nail gun at a slight angle and shoot two nails through your board at two different angles.
What you’re doing is essentially using the nails to anchor (or maybe you prefer the word “hug,” because look, that’s exactly what they’re doing) your board to the drywall.
For this, I made a video to show you exactly how this works:
This is the BEST and fastest way to secure something to a hollow wall without needing to use screws.
Just keep in mind NOT to nail at too severe of an angle. The brad nail might not make it through the drywall OR won’t be flush with the wall, and it’s just a PAAAIN to fix.
How to Nail into Drywall when Hanging Objects (Or not…)
Important note: NEVER attempt to nail something into the ceiling, whether you find a wall stud or not. Even if you nail into a joist, a nail is not able to grip the wood. Instead, you’ll need a wood screw.
As mentioned above, nails alone WILL work in drywall–but only if you’re attaching something EXTREMELY lightweight. I would plan to only do this for things like hanging pictures, papers, posters, or maybe a whiteboard or something of that nature. (Although honestly, there are so many other options to do this now, like Command strips, double-sided mounting tape, or even your classic push pin.)
I don’t have one of those scales that can measure things in ounces, but if whatever you want to hang feels heavier than like 5 pounds–THEN I WOULDN’T USE A NAIL IN DRYWALL.
This is not a technical recommendation at all, buuuuuut I’ve learned from my mistakes.
Here’s what will most likely happen if you attempt to use a nail in drywall to hang something heavy:
- The thing you’re hanging will fall, most likely to it’s bloody end (ESPECIALLY if you have brittle drywall or plaster walls like meee)
- The nail will rip the drywall, leaving a big ugly hole instaed of the small hole that a normal nail leaves
Of course, repairing drywall is extremely easy with some joint compound, BUT STILL.
For example, it may be tempting to quickly hang a coat hook with a nail. I mean, who wants to get the stud finder, mark the stud, and perfectly measure all that crap?!
However, as soon as that coat hook is holding some medium weight items, it could rip out of the wall, bringing a nice chunk of drywall with it.
Just don’t do it, okay? So let’s talk about the much better options for hanging anything with more weight than I recommend.
Instead of nailing into your drywall to hang something, here are a few options:
- Drywall anchors (Lowes | Home Depot | Amazon)
- Toggle bolts (Lowes | Home Depot | Amazon)
Those self-drilling drywall anchors AND the toggle bolts are two of the easiest type of wall fasteners to use, and they have a high weight capacity for heavy objects.
If you aren’t sure how to use either of this, will you PLEASE comment or message me on TikTok or Instagram? I’m super happy to make these tutorials, but they fall down my priority list unless someone asks for them specifically.
Here are a few more options, but only for hanging lightweight picture frames (not heavy picture frames):
- Claw drywall picture hangers (Lowes | Home Depot | Amazon)
- Monkey hooks (Lowes | Home Depot | Amazon)
Hopefully this answered all your questions about nailing and hanging things into drywall or studs. Always feel free to reach out to me with questions–I love to see them!
And don’t forget to find me on TikTok and Instagram and join the fun. 🙂