How to Anchor Furniture to Help Prevent Tip-Overs

Securing dressers and other large pieces takes only a few minutes—and might save a life

Tragic injuries and deaths from furniture tip-overs are a safety epidemic across the nation, but families can dramatically reduce the risk by properly anchoring dressers, televisions, and other items to the wall.

More than 15,000 people are injured each year in the U.S. when furniture or TVs tip and fall on them, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And the CPSC reports that one child dies every 10 days, on average, as a result of a furniture or TV tip-over.

More on Tip-Overs

“We believe all consumers should anchor wardrobes, dressers, bookcases, or any large piece, including televisions that aren’t mounted to a wall, because these items have the potential for tipping over,” says Don Huber, Consumer Reports’ director of product safety. “This advice stands even in households without children—data indicate that adults are also injured by furniture tip-overs.”

CR recommends anchoring dressers, televisions, and other furniture. Below, expert advice on how to properly anchor furniture to three of the most common wall materials.

How Furniture Anchors Work

Furniture restraints, also called anchoring kits, are typically comprised of two brackets tethered by a strap or cable. One bracket screws directly into the piece of furniture; the other fastens into a stud in the wall. The connecting strap or cable is typically affixed to each bracket, then tightened in place.

Selecting an Anchor

Peter Kerin, founder and owner of Minneapolis-based Foresight Childproofing, recommends kits with straps made from nylon webbing or braided steel cable. Some manufacturers of children’s furniture have started including kits with their merchandise.

If the included tethers are not made of nylon webbing or steel cable, Kerin recommends purchasing your own kit. However, you should never delay installing an anchor. If you can buy an aftermarket anchor the same day you buy your new furniture, that’s ideal. But if you can’t, you should install the furniture with the included anchor, then consider upgrading at a later date.

Anchoring to Drywall

Most homes built after the 1960s have interior walls made of drywall over wood studs. If this describes your home, start by placing the piece of furniture against the wall where you’d like it installed.

Use a stud finder to locate a stud in the wall—in modern construction they’re usually spaced 16 inches apart, and you should find one to the left or right of an electrical outlet or light switch. Once you’ve located a stud that aligns with the back of your furniture, mark the wall along the stud with a pencil and place an intersecting mark on the wall that indicates the height of the furniture. From this point measure vertically, according to the installation instructions, to determine the correct location for the wall bracket.

Next, install the wall-mounted portion of the anchor. We recommend using a wood screw that’s at least 2 inches long to ensure a strong connection. (Buy these screws yourself if your kit comes with shorter screws.) If you live in a newer commercial building like an apartment or condo with metal studs, the process is the same; simply use 1⅝-inch (fine thread) drywall screws instead of wood screws.

Align your furniture with the bracket on the wall. Refer to the instructions to determine the proper location for the furniture-mounted portion of your anchor—see “Attaching Brackets to Furniture,” below, for full instructions.

Never use a drywall anchor or toggle to anchor furniture. “It’s not like hanging a picture or mirror, where the force pulls straight down,” Kerin explains. “A furniture anchor needs to withstand any effort to pull the fixture straight out from the wall, and the best practice is to always attach to a stud in the wall.”

Anchoring to Plaster Walls

Studs are harder to find behind plaster walls; a traditional stud finder won’t always work. But a magnetic stud finder can detect the metal nails used to secure wood lath to studs. When you think you’ve located a stud, test the spot just above the baseboard by drilling into the wall with a small wood bit—if you feel resistance the entire time, you’ve hit a stud. If not, move to the left or right, one inch at a time, until you find one.

Don’t worry about the small holes you’ll leave behind, they can be easily patched with spackling—see “Patching Holes,” below, for full instructions—and concealed by the furniture once it’s in place.

Measure up along the stud where you’ll anchor your furniture, and use a properly sized wood bit to drill a pilot hole for securing the anchor. Proceed with installing the wall- and furniture-mounted portion of the anchor, as you would in a wall made of drywall.

Anchoring to Masonry Walls

Brick or concrete block walls are far less common than drywall or plaster walls, and they pose a unique challenge. Unless you’re extremely skilled and tool-savvy, Kerin advises hiring a professional childproofer or handyman to secure furniture to masonry.

If you want to attempt the job yourself, you’ll need a hammer drill with a suitable masonry bit and self-anchoring masonry screws. Always follow the included instructions.

We recommend masonry screws with hexagonal heads, which are driven into place with an impact driver or ratchet wrench, because those with Phillips heads are easily stripped. Typically, these hexagonal screws come with a properly sized masonry bit for drilling the pilot holes. When drilling into masonry, select a spot that sits squarely in the center of a brick or cinder block—not a spot on the mortar between stones. If the bit slips or bores out the hole, start again. The self-anchoring screws won’t sufficiently grip a hole that’s too large. The screw should be tight as it turns. Proceed with installing the furniture-mounted portion of the anchor, as described below.

Attaching Brackets to Furniture

You want to go into solid wood, whenever possible, and install the bracket as high as you can on the piece of furniture. It’s not essential that the bracket be centered on the furniture—securing it to a thick piece of wood, high up, is more important. Don’t attach the anchor to the thin back panel of the piece of furniture.

Simply align your piece with the wall-mounted bracket, mark the furniture at the spot where you’ll install the bracket, and pre-drill into the wood. Secure the bracket to your furniture with wood screws, and connect the wall-mounted bracket and furniture-mounted bracket with the included cable or strap.

Patching Holes

Nobody wants to leave a lasting hole in the wall—and if you’re a renter, wall damage may mean forfeiting a portion of your security deposit. But patching holes and touching up with paint is easy and straightforward.

For plaster or drywall, use a 1- to 2-inch putty knife to scrape away loose debris around the hole. Fill the hole with spackling paste or joint compound, and scrape it smooth to the wall with your putty knife. For larger holes, you might need a couple of coats. Let it dry, sand the spackled spot smooth with 180-grit sandpaper, and touch up with matching paint.

For brick or masonry, vacuum loose or crumbling debris from the hole, then fill the spot with color-matched masonry hole filler—it’s the consistency of caulk but dries hard and comes pre-blended in colors to correspond to common shades of brick and concrete.

Ultimately, the prospect of a hole in the wall should never prevent you from anchoring furniture.

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Paul Hope

As a classically trained chef and an enthusiastic DIYer, I've always valued having the best tool for a job—whether the task at hand is dicing onions for mirepoix or hanging drywall. When I'm not writing about home products, I can be found putting them to the test, often with help from my two young children, in the 1860s townhouse I'm restoring in my free time.