It always seems that the perfect spot for a piece of artwork has nothing behind the finished wall to support the weight. But there are ways to hang a picture securely without tearing out the wall to provide support.
Sheet rock or drywall is the most common material used in newer homes. The sheets are screwed to the 2x4 studs that form the walls. Those studs are perfect for hanging heavy items.
First you have to find them. Typically, a new home is constructed with studs spaced 16 inches from the center of one stud to the center of the next. So, if you measure out 16 inches from a corner of a wall, there should be a stud there.
Since that's not always the case, you may have to do some hunting. There are a couple of ways to do that:
Knock on the wall and listen and feel for a spot with a solid backing. With this method, it's easy to miss the spot, and then you have an extra hole in the wall.
Buy a stud finder at a home supply store. It costs about $15. Simply move it along the edge of the wall and it will beep when it detects a stud. Then, just go from the other direction and find the other edge of that stud. Mark both sides and drive a nail in the middle; you can't miss.
If you are only hanging one thing and don't want to buy tools here's a little trick:
- Take your electric razor, turn it on and run it along the wall.
- When it gets to a stud, the pitch of the vibration of the razor against the wall will change.
- Make a mark and hammer away.
If the perfect spot is between two studs, you have to use some type of anchor that will hold the fastener in the wall. There are many types to choose from.
If you are hanging something fairly light like a clothes hook or a decorative shelf that might hold 5 or 10 pounds, you can use a plastic anchor.
- Drill a hole the same diameter as the anchor.
- Slip the anchor into the hole.
- Screw a screw into the anchor. It will expand the anchor to provide a secure fit.
For a slightly stronger hold, use hollow wall anchors. Instead of pre-drilling a hole, you simply screw it into the wall. They are good if you are going to mount a heavier shelf.
If you have a brick wall or if you want to hang something heavy on the fireplace mantel, you'll want to use a lead masonry anchor. They work a lot like the plastic drywall anchors, but are more heavy duty.
- Take a masonry bit and drill a hole in the brick.
- Slide the lead anchor into the brick. You may have to give it a few light taps with a hammer to get it to fully seat in the hole.
- Screw a fastener into the anchor. A few will support an entire bookshelf without any problems.
If your house is an old one with plaster walls and you want to hang a heavy mirror, use 100-pound picture hangers. You can buy them at the hardware store. Because the weight of the item you are hanging pulls straight down, they can hold a great deal. For an extra measure of safety, install two.
For more from Bob Vila visit his Web site.
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