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The Picture Hang-Up

Have you ever found the perfect piece of art for your home, but weren't quite sure how to hang it.

Just grabbing a hammer and a few nails may not be the right way to start hanging the art. So, before you are left with unsightly holes, chunks of plaster on the floor or your masterpiece in pieces, Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner," has some advice.

Lipford says one of the first steps to successfully hanging your favorite framed picture or mirror, is to choose the right picture hook or fastener for the job. To determine the right hardware, you must consider both the type of wall surface, as well as the size and weight of what you are hanging.

The three most common wall surfaces are drywall, plaster and masonry — each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

Drywall is softer and therefore it is easier to insert a picture hook. The problem however, is that if inserted wrong, the picture hook can come out just as easily as it went in.

Plaster, while much harder than drywall, may hold a fastener better. Getting the fastener in may be where the challenge lies.

Masonry or brick is probably the least common but most challenging wall surface.

Drywall

With drywall, the safest and easiest way to hang a picture is to locate a stud (a vertical wood beam behind the wall) and drive a screw straight into it. If you leave a small amount of screw protruding slightly, you will be able to safely hang your picture from it. Lipford says the easiest way to locate a stud is by using an electronic "stud finder." It is widely available for as little as $10 (although advanced models can be considerably more expensive). The device senses changes in density behind the wall and signals the area where the stud can be found.

If you don't have a stud finder, Lipford says, you can use "low-tech" methods such as tapping the wall until the sound goes from hollow to dull, indicating the location of a stud. Also, wall or switch plates can serve as a clue because they are usually (but not always) nailed to studs. Generally, studs are an equal distance from one another (usually 16, 20 or 24 inches apart). Once you have located the center of one stud, you will be able to locate and mark studs around a room.

If a stud is not in the spot you wish to hang your picture, you must then choose the appropriate picture hooks or fasteners. Picture hooks are generally rated by how much weight they can bear, so Lipford warns to choose accordingly. For lightweight frames and mirrors, regular picture hooks, "elite" picture hooks or EZ hangers are perfectly fine, he explains. Simply hammer the nail for the hook in at an angle. This will help provide the support required.

For medium or larger pictures being hung on drywall, toggle bolts or molly bolts will provide the additional support required. Both toggle and molly bolts have wings that "expand" once inserted into a wall. A Molly bolt is a screw with a metal sleeve that splits once the screw is turned — forming wings to grip the inside of the wall. To install, drill a hole to fit the widest part of the Molly, tap it in and turn the screw to expand the wings. Once the wings have expanded, unscrew and remove the bolt, attach the object being hung and screw the bolt in tight.

A toggle bolt functions much the same as a Molly, but the installation is much simpler. Choose a bolt long enough to include the object plus the wall plus the length of the toggle when folded up and drill a hole large enough for the folded wings to pass through. Place the object being fastened to the wall over the bolt, attach the wings and then push it through the wall. Once the wings expand, simply tighten the bolt to the wall.

Lipford says a new hanging system that can make hanging pictures much easier is called "Attach-it." Attached directly to the back of your picture, this hardware allows you to simply push your picture onto the wall. This innovative product not only effectively secures anything to the wall, the included miniature level ensures your picture hangs and stays straight, according to Lipford.

Plaster Walls

Plaster walls are much harder than drywall and attempting to hammer a nail through plaster will almost certainly be futile, Lipford says. The best bet is almost always to use a masonry bit to drill a hole and insert a "wall anchor." Anchors are sleeves that expand into the wall as you drive in a screw, providing additional grip on the wall.

To install, drill a hole just large enough to insert the anchor and, if necessary, tap the anchor until it is flush with the wall. Drive a screw into the sleeve, and either leave a small amount of screw protruding to hang your picture on, or attach a fastener to the wall. Usually anchors come packaged with the right size screw for the particular insert as well as instructions on the right size hole to drill.

Masonry

For masonry or brick walls, there are two basic options to hang a picture. The first is to once again use a masonry bit as you would for plaster walls. The other is to create a built-in picture hook by using a small amount of an epoxy mixture and inserting the picture hook into the mixture before it dries.

Allow the mixture to dry completely before hanging anything from the hook and again, be sure to choose a fastener that is rated to hold the correct amount of weight. When you decide to take the picture down, you can remove the epoxy with a chisel.