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Whether you’re plotting out an expansive gallery wall or hanging a single piece of affordable artwork, it’s a relatively easy task the average homeowner can take on themselves. There are no power tools necessary — typically just a hammer, a nail, and a level.
But there are a few things you should know before you drive anything into drywall, plaster, or even brick — like what kind of hardware to use, how to choose the right height, and how to find a wall stud. The advanced planning is well worth the effort: It will save you from putting unnecessary holes in the wall, a mistake that can cost you both time and money.
1. Consider the wall surface
- Drywall: If the wall you’re working with is made from drywall, you’re in luck — this is the easiest material to work with, since it’s an easy material to penetrate. Just be sure to locate a wall stud, since hanging directly on drywall won’t provide a secure anchor. If a solid stud isn’t available, it’s important to use a drywall anchor to hang pictures.
- Plaster: These walls (often found in older homes) are a little trickier, as they have a tendency to crumble. Approach the process same way you would when working with drywall: Look for a wall stud for the most secure anchor. Just note that when hanging pictures on a plaster wall, it’s always a good idea to pre-drill your hole. To prevent crumbling, place a piece of painter’s tape on the wall before drilling.
- Brick: If your walls are brick, you’ll need to use a wall anchor. And use a masonry bit on your drill to drill into mortar, not the actual brick.
2. Choose your hanging hardware
If you’ve ever looked at the back of a picture frame, you know there are multiple hardware options, including D-rings, sawtooth hangers, and wire. Some frames even come with more than one option. So which one should you choose? The short answer: It depends on what method you’re most comfortable with. Here, a few options:
- How to hang a picture with a nail: A single nail can likely do the trick and is easiest method if the frame comes with a hook or sawtooth hanger, says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and director of engineering at the Good Housekeeping Institute. This method also leaves the least amount of damage in its wake, since simple nail holes can be as small as pin dots. Driving the nail into a wall stud will offer the most support, especially for anything above about five pounds. Just be sure to drive the nail in at a degree angle, says Rothman.
- How to hang a picture with wire: For greater stability, consider hanging your picture with a wire suspended between two D-rings opposite each other, says Rothman. The process is the same as it is when hanging a picture with nails, just two-fold.
- And how to hang a picture without nails: If you’re hesitant to make any holes in your walls, adhesive-backed picture hooks and strips are great options for lighter frames. (Check the manufacturer’s specifications, but these options typically max out around 15 pounds, says Rothman.) These products are also great for plaster and brick surfaces, since these wall materials are more prone to crumbling and cracking.
3. Measure the ideal height
To measure the right height like a pro, memorize this fact: Eye level is approximately 57 to 60 inches from the floor, says Rothman. Since the middle of the painting should sit at this height, you’ll need to do a little bit of math to get it just right. Our GHI pro tip: Take the height of the frame, divide it by two, subtract the distance from the top of the frame to the hardware, then add 60.
4. Make sure it’s perfectly level
Once you confirm the height at which you’ll hang your picture, use a pencil to mark the wall. If you’re using a wire or more than one hook, use a level to ensure the marks are at the same height, says Rothman. If the room slopes, feel free to cheat a bit to make it look straight.
5. Finally, hang your picture
Now, you can finally put your decor on the wall. Once secure on the wall, use a level one more time, tweaking as necessary, to ensure everything is just right.
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