Any art collector knows the wonderful feeling of finding the perfect piece for their wall. Choosing the perfect art or photograph is only the first part of the equation though. Now you have to hang your piece. Small pieces of art may only require a small amount of effort to hang while larger pieces could involve some planning and or professional help. In this article you will learn how to hang your artwork from start to finish.
Before we go any further, I should mention that there are always some inherent risks involved when penetrating your walls with any device. Behind the facade of your walls are the inner workings of your house including electrical and plumbing. There are devices on the market which will help you determine safe drilling locations which I will highlight below. If you do not feel comfortable drilling into your wall yourself it may be best for you to contact a local handyman to help with the project. By drilling into your wall you assume all risks that are involved.
Types of walls
Before we can discuss hanging your art, it is important to address the fact that not all walls are created equal. There are four types of walls that you might have in your house. The first and most common is Drywall. Almost all modern home construction utilizes drywall which is a tightly packed layer of gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of paper. The drywall is then mounted to evenly spaced 2x4 studs in the frame of the house to form a wall.
The second most common wall is plaster. Plaster was a popular choice for walls up until the 1940’s. If you own an older home, there’s a good chance that you have plaster walls. In plaster walls small slats of wood are fastened perpendicular to the studs and then a coat of plaster is applied to the slats to form a solid surface. If you have plaster walls in your home there are a few precautions you should use in order to achieve the best results.
First, it is a good idea to place painter's tape on the wall wherever you plan to drill. This will help prevent cracking. Next, you’ll want to pre-drill your hole before using a screw or nail. This is called a pilot hole. When choosing a drill bit for a nail, the bit should be slightly smaller than the nail’s shank. When drilling a pilot hole for a screw the drill bit should be the same size as the body of the screw minus the threads. When drilling into plaster walls it is best practice to use a masonry drill bit.
A less common but attractive look is concrete, brick or masonry walls. These walls are by far the hardest to hang art and photographs on simply due to their denseness. Unless you want to use adhesive hooks, you’ll need to damage the wall a little bit but your beautiful artwork will cover the hole that is required to hang your piece and as long as you use removable wall anchors you can always patch the hole should you decide to move or change the artwork’s location. A masonry screw or anchor kit will be required to properly install your artwork. I’ll discuss this further in the types of hangers sections below.
Studs & Stud Finders.
One of the most secure ways to hang a piece of art is to find the 2x4 stud and drill into that. Studs are always spaced 16” or 24” apart on center. That means the 2x4’s are measured from the center of the beam. Studs are placed in the wall with the short side perpendicular to the wall, meaning that you have about a 1.75” target to hit with your screw or nail. Some really handy folks can find the stud simply by knocking on the wall. If you are not that handy, you can simply use a stud finder to find the studs behind your drywall walls. Stud finders are quite easy to use and are surprisingly accurate at telling you where the studs are in your wall. Some stud finders such as the Zircon i520 can detect live AC wires so you do not accidentally drill into a live wire and ruin your day, week or life. In my opinion, a stud finder is absolutely essential when drilling into your drywall walls.
When working with plaster walls the various densities in the plaster can cause some stud finders to fail. A better method for finding studs is to search the the nails that hold the lath boards that the plaster is on to the studs.The Zircon i520 has the ability to search for metal behind the plaster which in turn shows you where the nails are fastened to the studs. A cheaper method to find the nails is to usr high power magnets that will stick to the wall when placed over even the smallest of nails.
Types of hangers
When it comes to wall art there is no shortage of art hangers and wall anchors. In fact the variety of options can be downright daunting. Don’t worry though, I’m here to shed some light on the different solutions available to you so you can make the right decision when hanging your art. I will start off with some of the easiest solutions and transition to more complicated methods as I go.
Traditional Picture Hooks
One of the easiest methods of hanging art is to use traditional picture hooks. They come in a variety of sizes and weight ratings from ten to 100 pounds. Purchasing a picture hook kit with various sized hooks can be a good idea in order to find the perfect hook for the job.
Tool-less Super Hooks
Super Hooks are incredibly easy to use and require no tools. They are best used on drywall walls since the
gypsum is relatively easy to puncture. While the hooks are rated for plaster walls, you have to get the hook in between the wooden laths behind the plaster which could prove challenging.
To use the hook you simply use your hand to push the back end of the hook into the wall and thread it though until only the end is showing. The back of the hook grips into the back side of the wall and keeps the hook in place. These hooks are stronger than they appear and are rated to hold up to 100 lbs. Personally I might go for a stud based hanging option with any art weighing close to a hundred pounds but I have used these hooks in my own home to hang metal and acrylic prints with no issue at all. The great thing about super hooks is that they leave almost no wall damage behind if you decide to move your artwork.
A French cleat is one of the most secure ways to hang high end artwork. The cleat holds the art securely in place and can support a lot of weight when properly fastened to the wall. A french cleat consists of two separate pieces that lock together. Small artwork may only require one set of cleats. Larger artwork will benefit from either one large set of cleats or two pairs of cleats positioned at each side of the frame. A french cleat will often hold the top of the artwork closer to the wall than a traditional wire hanger. If you have a piece of expensive artwork or just do not trust yourself with a drill, you may consider contacting a local frame shop to have them help you install the french cleat onto the back of your art if it is not installed for you already. You will most defiantly want a studfinder when screwing the cleat to the wall.
When using French cleats, it is very important that the cleats are mounted level on the wall as well as the artwork. If the cleats are not mounted level then the artwork will not be level either. A simple bubble level can help ensure that you have level cleats. To level your cleat, hold it up to the wall with your hand and place the bubble level on top so that the bubble is perfectly centered. Then use a pencil to trace the left and right sides of the bottom of the cleat on your wall. This will allow you to know if the cleat shifts while drilling your holes and during the fastening processes. Next fasten the other cleat to your artwork making sure to keep it level. Once both cleats have been installed you are ready to hang. Simply lift up the artwork and make sure that the artwork sits firmly on the wall cleat.
REQUIRED TOOLS AND HARDWARE
While hanging photos on a brick or concrete wall may seem overwhelming, it’s not impossible and only requires a few tools. To drill into the wall you will need a hammer drill. Hammer drills tap as they drill which will make the job much easier. You’ll need a few masonry screws and you’ll also want a masonry drill bit that is the same size as the shank of your masonry screws. You may also want a good N95 dust mask because drilling into concrete and brick can be messy.
Note: You may want to have someone stand by with a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to suck up the dust as you drill.
When drilling your initial pilot hole into the wall, make sure that you drill the hole a ½ inch longer than what you need for the screw. This will ensure that you do not bottom out the screw. One way to know the exact stopping point while drilling is to place a piece of tape on the bit at the depth you need.
Even though you are hanging on concrete you still have options for various hanging methods. You can still use a french cleat if you would like, but that may require drilling more holes than you’d like into the concrete. A good option for wire hangers is to use J-Hooks. These hooks have a ⅜” hole and can easily be fastened to the wall with masonry screws once your pilot hale has been drilled. Another option is the Masonry Hook.
Cable & Ceiling Artwork Hanging Options
One last option for hanging your artwork is to utilize a cable system that drops down from the ceiling. A cable system allows you to easily adjust the art in your home or office without the need for drilling or damaging the walls. If you do not want to damage your beautiful brick walls then a cable system may be right for you. The folks at AS Hanging Displays have a wide variety of artwork hanging solutions that will allow you to hang directly from your ceiling via cable and hardware.
Where to buy High End Wall Art
Call me biased, but I'm a firm believer in purchasing any type of artwork directly from the artist. When you purchase artwork from the artists you know that it is 100% authentic and you are also supporting them by cutting out the middle man. Galleries and online storefronts always take a cut of the sale and sometimes that cut can be as much as 50% of the art sale. The internet makes it easy to find artist online and most will sell their work through their website. It's not a bad idea to reach out to them directly in case they have work that is not yet up on their website. Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions.