8 Expert Tips and Tricks for Hanging a Picture Right the First Time

iStock
iStock

Framed pictures are an inexpensive way to make a house feel like a home, and they can take a room from empty to finished-looking in minutes. They can be customized easily to your space and decor, and swapped out if your tastes change. But there is an art to hanging a picture the right way—without destroying your walls. Here’s what you need to know.

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT WALL MOUNT.

There are several steps you need to take before you get anywhere near a drill or hammer. First, consider two factors: the state of the wall you want to decorate, and the weight of the picture. Your wall may be supported by studs, which are pieces of wood or metal that run vertically behind the wall every couple of feet. Screwing directly into a stud can provide more support for hanging items.

If you have a reinforced wall, you could use a basic nail or screw to hang the frame, as long as you insert the nail or screw firmly into a stud. But you should only ever use a nail if you're hanging on a stud, according to Simon Taylor, owner-operator of T&C Carpentry in Whitby, Ontario. Otherwise, the weight of the picture could rip the nail out of the wall.

No stud? No problem. "If the picture is light, then a product like Monkey Hooks"—a kind of cantilevered hook for unreinforced walls—"work great," Taylor says.

For medium to heavy pictures, use wall anchors, which are plastic or metal inserts that provide more support for screwing into an unreinforced wall. There are many styles and strengths available for different materials and weights. “Using a product like E-Z Ancors is an easy way to fix a screw to drywall where there is no stud to screw into. They are strong and easy to install,” Taylor tells Mental Floss. “You can then thread a screw into them to hang your picture, providing it has a hook on the back or a string. A good rule to follow is not to use anything other than an anchor if you are not screwing directly into a stud or backing.” (Plastic wall anchors are fine for most lightweight projects, but for a really heavy picture, or a wall made out of something besides drywall, you'll need a different type of anchor.)

If you’re renting and don't want to damage the walls of your apartment, or you’re not 100 percent committed to the picture's placement, Taylor recommends a non-nail option like the extremely popular 3M Command adhesive hooks. They provide temporary, hole-free hanging and hold strong without peeling paint off the wall when it comes time to remove them.

Others argue that stick-on hooks can be unreliable, especially for heavier frames. “All picture-hanging hardware should really include some type of component that punctures the wall,” says Claire Wheeler, design and project coordinator for Montreal-based Sajo Inc. “This provides a much more secure hanging system than a hanging system that is surface-applied.” The adhesives on these types of products are more likely to fail than any sort of nail or anchored hardware, she tells Mental Floss.

2. EXAMINE THE FRAME'S HARDWARE.

Wheeler says your hanging hardware depends on the size and weight of the frame. Fortunately, most frame manufacturers include some form of hanger on the back of their products.

While she finds that hook tabs (small triangular hangers on ready-to-use frames) work for hanging lighter pictures, a wire system—two anchor points on the back of the frame and a strong wire strung between them for looping over the wall screw or hook—is the better choice for hanging large and/or heavy pictures. The wire system setup allows the weight of the frame to be distributed evenly along the wire for more secure hanging, rather than placing all the weight of the frame on one small hanger point.

“You will notice that most frames, whether you have purchased them in a store or you've had them custom-made, have hardware already installed at the back. It’s usually a pretty safe bet to use what the manufacturer has provided,” Wheeler says.

To hang a picture without the need for advanced math, start with a center hanging point: a hook tab affixed in the appropriate spot, or, if your frame has two tabs on either side of the frame, a wire strung slackly between them.

3. HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS ON HAND.

Assemble all of the gear before you spring into action. In addition to your framed artwork, you'll need the proper hanging apparatus for your project (see #1) and a hammer for pounding in the wall anchor or nail. Use a power drill or screwdriver to insert screws in the wall anchor, if you're using one. A tape measure makes it easier to calculate the right spot for hanging. A sturdy wire for the back of your frame is optional (see #2). And the best way to ensure your picture will be level is to, well, use a level. “A level is a basic tool everyone should have,” Wheeler says. “If you own a hammer, you should own a level.”

4. HANG AT THE RIGHT HEIGHT.

Wheeler says you should play around with the height at which you plan on installing the frame: “As a general rule, eye level should land within the bottom half of the frame,” she says.

From a designer’s perspective, Wheeler finds people often choose pictures that are either too big or too small in proportion to the wall area. “You want the picture to have some space to 'breathe,' so to speak, meaning a wall large enough that it doesn’t feel as though the picture is overcrowding the wall," she says. "On the flip side, you also don’t want a picture to look completely lost on a big wall."

She adds, "Proportion is important, but there’s no specific ratio" of picture size to wall area that could be considered a rule of thumb. Ultimately, you're the best judge of your space.

5. PICK THE SPOT ON THE WALL WHERE YOUR PICTURE WILL HANG.

Place the frame against the wall where you want it to hang. "It’s a good idea to have someone with you to judge if it is in the right place," Taylor says. "Having a view of it in place before it’s 'fixed' to the wall will help you decide if it looks right."

After you've picked your spot, draw a short line with a pencil along the center of the frame's top edge as your reference line. If you're hanging a really large picture, get your assistant to hold it in place while you draw.

6. TAKE MEASUREMENTS.

Lay the frame face-down on a flat surface. Place your wall fastener, such as the wall anchor or Command hook, in the appropriate hook tab or on the wire on the back of the frame and pull the wire taut. With a tape measure, measure the distance from the top edge of the frame to the center of the fastener.

7. PLACE YOUR WALL FASTENER AND HANG THE FRAME.

Now back to the wall: Measure the same distance from the center of your penciled reference line down. Mark that spot with your pencil: That's where you're going to install your fastener.

If you're not using a wall anchor, simply affix an adhesive hook, hammer in a nail, or insert a Monkey Hook.

To install an anchor, drill a hole into the wall at the penciled point with a screw that is narrower than the anchor itself. (You don't want the anchor to be too loose in the wall.) Don't screw it too tightly. Next, reverse the drill's direction and pull the screw out. Insert the anchor, hammering it flush against the wall. Finally, drill the screw into the anchor—this action makes the anchor expand slightly and press against the drywall's innards, creating a more secure fit. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the screw's head and the wall so the picture's wire can be hooked over the screw. Hang the picture.

8. EVEN OUT YOUR HANDIWORK.

To make sure your picture is straight, rest the level along the top of the frame, against the wall. Then, adjust until the air bubble within the small tube of water is in the center of the tube, which indicates that the bar is parallel to the floor—and, therefore, that your picture is level.

Taylor says that not using a level and assuming the hanging hardware is set evenly on the back of a frame are the two biggest mistakes he sees people make. Pros often use laser levels, but Taylor says a water level will work just as well for most people.

Need some inspirations to get started? Consider hanging a few classic movie posters, printed patents for famed inventions, or a guide to cats.

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

From September 23 to September 24, customers can get as much as 80 percent off home decor, furniture, WFH essentials, kitchen appliances, and more during the Wayfair's Way Day 2020 sale. Additionally, when you buy a select Samsung appliance during the sale, you'll also get a $200 Wayfair gift card once the product ships. Make sure to see all that the Way Day 2020 sale has to offer. These prices won’t last long, so we've also compiled a list of the best deals for your home below.

Rugs

AllModern/Wayfair

- Mistana Hillsby Power Loom Beige Saffron/Teal Rug $49 (save $97)

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Furniture

Langley Street/Wayfair

- Alwyn Home 14-inch Medium Gel Memory Foam King Mattress $580 (save $1420)

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NutriBullet/Wayfair

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Samsung/Wayfair

- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Energy Smart Refrigerator $3600 (save $400)

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Foundery Select/Wayfair

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Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

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12 Smart Products That Will Help Organize Your Life

Simple Trending Store/Amazon
Simple Trending Store/Amazon

For some people, getting—and staying—organized is nearly impossible to do without a little help. (We’re talking from experience here.) To help you store your pots and pans without a fuss and keep your toiletries from taking over your bathroom, we’ve scoured the internet for products that are designed to make staying organized that much easier.

1. Revolving Spice Rack, $37

Kamenstein

This 20-jar revolving spice rack from Kamenstein will keep all of your favorite spices organized, labeled, and, most importantly, within easy access for your culinary endeavors. Even better? It comes with all 20 spices, including rosemary, basil, and pretty anything else you can imagine. (Pizza seasoning? Yes, please.) Bonus: Customers are eligible to receive free spice refills for five years after the initial purchase. That’s a lot of garlic salt.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Bar Serving Cart; $110

Haotian/Amazon

This rolling bar cart (which can hold up to four wine bottles and six stemmed glasses) is the ideal space-saving solution for any oenophile. The different levels can be used for snacks, wine buckets, and liquor bottles, while the top shelf can be removed and used as a food tray. Plus, its wood metal appearance means it will fit in with plenty of different decor in your home. Since it’s on wheels, you can easily move the cart around your home without worrying about it scratching the floor.

Buy it: Amazon

3. 4-Piece Acrylic Canister Set, $20

Oggi/Amazon

Keep your cookies, candies, sweet treats, and other kitchen staples organized with these simple acrylic canisters, which come in packs of four or five. Each comes with an air-tight lid that helps keep your food fresh for longer (read: no more stale cookies). You can opt to store them right on your countertop, or stow them away in your pantry. And before you refill the cannisters with a different food, you can throw them in the dishwasher for a quick clean first.

Buy it: Amazon

4. No-Drill Shower Caddy; $17

Gricol/Amazon

This easy-to-install, drill-free shower shelf keeps your toiletries and other bathroom essentials organized while your shower remains free of clutter. Plus, its durable hand-polished aluminum frame is scratch-resistant and designed to protect against wear and tear. You can also use the two attached hangers to store your loofah, body brush, or towel. All you have to do is wait 24 hours to use it upon installation, and voila!

Buy it: Amazon

5. Rotating Makeup Organizer; $20

Coyaho/Amazon

Calling all beauty mavens: You need this 360-degree rotating cosmetics organizer—which can hold everything from eyeshadow to your beloved skincare products—in your life. Not only is it washable, durable, and eco-friendly, but you can also easily adjust its height to fit different sized bottles (think perfume, foundations, serums, and more). And, according to the company, it takes no more than one minute to assemble.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Bathroom Storage Corner Floor Cabinet; $36

Aojezor/Amazon

This space-saving bathroom storage cabinet from AOJEZOR is compact enough to fit in even the tiniest of corners or crevices. Use the top area to hold a cellphone or display a houseplant, while the shelves are ideal for excess toiletries, toilet paper, hand towels, or tissues.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Desktop Organizer Storage Rack; $26

Jerry and Maggie

This handy adjustable desktop organizer (which also serves as a storage shelf) comes in four colors: black, white, natural wood, and white wood—making it the perfect addition to any home office. The product itself is made up of two main parts, which can be rotated to best suit your organizational needs and maximize storage space. Plus, its sturdy yet lightweight build makes it easy to move, transport, and carry.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Portable 7-Tier, Free-Standing Shoe Organizer; $28

UDEAR/Amazon

Shoe organizers aren’t just for college students living in dorms. This portable and adjustable model from UDEAR is lightweight, durable, and easy to assemble—meaning you won’t have to hire a handyman or waste hours of your free time putting it together. It can also hold up to 27 pairs of shoes (think boots, sneakers, stilettos, and everything in between), and when it’s time for spring cleaning, simply wipe it with a damp cloth.

Buy it: Amazon

9. K-Cup Carousel; $20

The Nifty Store/Amazon

Keep your beloved K-Cups within arm’s reach—and display them for all to see—with this rotating carousel, which holds up to 35 K-Cups. Besides, this all-steel model from Nifty is a lot more stylish than those bulky boxes that take up precious counter and shelf space.

Buy it: Amazon

10. 36-Peg Mug Rack; $58

BirdRock Home/Amazon

Keep your coffee cup collection on display with a handy mug organizer. This one from BirdRock Home holds up to 36 mugs and adds a whimsical (and personal) touch to any kitchen. Plus, it frees up a ton of shelf space, which you can then use to store more of your favorite snacks.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Double Layer Jewelry Organizer; $16

Misaya/Amazon

Keep your baubles organized and stowed away with this portable jewelry organizer from Misaya Jewelry. Its compact size is easy enough to store in a drawer, a suitcase, or a vanity. Besides holding necklaces, bracelets, and rings, it can also accommodate up to 10 pairs of earrings. Its soft, anti-abrasive velvet lining will prevent your jewelry from scratching, tarnishing, or other wear and tear. Choose from seven different hues.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Adjustable Pan and Pot Holder; $16

Simple Trending Store/Amazon

Chances are, you’re guilty of shoving all of your pots and pans so tightly together that you’re unable to even shut your cabinet door. (Oops.) Thankfully, this functional pot and pan rack from Simple Trending—which can hold up to five pots/pans and lids—eliminates unnecessary clutter. Its non-stick coating protects your pans and pots from scratching or sliding on each other.

Buy it: Amazon

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