How to Hang a Picture

hanging-frameBy now, you have probably amassed a significant collection of artwork from hitting all of the Chicago-neighborhood art shows.  Even though hanging a picture could be considered one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects, it’s still possible to do it wrong.  While we can’t help you curate a cutting edge collection of contemporary art, we can make sure you display your art without pulling a wall down.  Herewith, a few tips on how to properly hang a picture.

What could be so hard about hanging a picture?  Well, the most common problems include hanging a picture securely so that it doesn’t fall, hammering the nail in the exact location so that the picture hangs as you’d like it, and hanging the picture perfectly level.

wall-studsWhere to begin?  How about with ‘strength?’  If that picture is not secure, it will come crashing down…most likely, in the middle of the night.  Ideally, you’ll drive your nail into a wall stud, but since studs are typically spaced 16 inches apart, and are only 1.5 inches thick, odds are you probably won’t find a stud where you’d like to hang your picture.  It’s more likely that you will want to hang your picture in a space that happens to be between two studs.  As long as you are hanging small to medium sized pictures, you should be safe.

Try to hammer your nail into the wall at an angle, at least 45 degrees.  This provides a bit more staying power than if you hammer the nail straight into the wall.  A 1.5-inch, or 2-inch finishing nail will support most pictures, even in the void between the wall studs.

picture-hanging-hookYou can also use a picture-hanging hook, which comes with its own small-diameter nail. These come in a wide variety of sizes and are super-strong.  First, insert the nail through the hole on the hook, then hold the hook against the wall at the desired height. (The hook automatically aligns the nail at the optimum angle.) Next, tap the nail all the way in.

spiral-anchorIf you have a large, heavy canvas or frame, use screws rather than nails.  And assuming you’re still hanging in the void between studs, plan to use a hollow-wall anchor, such as a toggle bolt, molly bolt, or spiral anchor. We recommend a spiral anchor for its ease: simply drive it into the wall with a screwdriver, then drive a screw into the anchor. Some spiral anchors come with special picture-hanging hooks.

Just where you hang your picture is up to you, but once you decided the spot, take a few extra steps to ensure that’s exactly where your picture ends up.  Try this: hold your picture against the wall at the desired height (or, enlist the help of a partner while you stand back and direct).  Draw a line in pencil on the wall indicating the top of the frame or canvas.

measure-back-of-canvasNext, use a measuring tape to measure the distance of the hanging wire – or, whatever will be sitting on the nail – and, holding the picture in place, measure to the top edge of the frame or canvas.  Make sure that the wire is pulled tight towards the top of the frame, as if it’s hanging, to ensure an accurate measurement.  Measure down from the pencil line on the wall that same distance, mark the spot, and hammer in the nail. If you’re using a picture-hanging hook, make sure the hook—not the nail—is level with the spot you marked.

bumpers-to-frameAnd, try this trick if, despite your best efforts, you can’t get your hung pictures to stay level:  get small, rubber bumpers with peel-and-stick adhesive backings from your local hardware store.  Remove your picture from the wall, and carefully lay it face-down onto a soft, covered surface.  Stick a bumper onto each bottom corner of the frame, then re-hang the picture.  The bumpers provide a bit of traction which will help hold the picture straight and level.  Ta da!

Open a bottle of wine, and pass the cheese!  The gallery is open!

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