How to Hang Heavy Objects on a Wall
When you’re hanging something heavy, a simple nail probably won’t do the job. Whether it’s an heirloom family mirror or a large painting, you want to be confident it will hang securely on your wall for years to come.
The right method for hanging your object depends on the type of wall you have and where you want to hang it. There are several ways to approach this task, depending on whether your wall is plaster, drywall or brick.
If your home was built before World War II, it likely has plaster walls, BobVila.com says. Most newer homes are made with drywall, though homeowners may opt for plaster if they’re looking for a textured or glossy finish. If you’re unsure, you can try pinning a tack into an unobtrusive portion of your wall. If it’s easy to push the tack into the wall to hang up a picture or a poster, it’s likely drywall, BobVila.com says. Plaster is brittle and can’t usually be pierced in this way.
Before trying any of the following methods, check the guidelines on the hardware you purchase to make sure it will be able to withstand the weight of the object you’re trying to hang. If you’re unsure, you may want to hire a professional handyman to hang your picture or mirror.
If you need to use a ladder, follow ladder safety guidelines, such as placing it on a solid, firm surface and always keeping three points of contact with the ladder, the National Safety Council recommends.
If you need to use a drill, wear protective eyewear and gloves to help protect yourself from debris.
Finding a Stud
If your walls are made of plaster or drywall, one option is to affix the object to a spot on the wall directly into a stud. Studs can help support the weight of heavy objects.
To see if a there is a stud located in the area where you’re looking to hang the object, BobVila.com suggests these three strategies:
- Knock on the wall — when you’re over a stud, the sound will be a more solid “thump.”
- Check for nails along your baseboard. They’re typically placed on the stud line.
- Use a stud finder, which you can buy at your local hardware store.
Studs are typically 16 inches apart, measuring from the center of one stud to the center of the next, BobVila.com says, though in some older houses they may be spaced 24 inches apart.
If you place your item over a stud, use a 3-inch wood screw on a plaster wall, and a 2 ½-inch wood screw on drywall, BobVila.com recommends. This can help ensure that at least 2 inches of the screw are affixed into the stud.
Unlike drywall screws, wood screws are not threaded all the way to the top, so they are a better option for drilling into wood, The Family Handyman says. You’ll need to use your drill with a multipurpose drill bit to create a pilot hole — a hole that will allow you to insert a screw or nail. Then use the drill to affix the wood screw itself.
How to Hang an Object on a Plaster Wall
If you want to hang the piece on a plaster wall in a spot that isn’t directly over a stud, you can use a toggle bolt. The weight of the piece you would like to hang and the thickness of the wall will dictate the size of the toggle bolt you will need to use. According to DoItYourself.com, the heavier the piece, the heavier the toggle bolt you will need. In a plaster wall, a typical metal toggle bolt can hold 25 to 50 pounds, This Old House says, while a plastic one can hold 10 to 25 pounds, however, you should check the bolt’s packaging for specific weight information. DoItYourself.com also recommends selecting a toggle bolt that is longer than the combined thickness of your wall, the toggle and the hook you’ll be using. You may want to use two toggle bolts for extra strength, Hunker.com says.
To install a toggle bolt, first use two pieces of painter’s tape to create an X over the spot you want to hang the object, BobVila.com recommends, as this can help prevent the plaster from cracking. Drill a hole in that spot that’s wide enough to fit the toggle. The wings of the bolt will be folded into the sides while the bolt is inserted into the wall. Once the bolt is inserted, the wings open up inside the wall to add stability. Use your fingers to tighten the bolt, then finish securing it with a screwdriver.
How to Hang an Object on Drywall
On drywall, you may opt to use a picture-hanging hook. These fasteners come with their own nail and are strong if installed correctly into a stud, Popular Mechanics says. To use it, insert the nail through the sleeve on the fastener. Hold it up to the wall where you want to hang the item, then use a hammer to tap the nail into the wall. These may hold up to 20 pounds, according to This Old House, but be sure to check the package to confirm.
If you’re hanging a heavier piece, expandable metal anchors, also known as molly bolts, are an option. These are made up of a screw fitted into a metal sleeve, Popular Mechanics says. If the anchor has a pointed tip, it can be simply hammered into the wall. If the end is flat, however, you’ll need to first drill a hole in the wall before inserting it. As the screw is tightened, the outer metal sleeve expands into the wall, securing it in place.
While molly bolts can vary, they can typically hold between 10 and 50 pounds, This Old House notes. According to DoItYourself.com, heavier items will require a molly bolt with a larger diameter. They recommend selecting bolts that are long enough to pass through the thickness of your drywall so it can expand properly. Also, using two bolts instead of one may allow you to support an item that’s twice as heavy, Zillow says. For detailed information on weight and length requirements, consult the product packaging.
How to Hang an Object on a Brick Wall
If you’re hanging your picture or mirror on a brick wall, you’ll want to use a wall anchor. BobVila.com recommends a polyethylene expansion anchor. To install, use a masonry drill bit to drill a hole into the mortar where you want a hook to go. Next, insert the anchor into the hole and then screw the hook into the anchor, says BobVila.com.
A brick wall can typically carry a heavier load than plaster or drywall. The maximum load the anchor can hold will depend on whether the anchor is made of plastic or metal, and the size and style of the anchor, The Family Handyman says. For some objects, like a heavy picture frame with glass, you may want to use two anchors, BobVila.com recommends. Check the packaging to confirm weight limitations.
By using one of these methods, you can hang a heavy object with confidence. Whatever approach you choose, be sure to use a level to make sure the object is straight after you place it on the wall.