Hanging Things on Your Wall, With or Without a Stud

However, hanging things can get a bit tricky. Drywall isn’t exactly sturdy stuff, so using the right tools and techniques is super important. Here are some decorating tips for creating a space you love with various types of equipment:


When you have a stud

The most secure way to hang a coat hook, wine rack, picture or another type of wall art is to attach a screw to a stud. Studs are pieces of wood beneath drywall that act as the wall’s frame. Most structures have vertical studs spaced 16 inches apart. You can also find some that run horizontally. However, don’t take this as gospel. Although most structures are supposed to follow these guidelines, there are times that studs aren’t spaced properly.

There will always be a stud in a corner and next to an outlet. Use those to guide you to find a stud in the center of the wall. Simply measure from the corner outward and mark each 16-inch increment. Since studs aren’t always spaced properly, it is truly best to use a stud finder to locate the wood in your wall. Residential stud finders are fairly inexpensive. Don’t go buying yourself an industrial deep-scanning stud finder for $100 when you can purchase one that seeks studs that are shallow, instead.

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If a stud finder is simply outside of your budget, you can sometimes tell where a stud is by knocking on the wall. A dense, muffled knock means there is a stud behind your knuckles, whereas a more hollow sound probably means no stud.

Once you find the stud, get out your power drill. Use the drill bit to slowly create a hole in the spot you marked. Gently apply some pressure while you are drilling to know when you have hit the stud. Trust us, you will know. Keep your drill on low speed, and make sure to choose the right bit for the job. A large bit shouldn’t be used when drilling into a stud since the stud is strong enough to support the weight of your hanging items without special hardware. Insert the drill and pull it out slowly once you’ve made your hole into the stud.

Next, remove your drill bit and replace it with an electric screwdriver bit. Place your screw into the small hole you have just created and use the screwdriver bit to screw it in. Now you can hang your picture securely! Note: Always be wary of plumbing and electric cords when drilling.

When you don’t have a stud

Because drywall isn’t very sturdy, you must be careful about hanging pictures and art from a spot that doesn’t have a stud. Here are some options for hanging pictures without a stud:

Screw-In Drywall Anchors: Drywall anchors look like hollow plastic screws and they can be a great ally. These objects have a hook at the tip that lodges into the drywall. It’s like a one-way valve. The anchor slides into the wall, then the hook deploys and it can’t be pulled back out.

You would insert this tool between the pre-drill and the screw phases of a normal hanging procedure. It ensures that your art will remain on your wall. This is especially important if you’re hanging a coat rack or other heavy object.

Expanding Plastic Sleeves: Intended for hanging light-weight (10 pounds and under) and medium-weight (10 – 25 pounds) items – these plastic sleeves come in many different colors and sizes. They are best for hanging heavy picture frames, bulletin boards, lightweight framed mirrors, lightweight shelving and wall-mounted mirrors (plaster walls only).

When shopping for expanding plastic sleeves, make sure to check the packaging for type of material(s) the sleeve is meant for. For example, an expanding plastic sleeve meant for plaster or masonry won’t expand and spread its “wings” when a screw is driven into them, but ones intended for drywall will. If you don’t know what your walls are made of, ask your leasing office!

To install expanding plastic sleeves, you must choose the correct drill bit for the job. This will typically be indicated on the packaging, as well. Once you have drilled the proper size hole, use a small hammer to gently tap the expanding plastic sleeve into the wall. Once you have done this, you are ready to insert and screw-in the screw that came in the packaging with your sleeve. Do this by hand, as you don’t want to go through the sleeve and break it. Once you get the screw to the correct depth – just enough sticking out to support your hanging item – you’re done!

Picture Frame Hangers and Nails: Picture frame hangers and nails work in two different ways. The nails drive into drywall and plaster walls at an angle, which allows them to use the wall surface as leverage and support. These are perfect for hanging picture frames up to about 20 pounds. If you have a picture that is heavier than that, it is best to use a flat mounted hook and anchor. Picture frame hangers and nails come in a variety of sizes, which are sold both separately and in kits. It’s a good idea to buy a simple picture hanging kit so you have all of the sizes you may need on hand.

Tap-In Expanding Anchors: For hanging loads less than 10 pounds, use a handy little tap-in expanding anchor. Simply tap the pointed end and flat shank into the wall until it is flush. Once your shank is flush with the wall, expand the by anchor by driving a #6 screw into the hole.

Toggle Bolts: Toggle bolts are used for super heavy loads that serve a utilitarian purpose, like a coat rack. They are a little more difficult to install, as they require a larger hole, proper insertion into the drywall, and careful screwing to expand the toggle and bring it flush to the inside of your drywall. To use toggle bolts, drill a hole large enough for both the screw and toggle to be inserted into your drywall. Fit the item you wish to anchor over the bolt, insert the toggle and tighten. This will anchor the toggle to the inside of your drywall, creating a very study place to hang heavy loads.

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Anchor Wire/Monkey Hooks: Anchor wire, aka “monkey hooks” are curved pieces of metal that look similar to the hook on a dry-cleaning hanger, except they are very sharp and pointed at one end. On the other end, they have a divet, which is where your hanging item should be placed. Anchor wires are great for mirrors or artwork that is hung with a wire that runs across the back of the framed item. They come in different sizes depending on how much weight they are able to bear. If you choose to use an anchor wire, simply press the sharp end firmly into the wall at a downward angle, rotate the anchor wire 180 degrees, and gently pull it out until it doesn’t move. Once it is situated, you are ready to hang your object.

Adhesive Strip: Hanging pictures without nails can be tricky, but sometimes you just don’t have the equipment you need (or your landlord won’t let you make holes in the wall). No matter the situation, you can still hang your decorations using adhesive strips.

These double-sided products stick to the wall and your art without damaging the paint (as long as you follow the instructions properly). Depending on what you’re hanging, you may have to use multiple strips. Adhesive strips come in different sizes and use different strength glues. Make sure to check the packaging before purchasing to ensure a sturdy hang.

Nails: If you prefer not to spend the extra money, or don’t trust your “handyman/handywoman” skills, hang light artwork using nails. Simply pick the spot you want to place the painting and mark it with a pencil. Use a hammer to tap the nail into the wall.

Many paintings and mirrors hang from wires, in which case you could use several nail and hook combinations per painting. This technique creates a more secure hold.

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