How to hang a very heavy picture or mirror
We often get an email or phone call asking us something like:
I bought this really heavy mirror and I’m not game to hang it, is that something you guys do?
We have this immense, heavy picture leaning against a wall for years because we are too afraid to hang it. Can you help us?
We always answer yes.
It’s true, hanging heavy prints can be a challenge. If you get it wrong, your picture might fall and break. Even worse, your heavy mirror could fall and shatter into pieces (fingers crossed no one was walking by when that happened).
The tips and tricks below will help you understand how to both choose the right hanging method and minimise wall damage.
Step 1: Work out how much your picture weighs.
It just might be lighter than you think. You can use your bathroom scales.
First weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the picture. Subtract the 1st from the 2nd and you’ll get the weight of your picture.
Do I hear you asking, “Why not just put the picture on the scale, which would be so much easier?” No, scales work best in the middle of their range. A few kilograms is too little to weigh accurately.
If your painting, print, picture or mirror weighs less than 3 kg it’s quite light and most hanging solutions should be fine.
If it weighs more than 3 kg and you have Gyprock walls, you’ll need a wall stud or a hanging rail.
Step 2: Determine what your walls are made of
Are your walls Gyprock, stone, brick, concrete, timber, plaster or a combination of a few of these?
Most modern interior walls are built using a timber or metal structure with some type of covering. Most of the time the covering is drywall which is the same as Gyprock.
In older homes, brick or stone walls are often plastered (covered with plaster).
Step 3: Based on wall composition and picture weight choose your hanging method
I’ll admit, I’m biased. My choice will always be a picture hanging system for any type of wall. It’s very versatile:
It supports up to 50 kg per metre.
You can install it on any type of wall surface.
You can adjust the position and height of your artwork as many times as you want.
It doesn’t wreck your walls like nails and screws do.
When you don’t want the picture on that wall anymore you’re not left with an unsightly hole from your hook, nail or screw that you need to patch up and repaint (urggh!)
Hanging Pictures on Gyprock Walls
About three times a year we’re asked: what is the difference between Gyprock, plasterboard, drywall and gypsum board? Short answer- it’s all pretty much the same.
Some interesting history: for thousands of years plaster was made from lime, sand, and animal hair. That’s even how the Egyptians did it in their tombs. Then they decorated the plaster walls with colourful murals. Up to the 1940s, most Australian homes had timber nailed across the house frames, which builders then covered in plaster for a smooth finish.
In 1947, a new process was introduced to Australia: a layer of gypsum-based plaster was set between layers of felt paper to create sheets of board. They provided a smooth finish for painting and were fast and easy to put up. The plaster was already dry between the layers of paper, which is why it is also called Drywall.
The gypsum-based plasters had a faster drying time than the lime-based plaster when manufacturing the plasterboards and this inspired the term ’Gyprock’.
Gyprock sheets have different thicknesses. The standard size for internal walls is 9.5 mm and 12.5 mm. Builders often install thicker Gyprock sheets called Fyrchek (13 and 16mm thick) on interior walls that are outside facing walls to increase fire resistance.
Gyprock is brittle and the thinner it is the less weight it can hold. If you just use a nail for hanging a heavy object in 9.5mm Gyprock, it won’t be strong enough to hold it for long.
You have 3 good options:
- Find a stud,
- Use a wall anchor or
- Install a picture hanging system.
People often use Velcro hanging strips and adhesive hooks to hang art, but they are not suited for hanging heavy frames and are unfortunately single-use only.
Find a stud
You can use a stud finder to locate it. If you don’t have a stud finder pretend you are that using echolocation to find a fruit tree. Simply knock your knuckles along the wall.
Until you arrive at a stud you’ll hear a hollow sound. When you reach the stud the sound will turn into a dud. Then you can use a thin nail to hold up a picture weighing up to around 8 kg. If it’s heavier, use a course threaded timber screw.
2. Use a wall anchor
If you can’t access a stud you can use drywall anchors. The anchor gives your screw extra stability. There are plastic and metal anchors. For up to 8 kg plastic is okay, beyond that use a metal anchor. When you drill into them, 2 small legs expand and support the screw on the other side of the plasterboard.
3. Install a picture hanging system
A picture hanging system consists of a hanging rail with hanging wires and hooks. The hanging wires are inserted into the rail and can slide to the left and right. This means you can hang your pictures anywhere along the walls. The hooks slide up and down the hanging wire and are inserted into the d-rings or wire on the back of the picture.
On 9.5 mm and 12.5 mm. Gyprock walls, the rail can be installed with special plastic plugs for plaster walls called Wallmates. For thicker Fyrchek walls easiest to use the metal Wallmates.
Hanging Pictures on Brick Walls
Many customers want to maintain the natural beauty of their brick walls which can be challenging when it comes to hanging art or signage. It’s nearly impossible to fill, patch, or repair nail hole damage once it has occurred. Over time, you’ll end up with the Swiss cheese effect. Here’s an unsightly example:
You may be wondering why there is so much damage in that one area; almost 20 holes. This is because optimal viewing is at eye height; you want to have the centre of the painting about 1.5 to 1.7 m up from the floor. So most wall damage is it about 1.8 m 22 m above the floor because this is where the hanging apparatus is positioned behind object. This damage isn’t only ugly, it can endanger the integrity of your wall, and in historic buildings all the walls are almost always load-bearing. It also makes it difficult to find a new spot to place a new picture.
There is an easy solution: never drill holes, drive screws or hammer nails into brick or masonry walls. This is where the hanging systems come in handy. You may know them by other names such as gallery systems, art rails, picture rails, art tracking, picture tracks etc. they all consist of the track that is mounted high on the wall or ceiling. Perlon/nylon hangers or stainless-steel cables hang down from them. A hook that slides up and down is attached to the object you want to hang.
Hanging Pictures on Concrete Walls
Concrete walls are often found in schools and institutions, some homes have them as feature walls. Take a look at the concrete brick display wall in a church community centre.
They are extremely durable and quite economical. Educational and municipal organisations frequently change their displays which means lots of damage. Installing a hanging system would be best the best solution. Then displays can be quickly installed and the hardware is reusable, which is great for the budget.
A concrete masonry wall in an art department
Here the hanging rail runs the entire length of the wall also above windows and doors which looks best. The fine adjustments required to make the above row and column hang so precise can be easily done with the Artiteq hanging system. It would be a nightmare to achieve with screws or nails.
Hanging Pictures on Stone Walls
Stone walls are attractive and your author (me) thinks it’s a sin to destroy them with ugly screw holes. Definitely best to use a hanging system for all weights.