A guide to hanging paintings, mirrors or flat TVs

The proper way to hang even the heaviest objects around your house

By Jay Somerset

hanging tv

Photo by Simon Cheung

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It began as a solid idea: my friend dry-mounted a poster on wood and hung it over his fireplace. Five hours later: bam! It came crashing down off the wall. Had my friend known that choosing a fastener depends on the weight of the object being hung, as well as the type of wall (drywall, plaster, brick) and studs (wood, metal) you’re putting it on, his picture would still be hanging and the stereo nearby wouldn’t have been smashed in the process.

Before hanging something, consider the weight and wall type, and then buy fasteners. But don’t just reach into your toolbox for any old screw and wall plug; E-Z anchors, thin steel screws, plastic anchors-as with the rest of your tools, each one serves a particular purpose. In every case, we assume you’re hanging the object on a wall made of drywall with wooden studs (see “Special Circumstances” for other scenarios).


Pictures, or items that weigh less than 20 lbs., are the easiest to hang and don’t require plastic wall plugs, screws or studs. Stick with thin nails (not screws) and picture hooks rated for the weight of the object being hung. Even art galleries hang their works this way, using the same type of hangers.

The key: go minimal and you won’t ruin your wall. Too often we grab whatever nail or screw is most convenient, hammer it in and then hook the picture on it. This works, but you’ll leave yourself a huge hole in the wall when you want to move the picture. Also, the longer you hang your picture, the bigger the hole will become.

Instead, lightly tap in a thin nail with the hook attached. For large pictures that are still less than 20 lbs., consider installing more than one picture hook.

HANGING A COAT RACK (10 to 20 lbs. with coats)

“A fastener is only as strong as the drywall it’s anchored into,” says Don Millar of Hold-Tite Fasteners in Concord, Ont., who has been in the fastener business for more than 40 years. “Drywall is pretty flimsy, so don’t overtighten the anchor or it will simply spin in its hole and you won’t have any holding power.”

The key: drill properly sized pilot holes. The pilot hole should be smaller than the plug, so choose a drill bit just slightly smaller than the plug.

Measure your coat rack. Assuming it has five hooks and is 1.5 metres long, drill three pilot holes: one for a screw in the centre of the rack, and the other two on each end (split the difference from the centre to the edge; for longer or shorter racks, adjust the number of fasteners accordingly).

Insert a hollow plastic wall plug into each hole, tapping the plugs lightly with a hammer so they’re flush with the wall. Be careful that the entire plug doesn’t tear completely through the drywall’s paper covering. Next, install the screws through the coat rack and into the plugs with gentle force, so that you don’t push the screw and plug through the drywall. Lightly tighten the screws so the coat rack sits tight against the wall.

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