How to Hang Things on Your Walls

by James Fitzgerald
Young Woman Putting Photo Frame On White Wall

Decorating walls with pictures, mirrors and wall art can create a personalized and welcoming space. It adds character and depth to a room, showcases your personal style and can even make small spaces appear larger.

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Prep Your Walls

Preparing your wall for hanging an item involves a few key steps to ensure the item is secure and correctly positioned.

Decide on the Placement

Choose where you want to hang the item. The placement may depend on factors like visibility, wall space, balance with other decor elements and room layout.

Mark Out the Area

Hold the item against the desired location on the wall, and make a light pencil mark where you want the top (or center, depending on the item) of the item to be. If you would rather not make a mark on your wall, you can use a piece of painter’s tape instead.

Check the Item's Hanging Mechanism

Look at the back of the item you're hanging. It might have a wire, a sawtooth hanger, a bracket or no hardware at all. If the item has a wire or a hanger, measure the distance from the top of the item to the wire or hanger when taut. Subtract this distance from your marked height on the wall, and make a second mark. This is where the nail or hanger should go. If there's no hardware, you'll either need to add some or use a hanging method that doesn’t require one.

Find the Studs

For heavier items and certain hanging methods, you'll want to hang them on a stud, which is a beam behind the drywall. The easiest way to locate studs is with a stud finder. If you don't have a stud finder, you can often manually locate studs by measuring 16 inches a corner of the wall and tapping on the area. If the sound is solid instead of hollow, there is likely a stud there. You may also be able to see the seam where two pieces of drywall meet, or drywall nail heads protruding out from the stud. Once you’ve found a stud (or studs, depending on the hanging method), mark their location with a pencil or piece of tape.

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4 Ways to Hang Things on Your Walls

Method 1: Picture Hangers

Picture hangers are designed specifically for hanging framed pictures, artwork or other wall decor. They consist of a hook attached to a short, thick nail. The nail is angled so that when it's hammered into the wall, it goes in at an upward angle. The design of the hanger allows it to leverage the wall to support a greater amount of weight than a nail alone. They are best for

lightweight items like framed pictures, small mirrors and small wall art with wire hangers or sawtooth hanging hardware. The primary disadvantage is that they require puncturing the wall, so they may not be suitable for use in rentals.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Picture hanger
  • Stud finder or tape measure (if necessary)
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Torpedo level (optional)

How to Use Picture Hangers:

1. Mark the spot on your wall where you want the bottom of the hook to sit.

2. Hold the picture hanger on the spot, aligning the bottom of the hook with your mark.

3. With your other hand, hammer the nail through the hole in the picture hanger, making sure it goes in at an angle.

4. Hang your item on the nail and adjust it until it’s level. You can use a small spirit level (like a torpedo level) if desired

Method 2: Drywall Anchors

Drywall anchors provide added support for medium to heavy items in an area without a wall stud. They are suitable for larger mirrors, framed artwork and heavy wall decor. A hole is drilled into the drywall, and the anchor is inserted. A screw goes into the anchor, providing a secure hold. Always choose an anchor rated for the weight of the item you’re hanging.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Drywall anchor
  • Pencil
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit
  • Hammer

How to Use Drywall Anchors:

1. Mark the spot on your wall where you will be hanging the item from.

2. Drill a hole in the marked spot slightly smaller than the anchor's diameter.

3. Insert the anchor into the hole and gently tap with a hammer until flush with the wall.

4. Screw the provided screw into the anchor, leaving enough of the head protruding from the anchor to hang the item from.

5. Attach the item to the screw and use a level to ensure it is straight.

Method 3: French Cleats

French cleats are a strong and efficient method for hanging heavy items like cabinets, mirrors or large pieces of art. The system consists of two equally beveled metal strips. One strip is attached to the item you want to hang, and the other is attached to the wall. The bevels interlock, securing the item to the wall. When shopping for a French cleat, purchase one that’s rated for the weight of the item you’re hanging.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit
  • Stud finder or tape measure
  • Pencil

How to Use French Cleats:

1. Locate and mark the studs in the area you intend to hang the item.

2. Hold one part of the cleat up to the desired location on the wall with the bevel facing upwards.

3. Place a torpedo level on top of the cleat and adjust until it’s level. Once it is, make a light pencil mark on the wall across the top edge of the cleat. This mark will help you readjust the cleat if it slides out of level as you’re working.

4. Drive the provided screws through the mounting holes in the cleat into the wall studs.

5. Center and level the other part of the French cleat onto the back of the item you’re hanging with the bevel facing downward.

6. Drive the provided screws through the mounting holes in the cleat into the item. Depending on the item you’re hanging and the type of screws provided with the cleat, you may need to drill pilot holes prior to driving the screws.

7. Hang the item on the wall by aligning the two parts of the cleat.

Method 4: Monkey Hooks

Monkey hooks are a type of picture hanger designed for use with drywall. They are a simple, easy-to-use solution for hanging pictures, mirrors or wall decor without the need for tools or finding studs.

The hook is made from a single, sturdy piece of metal that's curved at one end (which is the part that goes into the wall) and forms a hook at the other end (where the picture hangs). They have a pointed tip that can easily pierce the drywall, and they are shaped in such a way that they lock in place behind the drywall, providing a secure hold.

Monkey hooks are ideal for lightweight to medium-weight items, and they come in different sizes and weight ratings, so you can choose the right one for your needs. The main disadvantages are that they require puncturing the wall and are only suitable for items with wire hanger hardware.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Pencil
  • Monkey hook

How to Use Monkey Hooks:

1. Mark the spot on your wall where you will be hanging the item from.

2. Insert the curved tip of the monkey hook into the drywall at a slight angle.

3. Rotate the hook upward, pushing it through the wall until the hook rests flush against the wall surface.

4. Hang the item on the hook and use a level to ensure it is straight.

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