Just Hang It Over There: Our Guide to Mounting Hardware
Putting up cherished photos, artwork, or knick knack shelves is our way of adding a personal touch to our homes. Sometimes things can get a bit complicated when dealing with different types of wall structures like drywall, studs, logs, lath and plaster, brick, or even doors. Using the wrong hardware could put you one tap away from a messy nightmare. Whether you're maximizing a small space, or reflecting your personality, let's investigate the tools and hardware to consider for getting the job done right.
Whether you're hanging on drywall or masonry, you'll need to consider the following tools:
- a hammer;
- an electric drill or manual screwdriver;
- a hammer drill (only needed for masonry);
- a socket wrench or ratchet wrench (only needed for masonry);
- a laser level;
- measuring tape; and
- a stud* finder—sorry, not that kind of stud!—is the best tool for locating a stud's centre through drywall, and range from $10 – $100+ at your local hardware store.
“What in blue blazes is a stud?” you might ask. Studs are the 2” x 4” wooden boards supporting the drywall and plaster wall structure in your home.
If you need precise placements as you would for mounting shelves or a strategically arranged series of frames, then a laser level and measuring tape are your best friends.
A hammer drill with a masonry bit is a must when working with stone or brick walls. These are similar to cordless drills, but pack more punch by applying a hammering motion while rotating to help dig into the stone or brick.
When drilling into ceramic tiles, always use a glass and tile drill bit as ceramic is quite brittle and cracks easily, causing potentially expensive repairs. As long as you take your time and do not apply too much pressure, you should be safe from unwanted damage.
Screws and anchors
This is where mistakes happen easily, especially when dealing with hollow walls and doors. Drywall is extremely brittle and it's easy for nails, or wood and general-purpose screws to pull out, causing unsightly holes and damaged keepsakes. A wide range of drywall screws and anchors at varying weight ratings can be found at your local hardware store.
Drywall or plaster screws and anchors come in various sizes and support weights ranging from 4.5kg (approximately 10 lbs) all the way up to 27kg (approximately 60 lbs) or more. The sheaths of drywall screws and anchors act to stabilize the material surrounding the screw, distributing weight more evenly rather than applying downward pressure on a single point.
Hollow door—and some drywall—anchors brace against the inside of the door or wall by expanding after they penetrate completely. These are more difficult to remove, so make sure you're placing them exactly where you want them.
The main thing to keep in mind for wood walls is you're using wood screws—double-check the package label. Their thread is designed to grip into wood fibre without causing splits. Longer is better, especially when dealing with heavy objects like mirrors or televisions, 2.5” to 3” is best.
Much like using the correct drill and bit for stone and masonry, it's important to use the right fasteners. Start by using your hammer drill to make pilot holes, then insert masonry shields (also called dowels or wall plugs) and screws. These are similar to drywall screws, only they are specifically intended for masonry. The shields are either plastic or metal and come in a variety of strengths from light to heavy-duty, and generally have a higher weight threshold than their drywall counterparts.
Once your pilot holes are drilled, use a hammer to tap the shields into place and insert the screws using a driver or, in some cases, a socket wrench.
Picture hooks are the simplest and quickest way to hang items. It's ideal to apply them where there are studs, but it's OK not to in some instances. This type of hardware uses a combination of angles and the outer surface of the wall to distribute weight. The hook is designed so the nail runs through it into the wall at an approximate 45º angle, with the hook sitting flush against the wall.
Picture hooks are inexpensive solutions and often come in kits containing multiple sizes, suitable for anything from 2.2kg (approximately 5 lbs) photo frames to 27kg (approximately 60 lbs) mirrors. It's advisable to always use a stud when hanging heavy objects, though.
If you're creating a gallery wall, definitely plan ahead. After you locate the studs to determine spacing for heavier items, lay your pieces out on the floor in the desired positions and write down your measurements so they translate easily to your walls.
Lath and plaster walls
If you live in an older home, your interior walls could be lath and plaster rather than drywall. Lath walls are horizontal wood slats affixed to the studs and covered with plaster. It's tricky to penetrate this medium because plaster is quite hard and cracks easily, causing it to dislodge from the lath and create large holes (as shown in the image above), which can be frustrating to repair.
Picture rails are common fixtures in older homes with plaster walls, and this horizontal molding is ideal for hanging pictures of all sizes because it is already secured to the studs.
If you do not have picture rails, hanging light and medium pictures is pretty straightforward and you can manage with simple nails or hanging hooks. Just make sure you drill pilot holes first, and ensure the drill bit is slightly narrower than your nail or hook. This removes plaster and gives enough clearance to drive your nail or hook into the hole without causing cracks in the plaster.
Heavier items must be secured where the studs are located. Stud finders are not effective for plaster walls, but a strong magnet allows you to locate studs by detecting where the nails are.
Whatever your home's materials or the décor you place on the walls, using the correct tools and hardware for the job will provide worry-free enjoyment for years to come. Happy hanging—you got this!