How to Hang Pictures and Shelves

How to Hang a Picture

You've finally gotten that fantastic print or photograph framed. Now, how to hang it on the wall? Just follow these instructions.

  1. Decide where to hang the picture. Avoid hanging one small picture on a huge expanse of wall - art looks better when it seems to extend the lines of furniture, windows or doorways or when several small pieces are grouped together.
  2. Check that you are not hanging a heavy picture on wallboard only. Hang heavy objects only from a wall stud or beam.
  3. Hold the picture up and make a small pencil mark, or use something to make a small scratch on the wall where the top edge of the frame will be.
  4. Choose an appropriate hook. You might want a two-piece nail-and-hook, or a hollow-wall anchor for heavier objects.
  5. Holding the picture's wire taut, measure from the wire (or from the hanging tab if that's what the picture has) to the frame's top edge. Measure down that distance from the pencil mark, or scratch you made on the wall and mark that spot - that's where the hook will go.
  6. Nail the picture hook into the wall where you've just made a mark.
  7. Hang the picture and adjust it so it's straight.

You can hang wide frames using two hooks spaced about a third of the way in from each side. Use a level to make sure that the two hooks are correctly aligned.

Very lightweight pictures can hang from hooks that stick with adhesive to the wall.

Picture-hook packages usually indicate how much weight the hooks can bear.

Tips for the Blind

  • Put a dab of toothpaste on the hanger of the picture. Place it exactly where you want it on the wall and then push so that toothpaste stays on the wall. Then you know exactly where to put your nail/screw.
  • A little trick to hang a picture that requires multiple nails: Just get some masking tape. Lay a strip of the tape along the back of the frame to be hung. Poke holes in the tape to mark where you want the nails to go. Then pull off the tape and stick it to the wall. Then you can mark those holes on the wall.
  • To prevent your fingers from getting smashed by a hammer, try using a spring-loaded clothespin to hold the nail in place while you hammer it in to the wall. This keeps your fingers far away from any danger.
  • Heavy pictures or mirrors should always be hung from wall studs to support their weight. Use a stud finder that can be purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store. But if you find yourself without a stud finder, run an electric razor over the wall. The tone will change when the razor vibrates over the stud.

How to Hang a Shelf

Adding storage or display space in your home can be a snap. Here's how to mount a simple wooden shelf and two brackets to a wall.

  1. Buy a wooden shelf from a home-improvement store. Buy shelf brackets - simple L shapes or something more decorative - making sure that the top leg of the bracket is no longer than the shelf is deep.
  2. Buy screws if you don't have a supply at home or if they don't come with the brackets.
  3. Find the wall studs; you'll fasten the brackets to them.
  4. Determine where you want the bottom edge of the shelf to sit, then mark the position, using a carpenter's level, or audible level as a guide.
  5. Line up the top of each bracket with a pencil line or scratch and mark the attachment holes on the wall. Set the bracket aside.
  6. Test-drill the holes to make sure they are going into wood rather than wallboard. If there is no stud in a convenient place and the shelf is not going to carry more than a few pounds, you may be able to settle for using hollow-wall anchors.
  7. Attach the brackets to the wall, lay your shelf on top, and screw the bracket into the shelf.

Choose screws that will penetrate the wallboard and go into the stud about 1 inch. Choose shorter screws for mounting the shelf on the bracket, so they won't penetrate the top of the shelf.

Before you buy a precut shelf, check it carefully to make sure there are no dents, scratches or chips in it. And make sure all the hardware and brackets are included.


Handygirl Cat said…
These are the exact instructions I was looking for. I took apart a standard 5 shelf bookcase of my daughters leaving me with 6 29" shelves and two 6' shelves (the old sides). I primered and painted them and needed to decide whether to use standards and brackets or just "L" shape brackets. Standards and the brackets to use with them were well over $40. The "L" shaped brackets and screws ran about $15. I went with the "L" shaped even though it will be a little more work and more holes because I don't plan on having to adjust the shelves later on. Thank you for the tips :)

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