You've just completed a project that goes on a wall. The next step is to hang it up. Can you just drive a nail into the wall and be done with it? Maybe, or maybe not. Another method may suit the task better. Here are some of your choices
slide 1 and 2.jpg

What are you hanging?

You've just completed a project that goes on a wall. The next step is to hang it up. Can you just drive a nail into the wall and be done with it? Maybe, or maybe not. Another method may suit the task better. Here are some of your choices, and how to decide which one to use.

First, consider the item you're hanging. Ask these questions:

  • How heavy is it?
  • Will additional weight be put on it after it's up?
  • Will it need to be taken down? Often? Occasionally? Rarely?
  • What provision does it have for hanging?

There might be a sawtooth hanger; a metal tab with a hole; or, perhaps, a wire strung between a pair of screw eyes. Any of these calls for at least one hook on the wall. It might have a routed keyhole slot, which fits over a screw head, or holes for screwing it to the wall.

Where are you hanging it?

Now, make sure that whatever you're hanging won't interfere with doors, windows, light switches, and the like. Hold the item against the wall when you're checking the location—don't count on memory or measurements to verify whether or not it will fit the spot.

Once you've positioned it, have a helper mark the top and sides on the wall with tiny pencil marks or tape. Next, determine the location of the hanger on back of the project in relation to the top and edges. Then, measuring from the marks on the wall, mark the hanger location on the wall. If the item has multiple hangers, mark them all, making sure they're level.

Gypsum-board walls

Wall structure dictates what kind of hardware you can use for hanging. In most cases, you'll be hanging things on a standard stud wall covered with gypsum board or paneling, so that's what we'll focus on.

First, determine whether there's a wall stud behind the spot you've marked. Tap the spot lightly with a hammer handle. If the wall sounds hollow, tap again at several spots to the left and right, listening for the sound to change. When it sounds solid, you've found a stud. (You could test with a stud finder, either electronic or magnetic, too.)

If there's a stud where you've made your mark, or one near enough that you could slightly relocate the item with no difficulty, fall back on that old nail-in-the-wall hanging technique. For anything that will hang on a hook, drive a 4d or 6d finishing nail into the wall at about a 45° angle on your mark. Leave about 14 " protruding from the wall, and then slip the hanger over it. For a neater job, attach a hook, such as a utility hanger, shown in Photo 1, to the wall with a #8x1" panhead sheet-metal screw driven into the stud. Position the bottom of the hook on your mark.

For routed keyhole slots, drive a panhead screw straight into the wall at the mark. Use one about 1 12 " long, of a diameter to fit the slot in the project. Similarly, drive a through-project mounting screw right into the stud.

If there's no stud nearby, you'll need to use a commercial picture hanger or attach a utility hanger to the wall with an anchor. Check out these choices found at hardware stores or home centers.

  • Adhesive hanger. Shown in Photo 2, these work fine for light-duty hanging on smooth walls. The advantage of this type is that you can remove it later without leaving a hole in the wall. (Follow the manufacturer's instructions for removing one; doing it incorrectly may damage the paint or even the paper covering on the wallboard.) Use one of these for a scrollsawed plaque or similar item that weighs less than 10 pounds. Follow the installation instructions carefully, and position the hanger so the bottom of its hook is on your mark.

Nail-on picture hanger

  • This style, shown below in Photo 3, comes in several load capacities. And while it does make a hole in the wall, it is a small one, easily patched if you take the item down later. To install this hanger, place the bottom of the hook over your mark, and then hold the back of the hanger flat against the wall as you drive in the nail.
  • Push-in picture hanger. This style, shown in Photo 4, installs without using tools. Follow the package instructions, starting with the point slightly above your mark. The one shown holds up to 20 pounds in either drywall or paneling. It's easily removed, leaving a small hole in the wall.
  • For heavier items, attach a utility hanger to the wall with one of these commonly available anchors. Install the anchor far enough above your mark that the bottom of the hanger's hook will be on the mark.
  • Hollow-wall anchor. The standard hollow-wall anchor, shown in Photo 5, installs easily into a hole drilled through the wallboard. The pointed drive-in type, shown in Photo 6, installs even more easily, because you don't have to drill a hole first. Both hold firmly, but can be difficult to remove from the wall later.
  • Plastic toggle. Instead of metal, you can use a plastic anchor like the one shown in Photo 7. This one also inserts into a hole drilled through the wallboard. Driving a screw into it draws the wings up against the back of the wallboard. It works best with a sheet-metal screw rather than a wood screw.
  • Self-drilling anchor. A third type of anchor looks like a deeply threaded plastic screw. (You'll sometimes find this style, shown in Photo 8, made of die-cast metal instead of plastic.) Using a Phillips screwdriver or power-driver bit, you just run the anchor right into the wallboard without pre-drilling. Then, drive a sheet-metal screw into the anchor.

To use any of the anchors with a routed keyhole slot, first install the anchor on your mark. Back the screw out of it, leaving a gap between the wall surface and the screw head to accommodate the project slot. For through-project mounting screws, center the anchor on the mark. Hang the project by driving the screw through the hole into the insert.