A former art gallery director, Toni Spanos Nordan has spent years hanging and arranging pieces of art for students' exhibitions and public shows. She learned a few tips along the way, which she shares here.
"Many people think that if you're going to hang something, you automatically need a hanger," Nordan says. "But that's not always the case." For items that weigh less than 20 pounds, a long, thin nail secured at an angle works fine. When you're dealing with a grouping of items, hangers can make the job more difficult -- to be sure, use a scale to weigh what you're hanging.
If a wall hanging exceeds 20 pounds, then use a hanger. "If you choose to take an extra precaution by nailing in two hangers, separate them by at least 3 inches to equally distribute the object's weight and to prevent it from hanging crooked," says Nordan, who also provides illustrated, step-by-step hanging instructions. For even more strength, locate a wall stud with a stud finder. Because framing members are typically spaced 16 inches on center, you'll be able to secure only one hanger within a stud when nailing two.
Besides nails and hangers, other devices are available that might suit your needs. For instance, wall anchors work best when dealing with drapery rod brackets or architectural fragments. Made out of plastic or nylon, these sleevelike plugs require a drilled hole roughly the same diameter. After tapping an anchor into the hole, insert a screw that, when tightened, expands the sleeve, creating a snug grip in the wall.
When hanging extra-heavy objects on gypsum drywall or plaster, use toggle bolts, particularly if you're unable to locate a stud. Like wall anchors, these require a similarly sized hole. Once inserted, spring-activated arms fold out for extra support.
Expansion bolts are another means of securing heavy pictures or objects onto gypsum drywall. These attachments can be hammered directly into the wall without creating a guide hole. If you're still in doubt about which hardware to buy, Nordan's simple advice is to read the packages.
"When hanging paintings, galleries use an arbitrary 59 or 60 inches from the floor to the center of the art, which puts it at eye level," Nordan says. It's a good idea to place your central piece by this method, and position other pictures around it. "In our dining room, I asked my husband to sit in a chair so I could gauge the distance from his head to the bottom of the chandelier," she says. "By determining this visual space, I then placed my art -- and it worked!"