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Hanging Your Photo Frame

There are tons of articles on the Internet on how to shoot your photos. But there are very few articles on how to hang your photos at home for exhibition. After all, it only takes nails and a hammer to hang your photos right?

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Nails and Hammer

Not really. Most homes in the United States uses dry walls. Pounding a nail through dry wall is like tapping a needle into a cracker. If you are careful, the nail would go through without knocking a hole in the wall. But over time, the dry wall flakes like your cracker, creating a bigger hole. Not to mention the nail might land anywhere on the floor for your toddler to find.

The only safe way to use a nail to hang up a photo frame is to find wood studs behind the dry wall. The problem is that you can't hang your photo frame up anywhere you please. Your presentation is going to suffer, because the aesthetics of your photo arrangement is awkward. And as photographs we all know the importance of subject placement, right?

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The Right Way

So, now that we have an understanding that nails and hammer is the wrong way to go, what is the best way to hang up a photo frame? The best way is slightly more complicated than pounding a nail into a wall with a hammer. And you'll need more tools. But the result is pleasing, confident, and professional. After you try it a few times, you will never ever consider using nails and hammer again for anything (except for a few cases like roofing your house).

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Parts You Need

Your photograph and your photo frame is pretty self-explanatory. Since you are reading this article, you must already have at least something you want to hang; or already have a few hanging photographs. You can pretty much use any photo frame; as fancy as you can get. The method I'm showing you can handle 50 lbs on a single screw. With multiple screws, you can literally hang a rock on the wall, as long as your wall can support the weight.

Your need drywall anchors for this project. The drywall anchor allows you to hang your photo frame anywhere on the drywall, regardless of where the wood studs are located. You can arrange the photo anywhere on your wall. You can use any drywall anchor you find at the hardware store. But I like the Buildex E-Z Anchor Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors a lot (see photo below). They screw into the drywall like a screw, they are easier to install than the anchors that you press into the wall, and they create clean, professional appearances. I saw 30 lbs and 50 lbs versions at the Home Depot. I went with the 50 lbs versions (I've been known to over-improve my home), which comes with 20 anchors and 20 screws.

In case there is a wood stud where you want to locate your photo, I use the #10 x 2" wood screw that you can find at the hardware store. They are cheap and sturdy. I believe, you can hang 30 to 50 lbs with each screw.

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Tools You Need

For this project, you'll need a drill, a 3/32" drill bit, and a 7/32" drill bit. I like cordless drills, because they are convenient. But you can use any drill you like. The different sized drill bits are for drilling the drywall, and maybe drilling the wood stud if one happens to be at the drilling location. The drill bit size is based on using the Buildex E-Z Anchor Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors and the #10 x 2" wood screws. If you use some other anchor product, then substitute the drill bits as necessary.

Your drill can double as a screwdriver, but I use a separate Black & Decker AS600 6-Volt Alkaline Battery Cordless Screwdriver for convenience. You'll also need a #2 Philips screw bit. The drill bit size is based on using the Buildex E-Z Anchor Self-Drilling Drywall Anchors. If you use some other anchor product, then substitute the drill bit as necessary.

Make sure you have a stud finder. I use a Stanley IntelliSensor Stud Finder. It was less than 20 bucks at the hardware store. Even though you aren't using nails and hammer any more, you'll still need to find the wood studs. If you planning on hanging a photograph over a stud, you can't use the anchor (though you can still use the screw that came with the anchor).

The water level is for you to hang the photo straight. Asking your spouse to eyeball it might be romantic in the movies, but they rarely work. It only creates doubt and conflict between you and your spouse. I rather let a water level do the work than to bicker back forth with my wife. Oh, and it helps you win arguments. If you don't mind losing your wife, ask her to eyeball the photo frame, then pull out your water level and tell her how wrong she is.

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Anchoring the Wall

Now that you have your parts and your tools together, it's time to pick a location on the wall and get started. Once you picked a location, use a stud finder to determine whether a wood stud is behind the drywall at the location you want the anchor.

If you find a wood stud at the location you are drilling, then use the 1/8" drill bit to make a hole in the drywall and the wood stud (see photo below). You won't need an anchor in this case; the wood stud is the anchor. Simply screw the #10 x 2" screw directly into the drywall and the wood stud hole. You don't need to screw it all the way in, because you'll need to adjust it, (see "Adjusting the Screw" section).

If there isn't a wood stud at the location, use the 7/32" drill to make a hole in the drywall. Then Insert the white anchor into the hole and use the screw bit to screw it so that it's flush with the wall surface (see photo below).

After screwing the white anchor all the way into the wall, screw the matching screw into it as shown in the photo below. Don't screw it all the way in. Instead, refer to the next section on adjusting it.

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Adjusting the Screw

I haven't mentioned this point before, but one of the beauty of this photo hanging system (unlike the nails and hammer method) is that you get to adjust the length of the screw protruding from the wall. Not only can you set at least enough protrution to hold the photo frame hanging wire or bracket securely, you can change the angle at which the photo frame is hung from the wall. Just make sure you have at least five turns of thread into the anchor.

Another beauty of the system is that you can remove the photo frame and the screw, but leaving the anchor in the wall. The white anchor will mesh into a white wall and your guest will probably never notice it. You can always paint the face of the anchor to match your wall color.

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Final Touch

Finally, you are ready to hang your photos. If you have a fairly heavy frame, you might want to get someone, such as your spouse, to help you lift it. Be careful you don't drop a glass frame. As mentioned earlier, use a water level to make sure the photo is leveled without question. The photo below shows a fairly heavy photo frame over the fire place in my living room.

I know what you are thinking. And yes, you can use a similar procedure to mount your high definition plasma and LCD televisions.

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Copyright © 2007 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.