The Tao of décor: Just hanging around

September 30, 2014

 My family may have over a hundred frame-worthy pictures, and I have hung most of them using fasteners I installed myself. A good old-fashioned paneling nail, pre-painted to the color of my wall, and a small tack hammer is my preferred method of placement.


There are hook-and-nail setups you can buy that are supposed to make hanging pictures, small shelves, and other knickknacks a breeze, but some of these are tricky to install.


There is also a sticky method that uses gummy adhesives or foam-like tape. This is great for hanging smaller items because it holds well and is easy to remove without leaving a hole or mark.


I recommend screws if you are hanging something complicated, like surround-sound speakers, but use them with plastic or metal wall inserts.


This way, you can tighten the fastener to a specific depth so your speakers do not rattle or—the latest in 4D technology—fall on your head.


If what you are hanging is especially heavy, test the fastener with something less likely to break. If it can carry the weight of a cast-iron frying pan tied to a string, it will probably suffer Aunt Mildred’s full-scale portrait fairly well.


Hanging frames vary in size and weight. If you use a hook-and-nail or tape post, make sure to read the packaging to ensure it is rated for the bulk it will have to hold indefinitely.


The nail-in-wall method is similar in that you don’t want to use a tiny nail on something massive. It will not hold, and you will be left with decorations falling unexpectedly.


At the same time, you don’t want to use heavy construction nails for a 3"x5" tin frame because, (1) it’s overkill that may not even work on the balancing grooves, and (2) you will not be able to cover up the hole if you ever take the frame down.


There is an aesthetic flow to portraits that frames can maintain or hinder. For example, if your frame has a thick inset margin, the photo or painting is much smaller than the actual frame borders, separated by flat, empty space. Placing it side-by-side with a photo without an interior border may not work. Even if the subjects themselves were the same size, they would be in stark contrast.


Some artists feel that the placement of framed images reflects your feelings about the subjects. Perhaps your favorite family members are closer and other, more distant relations farther away. On stairs, consider aligning either the center or tips closest to the steps, parallel with the angle of the steps.


Your walls are a factor in how you hang a frame. Depending on your wall construction (for example, dry wall), you may not want to approach it with a nail. If your wall’s surface is course like stucco, a nail would sit out better than a hook-and-nail, but tape posts would not work at all.


Make sure you know what’s on the other side of your wall before pounding nails through it. You should purchase a cheap stud/wiring locator so you do not accidentally pierce something that will not take a nail, such as a metal support bracket, or something that will shock you, like socket wiring.


With the nail-in-wall or hook-and-nail methods, tap in your fastener at a downward angle. So, if the top of the wall is at 90 degrees and the bottom is 0 (vertical) and 360 degrees (horizontal) is perpendicular facing you, between 30 and 45 degrees up from would be a good place to start.


With needle-nose pliers beneath the head of the nail, tap carefully with your hammer until the nail goes in. Before reaching optimal depth, release the pliers so they do not leave depressions around the fastener or get stuck, forcing you to pull out the nail.


If you are using a tape post, remove the backing and hold the tape with pressure on the spot for a minimum of 30 seconds for the adhesive to form a bond. If you are unsure whether the tape will work, test it first on a less obvious area of your wall.


With a screw, drill a pilot hole large enough for the plastic insert to go in, but not large enough for it to fall out. The screw will pull on the back of the insert causing it to expand so it cannot be pulled out.


Use a spirit level or equivalent to balance the frame, but, if your home’s base is off, your frames will appear a little off if they do not match the angle.


The Tao of Do-It-Yourself is intended to de-mystify simple home and auto maintenance projects. It is not a substitute for professional repair services. If you cannot identify the problem you are trying to fix, refer to the proper specialist right away.


A.T. Miller is an electrician’s apprentice who builds and wires control panels for power systems. He is also a cartoonist, writer, and web/graphic designer. At home, he is an amateur repairman, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and auto mechanic. His most important job is that of husband and father.

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