How to Hang Heavy Pictures on ANY Wall


Whether you live in an apartment or a large home, you want your place of residence to be an extension of your personality. That is why it is very common for people to hang pictures or artwork on the walls. The images displayed gives visitors to your home a glimpse of your soul.

The fact that everyone hangs pictures may make one believe that the process is easy. You simply take a hammer and a nail, anchor, or fastener, insert it into the wall and hang up the picture. However, nothing is ever easy and that is the case when it comes to how to hang heavy pictures.

⚠ Just preparing to hang a picture or artwork requires you to damage a wall because you are making a hole in it. Moreover, a wall, regardless the type, can handle up to only a certain amount of weight. Heavy pictures should be handled carefully. Unless you set up a picture rail system or use a comparable method (some outlined below), they are likely to cause significant damage.

Jump to:

How to Hang A Heavy Picture On Drywall and Plaster
How To Hang Heavy Pictures On Brick Walls
How to Hang Heavy Pictures with Rail-based Systems (STAS)

Preparing to Hang a Heavy Picture

Hollow walls or plasterboard walls, also known as drywall, can hold 40-pounds in pull out load for every 12-inches by 12-inches of distance. People who hang pictures on this type of wall are counseled to find a stud behind the wall in which to nail in an anchor. There are tools available to help you find studs. For example, there are magnetic stud finders that find metal fasteners in the wall; electronic stud finders that can accurately find the center of a stud; or you can tap on the wall to find the stud physically. As you tap you listen for a change in sound. Although this method is often used, it is not always precise.

Studs are commonly spaced about 16-inches apart and are usually about 1-1/2-inches thick. So there is a good chance that a stud is not located in the area where you want to mount your picture. Therefore, the chances are you will be anchoring a heavy picture in a void between studs. That’s okay if the wall can take the weight.

If you are not sure if the wall can take the weight, then it is suggested you use a single 1 ½-inch or 2-inch finishing nail. It is advised that you drive the nail into the wall in at least a 45-degree angle. The angle of the nail offers greater holding capability than using a nail that is hammered straight into the wall.

There are a plethora of alternatives to using a nail. For example, there are picture-hanging hooks that include a small-diameter nail. They are available from hardware stores in a range of sizes and they can hold a heavy weight if properly used. It is suggested that you insert the nail through the hook’s sleeve and hold it against the wall to determine the desired height of the picture. The hook will automatically align the nail to the optimum angle. Once the height is determined, use a hammer to tap the nail into the wall. Take care not to hit the hook because it can damage the wall.

Screws, a toggle bolt, molly bolt or spiral anchor are good alternatives to a nail when determining how to hang heavy pictures. The spiral anchor is easiest to install. Simply insert into the wall with a screwdriver and then push a screw into the anchor. Some spiral anchors include special picture-hanging hooks to help balance the frame.

Other Ways to Hang Heavy Pictures

Other fasteners you can use when it comes to how to hang heavy pictures include:

  • Threaded Toggle
  • Threaded Brass Anchor
  • Threaded Plastic Anchor
  • Medium Plastic Anchor
  • Large Picture Hanger
  • Medium Picture Hanger
  • Small Picture Hanger
  • WallBiter™ Picture Hanger
  • Wire Hanger

Tests have been performed on fasteners to determine how much weight each can handle. Here are the results of those tests.

  • A ¼-inch Toggle Bolt failed at more than 300 pounds
  • A Threaded Toggle failed at more than 200 pounds
  • An 1/8 Molly Bolt failed at 170 pounds
  • A Brass Threaded Anchor failed at 130 pounds
  • A Plastic Threaded Anchor failed at 110 pounds
  • A Medium Plastic Anchor and Large Picture Hanger failed at 80 pounds
  • A Medium Picture Hanger failed at 70 pounds
  • A Small Picture Hanger failed at 60 pounds
  • A WallBiter™ Picture Hanger failed at 100 pounds
  • A Wire Hanger failed at 50 pounds

How to Hang A Heavy Picture On Drywall and Plaster

Tools or other items necessary for hanging a picture include:

✓ Fasteners
✓ Pencil or painter’s tape
✓ Drill
✓ Nails
✓ Picture Frame
✓ Tape Measure
✓ Scrap of Wood
✓ Level
✓ Bathroom Scale

  1. Weigh the picture. The weight of the picture will help you determine what kind of fastener to use and how you will install it to the wall. You can use a regular bathroom scale to perform the weighing. Pictures up to 10-pounds are classified as light loads. Pictures weighing between 10-pounds and 25-pounds are classified as a medium load. Pictures weighing 25-pounds to 50-pounds are heavy loads. The fastener’s package provides its weight range.
  2. What kind of wall are you working with? Homes constructed in the 1940s or earlier commonly have plaster walls. Most modern homes have drywall.
  3. Where are you going to hang the picture? Find a spot that is about eye-level, hold the picture frame against the wall, and mark the location of the top of the frame with a pencil or painter’s tape.
  4. Mark the wall. Make a mark with the pencil where you intend to drill or nail in the fastener. If the frame has a D-ring or other type of metal loop on its back, then measure from the top of the frame to the height of the ring and mark those points. Now measure from the location of the top of the frame to the location of the ring on the wall and mark the spot with the pencil. This will be the location where you will install the fastener with a drill or nail.If there is wire across the back of the frame, use a tape measure to pull up the wire as high as it will go. Measure from this point to the top of the frame. Remove the tape measure and measure the distance down from the original mark you made on the wall with the pencil and use the pencil to mark this spot. This is where you will drill or nail a fastener into the wall to hang a frame with wire across its back.
  5. Determine a second hanging point.This will help to ensure that the wall can accommodate a heavy picture. If there is a wire on the back of the frame, hold the wire at the desired hanging point with two fingers. The farther apart the fingers, the more stable the frame will hang.Measure from the two points to the top of the frame and mark that measurement onto the wall with the pencil. Rather than determining the two hanging points with two fingers, you can use a scrap piece of wood instead. Use a piece of wood about half the width of the frame and place it under the hanging wire to determine the two hanging points.Mark the location of the two corners of the wood with the pencil. These points will be where you will hang the fasteners. Use the tape measure to measure the distance between the wood and the top of the frame and place the wood piece underneath the original mark on to the current mark. Even the wood using a level and then draw a line across the top of the wood. The end points of the line will be where you hang the two fasteners.
  6. Find a stud. It is best to hang the picture on a stud so that the wall can accommodate for the weight of the frame. Studs behind drywall are located about 16-inches apart.If the picture is wider than the distance between two studs, use a level and two screws to place the piece of wood into the wall. Make certain that the screws go into at least two studs. Fasten picture hangers into the wood at desired intervals using nails or screws depending on the type of fastener required and hang the picture on to both picture hangers.If the picture is narrower than the distance between two studs, then install the picture hanger into a stud. Use a hanger that requires several nails to ensure strength. Hammer the nails into the stud, then hang the picture on the hanger. If hanging the frame on a plaster wall use screws, not nails, to secure the hanger.
  7. Position and hang.Once the fasteners are (ideally) in the stud line up your picture and hang! Use the level to make sure the positioning is straight as possible.

More notes on weight:

⚠ Picture hangers with one nail can hold up to 25-pounds and hangers with two nails can accommodate up to 50-pounds.

⚠ Anchor bolts or fasteners mentioned above can be used when hanging heavy pictures as a substitute to picture hangers.

How to Hang Heavy Pictures on Brick Walls

Another common type of wall people struggle with when determining how to hang something heavy in their home is a brick wall.

Tools or other materials necessary for hanging pictures on brick walls include:

✓ Cardboard or Newspaper
✓ Clear Tape
✓ Tape Measure
✓ Carpenter’s Level
✓ Masonry Bit
✓ Black Marker
✓ Drill
✓ Wall Anchor With Screw
✓ Hammer
✓ Screwdriver

Eight steps are involved in the project. Before starting the work, determine what is behind the brick. Don’t drill into a chimney flue or similar channels that run through or behind the wall. Never ever drill into brick because it could crack or shatter.

  1. Determine a good location for the picture.This can be achieved by maneuvering the frame around the wall until it is in a spot for comfortable viewing. As alternative to moving a heavy frame around, create a template by putting the frame on a piece of cardboard, newspaper or similar material and use a black marker to trace the dimensions of the frame on to it. Cut out the template and tape it to the wall temporarily to verify a permanent location.
  2. Use a pencil or piece of clear tape to mark the top of the frame or paper. Remove the frame or paper and use a tape measure to ascertain the precise distance between the top of the frame and the hanging point and use a pencil or marker to transfer that point to the wall.
  3. Place a level in alignment to the hanging mark. As you hold the level find the nearest mortar joint. Select a point on the mortar joint where you will drill a hole and mark that spot with the pencil or marker.
  4. Place the masonry drill bit into the drill. Use the tape measure or ruler to measure an inch from the tip of the drill bit down toward the drill. Wrap a piece of tape or use a black marker to draw on the spot that is directly above the 1-inch point. This mark will assist you in gauging the depth of the drill bit as you drill it into the wall.
  5. Drill through the mark into the mortar joint. Stop drilling when you reach the depth marked on the bit. Take out the drill bit and clean out the mortar dust from the hole.
  6. Use a hammer to insert a plastic anchor in front of the hole. Tap the anchor until its rim is flush with the wall surface.
  7. Drive a screw into the anchor. Anchors are commonly available with a screw. If the anchor you are using doesn’t have a screw, use one that is designed to fit snugly into the anchor insert.
  8. Grasp the anchor and wiggle it to ensure it is secure. If so, hang the picture by hooking the wire or hook over the screw. If the screw is not secure, tighten so that it is.

If you decide to use two hanging points and they do not appear over mortar joints, then use a hook-and-wire hanging style, one hook in the center of the frame, or move the hangers to align with mortar joints. It is best to use a wire hanging style or two hangers if the picture is heavy.

How to Hang Heavy Pictures with a Rail-based System

A properly installed rail-based system is the best solution for not only full control over picture positioning, but wall integrity. Hanging a large picture is inherently damaging to your walls. Some things are simply too large and, no matter what, you will have to add more and more nails, screws, and fasteners to your walls. A reliable system, like STAS, provides full control and protection:

Each system is specifically designed and manufactured to accommodate an array of issues that could threaten the integrity of a structure and assures that the weight of heavy picture or artwork frames are not focused on one area, but spread out through a rail.

Perlon cords, zipper hooks, and rails are the essential components for hanging heavy pictures. The cords and zipper hooks hold the frames while the rails accommodate the total weight of the frames.

The zipper hooks work in conjunction with the perlon cord to hold a maximum weight of 33-pounds. The smartspring hooks each hold 9-pounds. If multiple hooks are used on a single cord each hook will bear its maximum weight capacity as long as the rail handles the bulk of the weight.

If a system is required to hold more weight than it was designed for, then all you need to do is add more hooks and cords to increase the weight capacity. For example, using two more perlon cords and two zipper hooks will permit the system to hold an additional 66-pounds.

Rail Type Weight Capacity
Cliprail System 44-lbs/yd
Cliprail Max System 55-lbs/yd
Minirail Package 55-lbs/yd
U-Rail Pro Package 65-lbs/yd
Cliprail Pro System 99-lbs/yd
Prorail Crown System 99-lbs/yds
Prorail Flat Rails 99-lbs/yds

If you’re interested in a picture hanging system to handle heavy weights the Cliprail Pro System would be a strong choice. Even though the rail is considered ‘heavy-duty’ it is visibly compact and sleek. It combines perfectly with other rail systems and holds up to 99 pounds per linear yard. THAT is a heavy-duty hanger. Watch the video below for a better understanding of the STAS-brand Cliprail Pro:

More About STAS Picture Hanging Systems

If you decide to use your own picture hanging rails, you will need to determine the weight capacity of the rail used in the system.

You select the amount and length of rails as well as their color and wall type. Each system is all-inclusive. Everything necessary from clip screws and plugs to hooks, rails and cords are included. End caps or corner caps are available to cover each end of the rail creating a very clean finish to rails or tracks that don’t at an adjacent wall. Connectors are available to combine two or more pieces of rail together creating a seamless single rail for as long as the eye can see.

There is no need to rely on your limited knowledge of how to hang heavy frames or rely on the limited knowledge of a salesperson in a chain store or small, local hardware store, who has only the traditional methods of hanging pictures on his or her mind. Shades Picture Hanging Systems are the foolproof way of avoiding all possible problems that can result from hanging heavy pictures. Flexible, affordable, elegant and most importantly time and cost effective are just a few of the adjectives that best describe our systems. Our consistent 5 out of 5 star ratings attest to how you’ll feel when you’ve finished installing and displaying your artwork now and in the future.

Juan Gil

The author Juan Gil

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