I just moved into a new house and am at the point where I need to start hanging stuff on the walls. Most of the stuff I want to hang is around the size of a picture frame, large mirror, or diploma frame.

What are some useful tools and tips to help make sure I hang these items appropriately?

This is my first house, so I really don't know what I am doing and would like to avoid putting unnecessary holes in the wall or having my pictures fall down while I'm asleep.

I am not opposed to using nails, but am open to other options as well. Also, I am willing to invest in various gadgets, etc... that will help me do this job better.

  • 2
    invest in a good Stud finder and level.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 20:00

3 Answers 3


Basically you need to look at two things:

  1. What you are hanging (how heavy, will it sway, is it a vertical load or does it have a horizontal component)
  2. What are you hanging it on (wallboard, plaster, old crappy plaster, stud wall, concrete wall, brick, stone, solid wood...)

Then you pick the right fastener at the intersection of these two.

Assuming you have a newer house, and are mostly hanging pictures, the old "nail into wallboard" will work okay. Just tilt it downward so the picture wire slides toward the wall, not toward the nailhead.

You can also use things like the 3M "command" strips, which work great if you follow the instructions and don't exceed the load. Don't be stingy with them.

Hanging heavier things like mirrors or glass picture frames, use the appropriate wall anchor for the wall, and/or nail or screw into the studs. With the right wall anchors, or rails or other structure attached to the studs, you can put an enormous load on the wall (tons) without problems.

If you have an old house like mine, don't even bother trying wall anchors into ancient crumbly plaster...find the studs. Hard-won lesson. ;)

Using a stud finder can be a bit of an art, so practice on a wall you don't care about. (Mark the edges of the stud, then drive a very fine nail into the wall board and see if you were right. Then, pull the nail and spackle the hole.) Also note that they read differently depending on what kind of wall it is.

  • This is great info, thanks. I assume that the guys at Home Depot will be able to help me find the right wall anchor based on the type of house I have? It's all just wood studs with sheetrock. Commented May 6, 2011 at 20:55
  • 1
    I'm a huge fan of these wall anchors and I've used them for just about everything from bathroom fixtures to metal wall art.
    – Doresoom
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 21:09
  • @Doresoom: Those may be good for drywall, but they are awful for plaster. The plaster will eventually crumble around them, and they will fall out.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 23:06
  • @Tester101 I could not agree more. :/ Ask about the 1" holes in my plaster some time. Really the only thing that seems to work in old plaster is nailing/screwing to the studs. Commented May 9, 2011 at 12:46
  • I've had luck using toggle bolts with plaster and lath walls, but hitting a stud is still the best way to go.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 14:24

This page shows a variety of options, tested for their strength and listed by the size of the hole you must make in the wall. I don't want to steal the full content of that page, nor leave you with only a link, so here's a summary of the results:

Fastener Type                Price     Hole Size    Pound Limit
Toggle Bolt (1/4" bolt)     $ 0.75       3/4"           300+
Threaded Toggle             $ 1.50       3/8"           200+
Molly Bolt (1/8" bolt)      $ 0.50       1/4"           170
Threaded Anchor (brass)     $ 1.20       3/8"           130
Threaded Anchor (plastic)   $ 0.45       3/8"           110
Plastic Anchor (medium)     $ 0.20       1/4"            80
Picture Hanger (large)      $ 0.50       1/8"            80
Picture Hanger (medium)     $ 0.20      3/32"            70
Picture Hanger (small)      $ 0.15      1/16"            60
Picture Hanger (WallBiter™) $ 0.80      3/16"           100
Wire Hanger                 $ 0.75      1/16"            50
  • "that page' is gone now and those numbers don't look right for drywall.
    – Jasen
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 4:16
  • @Jasen Thanks for the notification. I've updated the link to use the Wayback Machine. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the data, but from the descriptions and pictures it looks like an attempt was made at empirical testing.
    – Phrogz
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 5:21

People will tell you:

There are no hard and fast rules to hanging pictures.

But I think it's wise to impose some order on the items that you hang on your walls.

Here is the best compilation of rules that I've found on the subject.

And here are some highlights:

  1. Hang things where they are easiest to see and appreciate - Lower in a dining room or family room where people are usually seated and higher in a hallway where people usually stand.
    1. If you're hanging at eye level, position the center of the picture about 5’ 6” above the floor. This is the most common eye level position.
    2. The most common mistake people make is hanging their pictures way too high.
  2. Get Rid of Visual Clutter - Instead of displaying every piece of art you own, ask yourself if each piece still holds the magic it once did. Think minamalist (i.e. less is more.)
  3. Odd Numbers Are Even Better - For greater visual interest, show only odd numbers of pictures on a wall or in a given room...one, three, five, etc.
  4. Do not saturate your public spaces with pictures of people.
    1. Stairways are a particularly good place for pictures of people.
    2. Further commentary on Yahoo! Answers.

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