Hanging pictures, tapestries and wall art isn’t as easy as it looks. At least not if you want to hang them precisely on the first try.
By the time you centre the frame on a particular section of wall, then determine the ideal height, you’ve still got to measure up or down from the edge of the frame to find the spot for the nail. This is the tricky part. It’s so easy to be off by enough to make the results look shabby.
Things get more complex when you want to hang more than one frame side by side, aiming to have them all at exactly the same height.
That’s why a surprising number of people claim incompetence when it comes to hanging pictures. It’s also why Liette Tousignant and Kelly Krake brought a simple plastic hand tool called Hang & Level to market back in the 1990s.
Cheap relationship counselling
The tool is still with us and more widely available than ever. For less than $20, it may well be the cheapest relationship counseling you’ll ever find at a Home Depot.
Krake and Tousignant are a husband-and-wife team who run Under the Roof Decorating, a Calgary-based company that helps people decorate their walls. Tousignant found that one of the most time-consuming parts of her work involved hanging art quickly and easily.
“As an interior decorator, my biggest frustration was hanging pictures or any other wall decoration,” she says. “Hanging ‘stuff’ in the right place on the first try was definitely a hair-pulling experience. You know how frustrating it is to hang something on your own walls, so just imagine the pressure when you’re paid to do it while a homeowner is looking over your shoulder.”
The technical challenge of picture hanging has nothing to do with driving the screws or nails that hold things up. It has everything to do with finding the precise location for those nails and screws.
Wires and hooks on the backs of frames can vary in height quite a bit, even on matching sets of frames. This is where I’m impressed by the way Hang & Level helps. If you’ve got more than a few items to put up, it’s definitely a lifesaver.
The genius of the Hang & Level
The tool includes a trio of hooks molded right onto it that temporarily holds the thing you’re hanging. Objects less than 10 lbs. hang on the single hook; heavier items (up to 20 lbs.) hang on the two side-by-side hooks. Raise or lower the item as it hangs on the Hang & Level until it looks just right, then lift the picture off the tool while it remains motionless against the wall.
Without moving the tool as it sits on the wall, push inwards on the hook that the frame was hanging on. All the hooks on the tool are flexible, and the back face includes a metal point that marks the wall.
Regardless of the kind of wire or hanger you have on the back of your frame, or its relative position compared with neighbouring frames, the mark on the wall is spot-on. It’s exactly where you need to drive the anchor to support your picture at the desired height.
When you’re done, the Hang & Level includes a built-in bubble level that takes the guesswork out of adjusting the frame so that it’s truly horizontal.
Choose the proper anchor
With your wall properly marked, you’ve got a choice about what you drive into the wall to actually do the job of supporting your picture. There are two options worth considering:
- Nail-and-hook hangers are best for lightweight objects.
- Metal picture screws are ideal for items up around 20 lbs. (these from Lee Valley are my favourite).
With the picture screws, simply drive them right into any drywall surface with a slot screwdriver, and you’re ready to hang. No plastic insert needed. The wedge-shaped threads grip firmly without help, even in the crumbly core of drywall.
The only drawback with the Hang & Level is how effectively it works. For more than a few homeowners who claimed to be “picture incompetent” (when they’re really just looking for a way out of the work), there’s not much of an excuse anymore.
I have no vested interest in recommending Hang & Level, it just works really well. I think you’ll like it. Find it at home improvement stores or via Amazon.