How to hang objects on walls
You will frequently be asked to hang objects on walls. The hardware you use to do this will depend on whether the object is heavy or light and on what kind of wall you are hanging it.
If you are dealing with a hollow wall, try to put the screws you are using into the studs. (The studs are the vertical 2 X 4s inside the wall.) The easiest way to find the studs is with an electronic stud finder, but you can often find the studs in a drywall wall by tapping lightly with the handle end of a screwdriver and listening carefully to the sound. The hollow sound is between the studs, the solid sound is where the studs are. Another way to find the studs is to push a sharp ice pick through the drywall where you think a stud may be. If you don’t hit a stud, move to the right or left and try again until you find it. If you do this probing just above the baseboard, the holes it leaves will be less conspicuous.
If you are in an old house, the walls may be plaster on lath, and it will be harder to find the studs (lath is thin horizontal strips of wood, about 2 inches wide, spaced about 1/2 inch apart, and nailed to the studs). The stud finder may not work and the tapping-sound procedure may not work either. If the object to be hung is not extremely heavy, you can put the screws you are using into the lath. When you drill a pilot hole for the screw you will be using, make sure it brings out some wood chips, not just plaster dust, in which case you have drilled between the lath strips.
If you must find a stud in a lath wall, you can try drilling a tiny hole to the right or left of an electrical switch or outlet or measuring 16 inches from a corner, or drilling a series of tiny holes just above the baseboard. When you find a stud, the others should be 16 inches center to center from it.
Moly Bolts If the wall is drywall, and you cannot put the screws where the studs are, you can use hollow-wall anchors. The most common hollow-wall anchor is the “Moly” bolt. You drill a hole in the wall and insert the Moly bolt. Then you tighten the screw until the Moly bolt flattens out behind the drywall and holds itself in place. You then remove the screw and put it through whatever you are hanging and back into the Moly bolt. Moly bolts vary in diameter and in the “grip length,” which is the thickness of the wall they can be used on. Wall thicknesses can be as little as 3/16 inch (for paneling), up to 11/4 inches, but most drywall you will encounter will be either 1/2 inch thick or 5/8 inch thick. You should have Moly bolts of several diameters and several grip lengths.
Once in place, the Moly bolt cannot be removed. If it is no longer needed and you want the wall to look as it did before, you can hammer the Moly bolt in a short distance, fill the hole with spackle, and paint if necessary.
Toggle Bolts Another type of hollow-wall anchor is the toggle bolt, sometimes called a butterfly bolt. It has two wings that open up behind the wall after you have pushed it through a hole you made in the wall. It requires a much bigger hole than a Moly bolt but it can hold more weight. Toggle bolts are used to hold the ceiling hooks that are used for hanging flower pots. They are also used for “swagging” a chain and electric cord across a ceiling to a ceiling light. It is good to have a few of these ceiling hooks on hand.
For solid walls, such as cinder block, brick, concrete, and stone, you can sometimes hammer a cut nail or a masonry nail directly into the wall. A better way is to drill a hole in the wall, put a plastic masonry shield into the hole and then use a screw or a screw hook to attach the object to the masonry shield. The three sizes of shields that will be sufficient for almost all jobs are 3/16 inch, 1/4 inch, and 5/16 inch in diameter. The easiest way to drill the holes for the shields is with a hammer drill with a masonry bit. If electricity is not available, you can use a star drill and a heavy hammer.
You can put a horizontal row of screw eyes on a wall to hang up screwdrivers, pliers, etc. Screw eyes are sometimes used in conjunction with hooks to hold screen doors closed. If you need a screw-in hook and have only a screw eye, you can force the eye open to make it into a hook. Large screw eyes are sometimes used as gate hinges.
These are metal hooks in the shape of a question mark. You can screw them into a stud in a stud wall or into a masonry shield in a solid wall. It is well to have several of the various sizes of screw-in hooks. The very small ones are used to hang up cups in kitchens. The very large ones can be screwed into the wall or ceiling of a garage to hang up bicycles. You will find many uses for the in-between sizes as well, for example, to hold an outdoor clothesline.
I am often asked to hang pictures or mirrors on walls. I like to have on hand an assortment of picture-hanging hooks. They resemble a twisted metal strap and have a nail that goes into the wall at a sharp downward angle. I have several of each size from the tiny ones intended to hold 2 pounds or less to the big ones rated at 100 pounds. If the picture weighs more than the rating of the biggest hook you have, you can use two hooks set in the wall an inch or two apart.
It is also good to have some of the stranded steel wire that is used to hang pictures, some for light pictures and some for heavy pictures, and some of the little metal tabs that fasten to the back of the picture frame that you attach the wire to. If you don’t have any of this stranded wire, you can use monofilament or braided nylon fishing line. Be sure to use line that is rated at several times the weight of the picture; I would use 100-pound line to hang a 25-pound picture. If you don’t have 100-pound line, you can use lighter line doubled up or tripled up.
The homeowner may specify the exact location of the picture as you hold it up against the wall. You can then place a light chalk mark, or a small piece of masking tape, on the wall to indicate where one corner of the picture should be. However, it can be difficult to know exactly where to put the hook. In most cases, the easiest way is to simply put the hook where you guess it should be. Then put the picture on the hook and see where it hangs. If it is an inch too low and half an inch to the right of where you want it, simply remove the hook and place it an inch higher and half an inch to the left. Patch the original hole with spackle, if necessary.
In addition to those described above, there are many other devices for hanging objects on walls and new ones seem to be coming out all the time, so try to be aware of what is available. Picking the right hardware can save time and make a hard job easy.