How to hang heavy pictures and other wall decor

When you need to hang a large picture frame, art, mirror or other heavy wall decor, you want to make sure to do so safely, securely, and also in a spot that adds to the look of a room. That ideal spot doesn’t always perfectly align with a wall stud—that’s the solid wood that makes up the frame of your wall. 

If you want to hang a heavier wall decor item on an area that’s hollow drywall or plaster, all you need to do is figure out is the weight of what you’re hanging, evaluate the wall surface type, and determine the best anchor hardware for the job.

three blank frames above modern furniture

Table of contents

Heavy vs. light wall decorHeavy duty hardware for hangingPlastic winged wall anchorToggle boltSelf-drilling anchorEvaluating your wallStep-by-step guide to hanging a heavy picture frame

Heavy vs. light wall decor

The weight of the picture you want to hang plays a big role in determining whether you need to use a technique for hanging a heavy picture, or if you can follow the basic technique for hanging a picture for lighter photos and art.

Lighter wall decor typically only requires one center hanging point and conical plastic anchors will work just fine, but you need a winged style of hardware for heavy frames. The wing will expand and press against the inside of the drywall providing the extra support and strength that heavy objects need to be safely anchored in place.

Heavy duty hardware for hanging

When you need to hang a heavy picture, art, or even a large mirror, the right heavy duty hardware is your best friend. Winged wall anchors, toggle bolts, and self-drilling anchors are the most common hardware types for hanging large items, but there are a lot of new products made especially for securely hanging heavy objects on any type of wall. 

Always read the packaging to check for the weight the hardware can support, as well as any special instructions. Remember, you can’t pick hardware that is too secure, so if you’re in doubt about the weight of your art, just go for toggle bolts since they are made for the heaviest of hanging jobs.

“You can’t pick hardware that is too secure, so if you’re in doubt about the weight of your art, just go for toggle bolts.”

Plastic winged wall anchor

Plastic winged wall anchors are great for heavy frames or art around 25 pounds. Winged anchors have two wings that lay flat before you install and then pop open once they are through the wall. Some winged wall anchors come with a special tool to pop open the wings but you can also poke with a screwdriver to get them to release.

Toggle bolt

Toggle bolts are great for heavy frames or art around 50 pounds. They are similar to winged wall anchors, but tighten to the backside of the wall and are usually metal instead of plastic. When they are popped open, the anchor will look a lot like a boat anchor and press firmly into the back of the wall to keep the bolt in place.

Self-drilling anchor

Self-drilling anchors look like extra-thick, threaded screws and are an anchor and screw in one. They are self-starting which means that you do not have to drill a hole into the wall before screwing them in. Look for a type specifically made for hanging pictures and purchase the one made to support the weight of your object.

Evaluating your wall

It’s ideal to hang a heavy picture on a wall stud, but sometimes where you want to place the frame doesn’t line up with a stud. The methods below all use different types of anchor screws made for safely hanging on hollow walls, to be used when you can’t find a stud.

Before you head to the hardware store, decide where you want to hang your art. Then, take a few minutes to evaluate your wall. The type of wall you have will help you make the best hardware selection. If you have plaster walls or drywall, any of the listed anchor types will work well. If you have brick or concrete walls, you’ll need a special drill bit to drill the pilot holes, but plastic anchors will work well.

Step-by-step guide to hanging a heavy picture frame

What you’ll need

  • Tape measure

  • Heavy duty hardware of your choice

  • Picture hangers

  • Pencil

  • Drill

  • Drill bit

  • Level

  • Screwdriver

How to hang a heavy picture

  1. Locate the hanging point on the wall and lightly mark it with a pencil.

  2. Measure the distance from the hanging point to the sides of the frame and lightly mark each side on the wall.

  3. Measure the top of the frame to the hanging point and lightly mark on the wall.

  4. Drill a pilot hole in the wall large enough for the anchor to fit through with the wings folded in. If you are using a self-drilling anchor, drilling a small ⅛ inch pilot hole will make it easier to screw in.

  5. Install the anchor. If it you are hanging a picture frame, make sure to put the hanger through the bolt before tightening. 

  6. Hang the frame wire over the hanger.

  7. Check with a level and adjust as needed.

For the heaviest of objects, you may want to add an additional hanging point to help evenly distribute the weight. Use two of whatever type of hardware you choose and install them about two inches in from either side of the frame. Use a level to ensure that you are installing them along a straight line so that your art looks even once you hang it.

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