How to Hang Things on Walls

By: Editors of Consumer Guide & Walter Curtis  | 
Hanging things on walls requires the proper fasteners and technique. Learn how to hang lightweight, medium-weight, and heavyweight objects on walls.

Key Takeaways

  • For hanging heavy objects, use expansion anchors or toggle bolts, which are designed to expand and lock inside the wall for a secure hold.
  • The installation process includes drilling a hole of the proper size, inserting the fastener and securing the bolt through the object to be hung.
  • For extremely heavy items like cabinets, toggle bolts are recommended, requiring specific steps to ensure the toggle opens behind the wall for maximum support.

Pictures, mirrors, shelves, lamps, tools, sports equipment -- the list of items you can hang on walls is almost endless. To keep them hanging where they belong, you need to choose the proper fastener and install it in the proper way.

Most wall framing is covered with drywall that typically measures 1/2 or 5/8 inch thick. To hang lightweight and medium-weight objects, you need only pierce this covering with a nail or expandable plastic screw anchor. Heavier objects, such as a large mirror, should be supported by hardware that either attaches to the wall framing or clamps securely to the wall surface from behind.


The wooden framing in walls, called studs, are typically spaced 16 inches apart. You can locate studs with an electronic stud finder that detects the nails that hold the wall covering to the studs. If you don't own this handy device, you can measure 16 inches from a corner of the room and begin knocking the wall with your knuckles. If the wall sounds more solid at a point exactly 16 inches from the corner, there's a stud there; you'll most likely find other studs, spaced in increments of 16 inches from the first, along the length of the wall. If you hear a hollow sound at a point 16 inches from the corner, go to the opposite end of the wall, measure 16 inches, and knock. You'll probably find a stud there, because carpenters always space studs from one end of the wall or the other.


Hanging Light Objects

Picture hangers are handy for hanging lightweight objects on walls.

To hang most lightweight objects, such as small pictures:

Step 1: Place a small piece of cellophane tape over the spot where the nail will be driven. This prevents the wall's drywall or plaster from crumbling.


Step 2: Place a picture hanger flat against the wall and drive a nail through the hanger.

To hang medium-weight objects, such as large pictures:

Step 1: Buy plastic or nylon wall anchors made for the size screws you have, and examine the package to find out what size drill bit to use for the holes.

Step 2: Drill a hole in the wall to accommodate the plastic anchor.

Step 3: Tap the anchor all the way in with a hammer.

Step 4: Insert the screw through the item it is to hold, and then turn it into the anchor. The screw will expand the anchor to make it grip the sides of the hole.


Hanging Heavy Objects

Fasteners for hanging heavier objects from walls.

When hanging heavy objects, such as shelves and mirrors, the best device is the expansion anchor, or expansion bolt. This type of fastener comes in different sizes to accommodate differences in wall thickness and in the weight of the things they are to hold.

Once you get the right fastener, here is how to install it:


Step 1: Check the package to see what size drill bit you must use, and then drill a hole in the wall.

Step 2: Lightly tap the fastener in place with a hammer.

Step 3: Turn the slotted bolt clockwise. When you can't turn it anymore, back it out. The fastener is then secure against the inside of the wall, and you are ready to hang the object.

Step 4: Put the bolt through the object or its hanger, then reinsert the bolt in the expansion anchor.

For very heavy objects, such as cabinets or a bookshelf unit, use toggle bolts. Available in several sizes, toggle bolts require you to drill holes in the wall. Here is how to install them:

Step 1: Drill the proper-size hole.

Step 2: Remove the bolt from the toggle.

Step 3: Put the bolt through the object to be hung, or through its hanger, before you insert it into the wall. (You can't remove the bolt after the device is in the wall without the toggle falling down behind the wall.) Reinsert the bolt in the toggle.

Step 4: Squeeze together the toggle with your thumb and forefinger and push it into the hole.

Step 5: Hold the object you are hanging right next to the wall as you insert the toggle. When it goes through, pull the bolt back toward you until you feel the toggle open and hit the back of the wall.

Step 6: Turn the bolt clockwise until the hanger or the item itself is flat and secure against the wall.

Now we've covered the basics of hanging objects on walls. All that's left is to pull out your tools and have at it.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine the right size of fastener for my wall?
Choose the fastener based on the weight of the object and the wall's material, ensuring it can support the load without damaging the wall.
Can I hang heavy objects on drywall without finding a stud?
For heavy objects, finding a stud or using toggle bolts designed for drywall is crucial to prevent the object from falling and causing damage.