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Hanging Pictures

Hanging a picture may seem like the simplest of all home improvement projects. While it is quite easy, there are factors like wall type and object weight that you need to consider before hammering away. If you’re a beginner or if you’ve hung pictures before but always done some in a hit or miss kind of manner, these tips will come in useful.

The first thing you need to do is purchase the right fasteners for your picture and your walls. The most common fasteners for hanging things are picture nails and hooks. While these are the most common type of fastener, they are not the most appropriate or effective ones to use in all cases.

If you are going to hang anything on a concrete, stucco or brick wall, then you should not try to use a regular nail. A concrete screw will securely anchor your object and will prevent you from chipping the wall’s surface. If you use a nail in a concrete or stucco surface, you can end up removing chunks of the wall around the nail when hammering. 

If your object is heavy, then you might want to insert a plastic anchor or molly bolt-for fastening into the hole to ensure that there is no damage to your wall. Make sure that you are using the right type of fastener for your wall surface.

Once you’ve figured out the type of wall surface and the most appropriate fastener to use, you will need to decide on placement.

The first thing you want to decide is how high you want to hang the object. The basic rule of thumb is to hang pictures so that the center of the picture is at eye level. Have someone hold a tape measure against the wall and then stand back and see what number is at your eye level – that’s where the center of your picture should be.

Once you decide on the height on the wall, you need to measure the picture itself to determine the mounting height. You will then measure from the bottom of the picture to the highest point of the hanging wire. You can then figure out the hanging height by subtracting half of the picture’s height and adding the difference of the eye-height level you measured before.

Your measuring isn’t done yet though. You want to take that figure and measure that distance on the wall so you can make a mark where the bottom of the hook will hit. After you have that vertical mark, you want to measure horizontally to ensure that your picture is in the center of the space. Next you will mark where the vertical and horizontal lines cross.

Holding the faster in place, you will nail or screw the fastener into the wall. After the nail or screw is in place, you want to carefully hang the object on the wall. Make sure you are careful not to mark or scrape the wall with the frame.

Once the picture is on the hook, you should step back to see whether it is level. You can shift the picture to either the left or the right to adjust the level.

If you find (after hanging) that the picture is either too low or too high, you can adjust the wire on the back of the picture rather than making a new hole.

If you are planning on hanging multiple pictures and/or objects on one wall, then you want to plan out your measurements very carefully. Start by holding up your pictures or laying them on the floor in the pattern you want. Measure the wall space and measure each picture to ensure that you have enough space. You want to make the vertical and horizontal marks for each picture rather than just guessing. It is often easier to offset the pictures when you estimate. If you do want all of the pictures even, then you need to use a level and be really exact in your measurements. A laser level can be useful in these types of situations.

Don’t be intimidated with all of these steps if this is your first time hanging a picture. Taking your time and doing all the prep work outlined above will ensure that your picture is centered, level, and really adds character to your space.


Minimizing Light Damage to Art

Light is necessary to view art, but at the same time can damage many of the materials found in paintings and works of art on paper. Light can fade pigments, and cause paper and textiles to discolour or become brittle.

Light levels in museums are controlled to minimize the deterioration that light causes. In our homes, however, light levels are generally much higher than in museums. Light levels are measured in lux. Recommended levels in museums are 50 lux for works of art on paper and 150 lux for paintings. A work of art hanging in your home in direct sunlight could typically be subject to 20,000 lux or more – hundreds of times the recommended level.

In addition to keeping the light levels low in a museum, we also eliminate the ultraviolet (UV) portion from any light source. We have all become aware in recent years of the potential damage to our skin from high levels of UV in sunlight. The UV portion of the spectrum is also the most damaging to works of art. Fortunately, it is not part of the visible light we need for viewing, and is easily removed.

Tips for Home

When hanging works of art in your home, there are many things that you can do to minimize the damage caused by light.

  • Fit windows with blinds or curtains that are kept closed when the room is not in use.
  • Locate your pictures so that they will not be exposed to direct light. For instance, the wall opposite a window will get direct light, while the wall beside a window will not.
  • Do not use "picture lights" designed to attach to frames. In addition to over-lighting, these cause local heating that is also damaging to works of art.
  • Use incandescent light, which has no UV component, to light works of art. Select low wattage bulbs and use a dimmer switch to set the lighting at the minimum level which allows you viewing comfort.
  • If fluorescent lights are used, UV filtering should be incorporated either as sleeves or lenses over the source of the light, or by using UV absorbing Plexiglas to glaze the works.
  • Works of art on paper with coloured media (i.e. watercolour) and poor quality paper such as newsprint are particularly vulnerable and quickly damaged and should not be displayed on a permanent basis.

Environment for Displaying Art at Home

In a museum setting, the environment is controlled to levels of temperature and relative humidity that are optimum for the long-term preservation of the works of art, while at the same time allowing for human comfort. Ideally, temperatures are kept between 19 to 21°C and relative humidity between 40% and 55% with a fluctuation not greater than 5% in a day. In a private home where it may be impossible to duplicate museum conditions, environmental stability can be more closely approached by careful selection of the locations used for the display and storage of works of art.

When selecting a location to display your works of art, a number of factors should be kept in mind:

  • Interior rooms will have more stable environments than rooms with outside walls.
  • Locations that are open to the outside (i.e. rooms where windows are open) will suffer from great fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Exterior walls will be, in certain seasons, colder and damper than interior walls in the same room.
  • Areas above or immediately adjacent to heat sources like hot air vents, radiators and fireplaces, will be hot and dry and suffer from wide fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms are unsuitably warm and damp for hanging works of art.
  • Attics are often poorly insulated and follow fluctuations of outside temperatures.
  • Basements are often cool and unacceptably damp.
  • Ventilation gaps left between each object and the wall will prevent excessive cooling and dampness.
  • Automatic portable humidifiers and dehumidifiers can contribute greatly to the stabilization of the relative humidity in a room when appropriately sized for the space.


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