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There is not only an art to hanging pictures and other decorative pieces on walls, there is a science to it. You need the right hardware and hollow wall anchors to make sure your wall hanging stays put too. After watching this video, you’ll have the knowledge you need to hang up your prized pieces with confidence.

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You’ve probably heard that the best way to hang a picture so it doesn’t fall off the wall is to hang it from nail or a screw driven into a wall stud. That’s good advice, but unfortunately it’s not always that simple. Aside from the fact that studs can be tricky to locate behind the wall, perhaps you want to hang your masterpiece in between wall studs. Then what do you do? Well, today I’m going to show you.

First, we’ll demonstrate how to locate studs within the wall using some old fashioned, as well as a modern-day methods. Then we’ll teach you how to choose the right hardware for the job if you need to place your wall hanging in between studs. So let’s get started.

Regardless of where you plan to locate a wall hanging, it’s a good idea to understand the basic anatomy of a wall. This is the inside of a typical wall. Most walls are constructed with 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 framing lumber spaced 16-inches apart. These are called wall studs, and drywall or plaster is fastened to these studs using screws or nails.

Drywall is often referred to as wall board, sheet rock or gypsum board. It is typically made of a gypsum core with a paper facing on both sides. It comes in various thicknesses, but in most residential applications is generally ½” thick.

Gypsum is a chalk-like substance that is prone to crumbling. Unlike wood, it can’t support much weight on its own without some additional help. That’s why locating a wall stud is so important. When fastened through the drywall and into a wooden stud, the holding power of a nail or screw increases substantially.

There are several ways to locate a stud in the wall. The old standby method is to knock repetitively across the wall until you hear a difference in sound. You may also notice a difference in the wall’s resistance to your knocking. These are signals that the density in the wall has changed, which indicates where the stud is located. The problem with this method is it’s not always accurate. Without being able to see behind the wall, it’s hard to be precise.

Magnetic stud finders like this one rely on finding studs by locating a fastener in the drywall, such as a nail or a screw. However, they are only as accurate as the placement of the fastener.

That’s where an electronic stud finder comes in handy. Like knocking on the wall, the stud finder is designed to locate a stud by scanning changes in the wall’s density. Unlike your knuckle, however, it’s a lot more accurate. Some stud finders can even detect live electrical wires behind the wall. And that’s a feature worth the extra cost.

This stud finder is designed to locate the center of the stud. Others locate the edge of the stud. To use it, simply press the button and pull the stud finder across the wall. It will indicate when you have found the center of the stud. Studs are only 1-1/2 inches thick, so be sure to predrill your hole straight into the stud and not at an angle. Then, screw the screw into the predrilled hole.

But what if the best place to hang your favorite painting is in between studs? Depending on the weight of your wall hanging, you might need something designed for this specific application.

For lighter wall hangings that weigh 20 pounds or less, you might choose a traditional picture hook, or an expanding plastic sleeve anchor, like these. For heavier wall hangings, you’ll want something with more holding power, like these toggle anchors or molly bolts. Let’s take a closer look at how some of these work.

We’ll start with something you’ve probably used before … the conventional picture hook. To install it simply hammer the nail in at the angle determined by the guide holes. The increased leverage from the hook’s design and the angle of the nail is what gives it its holding power.

Expanding plastic sleeve anchors, on the other hand, help strengthen the screw’s holding power in the drywall itself. The sleeve is first inserted into a pre-drilled hole in the drywall. The size of the hole you drill depends on the size of the sleeve.

When a screw is drilled into the sleeve, the circumference of the sleeve expands and tightens around the hole. Some expanding plastic sleeves, like this one, don’t require pre-drilling. With its auger sleeve design, it screws directly into drywall.

When it comes to hanging heavier objects between studs, you’ll need something with even more holding power.

That’s when you’ll need a hollow wall anchor designed to lever against or clamp down on the back of the drywall, which dramatically increases holding power.

For example, this hook gets its holding power from its unique design. After it’s inserted into the drywall, it levers against the back of the drywall when weight is placed on the hook. They come in different thicknesses, and depending on the thickness of the drywall, these hooks can hold between 50 and 75 pounds.

This anchor is called a molly bolt. It features a threaded sleeve that expands and clamps onto the back of drywall as the bolt is tightened.

Toggle bolts also clamp the back of the drywall. This type of toggle springs open once inside the wall. When the bolt is turned, it then clamps to the back of the wall. The increased holding power of toggle bolts comes from how these anchors can be tightened against the back of the drywall. Some are rated to hold up to 100 pounds. But always be sure to carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing any hollow wall anchor. Also note the maximum rated holding power of the anchor you choose.

That should just about do it. A simple check with a level and you’re all set.

If you have questions about this or any other home improvement project, be sure to read our list of Frequently Asked Questions for this video. And be sure to print out our Project Instructions, which includes a Tools and Materials checklist, before visiting your local independent home improvement retailer. That’s where you’ll find all the products and helpful advice to complete your project. If you’re not sure where to find your local store, check out our Store Locator.

Good luck with your project and thanks for watching.

Read Video Transcript


  1. 1.clean hole

    Try and place a nail where a stud is located behind the wall. The solid wooden beam will better support the nail. Check out the three best ways to detect at stud in steps 2, 3 and 6.

  2. 2.make level

    Detect a stud: tap along the wall until you hear a difference in sound. This is not always accurate.

  3. 3.let dry

    Detect a stud: Using a magnetic stud finder to locate a metal fastener in the wall.

  4. 4.spackle

    Detect a stud: An electronic stud finder is very accurate and can locate the center of a stud.

  5. 5.spackle

    For wall hangings under 20 pounds, use a traditional picture hook or an expanding plastic sleeve holder.

  6. 6.spackle

    For heavier wall hangings, use toggle hangers or molly bolts.

  7. 7.spackle

    The picture hook can be easily installed by hammering the nail into the designated hole.

  8. 8.spackle

    For sleeve anchors, drill a hole and lightly tap the plastic sleeve into the hole. Simply drill in the screw after. Check out the three best ways to hang a heavy frame below.

  9. 9.spackle

    Heavier frames: A Hercules Hook can easily be pushed into the wall and can hold up to 75 pounds.

  10. 10.spackle

    Heavier frames: A molly bolt has threaded sleeves that expand as the screw tightens.

  11. 11.spackle

    Heavier frames: Toggle hangers have anchors the pop out once behind the wall.


Project Faqs « back to project

Is there a difference between the steel wires, brass wires and copper wires used to hang pictures?

It’s really just a decorative... More »


I want to hang a picture without a stud support. What type of anchor should I use?

The different types of hollow wall anchors are rated to hold different weights. In general, expanding plastic sleeve anchors can usually only hold... More »

What do I use to hang a plant?

For small to medium size hangings, there are kits that include a toggle and a decorative hook. These often have screws so that you do not have to... More »

What do I use to hang a plant?

For small to medium size hangings, there are kits that include a toggle and a decorative hook. These often have screws so that you do not have to... More »

How do I hang a picture?

The best method is to use a picture-hanging kit designed for the weight of your picture. In most cases, it’s best to double hook it so that all... More »

I want to hang some shelves but first I want to make sure I don’t hit any electrical wiring buried in the wall with my anchors. What’s the best way to do this?

By using a stud finder with a built-in AC current detector, you can trace hot wiring behind walls to make sure you drill in the right... More »

What fixture can I use which will enable me to hang a picture straight?

For lightweight pictures, a saw-toothed hanger on picture frames will permit you to adjust the picture on the... More »

I want to make a pegboard to hang tools in my workshop, what kind of wood do I need?

Use a perforated board. If you are planning to hang heavy items, I suggest a 1/4”... More »

What type of stud finder should I buy?

There are two different types, including electronic and magnetic stud finders. Electronic stud finders measure the capacitance in the wall, which is... More »

Do I need a special door jamb to hang a bifold door?

You can use a standard door jamb, if you wish, and mount the track on the face of the jamb. A better option may be to use a jamb specially designed... More »

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