Hanging heavy pictures can be quite a challenge! If you use the wrong support your picture might fall or break, and it's also important to think about minimizing wall damage.
Here you'll learn everything you need to know about how to hang a heavy picture on your wall. You’ll understand how to choose the right hanging support according to picture weight, type of walls, and how to keep your walls looking beautiful. Let's get hanging!
Weigh your picture
The first step is to figure out is how much your picture weighs. You can use a bathroom scale to do this. If your picture weighs less than 10 pounds, it is considered light and most hanging solutions should work. To avoid damaging your walls however, read our article on how to hang pictures without nails. For pictures that weigh more than 10 pounds, you'll need to use a wall stud, a rail track, or learn about the different hanging solutions below.
How heavy can a picture be to hang on drywall?
Interior walls are usually built using a wood structure with some type of covering. In older homes (especially before 1940) plaster-wall was often used. In modern homes, drywall is most often used, therefore you will probably be hanging heavy pictures on drywall.
As a rule of thumb, pictures that weigh less than 5 pounds can be hung with hanging strips, adhesive wall hooks or mounting tape. For pictures that weigh between 5 and 20 pounds, a good option is plastic drywall anchors and for pictures between 20 and 50 pounds, you can use a metal wall anchor or make sure to use a wall stud. For anything heavier, or a good all around solution for hanging multiple pictures, use a rail cable hanging kit.
Hanging pictures on studs
Drywall and plaster wall surfaces are generally built over a wooden frame. This wood is called a "stud" and it's the strongest part of the wall. It's therefore the ideal place for hanging heavy frames. That being said, your studs aren't always in the right place, style-wise, to hang your pictures.
How to find a stud?
You can use a stud finder tool in order to locate a stud. Otherwise, simply use your finger and tap along the wall. You should hear a hollow sound until you arrive at a stud, where the sound will turn into a dud. Kind of like a bat using echolocation to find a fruit tree ;) Once you've found a stud, you can use a thin nail which can hold up a picture of around 20 pounds. You can also use coarse threaded wooden screws, to hold up pictures over 50 pounds.
Using Wall Anchors
For hanging pictures on drywall with no stud, you can use drywall anchors (also called screw-in anchors.) Drywall anchors are ideal when you don’t have access to a wooden stud and you need to screw directly into your drywall. The anchor will give your screw extra stability and will prevent it from coming loose.
There are different types of drywall anchors, some are plastic and some metal. Plastic wall anchors are suited for pictures that weigh 20 pounds or less. When a screw is drilled into them, two small legs expand and support the screw on the other side of the drywall. Watch this video on how to install plastic wall anchors.
For pictures over 20 pounds, avoid using plastic wall anchors, because they may not withstand the weight. You can use different types of metal wall anchors to support heavier frames. For example, a Toggle Bolt or Molly Bolt can hold 30 pounds or more.
Rail-Cable Hanging Kit
A great and often overlooked solution for hanging heavy pictures is to use a rail-cable hanging kit. Using this system, pictures and frames are hung using cables that are attached to a rail setup along the wall. Pictures are mounted to the cables using hooks.
The amazing thing about a rail-cable is that it can support any weight capacity (up to 300 pounds per track.) It can also be mounted on any type of wall surface (drywall, plaster-wall, brick or wood) and the position and height of your pictures can be adjusted as many times as needed.
Rail-cable hanging kits are perfect for hanging heavy frames (or light ones) in schools, homes or art galleries. They only need to be installed once and they provide a convenient solution on how to hang heavy pictures without nails.
"The amazing thing about a rail-cable is that it can support any weight capacity [...] It can also be mounted on any type of wall surface, and the position and height of your pictures can be adjusted as many times as needed."
Wall hanging hooks can be a good option for hanging heavy picture if you don't mind driving a nail through your wall. When using nails, it's always preferable to use a wall stud.
In terms of weight capacity, one picture hanging hook with a nail can hold up to 25 pounds and two hanging hooks can hold up to 50 pounds.
To avoid using nails, you can try adhesive hanging hooks. They stick to the wall using an adhesive strip. They are very easy to install and don’t damage your walls or leave blemishes when removed. It’s important to note that they generally can’t withstand more than 5 pounds, so there aren’t ideal for heavy pictures.
Velcro hanging strips are also another option to avoid the use of nails. They are a very common and easy-to-use solution for hanging pictures. However, similar to adhesive hooks, they are not ideal for hanging heavy frames and they are single-use only.
The answer to the question: how to hang a heavy picture, it all depends on the weight of your picture and the wall surface you are using. Hanging hooks and wall anchors offer good hanging solutions for light or medium weight pictures.
A rail system however, is the best way to hang heavy pictures of any weight capacity. In addition to giving your home an original and museum-like look, you will have the flexibility to change the frames on the wall, ajdust their positions or even add new ones. Furthermore, you won't damage your walls, and you will have a system that's suitable for a variety of wall decorations and that will remain strong and reliable for many years to come!
See our recommended AS Hanging products below.