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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Ask Handy Andi: How to Hang a Picture Straight

Ask Handy Andi: How to Hang a Picture Straight

Dear Handy Andi,
None of the pictures I hang in my house are ever straight. I take great care to hang them straight, but within a few days, or even hours, they always end up crooked. Can you help, or will I just have to start tilting my head to look at them?

- Miriam, Idaho

If you’re just trying to eyeball it, hanging a picture straight can seem like an insurmountable task. Even when you think you’ve gotten it right, the smallest shift — an errant breeze, a nudge from someone passing by, or the barely perceptible movements of a settling house — can set things off-kilter. By taking a little extra time to prepare, you can save yourself a lot of finagling and potential grief. Once you know the proper steps to take, you’ll be hanging art with the expertise of a museum curator. Here’s how:

The first thing you’ll need is an assistant — a friend, spouse, or even a responsible child — to hold the picture against the wall for you. Before you ever affix any hardware to the wall, consider the placement of your picture. Try a few different spots, and think about whether the art complements nearby furniture and other décor or competes with it. Consider how high you want the picture to sit. A good rule of thumb is to hang is so that your eyes, when looking straight ahead, land about a quarter of the way down from the top edge. Of course, you may have a good reason for wanting to hang it at a different height, so the ultimate decision is up to you.

The next thing you’ll need is a tape measure. While you assistant holds the picture against the wall in your chosen spot, use the tape measure to find the center of the top edge of the picture. Lightly mark this spot in pencil on the wall.

Being careful not to scratch the art, the frame, or your furniture, lie the picture face down on a flat surface. If there is hardware for hanging, such as a wire, crossbar, or mounting hook, use your tape measure to find the distance from the top of the picture to the hardware.

Now, measure that same distance down from mark you made on the wall and make another mark. Use a level to ensure that the two marks make a perfectly vertical line. If there is only one small hook on the back of your picture, this mark is where you will place your nail. If there are two hanging devices, or if the hanging device can accommodate more than one nail, the second mark you made will serve as a guide. If the hanging implement is a wire or crossbar, or even a small sawtooth mounting bracket, using two nails is the best policy for preventing slippage. Measure the distance between the two hanging devices, if applicable, then mark out an equal amount of distance on the wall, centered on the mark you just made. If the device spans the entire length of the picture, just space them a few inches apart at equal distances from the center mark. Use a level to make sure your marks make a straight horizontal line. For a sawtooth bracket, you’ll need to be more exact. Measure the distance between the peaks on either end for the bracket.

Once you’ve marked where you will hang your art, you can pound in the nail or nails. Use the smallest nails that will hold securely hold the picture. Don’t pound them in so far that the picture will slip or leave them out so far that the picture won’t lie flat against the wall. If using more than one nail, be sure that they are straight and even with one another.

If your picture keeps slipping out of place after you’ve taken the trouble to hang it properly, there is one more thing you can do to make it behave. Visit your local fabric store and purchase a strip of Velcro with self-adhesive backing. Cut a small amount and take down the picture. Find and mark the center point near the bottom edge of the back of your picture. Remove the protective backing from the soft, fuzzy half of the Velcro and affix it to the back of the picture. Measure the distance between the hanging device and the Velcro, then, using a level, mark the same distance on the wall where your picture hangs. Affix the other half of the Velcro to the wall and rehang the picture. Once you’re sure it’s straight, lightly press the bottom of the picture against the wall to fasten the two pieces of Velcro together.

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1 comment

1 sandra { 06.06.12 at 10:40 am }

Instead of Velcro, I just use a dab of poster putty behind the bottom corners of the frame, they stick great and more easy to remove than Velcro…when taking off the wall, push the picture to one side while it is flat against the wall, it helps to keep the paint on the wall.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.