Sure, everyone knows how to hang a light frame. But—do you know how to hang heavy artwork securely enough you won’t have to worry about it (and you) being featured on “1,000 Ways to Die” when it falls on you a week later?

How To Hang Heavy Artwork

Follow these tips to safely hang that gigantic flea market find or family heirloom portrait of your great-great-great Aunt Veronica.

  1. Know the Weight
  2. In order to choose the perfect fasteners for your frame, you’ll need to know its weight. If the frame is easy enough to hold, simply weigh yourself on a home scale with and without the frame. If it’s too heavy or cumbersome to hold, assume you need to add every extra support option you can find. If it’s under 20 pounds, it can be classified as light and be put straight into drywall. Anything over 20 pounds is considered heavy and must be hung on a stud.

  3. Find a Stud
  4. If your object is under 20 pounds, you’ll just hang it normally. For the heavier items covered in this tutorial, you’ll need to find a stud. If you have a relative who does a lot of DIY projects, ask to borrow his or her electronic stud finder. If you can’t find one, go by the good old knock-and-listen strategy. If it sounds hollow when you knock, you’re not on top of a stud. They’re typically spaced about 16 inches apart, so keep knocking until you find them.

  5. Find the Right Tools
  6. The fasteners we mentioned earlier are back. Nylon or metal wall anchors are perfect for the lightest of your heavy frames. These are wide, heavily threaded screws. If you need a little more muscle, use molly bolts. These hold securely in a wall by using feet. However, the molly bolt won’t come out of the wall, and only supports up to 50 pounds. Toggle bolts are the holy grail of heavy hanging if you can’t find a stud in your chosen location. They work on the same principle as molly bolts, but they can be removed from the wall. These bolts are not able to be reused, however, because the toggle will fall behind your drywall when you remove it.

  7. Mark Level Points
  8. If your piece only requires one hanging point, you won’t need to deal with this. But if your wall hanging requires multiple fasteners, the process is a little more complex, though fairly straightforward. Use a level to mark your hanging points. If you don’t currently own one, you can buy them relatively cheaply at a hardware store. If you want to get fancy, use the type with the laser guide; they aren’t much more expensive, but they also won’t last as long as an old-fashioned spirit level. Measure how far apart they’ll need to be using your frame, and then mark a single point on your wall using a pencil and a light touch. From there, use your level (which will most likely have a ruler on it as well) to mark your next point.

  9. Attach your Fasteners
  10. Depending on the previous steps, these could be driven into a studs anchored in the drywall.

  11. Hang it!
  12. After you’ve used your level and lined up your fasteners, it’s time to hang that frame! If you need to lift it high, have a friend support one side while you support the other. You’ll need one hand low on the frame and the other hand high to balance it out. Go slowly so you don’t drop your frame or scratch the wall. If you’re feeling a little uncertain, have another friend stand in front of the frame. They’ll be there to help you lean it back, but don’t expect them to support the weight of the frame on their own.

And that’s all you need to know to hang a heavy frame securely. Once your objet d’art is in place, feel free to walk around in your home, unfettered by fears of smashing glass and death by modern art. Enjoy!