Minor revolution: Picture hangers for masonry walls

You know when you finally resolve a small but lingering irritation in your home and it feels disproportionately thrilling? Like when organizing the utensil drawer or getting that rug to stop slipping feels almost as good as, say,¬†painting a room or something that just seems like a much bigger deal? I love that. Sometimes it’s the smallest of tweaks that go the furthest toward making our homes the havens they should be. So I say the minor revolutions in our homes are to be celebrated! Like this and this and…


We live in an interior townhouse (meaning not an end unit, neighbors on both sides). The side walls of our house are plaster over cinder block, which can be a royal pain to hang things on. You’d think we would have learned from our last place.

Before we moved into 110 we rented an apartment that had similar masonry walls. We only planned to stay six months, so we didn’t bother with much decorating. But we decided to hang our favorite piece of art, a photo of fallen cherry blossoms overflowing a curb in our old neighborhood in Portland.

Framed cherry blossom photo in gray living room

Hubby bought it for me years ago after we had both admired it on the walls of a coffee shop where we sat toiling away at grad school crap for hours. It was our first piece of grown up art and it totally captures that period of our lives for me. So it was the one thing we wanted to hang.

So we did. We struggled with the picture hanging nail…one of these guys…

Brass picture hanging nail

…but we eventually got it feeling nice and secure. Up went the picture (and the homey feel of our pit stop apartment)…Fast forward a couple weeks…

We were right in the middle of singing Happy Birthday into a friend’s answering machine when that nail lost its evidently tenuous hold. The cherry blossoms came crashing down in dramatic fashion, glass shattering and scattering everywhere. And there was a big gash in the photo print. Hubby contacted the photographer who very kindly offered to send us a new print for a mere $10. Um, yesplease.

When we were finally ready for a little decorating at 110, we took the lesson of that apartment episode to heart: no regular picture hanging nails in masonry walls! (Duh! I know…)

And so began our brief but passionate affair with 3M Command Strips.

If you aren’t familiar, Command Strips are “damage free hanging solutions.” The hooks of various sizes stick on your wall with special adhesive pieces, then they peel clean when you’re ready to remove them. Sounds like the perfect nail free solution, right?

We thought so. And you can guess what we hung first. Hint:

Cherry Sidewalk 3 by Michael L. Cushing

It was love a first stick; we fell hard and fast for this hanging solution. Art in the bedroom? Check! Art in the hallway? Double check! Clock in the living room? Done! Coats hung by the front door? Great!

Command Strips aren’t cheap, but we invested.

Pile of 3M Command Strips

Making our house a home is worth it, we reasoned, especially since we ached for a more finished and comfortable feel after so many months of working on things like replacing the plywood “counter top”…even if it was an improvement over the total lack of a counter top…or a kitchen to put it in.

[Sidebar: Have I told you that I went through much of my pregnancy with a micro-kitchenette consisting of just a toaster oven, microwave, and fridge? We had to go upstairs to the bathroom for running water. If the experience taught me one thing, it's this: Trader Joe's is a good friend to the kitchen-less. They even have microwavable brownies. And this girl loves brownies.]

So we were oh so happy to hang art and stuff and claim our space for comfortable living. Then we left the house for a few days to permanently disrupt the situation.

Newborn twin girls in hospital bassinets

And we came home from the hospital to discover that our cherry blossom picture had fallen again, this time bending the frame and gouging our recently installed baseboards.

Damaged frame and baseboard

I honestly don’t remember if the glass broke the second time. Seems like it would have. But then I wouldn’t remember if someone had set the thing on fire three inches from my face back then. On account of the mild sleep deprivation.

Then we went through a difficult period of suicidal art, with frames leaping off the walls and leaving nasty scars behind.

Exhibit A:

Wall damage from 3M Command Strip

Exhibit B:

Gouged baseboard

You get the idea. It got old. Fast.

Like most scintillating affairs (I’m guessing), it was painful but clear when our relationship with Command Strips had to end. We just aren’t right for each other.

I’m not sure why we couldn’t make it work since we carefully followed the instructions. (OK, there may have been a couple instances of impatient user error–as per usual.) I’ve since heard around ye old blogosphere that Command Strips don’t work well on plaster, but we also had damage on our few drywall walls. Sigh. Not to bad mouth an ex though — I’m sure Command Strips work well for lots of people in lots of situations. (Everybody is perfect for somebody, right?)

The point of all this is that we did move on to find a better match and I’d like to share our discovery with others who may be struggling. (If I can help save just one frame…)

Masonry walled folks, you need hardwall hangers.

hardwall hangers

These babies work like a charm, which makes sense since they’re designed for concrete, cinder block, and brick. They’re a cinch to use–no special equipment needed to easily hammer in those little metal pins you see. And they. are. secure. We’ve had them all over our house holding lightweight and heavy objects for over a year without a single problem. We trust them in absolutely must not fail situations like hanging a mirror over our stairwell and art over the cribs (which isn’t heavy–come on, we’re not crazy).

DIY animal paintings in nursery

We’ve purchased hardwall hangers at Lowe’s and Home Depot for three-ish dollars per package. They come in different sizes for different weight capacities. Of course you’ll want to follow the hanger instructions, which include “use common sense.” You can follow that one any time.

Finding hardwall hangers was one of those thrilling but almost embarrassing discoveries. You know, when you feel like an idiot for not knowing about it the whole time and you cringe wondering if you used to say ignorant things while totally unaware of all the judgey looks directed at you…

But mostly it’s thrilling. And revolutionary. Please tell your masonry-walled friends.


PS – Have you heard about the Random Acts of Craftiness challenge? It’s all about flexing one’s creative muscles to make cool stuff from random and maybe mundane stuff. And here’s the kicker–the partcipants (which can include you, yes, YOU) are trying to make¬†original stuff. No perusing Pinterest or Google or magazines (if you still have those) for inspiration. Sound fun? Follow along or jump right in here.


Linking up with Tatertots & Jello, It’s Overflowing, Home Stories A to Z, and Bowl Full of Lemons.

5 thoughts on “Minor revolution: Picture hangers for masonry walls

  1. Just try and convince us that you don’t know the ins and outs of passionate affairs. I see the way you look at those hardwall hangers.

    Yay for easy fixes! (Even if it wasn’t easy finding them. But you know what they say: lasting relationships take work.)

    Thanks for the shout-out about the challenge, by the way! :)

  2. Um, yeah. I had no idea those things existed. Of course, I’ve watched my husband ram a screw into a wall with a hammer to hang a picture, so I’m coming from the dark ages of picture hanging. Thanks for the tip!