Step-by-Step: How to Hang a Flat-Panel HDTV
Everyone thinks that flat panel televisions look cool hanging on a wall, which is one of the main reasons that LCD and plasma sets are so popular. Here’s a cold, sobering fact, however; as few as 25 percent of flat panel owners actually hang their TVs on the wall, mostly because people don’t know how to hang a flat-panel HDTV. The vast majority simply place them on the same piece of furniture where their old TV sat.
For many people, the following video that we produced a few years ago should be quite helpful in learning how to hang a flat-screen TV. One of the best things about buying televisions these days is the fact that they are so much thinner than just a decade ago. And thinner TVs, with lower profiles, are even better because they can go on your wall. But many people simply don’t know how to hang a flat screen TV on their walls. This video was created a few years ago, but it still works for people looking to make extra space in their living rooms.
First, learning how to hang a flat-panel HDTV is not a job to take lightly, if you’ll pardon the pun. A 42-inch LCD can weigh 60 pounds; a 42-inch plasma can weigh nearly 100 pounds. Add another 10 pounds for a simple mounting bracket — 80 pounds or more for a motorized model — and you’re talking about a significant weight that takes some careful planning and execution.
Then there’s the problem of the wires. Having a mare’s nest of cables hanging off the bottom of your sexy flat panel set detracts from the coolness of the installation. Snaking all those wires through the walls is often a job for the experts, but we’ll show you an easier way you can do yourself that works as well or better.
Start with the set of your choice. For this demonstration, we used a Westinghouse Digital TX-42F430S: a 42-inch 1080p LCD model that would look great in any home. Without a base, it weighs roughly 60 pounds, and it comes with standard VESA mounting holes on the back.
We picked up a universal mounting kit at our local home building supply center. Check first, but most universal mounts are completely adjustable, and will fit a wide range of sizes and models. The most important detail, however, is its weight capacity; be sure to pick one that is rated for significantly more than the weight of your set. Over-engineering the project is the key to preventing your HDTV from making an unplanned, rapid descent to the floor. Because we were installing the set in a small room, we chose a mount that would let us angle the top of the set toward the viewers, so that they would look square at the screen. That should provide optimum image quality, as well as diminish any unwanted reflections from overhead lighting.
The first step is to plan where the set will go on your wall. The easiest approach is to cut a cardboard template the same size as the set, and hold it against the wall. Use low-tack blue “painter’s” masking tape to hold it to the wall, and then mark the corners with tape. This will define your work area, and make measurement and installation easier.
Following the mount kit instructions, measure the position for the top of the wall bracket. Always aim for accuracy, but realize that you probably won’t notice a quarter or half inch difference, so don’t stress about being perfect.
Once you have the top position of the bracket marked, you can use a traditional bubble level to mark the top edge. This is necessary to get the mount level; just as an off-kilter picture frame is easy to notice, you’re likely to see even a small error here, so measure carefully. Use masking tape or a pencil line to mark the top edge of the wall bracket position.
An easy alternative to a traditional bubble level is to use a laser level. These are available for less than $20 in home supply centers and hardware stores, and make it much easier to mark a level line for the top of the wall bracket.
Next, mark the hole locations that you intend to use to hold the wall bracket. Now, if you want to mount the bracket in the traditional — and most conservative — way on a typical home wall built using wood frame construction, you’ll want to locate the center of the wooden studs, and mount the wall bracket to them. In general, you’ll want to center the bracket behind the panel, but you may need to offset it a bit to one side or the other. Make sure that the bracket spans at least two studs, and be sure to drill the mounting screws into the center of the stud. Electricians often run electrical wires along the side of the studs, and you don’t want to drill into the wires by accident. You can use a stud finder to locate the studs. Or you can use a different approach altogether.
Note: This is not the procedure that is generally recommended by HDTV and mount manufacturers when discussing how to hang a TV, so decide for yourself whether or not you want to use it. But it is much easier and should be just as effective as the stud-mounted approach. If your wall is made using studs and drywall (plasterboard), you may want to use drywall anchors instead. These come in a variety of designs, but the easiest to use are a plastic screw variety. The medium size units are rated to hold up to 50 pounds each in half-inch drywall, though the manufacturer cites this as a “guideline” and not a guarantee.
To use one of these anchors, you tap the pointed end into the wall with a hammer, and once the threads reach the wall, you simply screw it in until the head is flush with the wall. If you use this approach, you want to place the anchors so that they do not hit a stud. Remember what we said earlier about over-engineering? It applies here as well. We arranged to use a total of eight anchors to hold the wall bracket; at 50 pounds apiece, this gave us up to 400 pounds of holding power for the 70 pounds of LCD TV and mounting bracket that we used. Five times the holding capacity was enough to give us confidence in our installation.
Once the anchors are in place, use the screws that came with the anchors to hold the bracket to the wall. Be sure to use metal washers that will span the entire hole on the bracket. These are not provided with the anchors, but you will likely find some with the mount hardware that will suit. A battery-powered drill with a screwdriver bit will make this step go much faster. Don’t tighten the screws until you have them all in place and have double-checked that the wall bracket is level.
Now put the brackets on the back of the HDTV. Follow the instructions that came with the mount, which may call for spacers or other hardware as part of the mounting process.
After the brackets are on the HDTV, place it on the wall bracket and make any final adjustments. Connect the wires you will use for power and signal and you are only a step or two away from perfecting how to hang a TV.
You could stop at this point, especially if you have a piece of furniture in front of the wall that will hide the wires, but that would seem to defeat the purpose of hanging it on the wall. You can snake the wires through the walls, but that requires special tools and a lot of work, and you have to be careful to avoid any wires that might already be in the wall. Also, depending on what floor you’re working on, you may not have easy access above or below the wall to run the wires. An easier approach is to use plastic cable channel, available at your local home building supply center. It’s available in a variety of colors, and generally takes paint well so you can match your existing wall.
You can cut the cable channel to length using a standard hacksaw. The cuts don’t have to be perfect, as corner and end caps cover the cuts. The channel typically mounts to the wall or baseboard using double-sided tape, so you don’t have to drill any holes. It’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to clean up cable clutter. And we now have a complete installation, and you were able learn how to hang a TV — with less than an hour to complete.
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