An exposed brick wall adds charms and character to any interior. But while the material is aesthetically pleasing on its own, New York apartment dwellers often want to hang things on brick, like shelves, sconces, or a TV set, to help save space. And that’s where it can get tricky.
Hanging things on a brick wall presents a range of challenges. Michael Russo, masonry expert and owner of the West Village’s Porter Sable interior design and construction firm, explains that hanging things on brick can be much more complicated than dealing with plaster or drywall. Here’s his advice on how to hang things on brick.
The DIY Way to Hang Things on Brick
For you intrepid souls who aren’t daunted by using a drill, Russo first advises some due diligence. “If it’s a historic landmark, you may want to get permission first from the board or landlord,” he says.
Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead, Russo says you’ll need a piece of chalk, a good drill, masonry drill bits, anchors, a hammer, a level, a tape measure, and picture hooks or nails. You’ll also want to wear protective eyewear to guard against the dust created by drilling. A drop cloth or sheet will help protect floors and minimize clean-up.
Russo says the best way to avoid dust and debris from drilling is to “have an assistant hold a vacuum hose right under where you’re drilling to catch all the falling brick debris.”
As for where exactly to drill: “It’s usually easier to drill in mortar than brick, but with older buildings, the mortar may be crumbling and [too] unstable” for heavy items like a TV, Russo says. “In that case, you may want to drill into the brick, away from the edges.”
Before you begin, take a piece of chalk and mark a spot on your wall where you’ll place the item. If you’ll be making multiple holes, as is the case when it comes to shelving or TVs, make sure your markings are level.
Next, attach a masonry bit to the drill and begin to bore a hole. A hole of 2-1/2-inches or less is usually enough, according to Russo.
Place a wall anchor in the hole you’ve drilled, then your hook or nail. Next, either hang your picture or repeat the drilling process for shelves or other larger items.
If you’ve drilled a hole and are moving out and would prefer your landlord not know about it, you can always patch up the holes with some mortar, Russo says. But recognize that the hole may still be obvious if the shades don’t match.
Problems With Hanging Things on Brick
While hanging an item by yourself may sound straightforward and relatively simple, Russo cautions that you risk running into a number of issues along the way.
“Depending on the brick and mortar, it can be very difficult to drill into, especially [in] newer construction,” he says. “Older brick walls are more gritty and easer to drill into.”
But sometimes those storied walls may give a little too easily: “While drilling into masonry, the wall could crumble in the area you’re drilling and be too unstable to hold an anchor in place.”
Another possible complication is the trickiness of drilling into the material itself. “The drill bit can easily slide away from your marked spot,” Russo says, “causing a shelf or sconce to be uneven or not line up at all with the holes on your shelf.”
What Does It Cost to Hang Things on Brick?
With those pitfalls in mind, it may make sense to hire a pro. Russo charges about $130 to hang a TV on brick, which takes about an hour. He generally charges on an hourly basis, with a one-hour minimum of $130, then $30 for every 15 minutes after that.
Russo says he can offer a “rough estimate” if clients provide him with a list of what they need done, but adds that when dealing with brick, “You never really know what problems might come up.”
Brick Clips: A DIY Shortcut — With a Caveat
For those who’d like to hang something on a brick wall but aren’t keen on picking up a drill or paying a professional, there is an alternative. Brick clips, which clamp on and off bricks easily without requiring any tools, will allow you to hang light pieces (think: wreaths or other lightweight items) without breaking the bank.
But always be sure to check the weight-bearing capacity of any clips before you begin. Also, measure your bricks before you buy, as clips are sold in a range of sizes. Keep in mind that these clamps only work well if the bricks jut out and away from the mortar line. If your bricks are flush, you’ve got nowhere to clamp the clip. There are also stick-on clips, which support the very lightest items — but which Russo says only work well on walls made of sheetrock.
So hanging things on brick is not the easiest thing in the world. But your room will sure look cool once it’s done!
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