Q: A couple of years ago, I had the drywall removed in a few rooms in my home to expose the brick walls behind it. I live in a late-19th-century rowhouse and absolutely love the new look. I have a pretty extensive art collection, however, and I like to move the pieces around from time to time. Now most of the pieces are just sitting around on the floor. Is there a way to re-hang these pieces without drilling holes into the brick?
A: Devices called brick clips or brick hangers allow people to hang pictures, mirrors and other objects on walls without drilling into the brick. Two examples are Brick Clips by a company called Tuopu (10 for $14.99 on Amazon) and OOK Brick Hangers (two for $2.48 at Home Depot). Hardware stores and home centers carry similar products with different names, especially in the lead-up to winter because the clips are often used to support strings of holiday lights.
The clips are designed to grip bricks where they project beyond the mortar. Designs vary, but there is always a saw-toothed edge at the top and two metal tabs at the top or bottom that spring into place against the lip of an adjoining brick. The clips are rated to support different weights, up to 30 pounds, but if you need to hang something heavier, you can use two or more hangers.
A bigger issue is making sure the fasteners will work with the bricks in your wall. The fasteners are all labeled for the suitable brick height, because the saw-toothed and spring-fit grips won’t work if the bricks are too tall or short. And that’s not the only issue. The bricks must have relatively square edges, and the mortar between bricks must be far enough back from the face of the brick. The Tuopu fasteners require a setback of one-eigths of an inch, according to the listing on Amazon. The OOK fasteners need at least a quarter of an inch, and preferably a bit more, said Al Marchetti, product manager for OOK, a brand owned by the Hillman Group.
The reader’s picture shows numerous bricks with chipped edges and with mortar joints that appear to be close to the face of the bricks. So these fasteners might not grip your wall well, especially if you want to hang pictures in precise locations. They might work if you’re willing to hang pictures only where you can find bricks with intact edges on the top and bottom.
When a brick wall isn’t suitable for clip-on hangers, another option is OOK’s Plastic Hardwall Hangers (three for $2.39 at Home Depot.) Each hook has three thin nails pre-started into the back, ready for you to tap into brick with a hammer. You’d have to test whether your bricks are soft enough to hammer into, but there’s a good chance they are. Bricks used for walls are usually softer than the super-hard bricks suitable for outdoor paving, because those need to be fired at higher temperatures to make them less porous and therefore more frost-resistant. The nails used for the Hardwall Hangers are less than one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter, Marchetti said, so they don’t crack bricks and they don’t leave noticeable holes if you later decide to pry off a hook.
There is another alternative you may want to consider, especially because you want to change your artwork periodically: Install picture rail, a type of molding, usually around two inches deep, that runs horizontally across the wall. The top edge sticks out from the wall, creating a crevice where you can slip in a special clip that has a hook on the front to hold the wire on the back of a painting or mirror. Before easy-to-patch drywall replaced lath-and-plaster as the standard wall finish, picture rail was a common part of the trim in living rooms and dining rooms because it allowed people to hang pictures wherever they wanted without having to hammer into the plaster, which could cause cracks.
Traditional picture rail is wooden and often installed 12 to 20 inches below the ceiling. Especially in a room with a low ceiling, it can also go nearly against the ceiling or at the lower edge of crown molding. In Craftsman-style interiors, it usually runs at the same height as the upper edge of door and window trim, creating a unified look. Today, there are also picture rails made of metal, which look especially good in interiors with modern styling. The website PictureHangingSystems.com carries different styles of molding and picture hangers that work with them.
Picture rail would need to be installed securely, which means fastening it to the bricks with nails or screws. But once the molding is in place, you could rearrange your artwork as often as you wish without ever again needing to worry about making holes in the brick.