How to hang a large, unframed mirror without using glue?
January 17, 2006 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I have a large mirror that my former roommates acquired via dumpster diving. It measures 48" x 36". It has 4 small holes, one drilled in each corner, 5" diagonally from the corners and 3.5" from the sides. It's unframed and quite heavy. How can I hang it without using glue or mastic?

All of the google wisdom I have come across points to gluing a unframed mirror of this size to your wall, using hardware as a backup, just in case the glue were to someday fail. The problem I'm having is that I don't own, I rent, and at some point (2 to 3 years from now, I anticipate) I'm going to have to get the mirror back off the wall of my apartment. So liquid-nailing it up isn't an option for me.

My question is, is there a way to mount this mirror (safely!) with just hardware? Perhaps, utilizing the holes already drilled into the mirror?

Also, long time listener, first time caller. I heart AskMe.
posted by Famous to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
So you ask your landlord about installing a mirror, telling him you'll restore the wall when you leave. He says yes, and you do that. At worst, some spackle, and you have to paint an entire room.
posted by dhartung at 7:39 PM on January 17, 2006

We had a mirror like the one you describe in our house when I was a kid many years ago. It was mounted exclusively by the bolts through those holes. The bolts had a decorative heads, round, slightly domed and silver or chrome finish. Because the wall it was mounted on was an unfinished storage space on the other side I often observed that the builder had built a substantial 2X4 frame behind the wall to support it.
posted by dkippe at 7:42 PM on January 17, 2006

Does your apartment have plaster walls, or drywall over studs? If drywall over studs, find the studs, use the existing holes in the mirror, and hang it like you'd hang something from a picture rail: a nail (or an anchor of some sort) in two adjacent wall studs, connecting to the top two anchor points in the mirror with a loop of strong wire.

If plaster, I don't know what would work...
posted by pdb at 7:47 PM on January 17, 2006

It seems likely that the existing holes can support the mirror's self-weight just fine, but I'm certainly not sure about it. The thickness will make a big difference, but if it was thick enough to survive all the adventure you describe it sounds pretty durable.

As for attaching to the existing holes... How about a nice thick piece of rope, just the right size to fit through the holes. Stick the one end through each of the top holes and tie a knot on each end. The knots will keep the rope from slipping back through. You could do something similar with loops of picture hanging wire and dowels to keep the loops from going back through.
posted by Chuckles at 8:19 PM on January 17, 2006

To echo dkippe, we just took down a mirror like his. Behind it was a wooden (probably 1x4 and not 2x4) frame attached to to the wall.

You'll need some kind of big head, or maybe a washer if looks aren't too important.
posted by jefftang at 8:21 PM on January 17, 2006

dhartung: My landlord is famous in this town, for lack of a better description without using expletives, being entirely uncool. They don't even like for people to paint if they can prevent it, and they find ways to charge you for things you're not even responsible for. That's actually a great suggestion, it's just not likely to work for me.

Frame option: this has me building a frame, attaching the mirror to the frame, and the frame to the wall?

Wire option: this won't add to much pressure to the points where the mirror is hanging?

I feel kind of dumb asking these seemingly obvious questions, but the idea of the mirror crashing to the floor in the middle of the night has me kind of nervous.

The mirror is just about 1/4" thick, and my walls are drywall.
posted by Famous at 8:34 PM on January 17, 2006

1/4" thick sounds pretty good. Building a frame around it will be more secure than using the holes... It really depends on how much risk you are willing to take.

If you don't want to make any holes in the wall, there are poles which you can tighten between floor and ceiling, which would give you something to attach to. I've seen them in Ikea. If you find a cieling joist and make it nice and tight, it can be a pretty strong system.

You could make some kind of easel from 2x4s (substitute nicer looking materials if you like, of course) and stick it in a corner. Three 6' 2x4 legs, drill a hole through the top of all three and put a bolt through, put a lock nut on the bolt without tightening. Permanently attach (nail/screw) a 3' 2x4 to the external two legs about 1' from the bottom...
posted by Chuckles at 8:59 PM on January 17, 2006

French cleat. Find a friend with a table saw, tilt the blade to 45°, and rip a 33-1/2" x 6" scrap of 1/2" thick wood in half the long way. Then screw one half through the drywall into three joists, with the sharp edge up and proud of the wall, and the other to the back of the mirror using the two top holes, with the sharp edge down, so that the one on the mirror can be hooked over the one on the wall. Screw another bit of scrap to the mirror at the bottom to hold it away from the wall.
posted by nicwolff at 9:02 PM on January 17, 2006

I guess my easel design is incomplete. You will need something to keep the back leg in place, another 2x4, some rope... You could tighten down the nut at the top after everything is assembled. Shaping the bottoms of the 6' 2x4s somehow might be a good idea - make the contact with the floor nicer. You probably also want a clip at the top to keep the mirror from falling forward when bumped.
posted by Chuckles at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2006

Get metal mirror cleats, or wedgies, or whatever they call them. I had to look a bit, but I found them for a mirror I put up not too long ago. I was afraid the plastic ones would break. My mirror is about 2/3 as big as yours, but with no holes.

I drew a straight, level, line across the wall where I wanted the bottom to be. Start with a very small bit, and drill larger holes for toggle bolts. Start small so you can be as accurate as possible. Installed several toggle bolts, and snugged the mirror hangers down. I set the mirror on those supports, and traced the spots for the wedgie bits on the sides and top.

Short of ripping the drywall off the studs, it's not going anywhere. But.. I put the drywall on too, so I know that it's well attached. I've ripped stuff down that should have fallen off of its own accord.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:47 PM on January 17, 2006

If you wanted to minimise the damage to the walls, you could cut two lengths of wood (something like 50mm square would be enough) so that they are long enough to reach from the floor to the top of where you want the mirror to be. Screw them to the wall using a single screw at the top of each one, with the bottom resting on the floor and with the pieces of wood the right distance apart for the screw holes, then screw the mirror to the pieces of wood. You can get special caps to cover screws that are designed for this and there are some that actually have a sleeve that fits inside the hole in the mirror to stop the screws themselves contacting the mirror, which can make the mirror susceptible to breaking. Be very careful not to overtighten the screws or you will break the mirror!. The lengths of wood will take the weight and the screws at the top only need to be strong enough to stop it all tipping over (toggle bolts into plasterboard would be fine).

There is no way you can fix this to the wall without some damage when you take it down, unles you go for the floor-to-ceiling posts mentioned by Chuckles and these are unlikely to be strong enough for the weight. Also, it only takes someone to kick the bottom of one of them while walking past and the whole lot will come crashing down.

You could, I guess, make something like this by using lengths of wood (maybe 75mm square or so), cut to be slightly shorter than the floor-to-ceiling height, then epoxy a nut in the top (or use t-nuts) and screw a bolt into this with a pad on top of it to spread the weight on the ceiling. Insert these as with the Ikea bars and wind the bolt up to tighten between floor and ceiling. It could still be dislodged by someone walking past, but you could join the two uprights together with a couple of horizontal pieces behind the mirror to brace it a bit more.

The only other option I can see is the easel idea.
posted by dg at 12:33 AM on January 18, 2006

I like nicwolff's French cleat suggestion. It's least likely to cause sudden descent of the mirror, and easiest to hang and remove the mirror.

Nothing you can do to put the mirror up is going to make that landlord happy. Expect a dispute.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:08 AM on January 18, 2006

Oh, and the holes in the mirror are there for hanging it. Get some decorative rosettes to cover the bolt heads.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:13 AM on January 18, 2006

The French cleat sounds very slick. I think I'm going with that.

Nothing you can do to put the mirror up is going to make that landlord happy. Expect a dispute.

I fully expect all kinds of disputes when I vacate. I'm just trying to minimize the impending disaster. :)

Thanks for the rosettes link! I've been looking for that sort of hardware but had no idea what to call it.
posted by Famous at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2006

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