How can I safely hang my expensive prints in earthquake country?
June 10, 2008 1:02 PM   Subscribe

How can I hang paintings/framed prints in earthquake country and keep them relatively safe?

I have a couple of valuable signed prints that I had framed, at a cost of several hundred dollars. They're pretty large, around 28x36 inches, so in frames with glass, they're a bit heavy. I'm going to hang them in my apartment in San Francisco but I realized that, in an earthquake, if they fall off the walls the glass could shatter and the frames could get banged up or broken. Considering what I paid to get them archivally preserved, I'd like to take any precautions I can to avoid this.

My apartment building is of 1960s vintage, with painted drywall walls. I've got a stud finder, and I assume there are wood studs I can nail into. Should I use beefier picture hooks? That's the only thing I can think of but maybe the hive mind has other suggestions.
posted by autojack to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is the first thing that came up, googling "earthquake picture hanger."

I assume that there are a lot of different products like this, and if the hangers are firmly into studs, stuff should swing around, but stay on the wall.
posted by Danf at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2008

I strongly recommend that you replace the glass with UV Plexiglass. UV Plexiglass is used for framing valuable art and photography.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2008

Also consider earthquake putty: such as Quakehold! Museum Putty placed on the back four corners.
posted by ericb at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2008

BTW -- the UV Plexiglass staves off discoloration and fading in addition to preventing breakage.
posted by ericb at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2008

What they said! You need to use hooks the wires can't jump off of (mine look like little mazes) and you need to put heavier things at least, in the stud. And don't put anything substantial over your bed or a couch!
posted by crabintheocean at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2008

Seconding the "nothing heavy above the bed or sofa" advice. I had my sofa torn by a large, metal framed print in the Loma Prieta quake. I'm lucky as hell I wasn't sitting there at the time.

Come to think of it, my large TV was flung across the room, and also landed on the sofa. Nail that down, too!
posted by shifafa at 2:02 PM on June 10, 2008

Response by poster: Cool, I didn't realize there were earthquake-specific hangers. I was thinking more that the whole hook would pull out of the wall, not that the wire would jump out of the hook. So it looks like I just need to get something that will keep the wire in place, and then nail it into the studs firmly. Time for a trip to the hardware store! I'll look for putty too.

Incidentally, ericb, the shop that did the framing used UV-reflective glass so, although it could break, at least my prints won't fade. I don't know why they didn't use plexi. Also, I definitely won't be hanging anything over a bed or couch!
posted by autojack at 2:57 PM on June 10, 2008

The above ideas are good (thought I don't think the museum putty will work for something that heavy suspended vertically), also you can suspend them from the ceiling, it can look classy and will not fall off such as if you had it on a nail. Otherwise you can work with wall brackets.

Here is a helpful PDF from the National Park Service specifically about hanging art in earthquake zones.
posted by headless at 2:58 PM on June 10, 2008

though I don't think the museum putty will work for something that heavy suspended vertically

It won't secure the frame, but when used in conjunction with "safety picture hangars" will minimize potential sway during an earthquake. During the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in SFO none of my framed art pieces were disturbed. It's better to have the frame sway in conjunction with the drywall -- and to insure such I used the putty as back-up to the hangars.
posted by ericb at 4:24 PM on June 10, 2008

What you're looking for are called "tremor picture hangers"; I've had bad luck finding them in actual stores, and have bought them from Ace Hardware's outlet when I've needed 'em. (While Washington, DC isn't known for its earthquakes, I just hung a canvas painting over my baby's crib, and figured this was good insurance.)
posted by delfuego at 7:27 PM on June 11, 2008

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