Is getting a flat-panel set out of the box and onto the wall something you can do yourself, or do you need to hire a pro? Assuming you don't want to run any wires inside the wall, mounting a flat-panel is probably a "6" on the difficulty scale. So if you think you're up to the challenge, read on!
STEP 1: CHOOSE THE RIGHT MOUNT
There are essentially three types of wall mounts: flat, tilting, and articulating. Flat mounts are the most popular and least expensive. They hug the set tightest to the wall, creating a sleek, modern, my-TV-is-really-a-work-of-art look. Tilting mounts let you angle the TV downward, usually from 15° to 20°, but they hold the screen several inches farther from the wall. They're great if you have to place your set higher than a comfortable viewing position, such as over a fireplace. Articulating mounts offer the most versatility. Not only can they be pulled away from the wall and tilted up and down, but they can be rotated up to 180° for viewing from just about any position.
STEP 2: GATHER YOUR TOOLS
You'll need a tape measure, a level, a pencil, a finish nail and hammer, a socket-wrench set, a screw gun with a Phillips head, and a stud finder. If your TV is bigger than 32 inches, grab a buddy to help out. Large panels are heavy, and dropping one would really suck.
STEP 3: GATHER THE PARTS
You'll want a rock-steady way to secure your TV to the wall. With wood studs, that means using lag bolts. Most installers recommend 5/16- inch lags, which some mounts include and some don't. If you're mounting on concrete or brick, you'll want the appropriate anchors. If your walls are framed with metal studs, you'll need toggle bolts. (Using toggles in metal studs is tricky, so unless you have some experience, consider having a pro do the job.)
STEP 4: ATTACH THE MOUNT TO THE PANEL
Most flat-panel mounts have two main pieces: the part that's fixed to the wall and the part you attach to the TV. This second part is usually called something like the bracket interface or the mounting plate. Find and mark the vertical centerline of the TV and attach the bracket to the panel. This is easier to do if you lay the panel face-down - just make sure it's on a flat surface on something soft. Some mounts also have a part called a hook bracket that attaches to the interface bracket to marry the TV to the wall mount.
STEP 5: FIND THE STUDS
The cardinal rule when hanging something is: Make sure it stays put! So if you're installing anything heavier than a 20-inch LCD, anchor the mount in something solid - which usually means screwing into studs. [Fig. A] Using a finder is the easiest way to locate studs, but electrical outlets are also reliable since they're usually mounted to a stud. Also, studs are generally placed 16 inches on center, so once you've located one, you'll usually find the next one that far away. Tapping the finish nail into the wall is a great way to make sure you've found a stud. [Fig. B] Determine how high you want the TV - placing the vertical center of the screen at about 5 feet is a good start - and then use a pencil to mark on the wall the location of the studs and the desired screen center.
STEP 6: ATTACH THE WALL PLATE
Center the wall plate at the location you marked for the screen center. (Most plates have a small hole or slot so you can see your mark on the wall.) Use a nail to lightly hold the plate on the wall while you level it. Once it's level, drill some pilot holes for your lag bolts (15/64-inch holes for 5/16-inch lags), then screw them in. Doublecheck to make sure you're still level. Before installing the TV, pull firmly on the plate to ensure it's totally secure.
STEP 7: ATTACH THE TV
You're almost done! Lift the TV and attach the top hooks to the mounting plate on the wall - the bottom hooks should latch into place. And that's it! Connect your cables, open a cold beverage, and marvel at your handiwork.
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