If you had asked me what I thought would be challenging about living in Italy before we moved here, I would've said something like, "Getting too fat from eating a lot of pasta," or "learning how to drive in what is essentially a daily commute of Mario Kart" (all things that turned out to be valid concerns). What I did not expect would be difficult, among many others thing (i.e. how to pee in a squatty potty or how to get mundane tasks done around the Italian nap schedule), was hanging shit on walls.
Italian homes, at least where we live in northern Italy, are made of concrete, not the soft, friendly sheetrock walls from back home. Initially, this doesn't seem like an issue, until you go to hang a beautiful photograph of you and your husband on your honeymoon, go to drive a nail into the wall, and are met with the wall crumbling around your now bent-beyond-usability nail. This is what happens when you try to hang stuff up the American way into concrete walls — the wall literally just falls apart.
Because I have an aversion to white walls and Pinterest dreams of gallery walls on every bare surface, this was not going to do. Over the years, I've honed a few ways to hang things on these walls — everything from tiny calligraphy prints to giant maps to heavy shelves filled with books. And because this is a question I'm constantly asked from visitors of my home, who have met the faults of their concrete walls with disappointing results — well, I wanted to help y'all cure the white wall blues, too.
for unframed things
- washi tape
for light things
- very tiny nails or concrete nails
for heavy things
- drill (hammer drill works best)
- masonry drill bits
- screwdriver or screwdriver bit for drill
- optional: wall spackle/putty & spackling knife, plus pliers if you mess up for the anchors
Washi tape tips: I like to buy decorative washi tape, but because concrete walls are textured and cold, it can sometimes take some trial and error to find some that will actually stick. Function over form is sometimes key here — find a brand you like and literally stick with it.
Tips for hanging light things: When I say tiny nails, I mean really tiny nails. The problem with pounding nails into the concrete walls is that they crumble away, but the tinier — and especially shorter — the nail is, the less likely you'll have a problem since you hammer less. You can also find what we call "concrete nails" in the hardware store, which are plastic hooks with a tiny nail that you drive through it. The only downside I've found to this is that the hooks often aren't very functional, and can't really hang most picture frames up. The concrete nails can actually hold quite heavy things, but good luck finding a hook that will clip into the back of anything you own.
For heavy things, from mirrors to large canvases to shelves:
- For heavier objects, the anchor + screw method is your savior. Though hammer drills are best because they're more powerful, any drill will do — however, you will need masonry drill bits to get the job done, and if you don't have a hammer drill, a little bit of muscle.
- Once you've found the spot on the wall that you need to drill into, pick the correct bit, put it into your drill and begin drilling into the wall. This process may take some time — and if you see orange dust coming out of the wall, this is perfectly normal. You may also find that you have to drill through two layers, with a hard layer about halfway through your job. This is also normal.
- Drill the hole so it is large enough to comfortably insert your anchor — the anchor should be snug, but you shouldn't have to hammer it in too hard, or it may collapse. It's fine if you need to lightly hammer the anchor into position. If you hammer too hard and damage the anchor by crushing it, that's fine — just pull it out with needle-nose pliers, make your hole slightly larger, and insert another anchor.
- If you accidentally drill your hole too large — don't worry. This happens often with concrete, since it crumbles away so easily. You can use wall spackle around your anchor and put it into the wall that way — just make sure it dries before you insert the screw.
- Using a screwdriver or the screw bit on your drill, screw the screw into place in the anchor, leaving a bit coming out of the wall so you have a surface on which to hang your photo. If you are hanging a shelving bracket, place the bracket between the anchor and the screw and then drill the screw into place.
- If you want to remove the screw (or even a nail!) from the wall, unscrew the screw, remove the drill bit with needle-nose pliers, and fill the hole with wall spackle with a putty knife.
- Hang your artwork and step back in admiration!
Sources: Yellow shelving brackets, Cheese please print, Fanciest Cat poster, Boss Ladies print, pink bike print, colorful basket photo, curtains, black & white calendar, Comfort List print, stuffed unicorn, Mark Twain quote DIY, scratch-off map
Photo & text copyright © Katie Currid 2017. All rights reserved.