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How to Choose the Proper Aluminum French Cleats

  • by Arthur Harrison
  • 4 min read

It's difficult to choose the best picture hanging hardware when there are so many types to choose from. Imagine finally deciding on one, but then realizing it’s not the best one for your particular piece because of the weight or frame material or type of wall you are hanging it on. 

Ugh, there are so many things to consider!  Let’s say you decide on using a French Cleat, but how do you know what length you need or what profile to choose? What length? What weight capacity? What frame type?

Having a lot of options isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s overwhelming at first, but once you understand what to look for, it becomes an easy and clear choice. 

About French Cleats

French cleats consist of two beveled pieces of metal or wood designed to interlock and mount an object to the wall. Many professionals use this type of hanging hardware because there’s a lot you can do with them, depending on the kind of cleats you get.

There are two types of cleat material: wood and aluminum. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Wooden French cleats are highly customizable, and you can either buy or make them yourself. Meanwhile, aluminum French cleats come in various lengths.

They might not be as easily customizable as the wooden ones, but there is a wide range of cleat lengths and profiles to cater to different applications.

Learn more about them in the next section.

How to Choose the Right Cleats

At Picture Hang Solutions, there’s a total of 11 different cleat lengths that can support frames within 15 to 750 lbs. To choose the most suitable one, you need to identify 5 key things.

Weight of the Object

Knowing the weight of the object you’re hanging will instantly narrow down your options. Different cleat lengths have various weight capacities ranging from light, medium, and heavy-duty.

Refer to the Cleat Guide below to know all the available weight capacities.

Width of the Object

The next thing you should identify is how wide your object is. The rule of thumb here is to choose a cleat length that can cover at least 75% of the object’s width. For example, you have a frame that measures 24 inches. You will need at least an 18-inch French cleat. 

Check out the cleat guide below to see the recommended cleat size based on the width of your frame. The guide also shows the different cleat profiles that are available in each cleat size. We'll discuss more about cleat profiles on the next two bullet points.

Material of the Object

Cleats are compatible with either wood or metal frames. There’s not much difference between the two except that wood frames need one pair, while metal frames use just one cleat, specifically a light cleat profile (more on this in the next section).

Metal frames only require one cleat because they have an open-type channel on the back which can hang directly on the wall cleat. The light cleat is the recommended profile to use with metal frames. 

Cleat Profile of your Choice

A cleat pair consists of two extruded aluminum cleats with the same profile. One is mounted to the wall while the other is installed on the back of the object. We have three different cleat profiles available in store: Z-Bar, Light, and Flare Cleats.

The difference between the cleat profiles lies in the angle design, which affects the wall standoff of each profile. The Z-bar and Light Cleat have the exact wall standoff measurement of ¼ inch, while the Flare Cleats are 5/16 inch.

Another notable difference is that Z-bar and Flare Cleats are compatible with wood frames only, while Light Cleats are compatible with wood and metal frames.

Mounting Surface

The last thing you should identify is the type of wall or surface you are hanging the object on and also make sure it is flat and in good condition. Whether you are hanging on brick, cement or drywall would require different hardware although the same cleats can be used. 

How to Install Aluminum French Cleats

French cleats aren’t that hard to install, but there is a slight difference when using them on metal frames. Since metal frames only need one cleat, they’re easier and faster to install. 

Here’s how to install them:

For Metal Frames

1. Mount the other cleat to the wall. 

  • With the screw holes at the bottom, install the wall cleat using the screws and plastic anchors provided.
  • Level the cleat while installing. 
  • Make small adjustments before tightening the screws completely.

2. Slide the metal frame down to engage with the cleat.

For Wood Frames

1. Mount the other cleat to the wall. 

  • With the screw holes at the bottom, install the wall cleat using the screws and plastic anchors provided.
  • Level the cleat while installing. 
  • Make small adjustments before tightening the screws completely.

2. Attach one cleat to the back of the frame. 

  • With the screw holes on top, attach the screws provided. 
  • Drill pilot holes if necessary.

If the backing is too fragile for screws, or if you don’t want to drill into your piece, you can use an adhesive but with precaution. It should have a strong hold and be compatible with both materials – aluminum and wood.

Unfortunately, we cannot advise on how much weight the cleats can hold using adhesive, so this would require some testing.

3. Slide the object down to interlock both cleats.

If necessary, slide the frame left or right to adjust. Just remember that both cleats should be 90% engaged. To disengage cleats, lift the frame upwards.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have so many options to choose from, but now you can narrow it down in no time. With that, don’t let confusion get in the way of hanging your frames. Get to it and let us know how it goes!

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