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How To Keep Art Safe From Theft, Transport Damage, and Earthquakes

  • by Arthur Harrison
  • 7 min read

Imagine one of your precious art pieces crashing to the floor. The hard work, the money, the time and effort — all out the window!

What’s even more frustrating is that this could’ve been prevented if you just used the right hardware or if you simply practiced proper art handling techniques.

Art is expensive and you can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to hanging it. Thankfully, there are pros like art handlers, storage specialists, and hanging experts (that’s us!) who can help you avoid mistakes that can cost a fortune.

frames on the wall
Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

9 Common Mistakes When Handling Art

If you have an expensive artwork on your hands and you’re not sure what to do, we’re happy to guide you through it. Here are 9 common art handling mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

Mistakes When Hanging

Using the wrong wall hangers.

Occasionally, customers reach out to us and say that their art, frame, or mirror crashed to the floor. When we ask about the art hangers that they used, we discover that they actually used something that’s not suitable to carry the weight of the frame.

Using the wrong picture hangers is a common mistake, and an expensive one at that. This happens when you skip right to hanging the art without doing a proper assessment.

Years of being in the industry have taught us to always consider 4 things when picking the right art hanger: the type of wall you’re hanging on, the type of art piece you’re hanging, what’s on the back of the frame, and the weight of the object.

For DIY projects like making your own art gallery at home, here are some picture hangers you can use:

For small and lightweight art

  • Sawtooth Hangers
  • D-Rings
  • Hanging Wire

For large and heavy art

  • French Cleats
  • Mega Strap Hangers with Adjustable J-Hooks 

For high-value art and legit art exhibits, these regular hangers might need a little upgrade to prevent theft and earthquake damage — which brings us to the next mistake on this list.

Using regular hangers for high-value art.

Priceless and expensive art can be targets for theft. These pieces also become the top priority to protect when there is an earthquake. In these situations, regular hangers won’t do the job. Instead, it’s best to use some sort of security hanging hooks to ensure safety of the artwork.

Here's a few hardware we have in mind.

Security Kits to Protect Art from Theft and Damage

The best way to protect art from these situations is to use security hooks like T-Head Screws, Frame Locks, and other similar Security Kits. You can check out these items from Picture Hang Solutions for your convenience:

⚒️ How T-screw Hangers Work

T- Screw hangers are anti-theft security hangers with a T-shaped head that lock artwork or any hanging objects in place. You have to use a special T-Screw Security Wrench to rotate the screw and lock it in. It helps prevent theft, tampering, and falling.

Because of this security feature, it’s used in many public places where security is a concern like schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and of course in art exhibits. These can be used at home too, especially if there are kids around.

Before you get intimidated, don’t worry. These little guys are pretty easy to install as long as you have the right tools and picture hanging hardware.

⚒️ How to Install a T-Screw Hanger

Tools needed: 

  • Security kit that includes the anchors, screws and brackets
  • T-screw security wrench (sold separately)
  • Power drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Level

Part 1: Installing the brackets. 

1. Attach the three mounting plates to the back of the wood frame with the #6 x ½ screws. Two plates on top and one plate at the bottom. Position the top plates at least ½” from the edges so they will not be seen. The bottom plate should be centered on the bottom.

2. Position frame level on the wall and mark where the wall brackets should be located based on the plates on the frame.

3. Install the brackets using the #10 x 1” screws and short anchors if needed.

4. Slide the frame down on the wall brackets until they catch on the mounting plates on top of the frame. Before installing a security screw in the wall, check frame level and location.

Part 2: Installing the T-screw.

1. Mark the spot on the wall at the center of the bottom mounting plate or use the T-Head screw as a marker by holding it in the plate and touching the wall.

2. Install T-Head Security Screw using a long plastic anchor if needed. The flat neck of the security screw should stick out about 3/ 8” from the wall in horizontal (unlocked) position.

3. Slide the frame on the wall brackets. The T-Head screw should pass through the bottom mounting plate. The frame should evenly stand off the wall about 3/8”.

4. To lock the frame to the wall, slide the Security Wrench against the wall behind the bottom rail of the frame. Grab the T-Screw neck and turn to the left to lock. 

 🔨PRO TIP: You can also place the wrench on the screw neck before you tilt the frame onto the screw to easily locate it.

To check if the screw is engaged, place your fingers under the bottom rail of the frame and gently tug to make sure the frame is locked in place. To unlock the frame, rotate the screw to the right.

You can use Brass Tremor Hooks too! 

Another way you can protect your art is by using Tremor Hooks. They are reliable and kid-safe hangers perfect for both earthquake-prone areas and busy environments. Tremor hooks have a wire snapping feature designed to prevent the hanging wire from slipping off. The steel nails provide maximum support and can hold up to 30 pounds.

Tremor hooks from Picture Hang Solutions
Tremor hooks prevent frames from slipping off by locking wires in. Photo: Picture Hang Solutions

⚒️ How to Install a Brass Tremor Hook

1. Tap the sharp nails in. Consider using two hooks, spaced apart which will help your pictures hang straight. Avoid strenuous hammering because this can damage the nail head.

2. When hanging your art, use your finger to guide the wire to slide or snap under the hook’s spring. Apply picture load gradually to ensure proper hold. Peek behind it to make sure the wire is secured inside the spring clip.

3. To remove, use fingers or pliers to pull the nail out at a 45-degree angle with a slight twisting motion. Refrain from prying a hook away from the wall with a tool because it might damage the wall surface and the hook or nail.

4. And in case you’re wondering, you may reuse the tremor hooks. Gently tapping and proper nail removal will allow for multiple uses of the professional brass plated tremor hooks.

Congratulations on safely hanging that artwork! But wait, how’s the environment where the art is displayed? Check out the following mistakes made in the display area.

Mistakes Made in the Display Environment 

Hanging the art where sunlight hits.

Can’t deny that a work of art looks immaculate when the sun hits it. But light damage can’t be undone, so we have to be conscious about how much light a piece of artwork will get.

Although it’s advised to find a better placement away from sunlight exposure, there are two ways you can still make this happen.

You can use either a translucent protective film on your windows or a specialty glass in the frame. A lot of companies specialize in window protection and specialty glass that block UV light and protect your art.

Which brings us to the next mistake you might want to avoid:

Not framing your artwork.

In handling art, framing your artwork is an investment. It protects your art and its value at all times. Not sure what type of glass to use for your art? Check out these options for your reference:

  • Non-glare glass
  • Anti-reflective glass
  • Water White glass
  • Plexiglass
  • UV-protected glass
  • Museum glass

Forgetting about the humidity.

Sometimes, we forget that the amount of water in the air can also affect some artwork. It’s best to keep the humidity level at 55% and the temperature at 65-70 degrees.

Touching the art without gloves.

Watch those hands! Touching art without gloves is a big “no-no” in the art care rulebook because you’ll risk damage by exposing it to fingerprints and natural oils. Always wear cotton gloves, especially when packing the art and getting it ready for transport.

Mistakes Made During Transport

Not packing it properly.

Wrapping bubble wrap around the painting just once? Oh no, that won’t do anything to cushion the blow if anything happens during transport. There’s a proper way to do it and it involves using specialty materials. Check out the video above to see how Agora Gallery packs artwork.

Not using special tapes or sheets.

Speaking of specialty materials, always make sure to have art-friendly supplies on hand like artist’s tape, glassine, cardboard corners, and a lot of regular and large sized bubble wrap. Regular office supplies are often made of different substances that could ruin the art.

Not using proper labels.

Art labels are essential in an art exhibit to help art handlers and gallery managers take note of the pieces under their care. Aside from that, it helps visitors and art enthusiasts appreciate the pieces on display. Labels encourage exhibit goers to talk about the art, be inspired by it, and discuss the medium, message and motivation of the artist.

Additional art handling tips and care instructions:

Art Handling Tips

  • Hire a hanging expert.
  • Use both hands in carrying art, no matter how small the artwork is.
  • Rotate your art display once in a while.

Art Transportation Tips

  • The less handling, the better.
  • When packing, plan your approach ahead to avoid unpacking and repacking.
  • Items are usually safer in display orientation during transport and in storage.
  • When moving, prepare everything in advance, be aware of the surroundings, and communicate with partners for a safe transport and smooth transition.

Art Storage Tips

  • Keep glass or acrylics squeaky clean by using soft non-abrasive cloth or microfiber towel and ammonia-free glass cleaner.
  • For unframed paintings or art, dust them off using a soft feather duster. Avoid any cleaners or solvents.
  • Don’t leave art in a tube. Take it out and store it flat.
  • When storing multiple works of art, separate each one and keep something in between each work.
  • Store artwork in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Final Thoughts

We’ve dealt with a lot of hanging problems in the past, but damaged art remains to be in the top 10 issues that make us flinch. The worst thing that could happen to an artwork is when it crashes on the ground.  So, make it a habit to always assess the art, and then choose the right picture hanging hardware. If all else fails, give us a call and we’ll help you out!

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