A Well Hung Peter

Spent the morning hauling water and figured I’d pop out a post while taking a quick break from the cold.  Probably the most overlooked part of any of my posts is the title.  There is actually a lot of time spent on coming up with an appropriate title – don’t worry, this is time is usually spent while doing some mundane task around the house (laundry, mopping, cleaning windows, taking out the trash, bathing the boys etc. etc.)  or while in the car trying to pass the time.  It is rare when there are so many options but with a name like Peter Lik you can have a lot of fun – Alex, I’ll take “Cheap Laughs for 100 please”.  If you recall from a previous post (link here), we (translated my wife) bought a picture from the gallery of Linda’s favorite photographer.  What I did not mention in that post was how concerned I was about actually getting the picture hung on the fireplace – there’s a reason there hasn’t been anything put there to date – I had no idea how to accomplish that.  This feeling of concern was significantly amplified when the picture showed up at the house.  There was no more time to push it off, Linda was pretty insistent about it being displayed soon after arriving.  Adding to that pressure, we had a Christmas dinner scheduled at our house a few days later.

Might as well jump to the Peter Lik money shot (I crack myself up).

Hit the jump to read how all this went down

Yes, the picture is officially hung – a job licked!  The finished product looks great, but getting to this point was a definite struggle.  First note, that the fireplace is really manufactured stone (it matches the stone on the outside of the house).  There is a studded frame around the fireplace which is covered with a layer of plywood(guessing 1/2″ but possibly 1/4″).  On top of that is a metal mesh as support for the rock mortar and then the manufactured stone (imagine full stones cut in half so there is a flat side to put against the mesh.  Fact 1: Mortar lines are easier to fix than the stone.  Based on that, there was a conscious decision to avoid drilling into the actual stone.

Pop Quiz: Does that make the hanging project simple or incredibly more difficult? (note the baiting).  If you’re answer is simple, please provide a 500 page essay on why you believe you’re not insane.

The correct answer is this makes hanging a Peter uber-hard (sorry, can’t help myself).  Linda was not following my concerns either and as she does often, rolled her eyes when I brought out the butcher paper.  The absolute only way to get through this was to visualize it and there’s no better way to do that than with a template – to EXACT specifications (for the eye rollers out there).  With the template made, I could place it on the fireplace and determine the best place to hang the real picture.

This process also validated a suspicion I’ve had since the house was built.  Whenever I sit on the couch I end up staring at the mantle.  Confirming my theory, the mantle was not hung perfectly level (Linda will quickly point out that things like that drive me nuts).  It is only about 3/16″ to 1/4 off over its entire length.  This means I have to make a decision to hang it in alignment with the mantle or with the plum of the fireplace.  I went with the mantle thanks to how the template looked in both positions.  First issue out of the way – where to hang it!   Probably the easiest decision in the whole process.  Back to the mortar vs. stone issue.  If you are willing to go through the stone (and thus make this a permanent modification), you can drill a hole in the very middle of the width and whatever height you want above midpoint (accounting for the play in the backing wire) – jury says .. EASY.  If you are taking into account that Peter Lik might actually wrong Linda in some way in the future (for example coming out that his UB Uma really took all the shots) you tend to take some extra precautions.  Instead of popping a hole any ol’ where, I had to find two spots equally distance from the horizontal midpoint and sufficiently above the vertical midpoint that both fell in mortar.  Describing this as a pain in the ass would be an understatement – luckily Linda was off doing errands so she didn’t have to listen to me bitch about it.  Obviously I figured it out (excuse me while I pat myself on the back).  Second issue out of the way.

On to the third issue – what to use for the hangers.  Linda suggested I talk to someone at Jeffery Alan’s to see if they had recommendations on hanging pictures on fireplaces.  I was heading there anywhere for Operation Sesame Street (blog foreshadowing) so dropped by there – their input into the task .. blank stares and a recommendation to go to Lowes.  Menards was on the way home so stopped by there.  Credit to the gray haired Menards’ employee who provided me some ideas – his was some large lag screws for fixing items to cement walls.  Not knowing the exact size needed I bought a wide range.  The eye bolts caught my attention when walking up to counter so picked up a variety of sizes of those as well – when you live in the country it doesn’t pay not to be prepared.  Thinking through this again I went back a few days later and picked up some additional sizes and even found another option as a possible fallback if the others failed.  Now that the drill locations were known, I drilled the appropriate whole for the 3/8″ cement lag – as luck would have it I missed both studs.  With the thickness of the mortar and the plywood behind it I took a chance it would be sturdy enough anyway.   One issue was the fact the threads did not go all the way to the head – really only about 2 -2.5″ of the overall 6″ bolt – recall the rocks are not flat so had to be sufficient long enough to make it beyond the thickest rock.  This didn’t leave a whole lot of bite but the first one felt pretty firm.  The second one was definitely looser and when weight applied had some give.  The price tag gave Fact 2: Any giving is unacceptable.  The rock ended up being thinner than expected giving way to the idea of switching out the 6″ lags for 5″ lags (this is why you buy all the sizes you can find).  Once again the left side felt pretty firm, but no improvement on the right.  Crap.  In a brief moment of insanity I opted to fill the hole with liquid nails hoping that would firm it up.  BAD Bri!  That just made the right side both loose and now sticky (passing on the obvious pun here).  With the party later that night there was NO time for the glue to set up – plus there was no guarantee that would solve the problem since most of the glue probably squirted all the way through the hole.  There needed to be some way to insure it would not pull out from the wall or sag.  Rifling through all the materials from Menards, I found the items I bought as a final option – I do not even know what they are or what they are used for in real life, but they had threads all the way to the end and had a bar at 90 degrees which would prevent slippage.  They were also 1/2″ so plenty big enough to hold the 60+ pound picture.  A clever person is probably asking themselves “How the hell is he going to fasten that from the back?”

Fourth issue: Access to back of fireplace to put backing washer and nut on.  There’s an option to go through the master bedroom which is the backside of the fireplace – not real fond of that idea.  There’s an option to try some molly bolt option but that works best when the bolt is essentially flush with the material being affixed to.  Taking stone off is right out.  However, cleverly foreseeing this situation occurring in the future, I purposely held off building the shelves on the sides of the fireplace – (that’s my story and I sticking to it).  Finally vindicated after all those years of listening to Linda complain.

How perfect is that – a quick rotozip on the sidewall and I had complete access to the back of the fireplace on either side.  The left side went perfect, however the right side ended up being a struggle.  Hitting the stud would have been perfect, missing the stud by a lot would have worked, but having the bolt literally slide through against the stud is bad.  There was no room to put the bolt much less the washer on.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say by the time this problem was solved close to every power tool I own along with hand chisels and flush saws were littered about the living room.  Easily 30% of the time on this project was spent with my arm through the right hole trying to blindly navigate my way to a solution – Linda had the pleasure of watching me fight through this from the comfort of the sofa – quite the show I hear.

So now the bolts were in.  Oh, here is what I used.  Again, I have no idea what they are used for, but they worked perfectly here.  Since the threads went all the way to the end I could perfectly dial in the length of the hanger to match the random rock thickness.

Here is a closer look of the bolt.  Notice the bar sticking up from the end which keeps the wire from slipping off.  Genius if I do say so myself.

All that was left was to wrap the wire around the hangers on the back of the picture and set it on the hooks.  Fifth issue: it weighs over 60 pounds and Linda was struggling to lift her end up much less hold it over her head for any length of time.  Of course, we found this out only AFTER our first attempt.  I got my side on the hook and quickly noticed Linda was about to lose it .. well noticed in the sense she screaming at me to hurry the (ummm let’s go with) furry up.  Only option was to take my side back down.  Time to call in a favor.  A quick call to my neighbor provided some badly needed muscle and all that was left was to stand back and admire (well, some positional tweaking was required to get the wire aligned evenly on the hooks).


Trust me, that picture is going nowhere without outside assistance.  The most important thing is Linda really likes it – to go through all this and have her disappointed would have been a bummer.  I think it looks pretty cool too so I have to give her credit on her choice of pictures although I still have my favorite sitting all lonely like back at the studio.. someday, someday.

That’s all folks – the blog quota for the entire year has been successfully met.  Thanks to everyone for spending time with me – although I complained a lot about deadlines, I really enjoyed sharing.  Be responsible this New Year’s Eve – I don’t want to read about any of my readers in the paper the next day ha!

11 thoughts on “A Well Hung Peter”

  1. I just erased a crude comment–well beneath me, but I can’t stand it because it was simply excellent. Gilbert Gottfried I am not.

    If I were to guess, I would say those are exploding bolts for fighter canopies and rocket stages. Probably OK.

    My only OCD compulsion at this point in my life (I’ve shed some) is straightening pictures, so I understand how you’ve been bugged by the mantle. My fireplace mantle isn’t horizontal, either. My glasses interfere in an annoying way with accurately determining direction cosines, which is why I used to carry a tiny bubble level on my keychain, and why leveling apps were the first ones I downloaded on the iPad.

    Anyway, it looks great! I knew there was a reason why you’ve been putting off those bookshelves for years and years. And years. I have similar deep motives for not doing things around my house. Sometimes you just know when it’s not the right time, and you learn to trust your instincts.



  2. He is going to milk this bookshelf thing for another 6 years! Now I have not only plywood on the side of my fireplace but also a square of drywall covering a hole in the plywood! Between that and a certain husband sitting on our back porch shooting at the satellite dish, I think I have officially found redneck hell.


  3. But my new picture makes it classy redneck hell :). I do have to give Brian credit for doing a great job hanging the picture.


  4. Hmmm – where to begin. An interesting take on the bolt hangers. Not knowing anything about fighter canopies I do find it interesting that you can pick them up at your local Menards. Either there are more jet owners than expected in our area or thinking it might be something else – again, not sure on that but will be looking into it for sure.

    For personal reasons, how exactly do you shed OCDs – I’ve had some since since high school I can’t shake for the life of me. Things are are not straight drive me up a wall and Linda can attest to that. Trust me, if there was a way to fix my mantle, I’d be ALL over it. I also dislike things that are not evenly spaced and a contributor to my nervousness whenever I see Linda walking around with a hammer and nails.

    “…putting off those bookshelves for years and years. And years.” Hey now, let’s not get carried away with the “years” – one will do just fine. I can definitely get behind the instincts concept – I like to think of myself as an artistic visionary. Some day, plywood in the living room will be all the rage and Linda will be the envy of the neighborhood.


  5. Thanks Ron – hard to imagine it’s been a full five years here at LifeIntrigued. I can’t wait to compile the final stats to see how this year stacked up to the rest! Thanks to you for your readership and most appreciative to all your comments (well – at least the ones that don’t take Linda’s side of issues – hehehe)


  6. No milking!!! thinking, planning, measuring, designing.. definitely not milking. Milking would be taking a year on Project Auuuuunooold and still not having much to show for it (… as stated by my lovely wife)… Personally, I think the drywall gives it a bit of class and you can’t deny it complements the coloring on the rocks. Oh, bad news. The book shelves will be delayed some thanks to burning up my radial arm saw this week. Murphy strikes again.

    Let’s set the record straight here – I (assuming “a certain husband” is a cleverly disguised alias for me) have never sat on the porch and shot at the satellite dish. Never Ever Ever Ever. Is everybody clear on that now? Besides, whatever I shoot at I hit and the fact that the satellite is indeed still standing is proof this even is a figment of Linda’s imagination. As if that wasn’t enough, if I was “sitting” on the porch there would be huge holes in the railings – again, no such holes exist.


  7. Wait a minute, hold the presses – is that my lovely wife giving me some credit for something done well? Excuse me while I go dry my eyes….. um gunpowder makes them water


  8. Umm, there are holes in your railing between the supports to shoot through. And I have heard before about you sitting on the porch shooting at the satellite dish from someone who should know (“L”).

    And isn’t this you??



  9. And isn’t this you and Linda back when you were complaining about the poor Internet speeds you were getting in the country?



  10. Shouldn’t you be working on a calendar or something rather than scouring YouTube for videos of obvious psychos!?! Ironically I can reference an earlier comment “well – at least the ones that don’t take Linda’s side of issues – hehehe” I will say I did laugh at the lady in the second video trying to shoot the shotgun – guessing she’ll be putting some ice on that shoulder.

    By the way, did I mention I now have something new to play with!!


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