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This is an article about how to do non-destructive layouts on walls using Post-its.

8Have you ever needed to hang pictures, or layout stair rail hangers, on finished walls? The problem is, if you mess up, you leave behind holes in the finished walls that need to be patched and painted. And if you are doing this on wallpaper, it gets worse – much worse. Here’s a neat solution to this challenge.

In this pictorial example, I’m hanging a large picture. On the back of the picture are two hooks, so the hangars have to be just the right distance apart, and perfectly level. There is no room to adjust a picture hung in this manner.

The first thing to do is make certain what height you’d like to hang the picture. Next measure how far from a corner, or window, or whatever, to the center line of the picture.

Place a Post-it on the wall at the approximate height and near the centerline desired. Now measure the exact height and centerline and mark it on the Post-it. Make a crosshair at this point. This is the starting point for this kind of layout.
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Next divide the center-to-center measurement you took between the hooks by 2. In this example let’s say the center-to-center is 40; so 40/2 is 20. Place a second Post-it to the right or left of the centerline, approximately 20″ away and at the approximate height. Measure from the centerline to exactly 20″ over and the height desired, in this case 15″ off the ceiling.
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Now place a Post-it approximately 40″ from the 1st hook location and at the approximate height. Next measure from the leftmost or rightmost Post-it to the other hook location, 40″ in this case. Mark the 40″ with a verical line and then measure off the ceiling for the height.
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Notice that there are two horizontal lines in this image. That’s because you can’t always trust ceiling to be level. The longer line is the correct one.
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It’s best to use a level and level over from your 1st mark to your second mark. That way you’ll be sure to get it right.
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A simple technique for the getting the hangar in exactly the right place is the hold the hook out a little and get the nail started. Then drive it home.
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Here’s the final product. Just rip the Post-its out of the way and you have a perfectly clean layout.
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Laying out handrail brackets on finished walls:

Laying out handrail brackets are very similar with a few variations.

First thing to do is gather a few tools you’ll need:

  1. Torpedo level
  2. Stud finder
  3. Smart Level (optional)
  4. A dry string, preferably nylon.
  5. Post-its
  6. Pencil
  7. Hammer and a small finish nail

Now that you have your layout tools, you need to find the uppermost and the lowest hanging position for your brackets. These two points have to be on a stud, and both have to be x amount of distance above the stair nosings.

If you have a Smart Level, place the level across at least two of the nosings of the treads. Read the angle. In this case let’s say its 37º. Determine the height you want the top of your rail to install. (Check for code compliance). I’ll choose 36″ in this case. Next determine how much lower the top of the handrail brackets will sit. If the difference in height is 4″, for example, then we want the rail brackets to sit at about 32″ above nosing.

This may seem a bit complex but it’s not really. Just take each step in sequence and it will be quite easy.

Place a Post-it approximately 32″ (in this example) above the uppermost tread’s nosing. Place a 48″ level against the nosing and plumb up to the Post-it. Draw a vertical line on the Post-it. Measure up 32″from the nosing and place a horizontal line on the Post-it, creating a crosshair. Repeat this at the lowest tread that is on the same wall as the 1st mark. (On winders and landings you have to create separate top and bottom marks using this method.)

Okay, now you have the upper and lower marks drawn, but you don’t want to use a chalk line and ruin the finished wall, so… Find the first stud down from the uppermost mark and place a Post-it in the approximate position you will attach the bracket. Using your Smart Level, set to read angles, place one end on the 1st Post-it you placed above the nosing. Move the level till it reads 37º, per this example. Draw a line across the centerline of the stud. This will be the center of bracket top.

Do the same thing on the first stud up from the bottom Post-it. Now you have the exact top of the lowest and highest brackets. We need to run a dry line to determine the rest of the brackets (each bracket could be approximately 32″-48″ on center, depending on the strength of the rail.)

Remember that we are trying to leave the wall unscathed, so driving a nail in the top of the centerline would show. So drop down X amount, say an inch, on the top and bottom Post-it and the nail hole will be hidden. Make sure you drop down an equal amount on the top and the bottom Post-it. Drive a small nail into each of these points and stretch a dry line between the two nails.

Most of your work is done now. Determine how far apart you want your brackets to be. Place a Post-it near each of the studs, placing it under the string. Using your stud finder, determine the exact center of the stud. Check and double check each of these centers. Using your torpedo level make a vertical line on the Post-it, and measure, per our example, one inch up above the dry line, and place a small horizontal line on the Post-it. Repeat for each bracket you want to attach.

When they are all layed out, remove the string and nails.

Lastly, attach the brackets to the studs with screws. Leave the Post-its in place till you’ve started your screw holes. Remove them before the final tightening of the brackets.

Now you have all you hangars exactly where you want them. Lay your rail in place and fasten the brackets to the rail. And you’re done!


This article was written by Randall S. Soules, writer, remodeling coach, advisor, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System. The Scientific Remodeling System will show you easier ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to learn more about this eCourse and all of the forms and contracts available to Premium Members, click here. You are free to reprint or copy this article to your blog, newsletter, staff, etc. as long as the article is shown in its entirety and has a live link to RemodelerBiz.ScientificRemodelingSystem.com.

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