Mounting a flat panel TV on the wall is one of
those jobs where a little know-how can save
you a lot of money. Professional installation
costs anywhere from $150 to $350—plus the
cost of the mount itself. But if you can handle some precise
measuring and drive a few screws, you can do a first-class
job yourself in about an hour. We’ll show you how. Plus,
we’ll sift through the confusing variety of mounts and help
you choose the version that’s best for your situation.
Dozens of models, three styles
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the wall-mount makes and
models. They’re all just variations of three basic styles. The
three styles differ mainly in how much they allow you to
adjust the position of the screen. Adjustments can eliminate glare and increase viewing comfort in other ways too. But
adjustability is most important for picture quality. Like a
computer screen, the picture on a TV screen is clearest when
viewed straight on. So a mount that offers more adjustability
gives you a clearer picture in more situations and may
even increase your options for where you can place the TV.
Most flat TVs are designed for wall mounting, but make
absolutely sure yours is before you shop for a mount. Look
for “VESA” (Video Electronics Standards Association) on
the manual or the TV itself, followed by a number such as
“VESA 75.” Any mount with the same VESA number will
work with your TV. Also consider wiring before you choose
a mount. If you plan to run wiring inside your walls, the
mount design may determine how and where you can install
an outlet and cable connections.
Get the height right
The most common mistake people make when picking a spot
for a TV is placing it too high. Looking up at the screen can
give you a sore neck and a murky picture (especially if the
TV mount doesn’t tilt). Some experts recommend centering
the screen at eye level (when you’re seated). Others say a bit
lower is better, so eye level is centered on the top two-thirds
of the TV (that’s where most of the on-screen action is).
But there is no “correct” height. A lot depends on the size
of the TV and the room. A big TV in a big room can be
mounted higher on the wall because the upward viewing
angle is decreased when you sit farther from the TV. So the
best way to choose the mounting height is with a test drive.
This is a three-person job—two to hold the TV and a third to
judge the height. Simply get in viewing position and look at
the screen in different positions on the wall.
Once you’ve found the right spot, mark the TV’s location
on the wall with masking tape (Photo 1). Then set the TV aside
and add more tape to mark the bottom edge of the TV on the
wall. The tape has to be perfectly level, so use a level to position
it. Also locate the centers of the wall studs using an electronic
stud finder (the centers of studs provide maximum
holding power). If you have concrete, brick or block walls,
you can drive screws anywhere. Check the instructions for anchor recommendations.
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Position it perfectly
Most wall plates let you slide the TV left or right a few
inches, so the plate doesn’t have to be perfectly centered
where the TV will hang. But positioning the plate at the
right height can be tricky. Lots of people end up installing
it two or even three times before they get it right. Here’s
how to avoid wasted time and a wall full of screw holes:
First, screw the brackets to the TV following the instructions.
The screw holes in the back of the TV may be hidden
by plastic plugs. Just pry them off. Then hang the wall
plate on the brackets so the complete mount is attached to
the TV. Prop the TV against the wall and measure the distance
from the bottom of the TV to the center of each row
of mounting holes on the back plate. On the wall, measure
the same distances up from the tape and make marks at the
stud locations. Check the marks with a level to make sure
they’re perfectly level (horizontally). Then follow the photo.
Drill holes at the marks. The holes should be about 1/8
in. smaller than the lag screws. If the manufacturer didn’t
include lag screws, check the instructions and pick up the
recommended size at a hardware store or home center.
Then just screw the plate to the wall using a ratchet
wrench and socket.