Common Mistakes When Mounting a TV

Common Mistakes When Mounting a TV

Posted on 10, March, 2015

Last Modified on 28, February, 2023

Most TV mounts come with the necessary materials for a quick and easy installation, however, there are a number of problems that may arise no matter what your mount model and TV are. The following information will help first-time installers understand some of the most common mistakes while providing some helpful tips and solutions.

Using Drywall Anchors that are Insufficient for the TV’s Weight

Mounting on old drywall and plaster can be problematic, especially if the material is crumbling away or your wall studs are improperly spaced. Studs that are too far apart can also create problems because the material between them will actually bow in some cases. Many online how-to guides and tutorials will tell you that mounting directly to drywall is fine, but you must be careful if you choose to do so. Toggle bolts, especially snap toggle bolts, can be effective when mounting to new drywall but you should always check the load capacity for each bolt and use the correct number. If your wall seems flimsy, you’re usually better off drilling directly into studs and securing the mount with lag bolts.

Missing the Studs

Wooden Wall Studs

If you choose to mount your bracket directly onto your wall studs, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly where they are. One of the easiest ways to find studs is to use a stud finder. The average electronic stud finder will run you between $10 & $50 but there are very advanced, expensive models available as well. Keep in mind that lower quality stud finders can be inaccurate. If you do not own or want to buy a stud finder, there are several other options. There's the old knocking technique where you simply move along the wall tapping the wall lightly with a hammer or your knuckles while listening. You will hear a deadened thud where there is a stud. Likewise, you will hear a more hollow sound in the absence of a stud.

Unfortunately, neither of these methods is foolproof, so let's talk about another option: using basic construction knowledge and cues. This may sound complicated for a beginner, but it’s actually easier than you might think. Typical walls are made with studs spaced either 16" or 24" apart on center. This standardized spacing usually allows you to measure from the first "known" stud to the next. There are a few cues used to find the first stud: corners, windows, and switch boxes. Your first stud will be located in the corner of your wall, which allows you to quickly measure to the next stud as long as you know your stud spacing. If you don't, you can use other cues, like a window or switch boxes. Windows are always framed in with studs. Switch boxes for outlets and light switches are also mounted to the side of the stud. Another neat trick is to take steel wool rub it together until there are a few filings on your fingers, then run your fingers across the wall. The slightly magnetized filings will "stick" to the heads of drywall screws. Drywall screws will indicate where the studs are.

Dealing with Stud Spacing

TV Mount on Plywood Board

Now that you know where your studs are, you need to figure out if they are spaced so that you can attach the mount on both sides and whether the stud locations allow you to center it. If the mount cannot be attached on both sides, there are a couple of ways to accommodate it. First, consider making a mounting plate or cleat out of a durable material, such as plywood or metal, to span the distance between the studs. If possible (this will depend on the stud spacing, your TV, and your mount), cut the plate down so that it will be concealed once your TV is attached. If you’re worried about aesthetics or that your homemade mounting plate will be seen, think about painting or staining it for a more professional, finished look. The plate can be attached to the studs using wood screws, but lag bolts are typically a little stronger. With the plate in place, you can then secure the base of your mount to it. The same technique can be applied when attempting to center the mount on the wall, however, there is another solution. Sliding TV brackets feature a base that expands or contracts to accommodate varying stud distances and allow for easier centering. You can also consider purchasing a mount with a single stud mounting design. Just keep in mind that larger TVs usually require more than a single stud design, so making your own mounting plate may be the best option if your TV is particularly large or heavy.

Not Ensuring the Mount and TV are Level

Many television mounts feature built-in bubble, or spirit, levels. If your mount does not include one, you might consider picking one up so you can make sure your TV is level and plumb. Laser levels work well too but they can be expensive depending on the model.

Using Underrated DIY Materials

With so much information on the web, it’s not surprising that many people make their own brackets to install their TVs. Just bear in mind that if you are planning to do it yourself, you should ensure all the materials you are using are strong enough. Most manufactured mounts are heat treated and powder-coated for strength but some materials used by DIYers are not tough enough to withstand the prolonged heat and weight.

Not Knowing Your VESA Size

VESA refers to a set of common standards for the placement of the holes on the back of your TV. In order to attach your TV safety and properly to your mount, you’ll first need to make sure that both sets of mounting holes line up - aka that your TV and your mount have the same VESA specifications. To learn more about VESA and how to determine your TV’s VESA size, check out our “What is VESA?” article!

Common VESA Sizes:

Not Properly Tightening Hardware

To prevent expensive flat screen displays from falling off the wall and breaking, all hardware must be properly tightened. Screws and lag bolts are often installed with a power drill (even an impact drill in some cases), which helps ensure the mount is securely fastened. Some people even suggest putting a little lubricant, like dish soap, on the lag bolts to make tightening a little easier. We recommend selecting lag bolts that have hex heads, so you can use a ratcheting wrench or impact driver. This way, there is no question as to whether the hardware is sufficiently tightened.

Mounting Above a Fireplace Without Proper Heat Ventilation

Flat Screen TV Over Fireplace

Excess heat can damage the electronics inside your TV and drastically shorten its life. If you choose to hang your television over the fireplace, you'll want to make sure that the heat is routed away from the screen. Add a mantel that spans a little more than the length of the TV and protrudes about 3" to block the heat. You should also mount the television about 3" above the mantel to allow for proper ventilation. If you don't have or can't add a mantel, consider building a recessed bay in the wall to nestle the TV and keep it away from the heat. When mounting a TV above a fireplace, it is also a good idea to select a mount that features tilt. You won’t have to worry about straining your neck if you have the ability to angle your TV. There is a lot of information about this subject, so search the web if you have additional questions or concerns.


Hopefully this information will help you successfully install your television while avoiding a lot of the pitfalls people typically encounter during the process. But if you still aren’t sure about the installation process, contact a professional. Most contractors will be able to help you figure out the best way to install your mount and TV given your specific parameters and location.

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