Flat Panel TV Mounting
We provide a lot of services in this industry, and one of the most common of all is mounting TV’s. As simple an idea as this may sound, often times this can get very tricky. From mounting a TV over a fireplace, to outdoor TV locations, there can be all kinds of obstacles to overcome.
When setting out to mount a TV, the goal is to make it look as though the TV belongs there. The installation, the fit, the aesthetic nature needs to flow and fit as if it was meant to be mounted at that location from the time the building was designed. This can be a challenge even when it really was designed to be there before the construction of the building. One of the quickest ways to help maintain this built-in look, is to assure all cables are hidden from sight and ran within the walls. Nothing detracts more from an installation than seeing cables hanging from a TV mounted on a wall or ceiling.
To accomplish this result, familiarizing one’s self with construction techniques is key. Walls can be constructed very differently depending on the area where you live, the purpose, size and type of building, and even depending on the purpose of the particular wall. Here in Florida, we have a very typical construction scheme for homes, which normally consists of framed walls with 2x4 studs separated at 16” for interior walls. For exterior walls, concrete block walls are common on the first floor, with ¾” wooden strips tacked on top to allow space for insulation followed by the drywall. Most walls have unfilled, hollow concrete blocks with the top bar being poured solid. On the second floor we commonly find framed walls with either 2x4 or 2x6 studs. We also find fire blocks (draft stops) in many walls over 8’ in height. Basically it is a 2x4 positioned horizontally within the wall to minimize the amount of air within the wall, and its purpose is to starve a potential fire from oxygen. The problem is these studs also inhibit our ability to run cables within the wall.
As with any job worth doing right, the key to a proper installation is preparation. Knowing the obstacles and having a plan provides the best chance of success. First step is deciding on a location. The two most common questions I hear are regarding the placement of the TV. The first is how well a TV will hold up outside in a covered area, and the second is how safe it is to place a TV over a fireplace. The second is easy; mounting TV’s over a fireplace is perfectly safe in regards to heat from the fire. The tricky part is getting cables there for power and audio/video. The outdoor TV is a little more objective. The first thing to note is that humidity will eventually make its way into any TV not designed to be outdoors. How long this will take is relative to many things which you are probably more educated about than me. In my experience, however, TV’s typically last a minimum of 2 years outdoors before failures begin, with many having lasted over 10 years. There are a few manufacturers that build TV’s specifically for the outdoors, such as Sunbrite TV. These TV’s are designed and built for extreme weather conditions. They include built-in fans, protective casings, and advanced features used by high-end control systems in addition to high-quality screens. These come with an added cost, of course, and sometimes that cost is simply not worth the added benefits. A 42” TV can cost close to $5,000, and while it may be built to withstand extreme conditions, the warranty is still only 2 years. We often recommend a 42” TV such as this 1080p HDTV from LG for excellent brightness, sharpness, and most of all, value (currently $559.) At this price, as you can plainly see, you can replace the TV every year for over 8 years before hitting the price of the outdoor TV. If you decide to use a regular TV for the outdoors, one of the first items to begin to fail or become corrosive is the input board. This is the section of the TV where all the cables plug into. Corrosion can damage each of the inputs and make them unusable in a relatively short amount of time. One of the things we recommend is taking inexpensive cables and plugging them into each of the inputs even if they aren’t being used, even if it means cutting the cable right after the plug. The point is to get those inputs covered up, because when we take down TV’s after a few years and disconnect them, you can always see significant differences from the input that was being used, and the rest of the inputs on the TV that were left disconnected. The corrosion is usually severe, and can often leave the remaining inputs completely unusable.
The next step is deciding on the proper mount for the job. There are 2 general types of mounts, with many small variables within these types. The first is the fixed mount. A basic, usually cost effective, and most simplistic form of mount. It may allow you to tilt the TV, it may be anywhere from millimeters to a few inches in thickness and can be locked down for security purposes. The other type of mount is an articulating mount. Some call these mounts “cantilever” mounts or “full swing” mounts, but basically they consist of a mount that allows you to pull the TV from the wall either manually or electronically, and aim the TV in different directions for a more flexible viewing area. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of options in the world of mounts, and believe me when I tell you that sometimes the differences can be enormous. Sometimes it can be something simple, like providing ease of installation features such as self leveling brackets or lighter and stronger materials, while other times it can be more necessary features such as allowing space for the inputs on your particular TV. I can’t go into all the minor differences between TV mounts, but I would like to address one important feature, and that is UL listing. I strongly recommend you only purchase UL listed mounts. If you are not familiar with UL listings, you can learn more about it by clicking here. In a nutshell, UL listings assure that a third party company has tested a product to meet or exceed certain safety standards. While it may seem like a given that any mount you find should have been tested and verified to do what it is supposed to do, I can tell you that when I personally questioned the owners of some of these manufacturing companies, they were happy to inform me that they perform their own testing before they sell their products to the public. It is my opinion that when you are mounting a TV, something that poses a possible risk of death if the mount were to ever fail at an inopportune time, a little extra testing by an uninterested party goes a long way. Home Sound Solutions commonly recommends Peerless and Chief Mounts.
Another step to consider, and also a very common question we get, is how high to mount the TV. Several things can influence this question, such as the aesthetics of the room, purpose of the room, such as a bedroom, and whether or not the TV needs to be located at a certain height due to furniture or a fireplace. A common height for mounting TV’s is 60” on center, since that is in close proximity to eye level for most of us. In the end it is really about preference, but THX recommends you keep the top of the screen low enough so that you don’t have to tilt your head up more than 15°. One exception to keep in mind is in the bedroom, where you may be viewing the screen while laying down, and therefore your viewing angle will be higher than normal.
Last but not least is TV size. This decision is of course dependant on many things, but strictly based on distance, THX recommendations are a clear indication that you can almost never go too large. Their formula would call for a 50” TV at distance of only 5-7.5 feet. I agree with their recommendations, if for no other reason than because I’ve never had a client wish they’d gone smaller.
After you’ve decided on your location, the size, the height, and the mount you want, the next step is determining how you will get power to this TV. If you don’t wish to hire an electrician to perform this task for you, there is still one last option. Using what we call a power bridge, you can create a virtual extension cord from a surge protector or electrical outlet, to the location where the TV will be mounted. You can take a look at products such as the InWallKit from APC, the PowerKit from Panamax, or for a more affordable option you can look to a manufacturer appropriately named PowerBridge.
In most of our installations, we have a cabinetry of some form located below the TV with an outlet somewhere down by the cabinet. The goal is to get the TV mounted above the cabinetry, and run all audio/video and power cables within the walls to the bottom where they can exit the wall behind the furniture and connect to the sources such as a cable box and/or DVD player. The biggest obstacle is either the fire block, or the narrow space of an outside concrete wall. In either case, I will describe the order in which you should perform each of the steps to getting the TV installed.
First determine if there is a fire block or if it is an exterior concrete wall. The best way to perform this task is with a good quality stud finder. The goal for any mount is to locate two solid studs to secure the mount onto. We prefer the Zircon StudSensor i65 as it has produced the best results for us. Cut the hole to the lower wall plate first and then use a glow stick to determine if you have a clear path within the wall to the height of the preferred location of the second hole. This is the best way to determine the location of a fire block. If you have a clear path, you can continue to cut out the upper hole at the TV location and begin installation of the mount. For wall plates that allow the pass-through of cables such as HDMI cables from the sources to the TV, we commonly use Vanco Bulk Cable Wall Plates for an easy solution. These wall plates come apart to allow large amounts of cables to fit through, come in single or double gang sizes, and several colors. Parts-Express is an excellent site for many A/V products for do-it-yourselfers. Always try to make sure you can attach your mount to two studs, while flat panel mounts with new TV’s can handle single stud mounting due to the light weight of the TV, articulating mounts generally need the extra stud to handle the leverage needed when the TV is pulled away from the wall. If you are dealing with steel studs or any other form of obstacle, we highly recommend toggle anchors to assure a secure installation. If you are attaching the mount to a concrete wall, toggle anchors may not work. Redhead concrete anchors will work well with most TV mounts and are available at most home improvement stores.
While mounting a TV may sound like a simple task, even the most common installations require planning and preparation. Having the proper tools can go a long way. A Professional Installation can take the headache and worry out of the equation. Home Sound Solutions provide these types of services at rates more affordable than what you will find at large retailers. Our installers have more knowledge, experience, and tools to get the job done right. Some of the benefits of hiring a professional include releasing the risk of selecting the right mount, purchasing the right cables, saving you the trouble of picking up any of these items including the TV, and having a turnkey solution delivered and installed in a quick and efficient manner. We are accustomed to working in delicate and beautiful homes and offices, so our objective is to always keep the area looking as though we never ever stepped a foot inside.