So your considering getting yourself a flat screen (or you already have) and now want to explore the benefits to mounting it to your wall. All the terminology and acronyms may be overwhelming at first but I will do my best to explain what you need to know. If you already own a flat screen you can skip over Step 1.
Step 1: Selecting your type of screen, LCD or Plasma.
It is safe to say your interested in a high definition television (HDTV). If your looking for a traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) television you must look elsewhere, they are a dying breed and will not be covered in this article. HDTV's come in a variety of types, the major players being LCD's, plasmas, rear projections and front projections. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, it is not important to understand what that is, just know it is the same technology that is behind the flat screen computer monitors you see everywhere. The focus of this article will be on LCD's and plasmas as they are considered flat panels and can be easily mounted to the wall through commonly available mounts.
Let me squash a common misconception right now. LCD technology has come a long way and now produces a picture that is very similar to plasma screens. For the purposes of mounting I will tell you a few of the differences between LCD and plasma. LCD televisions are almost always going to be lighter for their proportional size than plasma screens. This makes mounting a little easier and less expensive, as you might not need a mount that is rated for higher weight capacities. You might not need to reinvent the mounts insertion point into your wall either. LCD's are also easier to transport in the event of a move, plasma screens are notorious for cracking / crushing under their own weight when not transported properly.
For those of you that are conscious of "going green" or saving money on your electrical bill, consider LCD's as they consume much less power per proportional size than plasma screens. There are many other differences in specifications and performance between LCD and plasma but none that are applicable to mounting. The average consumer / enthusiast would not be able to tell the difference, personally I gravitate toward LCD screens. Hopefully now you have an idea of which television type you will be going with and can proceed to step two.
Step 2: Selecting your screen size.
One of the most commonly asked questions is what size TV to get. Selecting the proper TV size is very important and should not be overlooked. Whenever talking about the screen size remember televisions are measured diagonally (bottom left corner to upper right corner). This assumption should always be made when measuring without specifically designated otherwise. The biggest thing to consider is how far the majority of viewers will be from the screen. Keep in mind that after mounting your television the majority of screens will sit about 3 inches off the wall. Measure how far your seating is from the wall you plan to mount your screen to. Add 3 inches to your estimate to take into account the mount which will sit between the wall and your screen. The general rule for HDTV's is the viewer wants to be approximately 1.5 – 3 times the distance in TV size (inches) from the screen. Translation: If your television is 36 the viewer should be sitting at a minimum of 54 inches from the screen and at a maximum of 108 inches. You do not want to be too close to a HDTV screen as they are designed to be viewed from certain distances. Sitting too close will make you question your HDTV picture quality and also lead to some serious eye strain. If you sit too far from your screen your eyes can not appreciate the level of detail as they will not be able to resolve the full resolution of the screen. Sitting too far will also sacrifice the "immersion" feeling your HDTV screen is meant to provide. I highly suggest sitting somewhere in the middle of the recommended viewing range. This should be excellent sizing information for any home video / audio enthusiast.
Step 3: How to select the proper TV mount? All things considered.
Selecting the proper TV mount is not difficult at all. There are a few different styles out there to choose from. The first type of mount I will discuss are the Low Profile TV Mounts, they are also referred to as flat mounts or flush mounts. These mounts have no range of motion and hold your television screen about 1 inch from the wall. These are perfect for people that are looking for a very low profile and sleek look for their HDTV screen. These mounts will keep your television flush to wall and minimize wasted space in tight areas or small rooms. It is important to note, with Low Profile TV Mounts, you will most likely need to remove the TV from the mount to attach / detach cables.
The next type of mount is the Tilt TV Mount. Tilt mounts do exactly what the name implies, they allow the screen to pitch down for situations where you need the screen mounted higher than viewing level on the wall. Examples of when these mounts come in handy are retail stores, board rooms or bedrooms for when you want a nice viewing angle while lying down. Different models have varying ranges of motion, the average mount provides 15 to 20 degrees of tilt, usually more than enough to meet people's needs. Mounts with further tilt are available, just be sure to check the specifications before buying.
The third and final mount to be discussed is the Swivel TV Mount, also referred to as articulating mounts or cantilever mounts. Swivel mounts have the ability to extend the TV away from the wall and rotate the screen in either direction. The typical swivel mount can allow the TV to sit anywhere from 5 to 20 inches from wall and rotate approximately 60 degrees in either direction. Most swivel mounts also allow for around 15 – 20 degrees of tilt much like a Tilt Mount. I highly recommend Swivel Mounts for those who want the most flexibility and customization of optimal viewing angles. They are perfect for those who require maximum adjustment of their Flat Screen TV. Tilt and Swivel Mounts are also ideal for those constantly connecting different wires to the TV as they allow some work room behind the screen.
Now that you have a style of mount in mind you need to consider the size screen. When purchasing a mount you will notice they can accommodate a range of TV sizes. How is this so? Most mountable HDTV's conform to agreed specifications set by the Video Electronics Standards Association or more commonly known as VESA. VESA reiter mostly to the hole mounting pattern on the TV and mount. Most mounts and TV's will conform to this standard but be sure to double check before purchasing. What if you already purchased a television that is not VESA compatible? No problem! There are many commercially available adapter plates which allow you to mount your television to VESA compatible mounts. What does this all mean you ask? Basically, TV's of many sizes will have the same hole configuration on the rear of the screen to make finding and installing a mount as painless as possible.
The weight of your TV is also important. The weight of your screen can most commonly be found in the instruction manual or on the box, sometimes it can also be found on the rear of the screen. If all else fails it should be listed on the manufacturers website. When browsing for mounts they will usually give you a maximum weight they can safely accommodate. Do not EVER exceed the maximum recommended weight! Worst case scenario your screen rips out of the wall and falls to the floor leaving you with a broken TV and holes in your wall. If your TV is within 20 pounds of the maximum weight I always recommend going with a beefier mount with a higher weight rating. The maximum weight guidelines do not take into account the weight of the wires plugged into the back of the TV screen. The weight or tension of the wires is not negligible! Most people have anywhere from 2 to 14 wires plugged into the back of your screen, this additional load adds up. Do not forget people may be tempted to touch or lean on the screen, you even exert force when tilting / swiveling it to a new position. If your within 20 pounds of the maximum weight considering getting the beefier mount, the extra few bucks here may save you hundreds in the long run.
Step 4: Installing the TV mount.
This article is only to be used as a general guide, always follow instructed instructions. When deciding how high to mount your TV, the best viewing angle is always straight on (eye level). If you were to draw a horizontal line across the middle of your TV (do not actually draw a line on your screen), this line should correspond to the eye level of your viewers. In the case of Tilt Mounts, you can mount the screen even higher and tilt the screen to compensate for the height. The first step should be to identify a section of wall suitable for the mount. I never recommend installing TV mounts into drywall alone , regardless of the weight! Drywall can not support the weight of your screen and will easily break causing your set to fall to the floor. Your best bet is to identify a stud (wooden beam) behind the drywall that you can screw into. Mounts can also be installed into brick and concrete, these installs are rather simple as you do not need to worry about finding studs, the brick / concrete is sturdy enough on its own to hold the weight. Always make sure your mounting hardware penetrates into the stud. If your home / office makes use of metal framework instead of wooden studs, I recommend commonly available toggle bolts. They can be found at a local hardware store or online. Environmental factors should be considered as well. There has been a recent trend to hanging flatscreens above the fireplace. While this looks nice, the temperature fluctuations have shown to decrease TV performance and even to damage the screen. It can be done however, but first verify the wall / chimney above the fireplace does not have temperature fluctuations of more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Trace depths of smoke can also lead to discoloration over time. The same thing goes for baseboard heat and radiators. Make sure the TV is far enough away that it is not subject to extreme temperature fluctuations.
The final step before drilling is to pencil the mounting holes on the wall. You want to make absolutely sure they are level. You can use a wall level or simply measure up from the floor and make sure the distances are equal. Take the time to do the measurements now, an un-level installation will result in a crooked TV, no good! This can be very difficult to correct and detrimental to your dry wall as you will have to re-screw. Just as dad always said, "measure twice, drill once." If you are not "hardware / construction" savvy or familiar with the construction of your home, you should consider investing in a stud finder. Most Stud finders will identify metal and wood beams you can anchor into, the one I featured will also indicate the presence of live electrical wiring. Never drill into a wall if you are unsure whether there is live electrical wiring or plumbing behind it! If you are unsure, confused or not very confident at this point I suggest you spend the money on a professional installation. They can be done rather cheaply and most companies do very good work. For inexperienced people, the cost of the drill, wall level and various other tools may be more expensive than a professional installation. If I convinced you on a professional installer I can recommend one of the best. ArmorMount provides an excellent on-site installation service. I have used them myself and have nothing but great things to say. Visit ArmorMount's website directly for information regarding ArmorMount's installation service, I provided a link below.
Step 5: Where can I buy a TV mount?
There are many websites to choose from. Having done a multitude of installations I can personally recommend one website that is really great. ArmorMount.com offers all three mounts I spoke about earlier. They can supply mounts for almost every size, weight and brand of television. What I really like about this company is their Mount Finder utility. On the main screen of the website you simply enter your TV brand and the screen size, the website instantaneously displays the different style mounts you can choose from. They supply all the hardware (nuts and bolts) you will need for the installation. Their install kits come ready to accommodate drywall, brick and concrete installations. You also have the option of adding their professional installation service I mentioned earlier (highly recommended for the rookie handyman). I also find their pricing to be highly competitive, they consistently provide the lowest prices and sell quality products. They also advertise free shipping and a 6ft HDMI cable with every purchase. If you had the pleasure of shopping for HDMI cables recently you will agree they are very expensive and what I consider to be the most overpriced item of the home entertainment setup. HDMI cables are rather convenient however, they carry both HDTV video and digital sound up to 1080P. They can potentially eliminate up to five separate cables (3 Component Video / 2 RCA Audio). ArmorMount also has friendly customer service representatives which I found to be very informative and quite pleasant.
I hope you found this guide informative. Remember to always consult a professional if you are unsure regarding an installation and always refer to your instructions / specifications for the final say.