Mounting a TV isn’t as simple as punching a few holes in the wall, pulling the power cables through and plugging the whole ensemble into an electric outlet (which, for starters, is technically against code, as the power cables and components on the backs of TVs aren’t rated for in-wall use). Beyond that, mounting a TV also depends on the size of the TV, the dimensions of the room, what kind of aesthetic the homeowner wants and how he/she is planning to watch TV. In other words, it’s complicated, and it’s different for every TV and every viewer.

So to be completely sure you’re fully prepped to mount your TV, we asked John Manouel, VP and sales manager at Honest Install, a residential and commercial TV installation company from the Dallas and Fort Worth area, for guidance.

Consider size, weight and how the TV will be viewed. The first thing to factor in is the size of the TV. This is important because you need to be sure that the brackets you buy will be able to hold the size and weight of the TV. Once that’s determined (and double-checked), then consider how you’re going to watch the TV. If the TV will be in a fixed location on the wall, you’ll want tilt (also called fixed) brackets. They hang the TV on the wall like a painting. If you want the TV to articulate out from the wall, which allows for multiple viewing angles, opt for full-motion brackets.

Plan the location of the components. The next main thing to consider is what will sit next to the TV. Most people have a cable box — either AT&T, DirecTV, or Verizon — and a Blu-ray player or Apple TV. Some of these components are small enough to strap to the back of the TV, like a Chromecast. But for larger components, you’re going to have to find a place to put them. Most people have a media credenza or a media center right below the TV, but that isn’t an option if the TV will be mounted over a fireplace. So, have a wiring plan long before that TV is up on the wall.

Wires or no wires? For people who don’t want to tackle in-wall wire concealment, Manouel suggested cable raceways, which are conduits that stick to the wall and channel wires. They can also be painted to match your walls. “It’s kind of a quick and dirty way of concealing the cables,” Manouel said. These raceway conduits are great at hiding wires for mounted soundbars as well. If you have a receiver and 5.1 surround sound system spread around the room, in-wall wire concealment can be tricky. For that, Manouel suggests having an installer come out to take a look at it. They’ll tell you if the project requires significant wall surgery.

“Our cardinal rule is that you should really be able to hang on to the bracket before you put a TV on it,” Manouel said. “And do pull ups.”

“If the overall goal is to just get the TV on the wall and you don’t really care about cables, then you can really accomplish anything you need with a good bracket and raceway,” Manouel said. “If you’re looking for a more clean aesthetic — a floating TV on the wall with no components anywhere — there’s a lot more that goes into that.” That’s when it’s time to talk to a pro. Also, check if there’s attic space directly above the room. An accessible attic space can be used to conceal components and wires, and is often easier than routing through walls.

Finally, know this: you can’t just plug all the wires from your cable or set top box into any outlet. It has to be a Cat-5 outlet. “If you want the TV on an adjacent wall or on an opposite wall,” Manouel said, “you either have to move that outlet or you have to wire an HDMI cable from a coax outlet all the way over to the TV.”

Seating and TV positions. The first seat should sit the same amount of distance as the diagonal of the screen or greater, according to Manouel. If you have a 70-inch TV, you do not want your first seat less than 70 inches away. If too close, you’ll be looking only at parts of the screen — “you’ll have that tennis effect where you’re looking to the left, then right, then left, then right.” Also, you want to situate the TV based on how the seats and couches are dispersed throughout the room. If you have a modular furniture setup, you want to place the TV where all seats will have a good viewing angle. (This is common sense, really.)

People who have to worry about being too close to the TV are those with huge screens (70+ inches), or projectors. In most residential settings, however, you really can’t go too big. The more typical issue, Manouel points out, is going too small. A common complaint from people is that the TV shrinks when placed on the wall. “They may be used to seeing a 45-inch TV on a table, but they put that on the wall it looks more like a 32-inch TV,” Manouel said. This is why he suggests mounting larger TVs.

The height of the TV is subjective, but Manouel’s rule of thumb is: when you’re standing up you want the top third of the TV to be in line with your eyes. “We try to tell people don’t put it up too high because we get a lot of complaints of necks hurting,” Manouel said, then added: “but most people get used to that, by the way.”

Follow instructions, or talk to a pro. The easy takeaway regarding installation: don’t do it. For most people, it’s best to pay a TV installation company to mount the TV for you — or consult a well-skilled Task Rabbit. But for those DIYers who know their way around power tools, here’s Manouel’s elementary tips. “You’ll need a magnetic stud finder (the ones that just click and beep, those are junk — don’t get those) and then use a really small drill bit to find exactly where the stud is,” he instructed. In other words, be damn sure you know where your studs are before you begin to drill. If you can’t hit all four studs, that’s when toggle or lag bolts can come into play, but this introduces complication.

Don’t go out of your DIY comfort zone, and follow the instructions on your bracket carefully. If you’re not sure, consult a pro. “Our cardinal rule is that you should really be able to hang on to the bracket before you put a TV on it,” Manouel said. “And do pull-ups.”

Best Brackets for Mounting

A Variety of Options for the Wall

TV-Mount-Budget-Motion

Best Budget Full-Motion Mount: MD2377 Wall Mount by Mounting Dream $27

TV-Mount-Fixed

Best Fixed Mount: VMPL50A-B1 Fixed Tilt Mount by Sanus $88

TV-Mount-Motion

Best Full-Motion Mount: MW380B2 Wall Mount by VideoSecu $79

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