How to Keep Your TV From Falling

by | Oct 14, 2015

TV Child

In today’s world of electronic gadgets, safety is often perceived as a good anti-virus program on your system. Physical safety around home electronics is often overlooked. TV’s and entertainment centers topple over with disturbing frequency. The numbers indicate that, on average, every half hour a child is brought into an emergency room with an injury sustained from a falling TV. That’s more than 15,000 emergency room visits a year! There are several studies that back this statistic up, see the list of links at the end of this article. One can only guess how many additional close calls – that don’t result in injury – should be added to the tally.

In addition to potential injury, consider the cost of replacing a flat screen TV. Small children may be the primary culprits, but even in homes without toddlers, TV’s get knocked over. Anyone that has a cat for a pet should understand the need for a safety strap. Cats knock all sorts of things over because, well, cats. Dogs are another concern. A large enough dog wagging its tail enthusiastically can knock a TV right off a TV stand. Even homes without pets are vulnerable. Earthquakes happen, and it doesn’t take much of a shake to tip a large flat screen over.

As an integrator, I believe I have a responsibility to recommend simple safety measures that should be taken by every flat screen TV owner.

It takes ten minutes to find a stud in the wall, screw the strap bracket into it with the supplied lag screw and attach the strap to the back of the TV.

Safety Straps

I am astounded by the number of flat screen TV’s we encounter that are simply sitting, unsecured, on top of a cabinet or TV stand. Nearly all flat screens come with a safety strap kit. These straps are designed to keep a TV from tipping over by securing them to the wall. A $20.00 strap kit protecting a $1,000.00 flat screen seems like a no-brainer.

It takes ten minutes to find a stud in the wall, screw the strap bracket into it with the supplied lag screw and attach the strap to the back of the TV. This really is a simple precaution that pretty much any DYI’er should be able to tackle.

Tools Required

  • cordless drill
  • Set of drill bits
  • Screwdriver/hex head bits
  • Electronic stud finder
  • A couple of screwdrivers
  • Ratchet & socket set

We always use a stud finder to make sure we hit the center of the wall stud. If you don’t already have one, you can pick a stud finder up at any home improvement store for around $20.00. Simply follow the supplied instructions to find the center of a wall stud.

If you don’t have an electronic stud finder, you can still find a wall stud. Just rap the wall, gently, with your knuckle. Move horizontally as you knock and listen to the sound. Hollow sounds indicate you are between studs, as the hollowness decreases, you are getting closer to the stud. When the hollow sounds start to increase again, you have passed the stud. Go back and mark the center of the solid sounding area.

It can be fun to try the above and check yourself with an electronic stud finder. You might be surprised at how close you can get to the center of the stud. Yea, I know. I have a very unique definition of fun!

The instructions for installing the safety strap kit will often call out the exact drill bit size to use.

Drill a pilot hole before driving lag bolts into a wall stud. A pilot hole makes it a LOT easier to drive the lag screw, and greatly reduces the chance of splitting the wall stud. The drill bit used should be slightly smaller than the shaft portion of the lag screw. The instructions for installing the safety strap kit will often call out the exact drill bit size to use. Thread the lag screw through the hole in the bracket for the strap, and screw the lag bolt into the pilot hole. Depending on the size of the supplied lag screw, you may be able to drive it in using the cordless drill and the proper bit. If the screw is a large one, you may need to use the ratchet and socket to drive the screw.

Now, simply attach the safety strap/cable to the back of the TV per the manufacturer’s instructions and run the strap to the bracket you just screwed into the wall.

Done.

Easy, right? Your flat screen is now toddler, cat, dog and earthquake safe.

As with the safety strap above, it is important to attach the wall mount to studs and not just into the sheetrock.

Wall Mount

Mounting a TV to the wall – provided it is done correctly – insures that it cannot accidentally fall. The cost of a wall mount depends on the size of the TV being mounted and the type of mount used. A simple tilting wall mount is relatively inexpensive, while articulating, full motion mounts can get a little pricey. Installation can be handled by most, reasonably competent, DIY’ers. If you have any doubts it is always prudent to have a professional do the install for you. Tools needed are the same as above, with the addition of a level, there is just a bit more assembly involved.

As with the safety strap above, it is important to attach the wall mount to studs and not just into the sheetrock. Locate, and mark, the wall studs where you want to mount the TV. The vertical height should be a little above your eyes when you are seated in your favorite comfy chair. Measure up to this height and mark the stud. Note, if you have a large TV, the mount may need to span two wall studs. Make sure to mark your height on both studs as well as in-between the two.

Whether it is between the studs or on a single stud location, you now have the center point for the wall mounting bracket. Use this center point to locate your wall bracket. While holding the bracket up to the wall, centered and level, mark where the bolt holes line up with the wall studs that you marked earlier. Tip, have someone else hold the bracket for you as you mark the bolt holes. Enlist your significant other, a friend, child, etc. to help, it makes it a LOT easier. Once the holes from the bracket are marked, you know where to drill your pilot holes.

Once the pilot holes are drilled, ask your helper to hold the bracket up for you as you drive lag screws in. This step is also a lot easier with someone else holding the bracket for you. Note, leave the screws a little less than tight at first. This will allow you to adjust the bracket to be perfectly level. Once the mounting bracket is level, tighten the screws.

OK, you are halfway there.

If you previously had the TV sitting on a cabinet, you need to remove the stand from the bottom. I find this is easier if I lay the TV, face down, on a table with the stand protruding off of the edge. This way the TV lays flat and I can easily remove the stand screws and brackets. Make sure to cushion the TV with a moving blanket or other material on top of the table before laying the TV on it. It is important to note, you need to have the surface flat and free of any obstructions before laying the TV down. A wrinkle in the blanket, or a wayward bolt under the cardboard can be enough to crack the TV screen.

Once the stand is removed, follow the wall mount’s instructions for attaching the TV half of the mounting bracket to the back of the TV. The manufacturer’s usually supply a number of different screws and spacers for this purpose. Use the combination of screws and spacers that allow you to evenly mount the bracket closest to centered on the back of the TV.

Pat yourself on the back, your TV is now safe from falling.

Once the mount bracket is secured to the back of the TV, it is time to enlist you ‘volunteer’ to help mate the bracket on the back of the TV and the one secured to the wall. Each of you take one side of the TV and maneuver it to the wall bracket. Most of the time it is a simple operation to hook the bracket on the back of the TV onto the corresponding surface on the wall mount. Many mounts actually ‘click’ when everything is in the right place. Follow the mount’s instructions for adjusting the tension in the arms, and for installing safety bolts.

Next simply adjust the TV for the best viewing angle and hook the cables and power cords up. Running the cables and cords through a molding kit will camouflage them and make the installation look more professional. Pat yourself on the back, your TV is now safe from falling. The only things left to do are put the tools away, grab a cold beverage and enjoy your favorite show.

Studies of Falling TV’s Causing Injuries


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About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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