4 Things to Keep in Mind When Wall Mounting a TV

As a custom installer, meeting with clients building new homes, remodeling, or just looking to upgrade their entertainment systems is a big part of my job. And after 17 years of walking through job sites and looking at blueprints, I pretty quickly hone in on the few key areas that determine the project’s difficulty and cost.

While decisions like speakers, electronics, and TVs are important, it’s the “big picture” infrastructure items that need to be focused on early. Ultimately, with the correct infrastructure in place, virtually any gear can be installed and—hopefully—leave the project prepared for upgrades and technology changes down the road.

When it comes to installing a new TV, there are four big-picture items beyond just making sure the mount is securely affixed to the studs. These are power, sources, audio, and control. Let’s look at each.

1. Power
Obviously, the TV won’t work without power, and if you can’t just point to the wall and say, “Have the electrician put an outlet right here,” it needs to be addressed. By the National Electrical Code (NEC), you can’t just run an electrical or extension cord through the wall, but there are several solutions like Power-Bridge that allow easy—and safe—power connections without bringing in an electrician. Of course, if no outlet is nearby or you are working with something solid like a brick fireplace, concealing the wire for a finished look will be trickier.

2. Sources
Knowing what sources will connect to the TV determines the type and number of cables that need to be run. Even with just basic cable TV, is there a jack already there? Or can one be intercepted in an attic, crawlspace, or other room? While some source components like Apple TV, DISH Joey, and DirecTV Genie Mini are slim enough to install on the wall behind a flat-panel TV—greatly simplifying Installation—most components require some kind of cabinetry or shelf. The location of the sources determines the cabling length and the installation’s difficulty. We recommend pulling a bundle of HDMI, CAT-rated data and RG6 coax cabling for flexibility, especially if you won’t be using an AV receiver as a source switcher. We have started pulling multiple extra CAT cables to displays, as the wire is cheap and offers so many great uses, from Ethernet, to IR, to HDMI distribution via HDBaseT. Of course, installing some conduit or a pull-line can ease adding more wiring down the road.

3. Audio
With very few exceptions, modern TVs deliver abysmal audio quality; fortunately, there are many ways to improve it. From an installation standpoint, adding a soundbar is often just a single digital audio cable from TV to bar. However, depending where the bar is mounted, this might mean concealing another cable—and power—inside the wall. With a traditional surround system, enjoying improved sound from any streamed programming like Netflix or Amazon Prime requires sending the TV’s audio to the AVR. Again, this can be accomplished via a digital audio cable. However, TVs and receivers have been supporting an HDMI function called ARC—Audio Return Channel—for several years, enabling the TV to send audio back to the receiver down the same HDMI cable it uses to receive video.

4. Control
As the install grows from TV only, to TV with a set-top box, to multiple sources, to adding an audio system, the remote pile grows quickly. Beyond just the convenience of a universal controller (probably the best investment you’ll make in your system), sources located out of sight will require a control solution that can work through cabinet doors or even walls. While infrared (IR) repeating systems are less expensive and can do the job, they are more prone to interference and aren’t as reliable as radio frequency (RF) solutions that don’t require pointing the remote at a target.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
5. Don't put the TV over the fireplace!

6. Don't put the TV over the fireplace!

7. Don't put the TV over the fireplace!

8. Don't put the TV over the fireplace— unless you use one of those pricey mounts that can bring the TV out and lower it for serious viewing (but only when the fireplace isn't in use!

TimmyS's picture

But the decorator told them to put it there! And we all know the various reasons why one should not put it there.

And the decorator IS in charge.


John Sciacca's picture
Hey, Tom. While there might be good reasons to not put a TV over a fireplace, the reality is that for the majority of people that is the best location in the room. The fireplace is almost always the central point in the room, with all the seating and design arranged around it, and placing the TV on a separate wall is impractical if not impossible, especially when you consider the proper layout of front LCR speakers. Very rarely is there enough spacing left or right to accommodate installing a surround speaker system either. Granted, going above the mantle often puts the TV higher than ideal, but it is still frequently the best choice in a sea of bad ones. I say this having been installing TVs for customers in the real-world for 17 years. It is unfortunate because most people use the fireplace rarely where they use the TV every day, yet still the entire room is designed around the fireplace... John
mishuk3's picture

Hello Mr. Norton,

Just curious - why shouldn't I?

Is it because of fire hazard? I was thinking of mounting a 75 inch TV over the brick fireplace.

Old Ben's picture

Generally, it's not a great viewing experience. The above-the-fireplace location is usually well above your line of sight, so you're looking up at the television. Thus, it's uncomfortable and the off-axis viewing could result in picture degradation.

That being said, we did mount our TV above our fireplace. In our living room, the fireplace is on one wall, the wall to the left of the fireplace is all windows, the wall to the right of the fireplace is open to the sitting room, and the "wall" opposite the fireplace is open to the kitchen. We could have put the TV in a corner (which we did for a while), but it really clogged up the room in that location. Also, we like our surround sound too and shoving the TV in the corner didn't allow for a good surround sound set up.

With respect to Mr. Norton, placing the TV above the fireplace is a compromise that is worthwhile for some and not so much for others. Where his job is related to reviewing AV gear, such a compromise does not make a lot of sense. Even more, for him, it makes sense to totally dedicate a room to a home theater with an optimal television set up. For me and mine, we don't have the space to totally dedicate a room to an optimal home theater arrangement. With the space we have and what we want to accomplish, mounting the TV over the fireplace was a reasonable compromise.

Bonus for mounting the TV over the fireplace - my twin four-year-olds cannot put their grubby hands on the screen!

mishuk3's picture

We also do not have any other location other than to put the new TV over the fireplace. One will be in the main living room and the other one in the master bedroom. Both will be a Sony 75" 4K LED TV. Since it will be a 4K TV, might as well go big to take advantage of the extra resolution. The fireplace will not be used for the most part. So, I don't think I have to worry about fire hazard. As for the off-axis viewing, should not be that much of an issue as it is not that high. We can live with it. But thank you for answering the question.

Old Ben's picture

I don't think it would be much of a hazard if you did use the fireplace. We put an air temperature thermometer up by where the TV goes before we decided to mount it above the fireplace. With a fire going, the temperature was about one degree higher - insignificant.

The other thing, we bought a mount that allows us to tilt the screen down several degrees. That helps with the off-axis viewing.

mishuk3's picture

Since it is going to be mounted on the brickwall, it will need heavy duty mounting and studs. So, I am going to invest one from Sanus where you can pull out and position the angles. Will have to hire a professional contractor for this job.

Old Ben's picture

One other thing I just thought of. I didn't want to have cables all over the place, so I tore up my walls to run power and to run the HDMI cable. As I understand it, the HDMI cables that can pass the entirety of a 4K signal at 60 HZ are pretty limited in length - 15 feet or so the last I checked. That wasn't an option for the setup I had in mind, so I have a normal in-wall rated HDMI cable. In hindsight, I wish I had tried to incorporate some kind of conduit that would make it easier to add additional cable in the future, if necessary.

john the baptist's picture

Great article. I wonder if in addition the the fireplace argument you or readers have an opinion on mounting? I'm just about to buy a 75" Samsung Q95 4K TV and have rebuilt my wall giving me the option to recess the TV or have it wall mounted. It would be visually better to recess it but I am wondering about whether this will have an adverse effect on the sound. Recessed would effectively introduce a partial enclosure that one would imagine have an impact on higher end frequencies. But whether this would be adverse or even noticeable I am not sure. The lower end which are non directional should actually be enhanced if recessed. Thoughts or experience appreciated. JB