Picture framing how to: keep the summer flies out the right way

Written by chris pink on May 2, 2014 in Picture Framing

Most of us have experienced this at some point in our life: we tape up a picture frame, hang it on the wall, and three months later discover that hundreds of little black flies have made the piece their home. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s annoying…

With the good weather increasingly more frequent, it’s time to start thinking how to prevent this year’s occurrence. While stopping these little critters isn’t always easy, it can be done. Here’s how to minimise the risk as well as possible at home (note: the very best way to ensure this doesn’t happen at all is to have your picture framed by us, your picture framing experts – but these handy tips should certainly help keep the flies at bay).

1: Understanding why it’s good to keep the flies out

You may be thinking that keeping the flies out is purely an aesthetic venture, but that would in fact be wrong: besides making your fine-art or photograph look ugly, those little black flies you get in summer can be a real pain when it comes to damaging your art-work for the long-term. This happens when they settle and leave unsightly droppings on your mount board, art-work or photograph. The flies themselves will do enough damage on their own as the months go by and their inners seep out – we know, not pretty! – but their droppings will increase the effect, and ruin things even more.

Not great if the piece they decide to settle on is antique or worth a lot of money. Art-work can be cleaned, of course, but you’ll need to replace the mount board as well. The cost of all this soon adds up.

2: How to do it!

Ever looked at the back of a painting, all sealed-up, and wondered how on earth the damn things found their way inside in the first place? You surely won’t be the only one. What you have to remember is that these flies are tiny – small enough, in fact, that they’ll easily fit through the smallest gaps that the human eye can’t easily see. This basically means that your taping-up has to be extremely thorough to prevent this from happening. More to the point, the frame has to have no openings – including gaps between the frame and the glass – and the art-work needs to be properly fixed to the mount board.

Picture frame help, tricks and tips

Figure A shows how not to do it. The glass is too small, allowing those pesky black flies easy access. Figure B on the other hand shows how it should be done


So here’s how to do it right:

A: First of all, remove the art-work from the frame and check to see if the glass lies flat in the rebate. Are there any gaps? Is the glass too small, allowing the flies through at the edges? In that case, you’ll need to have some more glass (or acrylic) cut to the exact size.

B: Now we’ve sorted out the glass issue, you need to fix your art-work to its mount. Opinion is divided here. Some framers will only use one piece of tape at the top – this is particularly the case when the piece is expensive and a framer doesn’t want to attach too much tape to the paper – and others will tape it up all the way around. If you’re concerned about flies getting in, and you’re OK with taping up all the way around, this is a good idea. It provides another barrier and gives the flies another big challenge to overcome. Whatever you decide, conservation-grade tape is your best bet here.

C: Glass sorted, mount done, you now need to place your art-work in the frame – having cleaned all the previous flies off the mount and glass, of course! – and seal it up.

How do you do this? The best way is with brown water-adhesive gum tape that is specially designed for sealing up frames with – this is always the best way. However, if you don’t have this, you could use any kind of sturdy black plastic tape, or similar brown tape that is sticky enough. While Picture Frame Studio wouldn’t suggest doing this, we understand that this kind of tape is easier to get a hold of and generally does a good job (particularly if the piece is inexpensive and you just want to get it on the wall) in some cases.

The key here, whatever the tape, is to use a tape which creates a tight seal that cannot be easily broken – a tape which also won’t be adversely affected by the summer heat, making it peel away to reveal gaps that the flies can fit through. This is why brown gum framing tape is used widely for all taping-up purposes. It creates a quality bond which largely prevents insects from getting in, while at the same time allowing for a bond that can be broken if the piece inside needs to be accessed at a later date.

3: Minimise the problem with dark mount board

Of course, if you really want to create a framed piece that wins the battle against the critters, a good way of doing so is to select a mount board that won’t make them visible when they are there. Black, blue and other dark-coloured mounting handles this easily, making it the perfect solution for many.

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