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Hanging heavy objects on plaster walls

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by bfunk13, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    My house was built in 1922 and has plaster walls.
    I have hung a few things here and there and all is well so far.
    Got a 42" flat screen for the kids room and it really should mount on the wall for security and safety sake. I have had hell finding studs behind the plaster / lath walls.
    The way i remember lath and plaster is studs with horizontal runners then plaster over that.
    Would toggle bolts do the trick? Like 6 of em.
    I would feel better if i could find the studs though. Were 16" centers a common practice back then?
    Any suggestions for finding the studs besides drilling every 3 inches?
    Thanks!

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  2. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Probably use a stud finder- they supposedly work on material up to 1 1/2" deep. Turn down the temp and use an IR camera right away to find the warm spots :)
  3. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    I have tried the stud finder before in this house and get strange and inconsistent readings.
    I joked with my wife, in the hands of a stud (myself) it makes the thing go crazy.:rolleyes:
    Might pay to drill a hole every few inches. Then patch holes. Really do not want this thing falling.
  4. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I suppose that if the TV will cover the holes for years to come, then it doesn't matter so much anyhoo!
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  5. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    instead of drilling holes, could you poke/prod with a 2 inch brad/or similar ling/narrow nail. (Might be less damage than a drill)
  6. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    From my experience, 16" oc was common in the '20's. Different stud finders seem to have varying degrees of accuracy. I use a cheap Craftsmen one that seems to work better than most other's that I've used. Thick plaster walls with wooden lath do complicate the process. If you can't get any sort of reading with the stud finder, a small drill bit is the way to go.

    With wood lath behind the plaster toggle anchors would likely hold just fine. I would still make it my goal to get into at least two studs.
    bfunk13 likes this.
  7. Eatonpcat

    Eatonpcat Minister of Fire

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    Maybe find an electrical outlet, they are usually attached to studs.

    I wouldn't trust the toggle bolts alone, It may work, just not in my comfort zone.

    Stud finder never works for me when the walls are sheathed with wood, It's supposed to do a deep scan, but I never seem to locate the stud the first time!

    Enjoy the new TV
    bfunk13 likes this.
  8. ROVERT

    ROVERT Member

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    Electrical outlets were pretty sparse in the 20's. There's a good chance the house has been rewired at least once since then. This often locates remodel boxes in between studs or cut into the baseboard trim (or even the floor). If there is an outlet nearby that is not attached to a stud and you are somewhat comfortable with electrical work, you could pull the cover and box to get a look into the wall cavity and find your stud.

    There may be electrical boxes attached to studs, but don't be surprised if they're not.

    Good luck and let us know how you make out.
    bfunk13 likes this.
  9. Eatonpcat

    Eatonpcat Minister of Fire

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    Good point...Still worth a look to me though!
  10. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    I used to rent a giant old house that was all plaster walls and we found that the most reliable method for locating studs was just knocking on the walls. behind the plaster is hollow, where there's a stud the sound is much duller. We could also push in on the plaster a good bit and feel the walls flex (really old plaster was somewhat soft in the spring)...they didn't flex where the studs were. We never had much luck with ye old stud finder either. Measuring 16" oc from an outlet isn't a bad idear either. good luck.
  11. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Could you use a magnet to locate the nails that attach the lathe to the studs? Before electronic stud finders they looked like this.

    [​IMG]
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  12. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    I had a 1925 house.
    Problem with toggles is half the time drilling holes for them in plaster and lathe you don't get the center of a lathe and they can be quite old and brittle.
    and hope there isn't any live knob and tube left in a cavity


    I'd do the exploratory holes/stud finder and find a stud center and try to get two sound screws into a stud
    and if it's a really heavy TV
    make an even bigger mess and get a good piece of plywood in the wall between two studs to screw to.
    Tv should hide the patch, too, right ?


    Or just hang a 18x12 pice of plywood right on top of everything to mount to.
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  13. Tatnic Corners

    Tatnic Corners Member

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    Old homes are hard to hang in. Be careful with horse hair and lathe walls. The cracks run, the lathes may not be as solid as you need and if you hit the lathe just right it could shake and vibrate and loosen that plaster. Pushing against a glob of plaster with a toggle may also cause cracks down the wall somewhere :) Then try finding an old mud man to repair the holes. New guys will want to drywall over the plaster...

    Do you have an attic? I remember in our attic when I was growing up that the back side of the walls were exposed. Saw the lathe contruction clearly exposed. that would show if the walls were 16" OC. Also the ceiling of the rooms up there were plastered so looking in over the untrimmed doors you could see construction in good detail. You could see the plaster sticking through the lathes to see what driving a nail in might entail, and would a toggle would be pushing against.

    Do you have an access door for any plumbing? That might give an inside view of the walls.
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  14. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    I have plaster and lath in many of the walls here. I learned this trick from my BIL who is an electrician: I use my knuckle of my middle finger to knock the walls and listen. Areas between the studs have a hollow sound even if insulated, and at the studs have a lighter, more solid sound. I would get the areas narrowed down and use a very small diameter drill to locate the stud that way. I would use lags long enough to get through the plaster and lath and then into the stud by at least an inch or so, but not too deep in case there are wires in the wall.

    Pre-drill the holes for the lags to prevent splitting. Most TV hanging kits have plenty of holes through the plates for easy install.

    I would say no to toggle bolts, and go right for the studs. Wood lath shrinks over time and plaster loosens from it.
    bfunk13 likes this.
  15. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Your studs definitely will be on 16" centers. The 16 inch standard developed when balloon framing was invented in the 1830s and pretty much never changed. Interestingly, plaster walls are the reason for those 16" centers - the standard length for lathe going back to the 18th century was 4 feet, so when they developed the new framing system they worked it out so each span of lath would cross 3 bays. The number stuck and today everything else (drywall, plywood, etc) is in multiples of 16" or 4ft.

    I'll add yet another vote to NOT trust any type of anchor and bolt something into the studs. Even if you get lucky and catch lathe the weight of the TV could start to pull some loose from the studding or break some of the plaster keys on the backs side and start up some nasty cracks... major headache.
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  16. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    If you can locate any studs, use a French cleat (google it) to evenly distribute the load. Any two studs should be sufficient. The metal version would give you a lower profile.

    Ehouse
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  17. Tatnic Corners

    Tatnic Corners Member

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    EHouse, Are you a picture framer (too)? They (we) recommend using french cleats, or EZ-Bar a lot for heavy work :) But on horse hair and plaster I still would feel safer finding the studs. As was said above the lathes can vibrate, rattle and then the plaster comes loose.

    Could also just use a console or cabinet to house the TV, instead of attaching to a wall.
  18. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    You start popping off the keys on the back side of that plaster and you could be in for a whole 'nuther mess you don't want to deal with.

    Hit the studs.
  19. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks guys, waiting for the tv mount to arrive. I found one stud for sure already so it shouldn't be a problem from here.
  20. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    Sounds like you are set but if you have a problem, another option if you have large (tall) baseboards that can be removed with minimal damage, is to pull one and cut behind the baseboard to look for a stud(s).

    pen
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  21. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    If the baseboards are as old as the plaster they wont come out easy. Before drywall, baseboards and casings were typically installed first, then the plastering was done and butted up to them. Sometimes the plaster will overlap the top profile of the moulding on the baseboard.
  22. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Done, solid in the studs.

    DSC07332.JPG
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  23. Eatonpcat

    Eatonpcat Minister of Fire

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    Looks great...Enjoy
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  24. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    So, how did you end up locating the studs?
  25. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Well the stud detector did not help. Tried 3 different ones, some pretty thick plaster.
    I found a electrical outlet behind the dresser, the first stud was to the right of the outlet.
    Went 16" and found nothing, tried the metal wire trick someone suggested and found another at roughly 13.5" centers.
    I have a couple "extra" holes to patch, but no big deal. I used 3" lags in 4 holes. I could do pull ups off that thing, but i hate pull ups.
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