Hanging heavy objects on plaster walls

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bfunk13

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2008
765
Wyoming
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!
 

bfunk13

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2008
765
Wyoming
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.
 
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.

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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daveswoodhauler

Minister of Fire
May 20, 2008
1,847
Massachusetts
I suppose that if the TV will cover the holes for years to come, then it doesn't matter so much anyhoo!
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)
 

ROVERT

Member
Aug 7, 2012
120
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.
 
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Eatonpcat

Minister of Fire
Jul 24, 2011
2,070
Eaton Township, Ohio
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
 
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ROVERT

Member
Aug 7, 2012
120
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

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.
 
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Eatonpcat

Minister of Fire
Jul 24, 2011
2,070
Eaton Township, Ohio
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.

Good point...Still worth a look to me though!
 

Delta-T

Minister of Fire
Feb 27, 2008
3,143
NH
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.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,233
SW Virginia
Could you use a magnet to locate the nails that attach the lathe to the studs? Before electronic stud finders they looked like this.

g4CMthpFYEPh0uAF39obx0UStO5y_hJ05kBtBNe_MazeQSLy6kSeeeZww1sMjLXxwaCQH0K6AUeBKcO4JHvuQJ6c8kyXP5GyGUivfx6CSAtHL5ODL4ex5YYM72gs4xTXFciHSqjzJC3tB00-2qKEFRfObElTHGbcMs_RZg
 

billb3

Minister of Fire
Dec 14, 2007
4,679
SE Mass
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.
 
Mar 31, 2011
21
Southern ME
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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fishingpol

Minister of Fire
Jul 13, 2010
2,049
Merrimack Valley, MA
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.
 
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jharkin

Minister of Fire
Oct 21, 2009
3,890
Holliston, MA USA
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.
 

Ehouse

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2011
906
Upstate NY
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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Mar 31, 2011
21
Southern ME
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.
 

Jags

Moderate Moderator
Staff member
Aug 2, 2006
18,420
Northern IL
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.

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.
 

bfunk13

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2008
765
Wyoming
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.
 

pen

There are some who call me...mod.
Staff member
Aug 2, 2007
7,969
N.E. Penna
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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jharkin

Minister of Fire
Oct 21, 2009
3,890
Holliston, MA USA
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.
 

bfunk13

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2008
765
Wyoming
Done, solid in the studs.

DSC07332.JPG
 
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semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,233
SW Virginia

bfunk13

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2008
765
Wyoming
So, how did you end up locating the studs?

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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