Here's everything you need to know about how to hang pictures on plaster walls. Learn the main differences between hanging on plaster wall vs. drywall, and which support to use depending on the weight of your picture.
Before getting started here are a few best practices to keep in mind when hanging pictures on plaster walls. First, avoid using plaster nails because they cause cracking. Second, It's always a good idea to pre-drill a hole before inserting anything into plaster wall. Lastly, whenever you drill into the wall, place a piece of painters tape or masking tape on the wall in order to keep everything intact.
What is a plaster wall made of?
Up until the 1940's, the interior wall of choice, was plaster wall. Layered strips of wood, called lath, were placed on top of each other in order to create a thick and sturdy wall. Supporting this lath, is a wooden frame called a wall stud. Nails are used to hold the wooden lath and studs together. In order create a wall with a nice finish, several layers of plaster are coated on top.
In a nutshell, a plaster wall is made up of lath attached to wall studs and covered in plaster. Modern homes eventually switched to using drywall panels instead. This was mainly due to the fact that they are easier to install and less brittle. However, plaster-wall is making a comeback in some circles.
The advantages of plaster wall vs. drywall
Plaster wall has a few great qualities. First of all, it often has a rugged and uneven surface which provides a stylish, old-home look. Drywall on the other hand, is flat and smooth and doesn't have a whole lot of character.
Secondly, plaster wall is thicker than drywall which provides a much needed level of sound-proofing. Lastly, plaster wall is more contour friendly and allows home builders to create curves around the ceiling and the edge of the wall. One of plaster wall's downsides, however, is that it's more brittle than drywall and it can break a lot easier.
How to hang heavy things on plaster walls using a wall stud
Generally speaking, it's best to hang heavy pictures on a wall stud. As mentioned earlier, the wall stud is where the wooden lath attaches to the wooden frame behind the plaster. Therefore, it's the strongest part of the wall and the ideal place to hang pictures from. That being said, the wall stud may not be in the ideal location to hang your picture stylistically.
How to find a wall stud
To locate a wall stud, you'll need to use a magnetic stud finder. Stud finders work by detecting the metal nails that are in the wall studs. Once you've located a stud, you can simply measure 16 inches (the standard spacing of studs) on either side to locate the other studs.
You can use long wooden plaster screw to hang a picture in a wall stud. It is highly recommended to drill a hole first, because this will greatly reduce the risk of the plaster cracking. Another best practise is to place a piece of masking tape on the area that you will be drilling into.
How to hang on plaster-walls with a picture hanging system
The ideal solution for hanging pictures on plaster is to use a picture hanging system like the all-in-one click rail cable hanging kit. This system works by simply installing a rail along the wall, and pictures then hang from cables attached to the rail, and are fastened with hooks. Since the hanging wires may be clicked onto or slid into the rail wherever you like, you always have flexibility when it comes to hanging and rehanging wall decorations. It also gives a unique, museum-like look to any room of your house, whether it's for hanging art in your living room, or smaller pictures in your office space.
How much weight can a picture hanging system hold?
Because a pictures weight is distributed along the entire rail, it can can hold up to 300 pounds, making it the ideal solution for how to hang things on plaster walls. The example linked-to above can support up to 4 pictures. This system avoids damage to the walls, is suitable for several wall decorations, and can hold heavyweight objects for years!
"Hanging systems work by simply installing a rail along the wall, and pictures then hang from cables attached to the rail, and are fastened with hooks"
Hanging pictures on plaster wall without nails
A great option for hanging a light picture is to use an adhesive hook. They are ideal for pictures that weigh less than 5 pounds.
Start by cleaning the wall surface with rubbing alcohol or soapy water. Once the surface is dry, remove the covering strip on the back of the hook, then stick the adhesive hook on the wall and voila! Your picture will hang beautifully with zero wall damage. It's important to know, however, that if your plaster wall is very textured, adhesive hooks won't work very well.
Double sided tape
For very light pictures, under 2 pounds, a very convenient option is to use double sided tape. Make sure to thoroughly clean and dry your walls before. Once the has tape been applied to your frame, press it firmly against the wall until it is properly fastened.
In the case of double sided tape, however, it's important to know it often leaves blemishes on the wall when removed.
How to hang pictures on plaster with a plaster hook
Plaster hooks (or hanging picture hooks) are a common solution for hanging pictures on plaster walls. They can generally support pictures of up to 20 pounds.
As mentioned earlier, avoid using nails on plaster wall because they will likely cause the drywall to crack. Instead, use a screw, because they won't break the plaster wall. Screws will also hold a lot better because they will fasten into the lath behind the drywall.
Hang pictures with plaster wall anchors
When drilling into plaster, it is highly recommended to use a wall anchor. Wall anchors ensure that your screws for plaster wall hold properly and don't break the plaster around them. The best anchors for plaster walls offer extra support by expanding and biting into the other side of the wall as the screw moves through the anchor.
Plastic wall anchors, Molly Bolts or Toggle Bolts?
Plastic wall anchors don't work with lath and plaster walls. Instead, use plaster anchors made of metal like a molly bolt or a toggle bolt. Be sure to use one that's long enough to get behind the plaster and lath. When drilling into plaster, you'll need to use a masonry bit. Molly bolts and toggle bolts are ideal for pictures that weigh between 25 and 50 pounds.
Watch the following video to learn how to hang a heavy mirror on plaster wall.
In light of all the factors mentioned above, the best way for hanging pictures on plaster walls is using a picture hanging system, with hanging wires and hooks. In addition to giving your home an original and museum-like look, you will have the flexibility to change the frames on the wall, ajdust their positions or even add new ones.
Furthermore, you won't damage your walls, and you will have a system that's suitable for a variety of wall decorations and that will remain strong and reliable for many years to come! See our recommended AS Hanging products below.