mounting a shelf on lathe and plaster walls

budge1March 26, 2006

We just finished a small kitchen remodel and I was going to put up a metal bookshelf/potrack. I asked our GC if he could mark the studs on the wall so that when I decided on a rack, I could mount it myself.

He said "oh no that wall is all lathe and plaster. You can't find a stud in there." At the time I didn't question him and just thought I would do a small bar to hang utensils on. But now I really want this bookshelf/potrack. Is there anyway I can mount something this heavy? What did he mean I can't find the studs? Are there no studs or are they just hard to find?

Any advice appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: bookshelf/potrack

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I'm not sure why your general contractor told you that there were no studs behind the lath and plaster wall, but I would be inclined not to ask him any more questions. There have to be studs back in there, lath and plaster is not structural. You can find them with a stud-finder device(electronic), or you can drill holes. They should be on 16 inch centers.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 9:22AM
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Probably didn't want to be bothered I'd guess.

Thank you for a more reasonable answer.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 11:41AM
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Most of the stud finders are pretty poor at lath and plaster walls. The addition of metal mesh at inside and outside corners does not help much.
You can try measuring on 16 inch centers from the nearest corner, but stud spacing was often not very even when lath and plaster walls were used.
I usually measure and then drill 1/8 inch holes using a small carbide tipped masonry bit to find the actual studs and edges.
The holes are easily repaired with spackle and you can be pretty sure you have found the studs.
If you zigzag the holes up and down about 1 inch as you move sideways it weakens the plaster less than a straight line of tightly spaced holes.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 3:46PM
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Thanks brickeyee. I will try the stud finder 1st and if that doesn't work I will go to town with the drill. I really want that potrack.

I love GW. Here I have 2 very thorough answers for free, while the guy who is getting all my life savings is no help at all.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 8:11AM
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Depending on the weight of the cookware and the structural integrity of the plaster, you may get by with a wall anchor of some kind. Like a molly, so-called.
If your home is of mid-century vintage, and has wire lath and hard cement plaster, essentially interior stucco, you are in business. OTOH, If it's 200 year old horsehair and clay over lath which has the nails pulling loose, you'd better find those studs. In my case, the older part of my house has the stud cavities filled with brick (nogging), interior heart pine sheathing (horizontal 1x12's) and finally lath & plaster. So I can screw into any part of those walls and find anchorage.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 12:22AM
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I haven't done it, but I have also heard of people hammering very thin (but long) finish nails to probe the walls for studs. It could be tricky though because if you hit lath you might be fooled into thinking it's a stud. Just knock the house down and start over! :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 6:32PM
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i've found the best way to locate studs in my lathe & plaster house is to use two stud detectors. different companies stud detectors work slightly differently, so you can confirm the location before you go drilling/hammering. Make sure that you move the stud detector perfectly horizontally for best results. If you move up/down it'll detect the lathe. If you move left/right it'll see through the lathe to the studs. I've got a +98% success rate doing it this way.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 8:29AM
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