Screwing in picture rails to studs so we can hang heavy pictures?

jlc102482October 31, 2011

Let me start by saying that I have an 1850s house with plaster walls. I have a heavy mirror I'd like to hang on a certain wall but unfortunately there is no wall stud anywhere near where the mirror needs to go. I wanted to (re)add picture rails in this particular room anyway, so I was thinking that instead of using finishing nails to mount the picture rail, I could screw the rail into the studs and then hang my heavy mirror from the rail. All the moldings in my home are quite wide, so the picture rail would be substantial, at least 2 inches wide.

My question: is this a feasible idea (or possibly the reason picture rails were used in the first place)?

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brickeyee

What is holding up the wall if there are no studs?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 2:06PM
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pencilboy

I installed picture rail with screws in our last house. Yes, it's a pain to fill in all the screw holes, but it allowed us to hang heavier pictures & mirrors. I attached it at every stud. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 2:36PM
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antiquesilver

I suspect picture rail was used for that exact reason - hanging pictures is iffy business where plaster is concerned. If the nail doesn't hit a piece of lath, a nailer, or a stud, you're screwed - your arrangement is messed up & so is your plaster.

Brickeyee, In my 1850's house, I only have studs on the inside walls. The outside walls are solid brick, 3 having nailers attached for the lath (but I would be leery about hanging anything heavy on the them) & the back wall is plastered directly on the brick. My English basement has plastered solid brick for all of the walls. No studs needed!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 3:05PM
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brickeyee

Masonry houses did not use exterior studs, and the building method continued well into the 1950s.

There are any number of ways to anchor into plaster on masonry walls depending on the load you are trying to hang and hgow the walls are acutlaly built.

Later masonry houses often have a layer of cement (AKA 'cinder') block and a second layer of brick for the exterior.
Some older structures use a tera cotta type block to provide an air break to reduce heat movement through the masonry wall.

If you want a specific arrangement of hung items, use two anchors per item at least a few inches apart.
You can the adjust horizontal spacing and still have things hang plumb.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 3:38PM
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karinl

I understand the question to say that there is no stud where the OP wants to put the mirror, not that there are no studs at all. If the wall is indeed masonry, then Brickeyee has provided a useful commentary on how to attach to them.

As I have said previously on this forum to derision from Brickeyee and maybe others, we use screws to attach all our moulding - picture rails, door and window casings and aprons, even door jambs. We were so traumatized by the damage we had to do to remove trim for our renovation that we can not bring ourselves to use nails again, either finishing or the honking big ones that were used to attach our moulding. Even a cat's paw removal tool will damage the edges of trim or the underlying plaster, drywall, wallpaper, or paint that adjoins it. Since our objective is ease of removal (for repainting, window replacement, etc), we do not fill in our screw holes as Pencilboy above says - we use round-head brass screws, and let them show. The screws are placed as evenly as we can, only rarely is there odd internal stud placement that requires them placed off-centre or unevenly spaced.

So I see no flaw in your plan. I would agree that if your objective is to hang heavy things, a pretty solid rail and attachment at each stud would be ideal.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 8:14PM
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worthy

we use screws to attach all our moulding - picture rails, door and window casings and aprons, even door jambs. .... we do not fill in our screw holes ... we use round-head brass screws, and let them show.

Similarly, when I do a pop-rivet sheet metal repair on an old car I never waste time filling, grinding, sanding etc. This spares me future trauma should I want to replace the part in the future.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 12:11PM
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brickeyee

"Even a cat's paw removal tool will damage the edges of trim or the underlying plaster, drywall,"

Nothing new there, a "cats paw" is the wrong device.

A 'wonder bar (about two inches wide) and some old drywall knives (5-6 inches wide) and some wood strips (1x4 works well) are how you remove molding without damaging walls or molding.

The drywall knife can be driven behind the molding, then another one on top of that one behind the molding.
A wonder bar can then be driven between them to start moving the molding out.
Sometimes there is enough flex to just push the wonder bar between the knives.

once the molding starts to lift, use another wonder bar and some 1x4 to move away from the intial location.
The wood goes on the wall, the bar into the gp behind the molding, pry at the new location, then go back to the old and pry some more.
Keep prying and expanding the distance.

Pull nails out through the back by using vice-grips to gram the nil, and then a wonder bar to pry against the vice grip jaws.

Be careful at the ends.
Always pry toward the longer portion of the molding.

If you want to preserve old molding it is a slow process to remove it without damage.

Some very wide and decorative patterns (or stained trim) can be a real pain to replace, so I spend the time to preserve them.

Anything else is pulled off and pitched.
most moldings from the last 20-30 years are easy to find.

You just have to try real lumber yards instead of the big box stores.

Even trim head screws make a larger hole that nails, increasing the labor to putty them.

And when you need them removed it is even harder than nailed trim to find and clean out the screw heads.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 3:22PM
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karinl

Wow, with that much left in the tank I'm amazed you guys missed your cue on the attic stairs thread :-)

Brick, that's a good method. I could see it working, and maybe even with the 4" nails that were driven through the thinnest part of our mouldings, and maybe even with the 8 layers of wallpaper and paint that contributed to them being cemented to the wall. It's always worth a try.

And Worthy, yeah, who needs welding. Mind you, when you go to repaint that car, in a quality job they do remove the trim. It's designed to be removed, in fact - at least, on old cars that can be restored rather than discarded.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 10:41AM
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worthy

Round head brass screws on all the trim and jambs.

OK. I get it.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 5:10PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

worthy old friend, the traditional forum response to convey WTF is bunny with a pancake on its head:

As in "I don't know what you are talking about, so here's a bunny with a pancake on its head"
Casey

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 10:12PM
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la_koala

Hi brickeyee, what do you mean by:
Always pry toward the longer portion of the molding.

I just can't picture the "pry toward" aspect.

Thanks for describing the 2 drywall knife method. I've used the method with a block of wood with great success, but I've always opened the initial space with a single putty knife. I can see that the 2 knife solution will help a lot!

--Lee

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 5:07PM
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columbusguy1

koala, I think brickeyee means that you angle the prybar in such a way that the end is facing the longer part of the molding still attached to the surface--with the two knives in, you might think the best way is to pry at a right angle to the trim, but I'd do that only to loosen the small starting point, say at the top or bottom. From then on, you do it at about a 45 degree angle or so, spreading the stress so that there is less chance of breaking the trim. So, if you start at the bottom, as you work upward, the prybar handle is angled toward the floor, while the business end is pointing upward and in toward the window or door opening itself.

At least that's how I do it. :)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 1:05AM
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brickeyee

"Always pry toward the longer portion of the molding."

When you are pulling nails from the back side you want to pull the pry bar towards the longest molding length of the piece.

It limits cracking, splitting. and crushing of the molding.

Trying to pull a nail from the back that is just a few inches from the end is far ore likely to cause damage if you pry towards the few inches than towards larger length. The force in the molding is not nearly as concentrated when you pry towards the larger length.

The same applies to prying across the width of the molding.

Avoid this if at all possible.
Old molding is often very dry ad brittle.
It takes extra work to avoid further damage.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 10:41AM
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xantippe

Coincidentally, I've been researching historic picture hanging technology, and I thought you might like this article on how the technology changed over the 19th Century.

I'd never heard of picture spikes until I read this, but now I notice them all the time in early Victorian images.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hanging Pictures in Old Houses

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 12:13AM
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raisedin99

I would suggest you consider using a french cleat system for hanging heavy objects from your walls. I have used them many times, always with success.

'Strong enough to hang a piano off the wall'.

As for screws, small head trim screws are great.
num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.google.ca/search?q=%22french+cleat%22&hl=en&num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 7:57AM
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brickeyee

Another trick for large pictures is to use two hangers.
This allows the position of the picture to be shifted sideways and still remain level.

It also eliminates the problem of a stud not being centered behind the picture.

The two hangers set if the picture will be level, and its height.
The hangers must be level.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 10:37AM
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columbusguy1

Raised, just have to agree with the cleat system for hanging heavy things like cabinets anyway--you KNOW there is never a stud where you need one in an old house, so that is definitely the best way to go!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 6:45PM
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brickeyee

"just have to agree with the cleat system for hanging heavy things like cabinets anyway--you KNOW there is never a stud where you need one in an old house, so that is definitely the best way to go!"

Except you still need to attach the cleat half on the wall to a stud.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 10:02AM
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raisedin99

Quite frankly it would be easier to make the drive and hang the mirror / picture/ piano or whatever than to write a step by step description on hanging a cleat system but here goes

ONE:
Locate and mark a level line where object is to be hung on wall,

TWO:
Pre-drill the wall side cleat for the number of anchors that is determined to be used, for a 40# mirror that is lets say 24" wide I would suggest 3 alligators.
http://www.toggler.com/products/alligator/installation.php

or sharkies:

http://www.powers.com/product_07585.php

One in the center and one on each side 3" - 5" inches from the ends, place the cleat at the the marked location and using a pencil through the holes mark the wall then set the cleat aside and using a 1/4" masonry bit drill through the plaster ( if you are lucky you could hit lath and wont have to use the anchors, just drywall screws ) insert the alligator and gently tap in with a hammer until flush to the wall (check the manufactures instructions). Using flat head screws tighten the cleat to the wall.

THREE:
Locate the other half of the cleat to the object being hung and attach it using an appropriate sized flat head screws and place your object just above the wall cleat slide it down and your done.

Make sure that you understand the cleat system:
http://www.google.ca/search?q=%22french+cleat%22&hl=en&num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images

I have literally used thousands of the alligator wall anchors in all sorts of materials and as far as I know there was never any failures with them.

Stud attachment isn't necessary for this hanging system... the plaster literally does the holding

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 6:29PM
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