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Working on Plaster Walls

1. When hanging a picture frame from a hook with a nail in it, first tape a large
piece of masking tape over the area where you will drive the nail. This will help
prevent chip-out. Once the nail is in place, remove the tape.

2. Another way to insert a wall hanger for a picture frame is to drill a small pilot
hole for the nail. The pilot hole need not be deep. Just deep enough to penetrate the
topcoat of plaster. If you see brown dust coming from the drill bit, you are through
the topcoat and into the brown coat.

3. To drive a screw through plaster, always drill a pilot hole!

4. Never use a drywall screw in plaster to hold anything! Even though it may seem
that the plaster is holding it in place, you risk tearing out a large chunk of plaster
should you find a weak spot. Always screw through the plaster and into the studs.

5. When screwing through plaster and into the wall studs, make sure you are into
the wall studs and not the wood lath that holds the plaster on the wall! Pulling down
lath is one of the worst things you can do, as it will pull down large chunks of
plaster with it!

6. Standard stud finders don’t work on plaster walls. You need stud sensors that
feature some sort of deep penetrating technology. Common stud finders are
designed for half-inch drywall walls and can distinguish plaster thickness very well.

7. Use the tapping technique to find studs. Plaster has good harmonics and by
tapping or rapping it with your knuckles, you can usually hear the hollows between
the studs fairly easily.

8. Like anything else in an old house, be extra careful! There weren’t building
codes when many of these houses were built so there is no guarantee that you wall
studs are evenly spaced, that there aren’t old pipes in the walls, or that abandoned
and antiquated plumbing and electrical lines exist in the walls.