How To Hang Pictures On Plaster Walls

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Hanging a picture should be easy, right? You find the right spot, hammer in your nail and sit back and admire your art. But when you have plaster walls, it’s not that simple. If you’ve been wondering how to hang pictures on plaster walls without causing all sorts of damage, you’re not alone.

First of all, it’s useful to know a bit about plaster and how it differs from other materials. AS Hanging Display Systems explains that until the 1940s, plaster was the most popular choice for interior walls. Lath and plaster walls consist of layers of wood, called lath, placed close together on wall studs. Builders apply several layers of plaster to the lath to form a thick, strong wall with a smooth finish, according to Bob Vila.com.

Although many homes have used drywall panels instead of plaster in more recent years, plaster is still sometimes used for interior walls due to its greater durability, fire resistance and insulating properties.

Old lath and plaster wall showing exposed lath in home
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How To Hang Pictures On Plaster Walls

Pictures or other items weighing 30 pounds or less shouldn’t need more than plaster hooks, which are angled for even weight distribution. The only other tools you need are measuring tape and a hammer, and you’re good to go. But you might want to give plaster nails a swerve — AS Hanging Display Systems warns that these tend to cause cracking. They recommend using a screw instead, which won’t break the plaster.

If your picture weighs less than 5 pounds and your wall surface is smooth, you could probably get away with adhesive hooks. The advantage of this is that they’re so easy to use. First, make sure you have a clean wall surface (use soapy water or rubbing alcohol and leave it to completely dry). Take the covering strip off the back of the hook, then stick it to your wall in the desired place.

Another option is double-sided tape, but only if your picture is super light (think 2 pounds or less). Just ensure your walls are completely clean and dry. Apply the tape to the frame of your picture first, then press it firmly against the wall to secure it in place.

Couple hanging picture on wall
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How To Hang Heavy Items On Plaster Walls

Because plaster can’t hold much weight, anything heavier than a lightweight picture is likely to put too much pressure on your wall. So things like heavy pictures, a flat-screen TV and floating shelves require a different approach.

The first — and crucial — step is to find the stud in your wall, because this is the strongest part and can therefore bear the most weight. A Butterfly House recommends buying a stud finder for this purpose. You’ll also need 2-inch screws, plastic anchors, a drill and your drill bits.

If you use painter’s tape for marking and drilling, you’ll reduce the risk of your plaster walls crumbling and cracking when you start. Then it’s simply a case of drilling a small hole into the wall and hoping you’ll hit wood! If you do, you’ll need to put more pressure on the drill. (If you don’t hit wood, you’re in a space between the pieces of lath and need to change position.) When your screw is driven into a stud, you can go ahead and hang your item.

Men hang flat-screen TV on wall
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Using a Picture Hanging System on Plaster Walls

Another good option for hanging pictures on plaster walls is a picture hanging system, such as an all-in-one click rail cable hanging kit. As AS Hanging Display Systems explains, you simply install a rail (like this one on Amazon for $50, or this click rail kit for $69) along the wall, and hang your pictures from cables attached to the rail. This is a really flexible method, because you the hanging wires can be attached to the rail wherever you like. And because the weight is distributed across the whole rail, it can hold more weight than a single hook.

Pictures displayed using a picture hanging system
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