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Finding studs in plaster walls

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  • Finding studs in plaster walls

    Hi all, been a lurker here and a subscriber for years. Recently I did work for a hedge funder that had me hanging rare art in his huge foyer. The paintings are extremely valuable and the frames are quite heavy. I told him if I were to do it I would want to do some structural work on his walls so I could use heavy duty fastners to ensure that they were hung without risk and worry for either of us (me mainly LOL). After erecting scaffolding and using ropes and manpower to hoist them I felt secure that the job was done with integrity and I could sleep at night. The designer asked if I could do some work at some of her other clients homes for the same type of work, one of them with plaster walls. Since some of the hangings/leaded mirrors are 100lbs I'd feel more secure going into the studs. Being wallpapered walls it'll be important for me to locate studs with a minimum of disruption to the walls. I don't use studfinders since my experience with them has been poor. I can measure off of electrical boxes assuming that the studs are 16" oc, but I've run into 24" or some have been a bit off, off enough for me to be off from the center of the stud. I'm not comfortable anchoring into the plaster through the lath for the heavier paintings. Any ideas out there to help me locate the studs?

  • #2
    Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

    Without drilling holes? Nope... and you're right, studfinder are worthless on lathe & plaster walls.

    But the right togglebolt will hold 100lbs, easy. I like these:

    http://www.toggler.com/products_hwh.html
    Francois


    Truth is just one man's explanation for what he thinks he understands. (Walter Mosley)

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    • #3
      Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

      Check these snaptoggles out. Found them by way of a past thread I did here about hanging a 75#, $8000 Venetian glass mirror on a plaster wall. I was asked to do it after they couldn't find anyone who would touch it. Never lost any sleep after I hung It.

      http://www.toggler.com/products_hwh.html

      Beat me to it Frenchie.

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      • #4
        Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

        Bummer, I have an up coming job that will require a lot of art being hung - we are tearing off the drywall and blocking. Thankfully we know the pieces and where they will be placed ahead of time.


        Depending on the arts value, you may go in from the other side and add blocking. It all depends on the risk you / they are willing to take.

        I suspect the wall paper is some of that hand made paper that is also really expensive...

        Good luck and make friends with a good paper hanger.
        “Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
        Abraham J. Heschel (Jewish theologian and philosopher, 1907-1972)

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        • #5
          Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

          Thanks again Frenchie. I just looked up that old thread because I couldn't remember if it was you that told me about them or not, sorry :) Very cool product.

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          • #6
            Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

            Sounds like the toggle bolts will work. Anyway, to find studs I use a metal detector to pick up the little lathe nails. Double check and measure to find on center spacing to ensure you not picking up pipes or duct work.

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            • #7
              Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

              The nice thing with larger pieces is that you can find the studs, figure out the spacing and cover up your search with the actual piece.

              I have to check out the toggle bolts, but the current scenario I have is all metal framing so we are adding blocking. I will trust the blocking 100% but will have to get some super toggle bolts...
              “Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
              Abraham J. Heschel (Jewish theologian and philosopher, 1907-1972)

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              • #8
                Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                Once you know what area the art work will cover you can try this. Find a metal coat hanger. Cut the hanger part off and about 4 inches of hanger wire. Chuck that into a drill and drill a hole in the wall where the picture will cover it over. Take the rest of the hanger and bend it into an L. Feed one end of the L into the hole and try to spin the part in the wall around. If it will not go around you may have hit a stud. If it goes around you may have to pull it out again and either see if you can get the part of the L a little longer that goes into the wall or move the hole over. If you can feed the piece in the wall about 4 inches long then you would have to move only about one or 2 more times before you should be hitting something.

                I also have had pretty good luck with carrying an assortment of markers with me. I try to drill my holes in an area that my marker is a very good match to.An area that is black or blue or what ever color I might be the best match. A very small amount of spackle and a marker can make the holes disappear.

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                • #9
                  Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                  Mark makes me think if another obvious choice if you have base. Pop it off find the studs and project the lines above....
                  “Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
                  Abraham J. Heschel (Jewish theologian and philosopher, 1907-1972)

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                  • #10
                    Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                    Just look for nail holes in the base. Back in the old days they actually hit studs.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                      I'd try this: Rent or borrow an IR camera and see if you can see the studs. You may need to bump up the heat in the room on the other side of the wall (or aim some heat lamps at the other side of the wall, or even just wait for the temperature to change outside on an exterior wall). As long as you can get some temperature differential between the two rooms, you should be able to see the studs on the IR camera image due to the difference in the temperature as the wamth travels through the wall to the other side (thermal conductance).

                      Here are some applicable Thermal Imager photos that clearly show studs inside a wall:
                      http://www.flirthermography.com/medi...%20VanBree.pdf
                      The article addresses a different problem, that being finding fasteners near or in contact with water pipes, but the photos demonstrate that you can see the studs inside the wall.

                      Also works for finding hydronic heat pipes in floors and ceilings:
                      http://www.homeconstructionimproveme...-identify.html

                      By the way, it takes a while to be able to figure out what you are looking at in an IR image, but it isn't rocket science. You should get the hang of it if you play around with the imager for a day or so.
                      HERS Rater • BPI Building Analyst • BPI Envelope Professional
                      Certified Green Building Professional • Certified Existing Home Advisor
                      General Building Contractor • Asbestos Certification • Hazardous Substance Removal Certification • EPA Approved Lead-Safe Contractor • Locksmith
                      PMP • ESEP • CISSP

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                      • #12
                        Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                        Here's another thermal imager:
                        http://www.palmir250.com/ir250proimages.htm
                        See the 8th photo titled "The world's greatest stud finder". You can rent the imagers from several on-line sources as I recall.

                        By the way, lots of applications for detecting moisture problems too.
                        HERS Rater • BPI Building Analyst • BPI Envelope Professional
                        Certified Green Building Professional • Certified Existing Home Advisor
                        General Building Contractor • Asbestos Certification • Hazardous Substance Removal Certification • EPA Approved Lead-Safe Contractor • Locksmith
                        PMP • ESEP • CISSP

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                          the best stud finder i've used is a magnetic one ,its awesome on lath & plaster .the one i think is best is from mc' feeleys catalog,the hardware store type didnt work for crap

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                          • #14
                            Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                            A magnet should work as long as it's wooden lath behind the plaster and not metal mesh. Put a piece of wax paper under the magnet when sliding it along so you dont scratch the wallpaper. Once you think you've hit a stud. I like to use a finish nail(broken off from a rack of 2 1/2" 15 gauge) instead of drilling, less cumbersome up high, no false readings you can definetly "feel" when you hit a stud. And the hole is nearly invisible(incase you DIDN"T hit a stud).

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                            • #15
                              Re: Finding studs in plaster walls

                              I do not know why I have not thought of it but I have plaster walls in my house. Have wallpaper on a wall also. I will get out my magnetic stud finder from CHHanson and see if it will work. I will try to do that later this week then report back.

                              Have a family with the flu at the moment so all the final Christmas stuff is up to me. I am hoping it just gets canceled between now and then or at least delayed. Even without the illness hitting our family I just have not been in the Christmas spirit as much this year as in the past.

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