Learn how to hang a heavy picture on plaster. Find out how to locate wooden studs behind an old plaster wall.
LESLIE: Mike in Alabama is doing some decorating. How can we help?
MIKE: Yeah, I’ve got a life-size portrait that’s real heavy . And I live in an old house. They left the wood slats behind the sheetrock and for me to find a stud to make it secure is like next to impossible even with an electronic stud finder.
LESLIE: That’s because everything seems like a stud to it.
MIKE: Yeah, it picks it up in every direction you want to talk about.
TOM: Yeah, Mike, at some point, you’re going to have to locate one stud in this wall. If it’s an old house – when was the house built?
MIKE: Right around the turn of the century.
MIKE: About 1900.
TOM: So I’m going to guess that the studs in the wall are probably 24 inches …
LESLIE: Twenty-four inches apart.
TOM: … on center.
TOM: And they’re probably full 2x4s, which means they’re a full two inches wide as opposed to a nominal 2x4 which is only an inch-and-a-half.
LESLIE: What if you start in the corner, since you know there’s a stud at the corner positions, and work your way out every 24 inches. And when you get to the region where you want to hang, try to just tap a nail through the plaster . It might require some patching and fixing because you’re trying to locate this stud. But if you start in the corner …
MIKE: I’ve done a bunch of that already. (chuckling) See, I’ve been going 16; not 24. That’s what I haven’t been doing.
TOM: Now, I think – yeah, that’s probably where you went wrong. Now, all you do is find one and then you can find the rest.
TOM: Now, once you identify that, then, since this is so heavy, what you might want to do is put a cleat on the wall. And so, what this basically involves is you attach a piece of wood across the two 2x4s. So this would be – depending on how wide this portrait is; you know, 24 inches wide, it might have to be a 28-inch cleat. Attach that securely to the wall; then attach the portrait to the cleat. And this way, you’re not attaching the portrait directly to the wall; you’re attaching it to a cleat that’s solidly connected first.
LESLIE: To two studs. This way it’s really strong.
TOM: It’s a little bit easier for you to work with that way.
LESLIE: Right. And you’re bolting the cleat to two studs. So it’s really spreading the weight out.
MIKE: Yeah, that will cover the portrait because the portrait I think is like 20 – 29 or 32 inches wide and is – it’s huge.
TOM: Yeah, that’s perfect.
LESLIE: And it gives you a little bit of play. Since the portrait is larger than the cleat, you’ll be able to slide it to either side, you know, a little bit so that you’re still covering the cleat but you have some play as to where you want to put it on the wall  and you’ll know that it’s spread out well and really sturdy.
MIKE: That’ll be great. You gave me an idea I didn’t even think of.
TOM: Alright, terrific. Thanks, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.