LESLIE: Ruth in Illinois needs some help hanging something on her walls. What can we do for you?
Crumbling Plaster Walls
RUTH: Well, I moved into a house that has plaster walls and every time I try to take a little nail and, you know, hang up a picture, I get a whole chunk of wall out.
LESLIE: Do you actually get the wall out or do you just hear it falling down behind?
RUTH: No, it actually – a little, round, quarter-sized piece just comes out toward me.
RUTH: So I didn’t know if there’s a way that I can hang pictures or I’m just going to have to have a wall that doesn’t have pictures.
TOM: Are you trying to nail into that plaster?
RUTH: I am, mm-hmm.
TOM: Yeah. Well, what happens is the plaster gets old, gets weak and the plaster is probably put up on lath, which is like wood strips. And the way it stays in place is the plaster sort of swells behind the wood lath – kind of grabs it like little fingers – and when you try to nail it, you break those fingers off and then the plaster itself gets very loose. So what I would do is I would predrill this first or always pilot drill it out …
LESLIE: Using a very skinny drill bit.
TOM: Yep, or even the nail itself. You can take a finish nail and turn that into a drill bit and use that to pilot out the hole because you’re not really cutting it – you’re just sort of making some room in there – and then drive the nail through that. The other thing is always try to drive the nails into the stud and you can use an electronic stud finder to figure out where that is; even in a house that has plaster.
LESLIE: Yeah, but the stud finder is going to go like bananas because every …
TOM: No, even if it has plaster lath; the newer ones are pretty good at detecting the difference between a thin piece of lath and a large, wood, full 2×4 beam.
RUTH: Well, great. Thank you very much for your advice.
TOM: You’re welcome, Ruth. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.