How do I hang shelves on plaster walls?

I have been struggling to hang a few things, but when I try to drill into my plaster walls (house was built in 1900!) I can only drill about 1/4 of the way, no matter where I try. I can't possibly be hitting a metal stud each time! Any ideas?

  7 answers
  • That is strange, Jennifer. Have you tried using a stud finder?

  • Jeremy Hoffpauir Jeremy Hoffpauir on Dec 12, 2018

    Hi Jennifer,

    Sounds like you have lathe & plaster walls so the studs are harder to find. Using a stud finder, you don't have to find the gap between the lathe. When you set the stud finder on the wall and press the button, the first thing it does is take a baseline reading. It's looking for changes in that reading. You need to keep the sensor moving horizontally so the only change it will see is from the stud. You'll get a few false readings, but keep doing it - working both ways (i.e. left to right, and right to left) and when it beeps put a piece of tape or sticky note on the wall. Pretty soon you'll see the outline of the stud start to emerge. Good luck!

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Dec 12, 2018

    Gargle bolts or you could use ankers

  • Fiddledd224 Fiddledd224 on Dec 12, 2018

    You need to buy special wall anchors made specifically for plaster. Let the hardware sales people at the home improvement store guide you.

  • Chris Gignac Chris Gignac on Dec 12, 2018

    I would say that you need to find a Mason's bit for your drill.if you've already tried several locations no one could have that bad of luck hitting something that couldn't be drilled through. My guess is the plaster is just wearing out your drill.

  • Oliva Oliva on Dec 12, 2018

    Hi, Jennifer,

    Given the age of your home and where you are located, you may have a plaster wall atop a "brick on tile" home, in which case you will require masonry bits and possibly an impact drill or hammer drill to drill through the brick or brick on tile. As mentioned, you will need toggle bolts or anchors specifically designed for old plaster walls. The building practices of that era used "stick" framing of 2" x 4" studs or in better homes, 2" x 6" studs, both made of Douglas Fir, or similar wood, which is particularly dense, and much tighter "grained" than new growth lumber.