Picture hanging on old thick plaster walls that chip

by Char
when i use a hammer, the walls chip and the nail won't go in
when I drill, the walls chip and the screw won't go in
when I use those sticky hangers, they won't take the weight
  7 answers
  • Adrianne C Adrianne C on Aug 31, 2014
    I'd try drilling and inserting drywall anchors.
  • Cinn Cinn on Aug 31, 2014
    Also, start with a drill bit that is too small, use very little pressure on the drill, angle the hole slightly down, then move to a larger drill bit to enlarge the hole before tapping in the drywall anchor.
    • See 2 previous
    • Cinn Cinn on Aug 31, 2014
      Yes, and there are two types. It's as though you are putting the screw into a tiny sleeping bag. So you need an anchor that the screw will fit snugly into. One is plastic that has a collar and a central split hole where you put the screw. It makes the screw sit tighter. The other is metal and you tap it in,too. The sides pull up like butterfly wings, spreading inside the wall. For very heavy paintings, I use two hooks a few inches apart. Leave the screw out a little so the wire can catch on it.
  • Cassandra Golden Cassandra Golden on Aug 31, 2014
    If drilling and hammering doesn't work, try a picture rail. They have them in older homes with plaster walls - if you have ceiling molding, you may already have one and didn't realize it. You use pretty hooks to suspend your artwork.
    • See 1 previous
    • Cassandra Golden Cassandra Golden on Aug 31, 2014
      @Char I don't know how handy you are, but it looks like you just need a rounded shape to put the hook on. you might see if a fat dowel rod would work - screw into your existing molding and paint. It might be less expensive. Just see if you can find a sample hook you like to get the right size dowel. And you can try it in one place; if it doesn't work well, at least you didn't do an entire room. :) That's what I would do if I were in your position. It will make redecorating much easier and you don't have to keep patching and painting walls.
  • Lee Cunningham Green Lee Cunningham Green on Sep 01, 2014
    I live in an old home and had the same problem, the solution simple office tacks, I have photos, mirrors etc. hanging from simple office tacks without event for 3 years now. when I move the patches will be minute and easy to fill and no more chipped walls
  • Picture frame moldings are always the best way and method to use. But installing these if they do not exist can be difficult and expensive to do. They make special picture hooks that have tiny spines that are designed just for this very material. However the success of these and any other methods are determined by the soundness of the current wall you have. Really older plaster walls often weaken between the plaster finish coat and the scratch coat. So any hammering on the surface will quickly result in cracked plaster and painting. The fix is to use a small drill and plastic molly to fasten the objects to the wall.
    • @Just to add to my comment. Most plaster walls used lath, a wooden board not much bigger in size then that of a paint stick which is nailed onto the framing. Gaps between each board provides a space in which the base coat of plaster is attached to. These keys of sorts is really all that holds the plaster coatings onto the wall. When you attempt to hammer in a picture hook, even with the special nails I suggest, the key is to find a wood stud in where to nail. Doing so in between each wall stud causes the lath to flex back and fourth when the hammer strikes the nail. The result is the keys that are holding the plaster onto the wall break off from the flexing of the lath thus weakening the wall. In homes that have had a lot of settlement this can be enough vibration to cause the plaster surface to fail.
  • Jacquelyn Jacquelyn on Sep 01, 2014
    Before the nail or screw put a piece of tape on the wall to help minimize the chipping.
  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Jan 07, 2023

    Jacquelyn is right on track, a piece of tape will prevent the chipping, otherwise use drywall anchors.