How to: Hang a picture on a plaster wall


Toggle bolt heads. (Bigstock)
February 12

Question: I live in a 1930s house with plaster walls. It is not as easy to hang a picture on a wall made from plaster as it is to hang a picture on a wall made from drywall. Any suggestions?

— Sheeps Head Island, Nova Scotia

Answer: You’re right: You can’t just tap in a nail long enough to reach a stud, as you might to hang a heavy picture on drywall. Plaster is hard, and pounding a nail into it could crack it or disengage it from the lath that holds it in place. But it’s easy eliminate these risks: Just pre-drill the hole first. Use a bit slightly smaller than the nail, and drill at an angle so the nail will function like a hook to hold the picture securely.

If you’re hanging a heavy picture or a mirror, drill where there is a stud and use a screw long enough to fasten into it. If no stud lines up with where you want to hang the item, install a toggle bolt.

Or, if you want to get fancy, you can go with one traditional solution for hanging pictures on plaster walls: a picture rail, a horizontal ribbon of wooden molding running across the walls. It usually goes at the height of the top trim piece on doors and windows, but if the ceiling is very high, the molding can instead ring the room even higher than that. The shape of the trim allows special metal hangers to clip over the top, supporting the wire or cord attached to the back of the picture. Lumberyards sell the trim. One source for the hangers is www.houseofantiquehardware.com, where prices range from less than $1 to more than $6, depending on style.

Question: I have a stainless-steel spoon that was caught in my garbage disposal. The tip is quite rough. Where can I have it repaired?

— North Bethesda

Answer: Two places that can help you are Awesome Metal Restorations in Kensington (301-897-3266; www.awesomemetals.com) and Metro Plating and Polishing in Kensington (301-493-4009 or 800-938-5811; www.metroplating.com). Both frequently repair spoons damaged in the same way yours was. Fees start in the $30-$35 range. Repairing a stainless-steel or sterling silver spoon is usually fairly easy. When the spoon is silver-plated, the repair also requires replating, which adds $15 or more.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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