Nick2cd

Need to hang a cabinet, can't find studs...tips?

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I've recently completed a small kitchen cabinet and now I wanna hang it. Problem is, I have old plaster walls with horizontal slats and my stud finder won't read through it to find studs. Is there a better way than drilling 50 exploratory holes or trying to do it by sound?

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Nick, you might start by locating the nearest switch or receptacle. They are usually attached to a stud. Then measure over to the area you are going to hang the cabinet in and find a spot that would be 16"on center from the stud your electric is mounted to. Then run a three inch screw into the wall, behind where the cabinet will hang, and see if you hit a stud. If not, try 24" on center. On those old plaster walls, they didn't have the same code restrictions we have, so there's no telling what spacing they used.

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how do you feel about smashing holes in your walls?....................got nothing to do with finding studs i just like to break holes in my house :)

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tap, tap, tap, tap, thump, thump, sounds like a stud now let's mark it.  Pencil, where's my pencil?  Damn! It's still in the shop.  OK, tap, tap, tap, thump, thump, sounds like a stud to me, now mark it.  Where's my penci....OK found it!  Sounds like a great afternoon to me!  :D :D :D   Seriously, the measuring from a suspected stud location (window, outlet, screw in an existing cabinet etc) is probably your best bet to at least get you in the ballpark.

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Try Nick's idea for locating a stud layout. Mark on the wall the sides of the cabinet. Then use a smooth 10d nail or better between your layout marks. The nail will bounce on lathing boards and will drive firm over a stud. Good luck my friend.

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K & J magnetics sells rare earth magnets, quality strong ones. Get either a 1/2" or 5/8 sphere magnet . I put the magnet on top of a bent finger and Roll it back and forth across the wall where your cabinet goes. It will find the nails in each stud. If you roll it over a hardwood floor it will stop over each nail, which would let you plan a cut without hitting metal.

I got a 1" sphere magnet and it was hazardous. Carried it in my jeans pocket, went to turn on the tablesaw and my magnet stuck to the saw. It stuck to the door of the truck and grabbed onto my key chain as well.

You could probably use any real strong magnet but the sphere doesn't mark up clients walls.

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I think the tapping or magnet ideas work. I have a stud finder that does a deep scan to look through plaster. Picked up at Lowe's. Last comment...while 16 and 24 inch on center stud spacings are common, don't be surprised if you find 19.25 spacing in an old house. Many tape measures still reference this spacing with a diamond at that interval.

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Be careful when using magnetic finders.  Some older homes used metal as fire retarders, which might artificially create the location of a stud.  (I don't happen to know what types of metal was used, so I can't guess about the magnetic qualities.  I do know of - make that lived in - two century homes that used metal.)

 

another way might be to (first shut off power) remove the plate on a switch or outlet, and then pull the unit out of the box (gently, unless you want to add wiring to the list).  Use a bent hangar to feel around inside the walls for the location of the next stud.  I'd use a grease pencil to mark which part of the hanger is up, so you can (once you pull the hangar out) measure how far it is to the next stud by lining up the mark with "straight up" (assuming that was your reference angle).

 

This will work if you just make a hole where you want to hang the cabinet, too, if you don't want to deal with removing a switch.  (I'd still shut off the power, though.  Last century home I was in, wiring ran diagonally down one stud cavity - both original wiring and a replacement wire 75 years later.)

 

One last note: your house might be one of the "oddballs."  Occasionally, and I don't know exactly how frequently, you might find a house where the studs only go half way up the walls.  Usually, there's some form of major wall or weight support behind this, and the wall itself is a "functional decoration," meaning it's there to cover up a utilitarian style wall.  In this instance, you'll probably end up pulling some plaster off before figuring out where to support the wall and then hang the cabinet.  If this happens to you, find a professional who can match the plaster back to the original.  It will save you time, money, hassel, and heartache to avoid doing this yourself.  This is an extremely minimal chance you have, though, so I wouldn't panic.  I just think you should be aware of the far-outfield oddball.

Edited by jHop

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Do you have knob and tube? Old houses with plaster and lath walls generally dont have electrical boxes attatched to the stud. Most are knob and tube and the box will be positioned in the center of two stud mounted on horizontal 2x's. They were boxed in to support both ends of the lath. That was code back in the knob and tube days.

Don

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