Hanging heavy shelves in plaster

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Forum topic by Chinitorama posted 05-30-2010 07:35 AM 7672 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Chinitorama's profile


105 posts in 2721 days

05-30-2010 07:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi all,

I’m almost ready to install a set of hanging cd shelves in an old converted farm house. The shelf span is 48 inches at 6 inches deep. I calculate that four feet of cds is approx. 35-40 pounds. A couple of rows of cds plus the shelf itself is over 100 lbs. The request was to make the shelf hug the wall as closely as possible so there’s no back to the whole unit. I designed the shelf to use blind shelf supports from Lee Valley (part 00S05.20). The hardware will be mounted to the wall and slid into the doubled-up top shelf.

Here’s my concern: I’ve discovered the wall has almost no studs to mount the hangers to. I’m a doofus. Should’ve checked.

The wall is lath and plaster. And the only studs I can find are over three feet apart. My guess is anchors of some kind into the lath for the supports that won’t line up with studs. I’ve also made a ledger strip that will act as a support along the bottom shelf. The strip will be screwed to the wall first so the shelf can sit on it to help line up the blind hangers.

Hope this makes sense and some fellow LJs can share some tips for mounting heavy stuff to old walls.

Best wishes,
shelf front

shelf back

9 replies so far

View Don's profile


514 posts in 2495 days

#1 posted 05-30-2010 08:36 AM

Try these, they’re much easier to use than butterfly anchors:

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View thatwoodworkingguy's profile


375 posts in 2352 days

#2 posted 05-30-2010 09:34 AM

Would you be able to use dry wall anchors and a french cleat system? Just a thought.

-- ~Eagle America~ ~Woodcraft~

View lew's profile


11266 posts in 3178 days

#3 posted 05-30-2010 02:38 PM

I think the French Cleat system is the answer because it will spread the load over a larger area. However, since you already have the shelf to wall fasteners, I think Molly Bolts (butterfly fasteners) will provide the greatest holding power. Unfortunately they also require the largest hole in the wall.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51452 posts in 2903 days

#4 posted 05-30-2010 02:57 PM

I agree a French cleat would work well.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View chrisstef's profile


15481 posts in 2429 days

#5 posted 05-30-2010 03:07 PM

id go with the mollys and a french cleat as suggested above .. the mollys will get behind the lath and have a large area to grab on to

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3000 days

#6 posted 05-30-2010 08:09 PM

We have all been there getting the horse in front of the cart . If you can incorporate a french cleat that hits studs you will be better off. Another thought is that there are more studs than you can detect because of the plaster. You have to drill small holes to find studs in plaster to find studs .

-- Custom furniture

View Chinitorama's profile


105 posts in 2721 days

#7 posted 05-31-2010 04:49 PM

Looks like Molly/Toggle bolts will have to be the answer. I had considered the French cleat, but the design didn’t allow for it. According to LV one pair of the blind hardware can hold quite a bit, so additional hangers anchored to the lath/plaster in between should work.

View SKFrog16's profile


661 posts in 2623 days

#8 posted 05-31-2010 05:13 PM

Chinitorama, If the ledger is decorative, that would be the ideal place to use the French cleat. I have used these guys for my floating shelves.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 2507 days

#9 posted 05-31-2010 05:42 PM

Like said a french cleat. Never limit maximum load by a clients intent of use. They always, or future owners, overload. I as a rule of thumb build for at least 2 1/2 x’s expected use!

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

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