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WARNING: I'm not the greatest handyman.

I bought a TV mount the other day, expecting to hang my heavy 40" TV above the fireplace. However, the instructions specifically say to first screw the mount into the studs in the wall. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any (according to my brand-new seemingly-functional stud finder).

Installing studs into the wall is not an option, and the TV is relatively heavy. My question is: What other options do I have? Could plugs possibly do the trick?

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Plugs won't do it. Your TV is going to be too heavy for studs. Are you doing this on a brick fireplace? Then go to Lowes, and get some Redheads and mount it to the brick. Bring the bracket, and show the guy what you want to mount. You'll need to steal a drill and appropriate masonry bit. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 17:15
I think all the answers so far tell us that we need more info. Post a picture if you can, and tell us something about the construction and year of your house. We'll do our best to help you solve it. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 17:28
There are plenty of options for using only drywall and bypassing the need for the stud. Stating the need for a stud is often times a claims liability more so than an actual structural statement. I have mounted solid glass weighing 60+ lbs to the wall with 4 mounts specifically for high weight applications. Head down to your local home improvement store and take a look, you would be surprised at the options. Note the weight of the mount + TV before you head down. –  Aaron McIver Jul 27 '12 at 19:09
Aaron is right that there are hollow mounts that can handle some fairly heavy loads, but only if they are static (meaning no tilt or turn TV mounts) and only if the pressure is shear (parallel to the wall, not outward). Look for wide expansion types, like toggles, or the newer strap type toggle, using bolts, not screws. Still, finding studs or masonry mounts per Matthew PK is better. –  bib Jul 27 '12 at 21:29
I'm with @bib. I think a tv is too far out from the wall and will torque too much. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 23:06

2 Answers 2

If you have a wall, you have structure.

If your wall is masonry then the TV mount can likely be mounted directly to the masonry (or mounts are available which can).

If your wall is drywall then you must have structure behind it... perhaps your studfinder is malfunctioning or you're using it improperly?

Studs can usually be found beside original electrical boxes (as the boxes are mounted to the side of the stud). Check your stud-finder against both sides of a nearby electrical socket for functionality. If you cannot locate a stud, try tapping a small nail into the wall board near an existing fixture. If it meets resistance behind the wall-board then you have a stud. Wall studs should be spaced in regular intervals (usually 16" on center in the US) so you can simply measure over to your mount area to locate them.

Once you believe you have found studs simple repeat the above test: tap in a small nail to verify structure behind the wall board. Studs should be 1.5 inches wide, so check that you can mark both sides of the side (to mount into the middle).

You may need to tap many small holes to accomplish this without an adequate stud finder.

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Small pedantic correction: Electrical boxes are mounted next to studs, not the other way around. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 17:16
@ChrisCudmore technically electrical boxes are mounted directly to studs :P –  Matthew Jul 27 '12 at 17:18
I've been Out Pedanted! –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 17:20
In an older house you might have a lath-and-plaster wall beneath the drywall, and this can confuse stud finders to no end. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 27 '12 at 17:23
Excellent point @Vebjorn Ljosa –  Chris Cudmore Jul 27 '12 at 17:24

If your house is old enough to have horsehair plaster it is possible that there are no studs between the chimney and the plaster. I know mine did not. I was hesitant to use masonary anchors because of the age and condition of the brick. I fiqure I had two options. I could widen the mantle and sit the TV on it. The other option was to build a plywood panel wide enough to reach the studs on either side of the chimney and thick enough to support the TV. I stained it to match the wood on the mantle trimmed it up nice, mounted a couple of wall sconces to fill in the extra width.

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