What are my walls made of?

I can’t screw or nail anything into it without it just immediately crumbling. Anything hammered or screwed in just becomes loose and doesn’t stay in.

Almost my entire home has this type of wall. I want to be able to hang things, even heavy stuff, but I’m forced to solely use some flimsy wood paneling that borders the upper walls of only some rooms. (Even they can’t take much weight).


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  • How thick is that (what looks like) concrete? When was you house built.
    – SteveSh
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 18:33
  • 1
    Have you tried drilling holes? Use a masonry bit?
    – JACK
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 18:48
  • What you are trying to hang will dictate the type of fastener you will need for the job. A masonry anchor may not be needed for something light and an adhesive hook will not be adequate for a heavy mirror.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 19:10
  • 1
    Indeed, what are your walls made out of? It's plaster over what(ever the building is made out of)? If it isn't concrete or masonry, then it's frame, and if it's frame it's probably metal mesh. And if it's not metal mesh it's lath and plaster.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 21:10
  • 1
    That's just old plaster. Either use toggle bolts (moderate weight bearing) or find your studs. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 22:16

3 Answers 3


Your wall looks like plaster. It is most likely laid over wood lath, metal mesh or backing board.

Sometimes you can bang very thin sharp nails into plaster successfully. But yours seems to be more brittle by your description.

Try drilling through the plaster with a small sharp drill bit in a few places. Feel when the plaster transitions to something else. Then clean the drill bit and keep drilling, looking at the shavings to determine what your backing is. If it's wood lath you may happen to drill between laths, that's why I say "in a few places". You could also drill a half-inch hole and buy a cheap endoscope to see definitively what's behind the wall. (Edit: Some say you should use a masonry bit. I get better results with a sharp wood bit but you should experiment to find what's best on your walls. And for the initial experimentation I describe above, the ideal thing is a hand drill. And there is an additional possibility I should describe: the plaster may be over brick in some places, eg over a chimney. In that case you should use appropriate methods for brick.)

If it's metal or backing board you can use plastic anchors for plaster (don't use drywall anchors) or toggles depending on what you're hanging. If it's wood lath my preferred technique is to drill just up to the wood, then drill a small pilot hole through the lath, put a shortened plastic anchor into the hole (it will only go up to the lath) and then use a 2-1/2" screw. The anchor will do some of the work and the lath will help a great deal. The combination is quite strong.

I also second the advice in the other answer about using the picture rail as intended. If your picture rail is an ACTUAL picture rail (it's hard to tell from the photo) it will have a rounded top designed for special picture rail hooks. Buy them. Then don't need ANY tools or fasteners at all!


Looks like concrete facing over a brick wall. Check that it is a brick wall (look under house, or in ceiling). Then ask how to attach things, and someone will answer.


That "flimsy wood paneling" is called a "picture rail" the first link I found describing it, not selling it. Take a look at pictures of the inside of a castle/palace somewhere (Windsor or Buckingham, for example), you'll see that all the pictures hang from picture rails because the buildings are made of stone.

Its entire purpose in life is to hang things from it. It is there precisely because you have some sort of brick/plaster/concrete walls that are difficult to fasten things to. Now, you have one thing that was fastened to this hard to work with wall construction, and have complete freedom to hang things as high or low on the walls, anywhere you want.

Learn to love it and make it a conversation piece in your house by getting some picture rail hooks (you'll have to look at the top of your rail to see the profile & size), some picture wire, and learn how to work with it.

The one thing you may need to do is to learn how to install more picture rail (I'd recommend matching the profile and height of the existing rail, just to make it look planned, not haphazard) if you want to hang things on other walls.

Note that if your existing picture rails are as flimsy as you think, you may need to remove them and replace them with something beefier. I'd suspect, though, that they're stronger and more firmly attached than you think.

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