I am trying to hang a pot rack, and my house is all plaster walls. I have an electronic stud finder but the places it is telling me that studs exist don't seem to be correct - test nails have gone through about 1/2 inch of solid before pushing the rest of the way in.

My plan is to find a joist, and either screw into it or run a 1x2 between 2 joist and screw into that. Is this the right approach, and if so how do I find the joists?

Update: I went back at it with the stud finder, getting inconsistent results. Tried bucky balls (the only magnet I have around), which didn't locate anything. I went back to the most reasonable location for the joist and sent in a 1.5 inch test nail, which felt snug most of the way. I got a longer, wider test nail (2.5 inches) and it cleared everything very easily, but then met with something solid once it was about 2.25 inches in. I got a longer nail, about 3 inches, and it seems that it is solid wood there.

A) Is it plausible that the joist is that far from the surface of the ceiling?
B) If that is the joist, do I need to do anything special to account for the extra distance? Am I just trying to find a hook with a 4 inch screw?

  • Ceiling or wall?
    – Jason
    Feb 22, 2013 at 1:56
  • 2
    Also, possible duplicate of multiple "finding studs". Personally I like the magnet idea of @Scott Vercuski from How do I find studs when stud finders won't work?. I'd still try and find multiple studs as a base point incase you found a wire/pipe or random spot.
    – Jason
    Feb 22, 2013 at 2:01
  • 1
    Once you find the studs, running the 1x2 and screwing to that should be fine - when last I mounted a pot rack, I used a piece of 3/4x4" wood, which I stained first. It was in a rental, so when I took down the rack, I just screwed hooks into the holes and left the wood in place. Feb 25, 2013 at 3:07
  • 1
    @Monso, ceiling. I think I should be saying joist instead of stud? I will give the magnets a try. I also realized 2 more things - the light fixture in the middle of the room is probably on a joist, and the joists in this ceiling probably run the same way as the ones under the floor, which I can see from the basement. Feb 25, 2013 at 19:21
  • @Monso Updated with recent findings if it helps clear up the question Feb 26, 2013 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


You're already putting lots of holes in your ceiling, which will have to be patched. As long as you don't mind some holes, try this:

Use approximately a 1/4" drill bit to drill into a likely spot on your ceiling. If it hits wood all the way through, you've just found a joist. If it goes through the lath and hits a void, get a piece of wire or an old coat hanger. Put two bends in it so it looks like three sides of a rectangle. Make sure that the top and bottom sides are the same length. Work the top side into the hole. Make it "turn the corner" in the hole so that the top piece of the rectangle ends up parallel to your floor. Now spin the wire until that top section of the rectangle hits something and stops. If you made the bottom section the same length as the top, then the bottom section will be pointing right at the location of the joist.

  • Brilliant! I will try this tonight. Feb 27, 2013 at 11:59
  • I was able to use this method to find a piece of wood to screw into... I have no idea what it is, because it doesn't seem to extend in any direction, but I was able to screw into it pretty, deep, and I gave it a pretty good tug without it budging. Should hold a few pots just fine! Mar 4, 2013 at 15:04

U.S. wall studs are typically 24" or 16" on center. Mark light pencil lines on each strong reading on a larger area (even if this larger area is no where near the location but on the same wall) and look for a consistency/pattern matching a 16" or 24" pattern to give you a base line. If the search/marked area was away from intended mounting area, measure in appropriately with 16" or 24" measurements(which ever you found) and use stud finder to verify. Verify because you never found true center before, or if you did find a good center because you can on the "measure twice cut once" principal.


I've used butterfly anchors and my pot rack looks great. Had it in for about 5 years. I do keep a lot of my pots and colanders on it but refrain from putting my heavier pots on it.

  • I too used Butterfly Anchors and I out my Entire Set of All Clad Cookware on the Rack plus Cooling Pots on the Grid Done this twice no issue!
    – user28175
    Nov 21, 2014 at 17:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.