Yesterday, I hung two 4ft 1in x 8in red oak bookshelves on my plaster and lath walls and I want to make sure they’re anchored enough since I wasn’t able to hit studs. I tried using a magnet to find the studs after my stud finders couldn’t do the job. I found the spots where the magnet clearly stuck to the wall and marked them but when I drilled in there was no resistance after making it through the plaster and lath. I have no idea what the magnet was attracted to at those 16 inch intervals but I had no resistance with any of my drill holes. Each of the two shelves is held up with 3 heavy duty shelf brackets tested to hold over 100lbs for every two brackets. Each bracket has 4 screw holes to use for fixing to the wall so each shelf has 12 screws and wall anchors. Each individual wall anchor and screw combo is tested to hold up to 55lbs. The total amount of weight per shelf is about 40-45 pounds and each of the 6 total shelf brackets is 13 inches away from the nearest one both horizontally and vertically. The shelves seem perfectly sturdy but I want to know if this is going to hold long term?Both shelves

The wall anchors and screws used

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    It should be okay, but if that is an expensive TV below them, I would think about moving the TV. A cheap TV not so much. I might move one of the centre books on the bottom shelf to the left edge.
    – crip659
    Mar 10, 2023 at 18:37
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    I held up a 7' tall x 8' long stanchion & shelving unit on a plaster & lath wall for nearly 30 years with nothing more than drywall screws. One or two of the vertical stanchions might have been screwed to studs, but after the stud finder failed to find anything, I just went to town. These shelves were heavily laden with paper & books. They only came down when we removed them to replace them with closed cabinets. YMMV.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 10, 2023 at 19:34
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    Drywall cannot be trusted to bear a significant weight, whatever anchor you use. Sleeping soundly, I was awakened by a shelf above my bed collapsing -- with a 19-volume encyclopedia! (Yep, that was some time back, when encyclopedias were on paper, not online.) Use a better stud finder. Mar 10, 2023 at 20:35
  • Hope you’ve moved the tv by now… and just to reinforce, studs are the only sane thing to mount to. Mar 10, 2023 at 20:41
  • @FreeMan Did better than me. Had a kitchen cabinet up on the wall(drywall) for about 25 years. One day bang. It had glass and ceramic baking dishes in it.
    – crip659
    Mar 10, 2023 at 22:01

2 Answers 2


Those anchors are not the best for hollow spaces, they need meat to hold on. But if you are lucky it might work for a while.

Finding studs the old way. Start at the corner (there is always a stud there) measure 16 inch to find next stud (or 24 inches in some cases)

Check for anchors with wings that work very well with hollow walls.

Something like this


Some might recommend different type hollow wall anchors.

Like this


Those are good but have a limitation.

You must know the thickness of the wall for them to work.

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    I didn’t downvote it. I actually tried to upvote it but I don’t have enough karma or points or user cred or whatever to be able to upvote or downvote comments according to the website. Must have been someone else reading the thread. I do appreciate your help and I’m taking your advice as we speak
    – PRich123
    Mar 11, 2023 at 0:16
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    @PRich123 ok, I just gave you some points, there are some very nasty people here
    – Traveler
    Mar 11, 2023 at 0:45
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    Thanks! I gave you the upvote I tried to give you earlier. Also, I was able to locate a stud using your method of measuring from the corner and the only way I can hit studs with these shelves and still have the brackets evenly spaced is removing the middle one and pushing the outer ones in. It would look weird because a lot of space on either end would be hanging past the supports. And that’s assuming all the studs are evenly spaced, which I doubt in this weirdly built house. I’m using 1-2 pull toggle anchors per bracket and keeping the og anchors in the other spots.
    – PRich123
    Mar 11, 2023 at 4:37
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    @PRich123 thank you for the upvote. There is also another method to find studs but it does require some knowhow.. Use a small hammer or rubber hammer and start knocking (gently) on the wall and listen for sound change.
    – Traveler
    Mar 11, 2023 at 5:37
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    12 toggle bolts in a lath and plaster wall is a hell I would wish only on my enemies. I mean, if you get them all seated properly they'll be strong, but you'll want to jump off the roof before you achieve that.
    – jay613
    Mar 11, 2023 at 13:13

To find the studs mark the level of the shelf on the wall, then drill a hole at that height, then put a bent wire in there and feel around for the stud. once you find the stud screw the bracket into that.

When you install the shelf it covers the holes you drilled.

when to no longer want the shelf use the same plaster you're filling the screw holes with to fill the exploration holes.

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