I'm looking to hang up some canvas art (already on stretcher bars). However, I don't know what kind of hardware I need to use, because I have no idea what kind of walls they are. They don't seem like drywall because they seem like they're solid walls. Here is a likely useless video of me tapping on the wall.


Is this plaster? If I want to put a screw in, should I drill a hole first? Should I be looking for studs?

  • If your canvas prints are very light (<3 lbs or so), you can pre-drill and use bare screws right in the plaster. They'll hold fine. Use a drill bit about the size of the screw shank.
    – isherwood
    Dec 8, 2015 at 16:37
  • upvote for video. :)
    – DA01
    Dec 8, 2015 at 16:40
  • Remove the cover plate from that switch, and carefully inspect the wall surrounding the electrical box. That should give you a better idea, than tapping on the wall. The wall appears to be plaster, but the more important question is, what's behind the plaster. If you're working with plaster and lath walls, most stud finders are going to have trouble accurately locating studs. You'll also want to be careful how you penetrate the plaster, and how much you penetrate the plaster.
    – Tester101
    Dec 8, 2015 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


The walls look and sound like plaster, probably over wooden lath. The lath is then nailed to wooden studs at intervals, probably at 16 inch centers.

A common approach to hanging art and mirrors on both plaster and plasterboard (drywall) is to use picture hooks with thin, hardened nails, such as these


The nails are sharp enough and thin enough not to do damage to most plaster. The hooks (properly sized and in multiples) are strong enough to hold up over 100 lbs. Canvases on stretchers should be no problem unless they are many feet long.

Use at least two hooks to spread the load and improve leveling of hte pictures.

When the load approaches 100 lbs., extends out from the wall, or is subject to movement, it's time to find studs, or at least heavy duty toggle bolts.

Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.

  • I may be overly paranoid, but I don't like hammering nails into plaster for fear of cracking. I'd suggest drilling tiny pilot holes before nailing.
    – DA01
    Dec 8, 2015 at 19:58
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    – KRyan
    Dec 8, 2015 at 20:49
  • @KRyan I made the change, but you should contact stack exchange meta to discuss this.
    – bib
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:16
  • @DA01 I have never had that problem despite using them on numerous plaster wall. But a pilot couldn't hurt, although it is important to get the right downward angle to maximize holding power.
    – bib
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:17
  • @bib Why? It’s not a bug; it’s a feature of codeboxes. It’s not intended that people use them for emphasis. That has been soundly rejected on Meta several times, in fact.
    – KRyan
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:38

The walls from your video sound as if they are made of plaster. To check either with a small diameter drill or nail in an inconspicuous spot on the wall. If either penetrate the wall easily it is not plaster. To secure items to a plaster wall you will need wall anchors. Wall anchors allow you to screw hooks and clips securely to the surface. You can also locate the wall studs that will support much heavier objects.


I agree with the sentiment that these are likely plaster walls.

For a canvas print...assuming it's not giant and heavy, a simple finishing nail is likely all you need.

I've hung a lot of art with a brad nail. What I do:

  • get a box of brads. Snip off the head of one.
  • use that snipped brad a drill bit to drill a tiny hole in the plaster.
  • insert a full brad into said hole.
  • hang picture.

Again, that works for light-weight pictures...essentially nothing heavier than what would typically bend the brad to begin with. But surprisingly sturdy. Remember plaster is a lot stronger than wallboard for load bearing from a single point.

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