This is How You Should Hang Pictures on Plaster Walls


Perhaps the one style wall that could present the most problems when hanging pictures is the plaster wall. It’s difficult to tap in a nail that is long enough to reach a stud without cracking the plaster off the lath. Moreover, it is not only the nail you need to be concerned with. You need to also consider the wall anchor or picture hanger you use to latch on to the picture frame so that it is secure and yet does not damage the wall.

Note: By far the least destructive way to hang items on plaster walls is to install a piecemeal picture hanging system. These aluminum-based rails snap to the perfect height/width of your walls or ceiling. They allow full customization for placement of your art, appliances, mirrors, clocks, and more. These systems, like the STAS rail system, are PERFECT for plaster wall hanging.


Standard picture hanger hooks also known as “J” shaped metal hooks work well when hanging pictures on plaster walls. They come in various sizes and can hold up to 100 pounds. Another good fastener plaster hook are toggle bolts. They are available in a variety of diameters and lengths to accommodate the different thicknesses of a wall and have the best holding capability. They require drilling a large opening so that the spring-loaded toggle can be inserted. Another choice that would work well is a plastic hook or adhesive hangers. Wood screws will also work, but they should be installed into a stud. Of course, there is always the “trusted” hammer and nail method.

However, be aware that hammering a nail can crack the plaster. So it is recommended that you use a drill to create a pilot hole and then if you are using a wall anchor, insert the cylinder into the hole and then tighten the bolts so that the cylinder compresses against the sides of the hole. When drilling a pilot hole be sure not to drill too large a hole as your nail will need to grip the edges of the hole to sustain ample weight. A rule of thumb is to use a drill bit half the size of the nail.

Mounting Pictures On Plaster Walls

Before starting any work on mounting pictures to plaster walls, it is advised that you weigh the picture you intend to mount. A lightweight picture is considered to be 5 pounds or less. In addition, take into account how humid the room is. A humid room can result in moist walls and can cause adhesive bond to weaken quickly.

How to Hang Lightweight Pictures on Plaster Walls

  1. Clean and dry the wall. Cleaning ensures that there is no oil, dirt, or moisture that could prevent adhesive glue from clinging to the wall. It also prevents mildew that can form in the porous plaster. Perform the cleaning using warm water and a mild liquid dish soap. Soak a non-abrasive washcloth in the warm water; place a bead of mild soap on the cloth and work the soap into a small patch of suds on it. Wipe the wall down and scrub it gently with a circular motion. Rinse the cloth in the water and wipe away any soap residue. Wipe away the moisture with a dry non-abrasive washcloth with a circular motion.
  2. Select an adhesive hanger. Such a fastener should be able to hold a light picture frame. Adhesive hooks are available in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Check the package instructions for information on weight capacities as they differ from brand to brand. In addition, make certain that the hook can accommodate the picture loop or wire hanger that is attached to the back of the frame. Picture hangers with a piece of double-sided tape should suffice for pictures without frames that are very light and more moderately weighted pictures without frames might be able to hang directly on an adhesive square instead of a hook. Still, a plaster hook is probably best.
  3. Attach the adhesive hook to the wall. One side of the adhesive square should be identified as the “wall side” and the other side should be labeled the “hook side” or “picture side.” Attach the “wall side” of the adhesive pad to the wall and press the hook on to the “hook side” of the pad. If the picture hooks are too thick to fit into the hoop on the frame, then consider using two hooks instead where the bottom edge of the picture will rest. Position the hooks evenly and horizontally and space them a little closer than the bottom width of the picture.
  4. Hang the picture! When the hook is in place, hang the frame’s loop on the wall hook. You can rest the bottom of the picture on top of two hooks if you prefer.

How to Hang Medium to Heavyweight Picture Frames on Plaster Walls

You should take more precautions if you are hanging a medium to heavyweight picture frame. This process should take seven steps.

  1. Determine where to hang the picture. Since the picture is of moderate or heavy weight, you should seek more support. Locate a stud in the wall with a stud finder. Use a tape measure to ascertain where the picture loop is on the back of the frame and use your calculations to determine where the screw should go on the wall and mark the spot using a pencil.
  2. Place painter’s tape over the mark. Poke a hole in the middle of the tape with the tip of the pencil and then place the tape on the wall where the hole aligns with the mark on the wall. You can also use the hole in the tape to serve as a guide when drilling the pilot hole into the wall.
  3. Carefully drill a hole in the plaster wall. Before drilling check the package instructions to determine the size of the drill bit, then drill a hole into the wall along the mark. Commonly, a 1-3/16 bit will suffice. The bit should be a fraction smaller than the anchor you are using. While you drill the hole the bit will stop moving inward when it hits the end of the plaster. If it starts to move again, then it is possible you have hit a layer of lath beneath the plaster. Drill as straight as possible. The size of the hole should be no larger than the size of the bit.
  4. Hammer an anchor into the wall. Make certain that the anchor is directly over the hole in the wall, tap it into the hole with just enough force to get it in without bending it or cracking the wall and finish with the anchor flush with the wall.
  5. Place the screw into the anchor. Put the screw into the hole of the anchor and use a screwdriver to force it in. Stop screwing before the anchor is flush against the wall. You can also use the drill to drive the screw. Work slowly and be careful not to let the screw drive too deep into the wall. About a half inch of the screw should remain out from the wall.
  6. Clean the area. Repeat step one from the description of how to hang a lightweight picture onto a plaster wall.
  7. Hang the picture. Rest the wire or loop on the back of the frame onto the anchor.

How To Hang A Heavy Picture On A Plaster Wall with the Stas System

The piecemeal method of collecting the necessary equipment to ensure that heavy picture frames stay in place without any chance of damaging walls may be adequate. However, a system that includes all the necessary pieces properly installed is the best way to ensure that the heaviest of picture frames are adequately supported but also stay in place.

Here’s the rail-system method:

We offer eight different STAS designed and manufactured high-quality picture hanging solutions for a wide range of applications including:

  • Residential and Non-residential Construction Projects
  • Office and Commercial Properties
  • Schools and Universities
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities
  • Retirement Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
  • Government Institutions and Public Housing
  • Condominiums and Rental Properties
  • Museums and Galleries
  • Hotels, Inns, and Bed & Breakfast Services

The eight styles include:

1. Minirail
2. Cliprail
3. Cliprail Pro
4. Cliprail Max
5. J-Rail
6. J-Rail Max
7. Plaster Rail
8. Prorail Crown

Each system is specifically designed and manufactured to accommodate an array of issues that could threaten the integrity of a structure and assures that the weight of heavy picture or artwork frames are not focused on one area, but spread out through a rail.

Perlon cords, zipper hooks, and rails are the essential components for hanging heavy pictures. The cords and zipper hooks hold the frames while the rails accommodate the total weight of the frames.

The Zipper hooks work in conjunction with either the steel cable or the perlon cord to hold a maximum weight of 33-pounds. The Smartspring hooks each hold 9-pounds. If multiple hooks are used on a single cord each hook will bear its maximum weight capacity as long as the rail handles the weight.

If a system is required to hold more weight than it was designed for, then all you need to do is add more hooks and cords to increase the weight capacity. For example, using two more perlon cords and two zipper hooks will permit the system to hold an additional 66-pounds.

Installing A Rail Hanging System

Items you will need for hanging stuff on plaster walls include:

✓ Pencil or marker
✓ Heavy-duty wire cutter or pliers that can cut wire
✓ Painters’ or masking tape
✓ Drill and bit
✓ Picture rail hooks
✓ Picture rail hangers
✓ Picture molding hooks
✓ Braided cord or wire
✓ Eyelet screws with D- ring

Picture rail hooks and picture molding hooks come in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and sizes. Brass hooks are suggested when hanging very heavy pictures or artwork and stamped hooks are ideal for hanging lighter pictures.

hanging pictures on plaster walls

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to hang pictures on picture rail.

  1. Install eyelet screws with a D-ring on top of the right and left side of the frame. The higher you install the screws, the flatter the picture will hang on the wall. On the other hand, the lower on the picture frame you place the screws, the more the frame will tilt forward. Drill a pilot hole in the frame, but make sure you don’t drill all the way through the frame.
  2. Screw in the eyelet screws.
  3. Hold the picture against the wall at the height you want it to hang. Mark the spot on the wall above the center of the frame.
  4. Place a hook on the rail directly above the center mark.
  5. Lay the picture frame face down on a table and place a strip of painters’ tape or masking tape across the frame just above the eyelet screws.
  6. Mark the position of the screws as well as the center spot of the frame onto the tape. Measure how far the screws are from the top of the frame and transfer to the wall by measuring that distance below the center mark on the wall.
  7. Take the tape off of the back of the frame and place it on the wall at the marks you made.
  8. Hang a cord or wire over the hook on the rail and line up with the marks you made that represent the locations of the eyelet screws. Make a bend in the cord or wire where it meets the tape and make sure that a mark is made in the cord or wire after the bend.
  9. Thread the cord or wire through the rings of the eyelet screws and stop when you get to the mark made by the bending of the wire or cord.
  10. Wrap the cord or wire tightly around the screws so that it is secure and then tie the ends together securely so there is no slack in the middle of the frame. Make sure you make a strong knot.
  11. Drape the cord or wire over the hook.
  12. Slide the cord or wire back and forth over the hook until the picture hangs straight.

Rails, perlon cord and steel cable can be cut to size and multiple STAS Smartspring hooks or STAS Zipper hooks can be used on a single cord or cable. Just be certain the maximum allowed weight is not exceeded. A template is included with the rail to assist you in drilling at the proper height according to the rail type. The template is also available on the Shades website under Documentation/Mounting instructions/Drilling Template.

There is no need to rely on your limited knowledge of how to hang heavy frames or rely on the limited knowledge of a salesperson in a chain store or small, local hardware store. Shades Picture Hanging Systems are the foolproof way to ensure that possible problems that can result from hanging heavy pictures will never occur.

Juan Gil

The author Juan Gil

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