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Install & Replace


Install Bathroom Cabinet....Drywall over Plaster

I am trying to install a cabinet on my bathroom wall.  I live in a very old house and the bathroom walls are drywall over top of plaster.  I can't seem to use my drywall anchors in the walls.  Any ideas on how I should anchor my screws to support the weight of my cabinet?

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Posted 2011-01-05T16:05:31+0000  by Peekay Peekay

Im a finish carpenter cabinet maker of many year, if you are installing an actual cabinet (upper) stop right there.


It is very important that your screw anchor into the studs of your wall, you can find the studs several ways, keep in mind you will make some nail holes in the wall, but you should be able to fill them and cover them with the cabinet,


1) measure from the corner of the wall to the point where you want the cabinet...mark it.

2) Note on your tape measure that at 16" and multiples of 16 your tape is specially marked for that multiple. Mark that multiple of 16 that will fall behind your cabinet.

3) Take a hammer, 2 1/2" or 3"  Nail or screw and nail it into the wall....stud should be there or within a half inch or may have to make 4 or 5 holes to find it.  


If its not there measure from the opposite corner and repeat above.....once youve found one stud the others will be 16" away either side......


so know youve found it....mark where you want the the edge of the cabinet......measure to the stud you found,  transfer that dimension onto the cabinet...always pre drill holes in the the cabinet where you want it and voila!

Best Answer

Posted 2011-01-05T16:34:39+0000  by mahargbk

Hello Peekay,

  Jeff here from The Home Depot out in Chicago. You have a few options when it comes to hanging cabinets on plaster walls same goes for whether or not they have been dry walled over.

First and best method would be to get yourself a stud finder designed for plaster walls, the lath and mesh behind plaster can often throw a normal stud finder off. Once you have the studs all mapped out and the cabinets are ready to be mounted and level. Line them up with your studs and hang them like you would any other cabinet straight into the studs, this will provide the best support.

Dependent upon the age of the house using wall anchors may not be the best idea. The lath behind your plaster walls must be a certain thickness before it can support the weight of cabinets and can run the risk of pulling out or loosening. If you positively cannot locate any studs in the area of your cabinet or there aren’t enough to fully support it, you can pre drill the wallboard/plaster past the lath and send a toggle bolt in(see pic below). Again this is not the best method but in certain circumstances it’s your only option.

If you have any other questions or are unsure of anything post it on up and well be more than happy to help you out.

Posted 2011-01-05T16:55:07+0000  by HDwetPaint

Our bathroom is very small, one of the main reasons for this cabinet, and so there are not a lot of options for where this cabinet needs to be hung.  In the section of wall where this cabinet is to be hung there are no studs.  I went over the section with my studfinder and could not find any.  I guess I'll try the toggle bolts.  Thanks for your help.


If anyone has any other ideas I'm all ears

Posted 2011-01-05T17:31:25+0000  by Peekay

Drove my first nail in 1976 I have never seen a good studfinder...I dont know of any carpenters who use them,,,,they just don't work.....Which is why I suggest measuring 16 inches from the adjoining walls. the way homes are built measuring from the right or left corner will almost always find the stud within an inch, and it depends on which end of the wall the framer started his layout.


No offense Home Depot...Studfinders don't work, In fact Id love to have stanley, Bosch show up on my jobsite.

Posted 2011-01-05T17:42:58+0000  by mahargbk

Hello Peekay, The Hammer from Home Depot here with my Point zero two( that's two cents, by the way) . Hold off on the toggle bolts... that's a big hole to drill and fill if it doesn't work.

Is this just a medicine cabinet? If it is then you could get by with a product by Hillman called Walldogs. They work in plaster, and say that they are good for 50 pounds. I've used them before with good success, but kept well below the maximum weight they say is possible. They might also work for a small cabinet, but if it's like a kitchen cabinet , Mahargbk has given you the best way to go.

If you use the Walldogs, read the directions, and add some more if you think it's necessary.

Ask anybody in hardware to show them to you.

Ray the Hammer

Posted 2011-01-05T17:56:35+0000  by TheHammer

The Hammer,


Thanks for your reply.  Yes it is just  small cabinet.  I checked out the Wall Dogs and they look like my best bet.  I'm on my way to home depot right now to purchase some.  Thanks for your help



Posted 2011-01-05T18:10:32+0000  by Peekay

One more thing, get the ones for "cabinets" they are longer and have a larger head.

The Hammer

Posted 2011-01-05T18:14:32+0000  by TheHammer

Ok, a few problems here.  I live in Canada and our HD's here don't carry the Wall Dogs so I went with what the associate suggested.  He said to basically just treat it like a plaster wall and suggested some metal hollow wall anchors.  I drilled the proper sized holes in the wall and the cabinet.  I put the anchors in and when i began to screw the screws in the anchors they just kept turning instead of catching in the cabinet.  The idea is to hammer the anchor into the cabinet and it will hold there while you screw, as I said they didn't catch and just kept turning which means they aren't doing anything.  I'm going to try and hold the outside washer with some pliers while I screw the screw with my screwdriver.  If this doesn't work I'm afraid I'm going to have to take the cabinet down and look for another alternative.  I hate plaster!!!

Posted 2011-01-05T23:30:52+0000  by Peekay

Hey Peekay,

I am Gregg and I was working with Jeff yesterday when he posted.  Is this what you used?



Normally you would take the screw out form the casing and install only the casing into the wall. Then you would install the screw through the cabinet and into the casing which is in wall. The little spikes on the casing up at the head of the screw are suppose to hold the casing in place so it doesn’t just spin with the screw. The way you did it was put the whole anchor through the cabinet and into the wall correct? It should still work this way. Did holding the outside with pliers work? Did you hang the cabinet? If this doesn’t work out I would still recommend toggle bolts. Let us know how it went. Thanks. Gregg

Posted 2011-01-06T15:12:35+0000  by gotogregg

While I fully agree with trying to mount to the studs if at all possible, in older homes they are not always 16" on center.  I have found a few walls in my house that they are more like 18"-24" (one wall had a 36" gap and no possible opening for a doorway).  I have an electronic stud finder that can penetrate lath & plaster walls, and have found it to be ~60% accurate.  It won't even work on the walls of my office, as this room was added on to the back, and the previous owners laid 1/4" plywood then 1/2" MDF over the 1/2" subsiding (yea, the wall is over 1" thick when counting tar paper).


My recommended method if you are mounting a cabinet is to carefully drill a 1/2 inch hole in the center of your work area.  don't plunge too deep, as you never know what may be behind the drywall/plaster.  Once you have a hole, you can use a stiff wire (coat hanger works great) to "feel" inside the wall to find the closest stud.  The hole is small and can be easily patched over and covered, but it is the most accurate method I have found in my house, and my neighbors (I helped her remodel her bathroom a few years ago).


The wall anchor pictured above should also work, but as mentioned, don't overload it.  I also recommend installing the wall anchor securely to the wall (screw it tight untill the screw is hand tight), then back the screw out and mount your cabinet.  A socket wrench with a screw adaptor or a 1/4" socket with a screw driver tip inserted will make this easier, especially if you need to hold the base of the anchor with pliers.

Posted 2011-01-06T18:52:15+0000  by GrueMaster
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