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Can You Put Nails In Plaster Walls? [And How To]

It can be scary to drive nails into plaster walls. Make a wrong move, and the nail can introduce cracks and other issues into the material. So is it possible to put nails in plaster walls? If so, how can you do it? We researched the answers to these questions for you and here’s what we found.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

The proper handling of a hammer is critical in driving a nail into a plaster wall. So the ideal method of putting nails into plaster walls use the following steps:

  1. Hold the nail into the preferred location while ensuring its orientation is perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Gently tap the nail into the plaster wall with the hammer.
  3. Use the pliers to secure the position of the nail while slightly increasing the driving or pounding force of the hammer.

You also have the option of using other fasteners other than nails to secure items in plaster walls. Keep reading as we talk about these other choices in greater detail. We'll also discuss more the steps to drive a nail in a plaster wall to help you reduce mistakes.

Nail in the wall, Can You Put Nails In Plaster Walls? [And How To]

Can I Hammer A Nail Into Plaster?

It’s okay to hammer nails into plaster surfaces provided that the technique used is proper. Improper handling of a hammer or nail gun when driving a nail into plaster can result in cracks, crumbles, and paint chips among other issues.

Man hitting nail on cement wall, red hammer for craft work

Another potential issue of improper handling of nails in plaster is when the surface sags. This problem occurs during the nail’s removal. If left unsealed, the gap can increase in size, causing the plaster to fall.

How Much Can A Nail In Plaster Hold?

A typical nail embedded into a plaster wall can generally hold up to 20 pounds. Some items that are within that weight limit include hangers, pictures, and other fairly lightweight interior décor. Take note that the amount of weight that a nail in a plaster surface can carry also depends on the stud’s strength.

What Nails Do You Use For Plaster?

Galvanized nails are ideal to use on plaster surfaces. The nails should also be 30 millimeters long if the plasterboard is 9.5 millimeters thick. Otherwise, 12.5-millimeter thick plasterboards should use 40-millimeter long nails. Read our post on what are the best nails for plaster walls to gain additional insight on this subject matter.

How Do You Nail Into Plaster?

Wall-painted wall with one nail

Before starting any project that involves hammering nails into plaster, ensure that each piece of equipment you're about to use is still in good condition. For instance, avoid using a hammer if the wooden handle seems like it's about to fall off after a few swings.

Also, don’t forget to wear protective clothing like safety glasses or goggles to shield your eyes from debris that might become airborne. After taking the necessary precautions, proceed with your DIY project by following this guide:

What You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Pencil

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Use the pencil to mark the spot on the wall where you want to hit the nail.
  2. Hold the nail on the marked area. Ensure that the orientation of the nail is roughly perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Gently tap the nail into the plaster wall until it can hold its weight without the risk of it falling to the ground.
  4. Hold the nail in place with the pair of pliers. Then, increase the force of the hammer as you drive the nail further into the plaster wall.

Take note that you shouldn’t drive the nail into the plaster wall at an angle. Otherwise, the surface will have trouble holding onto the nail. Also, the paint surrounding the nail will chip, which may add extra steps to the project to cover the imperfection.

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You can also watch the video below to see a visual representation of the steps mentioned above:

Remember that you can repaint your plaster wall if you accidentally chip the paint off of it. Read our post on the best paint for plastered walls to know which product to use.

How To Hang Heavy Things On Plaster Walls?

Replace the nails with Molly bolts if you want to hang heavy objects on plaster walls. Using these alternate options as fasteners often do better in holding things like full-length mirrors, which weigh about 10 pounds.

Also, you may not need to find a stud on the wall if you’re going to use a Molly bolt. But take the time in assessing and re-analyzing your project’s demands to prevent mishaps.

Here are the steps on how to hang a full-length mirror on a plaster wall to let you see the process of driving Molly bolts into plaster properly:

What You’ll Need

  • Painter’s tape
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Molly bolts
  • Tape measure
  • Power drill and drill bit

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Place the level on a fairly high surface on the plaster wall.
  2. Make a line with the pencil on top of the level plane.
  3. Apply painter’s tape on the marked area for it to serve as a guide.
  4. Measure the distance between the two bracket holes on the mirror.
  5. Mark the acquired measurement on the painter’s tape. These locations will tell you where to drive the Molly bolts.
  6. Use the power drill with a bit that’s slightly smaller than the size of your Molly bolt to puncture a hole in the plaster wall.
  7. Place the Molly bolts into the holes while ensuring their orientations are perpendicular to the ground.
  8. Gently tap the Molly bolts with a hammer until they’re flush.
  9. Remove the painter’s tape from the plaster wall.
  10. Use a screwdriver to screw the Molly bolts into place. Then, turn the screws counter-clockwise a few times until they jut out slightly.
  11. Hang the mirror on the screws and check for security or weight issues.

Check out this set of Molly bolts on Amazon.

The video below will also show you the steps mentioned above. Watch it if you need a visual representation for this guide.

What Are The Best Anchors For Plaster Walls?

A macro shot of colorful wall anchors

Aside from the typical nail, DIY enthusiasts may also use other anchors to put in plaster walls. Some excellent examples are:

Expansion Anchors

Expansion anchors are often ideal for use in masonries, particularly in materials that provide sufficient holding power. Interested users can choose between the two types of expansion anchors: unexpanded and pre-expanded.

Unexpanded expansion anchors need users to set them first. On the other hand, pre-expanded anchors exert force into the hole, creating the necessary staying force to hold objects onto plaster walls.

Check out these expansion anchors on Amazon.

Plaster Anchors

Ribbed plastic anchor for drywall or plaster project

Different types of plaster anchors exist on the market. One example is a variant with a snap toggle design. This model requires drilling a reasonably large hole into the plaster wall. Then, you push it through the gap and push its security latch to fasten it into the surface.

Another option is the toggle bolt, which also typically requires a large hole in a plaster wall. Pushing this plaster anchor into the wall will spring its fasteners open, providing optimal holding power.

Check out this plaster anchor on Amazon.

You can also learn about other plaster anchor options by watching the video below:

How To Use A Nail Gun For Beginners?

Like any power tool, handling a nail gun should be done with proper care. Here are some safety tips to help beginners and experts in reducing the risks of accidents and injuries while working with nail guns:

Check the Manual

Nail gun injuries amount to about 37,000 per year and many of those incidents happen because of negligence. Read the owner’s guide first to become familiar with the tool.

Wear Safety Gear

Some nail guns may still cause nails to fly, which may land on your bare skin. Wear long-sleeved clothing and other protective equipment like safety gloves and goggles to reduce the risks of injuries. Also, wear noise-canceling headsets or earmuffs as nail guns can be quite loud while in operation.

Check out this hearing protector on Amazon.

Use Clamps

Woodworking clamps

Some nail gun users might use their hands to secure surfaces while using the tool to drive fixtures. Miscalculating the distance in which the nail drives into the surface can lead to injuries. Instead, use clamps to secure the materials instead of your hands.

Check out these woodworking clamps on Amazon.

Use a Firm Grip

Don’t loosen your grip when firing a nail with a nail gun. The recoil delivered by the gun may make you fumble over the tool, which may land on your foot or other parts of your body. 

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Final Words

Hammering a nail into a plaster wall needs the correct handling of the tool. Installers shouldn't place and drive the nail at an angle. Otherwise, the nail may have more difficulty than intended in carrying the weight of the hanging object.