Disappearing Stud??

Old 10-09-12, 08:44 AM
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Disappearing Stud??

My boyfriend and I are trying to install shelving in our home office to house his massive CD collection, and have hit a bit of a snag.

The walls are plaster and lathe, and are in good condition. Our plan was to use three brackets on the longer wall to support 6 ~5' shelves. Two of the brackets will be screwed into the studs and the middle bracket will be supported by toggle bolts. I used a stud finder to locate the studs through the lathe, which actually worked great, and drilled pilot holes, where I definitely hit the studs. For the middle holes, I followed the instructions on the toggle package and drilled a 5/8" hole through the plaster and lathe. Everything is straight and flush and I had zero issues. Shelves are ready to be installed!

On the shorter wall, however, things did not go quite as planned. Because the shelves on this wall were to be shorter, we decided to use only two brackets per shelf and screw these directly into the studs. Using the stud finder on this wall was, unfortunately, more difficult. I found one stud without an issue, drilled the pilot holes, and hit stud for every one. For the second stud, I found it for the location of two shelves (at eye-level), but the stud seemed to disappear as I got closer to the floor and to the ceiling. I blamed the stud finder, estimated where I thought the stud would be, and started to drill holes. For the eye-level shelves, I hit stud. However, as I approached the floor and ceiling, the stud seemed to... disappear. Instead of hitting the stud, the drill went directly through the wall and it appears there is nothing behind it. At closer inspection, the area around those holes appears to be "squishy", like the plaster isn't affixed to anything, and the painting pattern on the wall looks like something was patched before painting. This section is pretty large, and as I mentioned before, it's both near the ceiling and close to the ground. The patch near the ground is probably 10" tall by 10" wide.

We bought the house two months ago, so are unfamiliar with a lot of its quirks. Neither of us have lived in a house with plaster walls, or in a house so old (it was built in 1905) so we're unsure what to do in this situation. Is it normal for a stud to "disappear" down a wall?;

We're assuming that the shelves aren't safe to mount on this wall, but could use some advice.

Thanks in advance!
Old 10-09-12, 08:52 AM
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Ahhhh...the old disappearing stud trick. By your description it sounds like maybe there was a window there at one time and was closed over. Using your beam scanner you may be able to detect the beams running horizontally that were the top and bottom of the window.

On edit: using toggles in plaster and wood lathe is pretty strong.

Last edited by PJmax; 10-09-12 at 09:38 AM.
Old 10-09-12, 10:58 AM
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A lot of things could have been done over the last 100 years. Plaster over wood lath is pretty strong as PJmax says. Only one thing: orient the toggle wings up and down that way you might get the strength of two lath. And if the hole happens to hit the space between the lath the only way it will hold is if the wings of the toggle run up and down.

Yes, it is lath and the plural is either laths or lath.
One who installs lath is a lather and the "th" is pronounced as the "th" in "thin" That word is not the same as the word used for the foam or froth worked up by a sweaty horse or suds from soap or detergent in which the "th" is pronounced as the "th" in "this".

More than you wanted to know but sometimes the information in my brain shoots out of the fingertips and there is no stopping it.
Old 10-09-12, 01:15 PM
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sometimes the information in my brain shoots out of the fingertips and there is no stopping it.
Thanks for the chuckle of the day after working all day on my son's car, I needed that
.... but I don't think that analogy works with the hillbilly dialect

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