Hanging cabinets on plaster walls can prove to be difficult, depending on the makeup of the structure beneath the plaster. The plaster wall itself is not strong enough to support the weight of the cabinet, but installation into the wall studs should be sufficient for supporting the weight of the kitchen cabinets.
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Finding the studs though can be problematic with stud placement varying widely from home to home, depending on the age of the house or the manufacturing process. Once the studs are located, the process of hanging the cabinets is much like that used in hanging a cabinet on any other wall surface and should proceed smoothly. Hanging wall cabinets without studs is not recommended.
Finding Wall Studs
First, locate the wall studs in your kitchen wall. For newer homes, the studs should be a uniform distance apart. For older homes, they may vary. Studs can be located using a stud finder, which is a battery-operated tool that beeps and lights up whenever it detects something solid on the other side of the plaster.
If the plaster is placed on a metal lathe, the stud finder will not work correctly and you will have to locate the studs by knocking on the walls, listening for a solid sound and then sinking a probe -- consisting of a thin metal spike -- into the wall to see if you have located a wall stud. Mark the edges of the stud locations so that you know where to drill in the center.
Hanging Cabinets on Plaster Walls
Use a carpenter's level to mark the locations of the bottom of the cabinet on the wall. Snap a chalk line for accuracy and confirm that it's level.
Drill four holes in the rear of the cabinet with a 3/16-inch drill bit, spaced according to the measurement of the studs, two holes per stud. Place the cabinet against the wall using a cabinet jack to prop the cabinet into place. Put the cabinet jack beneath the cabinet, adjusting it so that it holds the cabinet level to the marked chalk line. If possible, get someone to help hold the cabinet in place as well.
Drill starter holes into the wall studs using the holes in the cabinet as a guide. Remove the cabinet from the wall and run the 2 ½-inch deck screws through the holes in the rear of the cabinet, using cabinet washers to keep the screws level.
Place the cabinet back on the wall using the cabinet jack to keep it level. Place wood shims between the rear of the cabinet and the wall to plumb and level the cabinet. Secure the cabinet in place using the wood screws. Remove the cabinet jack. The cabinet should remain secure against the plaster wall.
No Wall Studs? That's a Problem
Hanging kitchen cabinets on plasterboard walls without wall studs is not recommended. According to the Journal of Light Construction, alternative screws like drywall screws are not suitable for handling the weight of a cabinet. You may need to mount the cabinets from the ceiling studs instead.
Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.