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Lovegasoline 11-22-2009 05:01 PM

Solidly Securing Picture Rail Molding?
I have an old plaster and wood lathe apartment with picture rail molding (the molding about a foot from the ceiling used to hang pictures from). A recent construction project removed about 8 feet of a 13 foot wall and that section of wall was rebuilt with metal studs and sheetrock. The contractor sucked and was poorly skilled (I’m a long term tenant and wasn’t the one paying him)…he put a replacement picture rail molding back up, in two pieces: one 8' piece on the sheetrock section of new wall and a smaller 5' section on the older plaster/lathe wall…with just a poorly matched butt joint where the two pieces meet. Both look to be installed with finish nails and both flex away from the wall when any pressure is applied at the top of the molding.

I need this molding to be secure, to function as it was intended, and to hang fairly heavy objects from (example: 7’ paintings, mirror). The other picture rail molding in the apartment is all nailed to the wall but it is rock solid. It's probably nailed to solid wood studs.

I really need to wrap up all work to this room as it it now primed and I am top coating it very shortly. I cannot and will not remove these walls and rebuild anything.

I’m looking for advice on fastener systems and methods.
I have a pneumatic finish nail gun and I’m thinking I can shoot some nails into the molding on the plaster/wood lathe section and hope to hit some studs?
What about the molding on the sheetrock/metal stud side?

RickyBobby 11-23-2009 08:16 AM

Sounds like the contractor nailed into the drywall and plaster instead of locating the wall studs as you mentioned.

Is the molding painted or stained? In either case, I would locate the studs and put screws into the molding making sure to to counter sink the holes first in order to fill in later with either caulk if painted or wood putty if it is stained (make sure the wood putty matches the stain.) 16 or 18g finish nails I do not feel would be adequate to hold large items such as a mirror like you want to do.

Use a stud finder if you have one and use screws on every stud although you may be able to get away with going every other. Going every stud may be overkill but if you are going to have heavy objects I would do it to be safe. Again, counter sink the holes, screw it in place, and fill the holes.

tpolk 11-23-2009 09:05 AM

metal studs can be great if you plan on needed blocking. You can fasten the molding with fine thread trim screws ( I would recomend a square drive and dont over torque) to the metal studs using an adhesive type caulk behind to help with shear

Lovegasoline 11-23-2009 01:55 PM

The molding is raw wood and it will be primed and painted with BM waterbase Impervo paint.

Iíve never worked with metal studs previously and Iím not clear what sort of screws to use with them. What are fine thread trim screwsÖ.are these self-drilling? In general, when working with metal studs does one drill a pilot hole?
Are wood screws not advisable for metal studs?

Iím curious why caulk is recommended over wood putty if using paint? Isnít caulk impossible to sand and more difficult to paint the wood putty?

The real headache will be locating the wood studs behind the plaster without making a mess of the wall.

RickyBobby 11-23-2009 02:18 PM

Any time you are drilling into trim pieces it would be wise to predrill first. Drill your pilot hole a little smaller than your screw. The fine thread trim screws enter easier and have a much smaller head on them which results in a smaller hole that needs to be filled before painting. Probably the best option.

As for metal studs, no they do not need to be predrilled. Any drywall screw/trim screw will penetrate and fasten.

As for filling the holes, you are correct, wood putty/light weight spackle are best since they will sand easily. Caulk will work but I have noticed that it will shrink more which could make it noticeable.

As for finding the studs in your plaster/lathe walls, there are 2 ways:

1) Hardware stores will have a very crude stud finder which basically consists of a compass needle in a clear plastic body. When the needle moves, you have found what is most likely the nail that is holding the lathe to the stud. (My dad gave me one a long time ago and it serves the purpose just fine) or....

2) Directly above your picture rail, you can use a long, thin finish nail and nail into the plaster. It will be rough going for the first 3/4" of wall (1/2" of plaster and 1/4" of lathe) If after you have gone this depth it is still difficult to drive the nail, you have probably hit a stud. If you go in that far and it drives easily, you have probably missed. Move about an inch in either direction and try again until you find one. Once you find a stud you can measure each direction approximately 16" and try again. The trick is to find the first stud and go from there. This can also be done with a drill bit instead of the nail.

This is done directly above the rail since it is out of sight. You can fill the holes with light weight spackle or caulk and you will never see it.

The best option would be to remove the rail and search for the studs where the rail will be placed....thus hiding any searching you have done.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck.

Lovegasoline 11-23-2009 03:50 PM

Yes, it does help...good ideas.

tpolk 11-24-2009 04:30 AM

please use fine thread screws, coarse will not hold in metal

Lovegasoline 11-24-2009 02:44 PM

Fine thread?

I'm familiar with wood screws and their various sizes but my only knowledge of drywall screws are the ones in a standard thread form and thickness.

So, what am I to buy? A 'drywall specific' trim screw, with a narrow head (preferably square drive), and finer thread form than the standard drywall screw?

Is there a link to such a product?

RickyBobby 11-24-2009 03:04 PM

Any hardware store should have them. Just ask for fine thread, square drive trim screws...whoever is working should know what you are talking about. I usually buy mine at Home Depot. (Grip Rite brand) Just grab the smallest box. Make sure you have a square drive bit. The square drive allows for a slightly smaller head than would be on a phillips head which results in less filler. 2.5" should work fine. I am guessing that the picture rail is approximately 3/4" thick? In that case the 2.5" will be plenty.

tpolk 11-24-2009 04:03 PM

coarse thread screws are usually for fastening to wood whereas finethread can be used for either they are a must for metal studs. they make a philips head trim screw but I find the square head does not strip as easily. as ricky says make sure you purchase a bit/driver if one is not in the box. If the metal studs are ligt gauge you should not need a pilot into the stud but as he said a predrilled hole thru the wood is helpful. I would recommend your screws be no longer tha the thickness of your rail plus the 1/2' drywall plus an inch. This will keep you inside the stud enough to not worry about nicking wires

Lovegasoline 11-24-2009 06:19 PM

Thanks for the clarification.

I've been a convert to square drive for at least 15 years (I buy from McSweeney's online) but my familiarity with drywall screws stops at the ubiquitous phillips head.

I'll head to Home Depot and see what they have. I got an old stud finder a friend gave me years back which I never used (worthless on plaster/lathe which is what I live with here) and I just marked out the studs on the new drywall, piece of cake. These are on 12" centers, I recall the contractor mentioning that.

RB, I'll see if I can find the compass stud finder: if it works, it would come in real handy here as finding studs in plaster can be a bit of a chore.

panyon 11-24-2009 06:22 PM

I got an old stud finder a friend gave me years back which I never used (worthless on plaster/lathe which is what I live with here)
Devis comparatif mutuelle sante | Comparateur mutuelles sante | Comparer comparatif mutuel

Lovegasoline 11-24-2009 09:56 PM


The trim screws worked well and the molding appears secure (studs on 12" centers allowed for more fastening points). This molding was affixed with short finish nails and some adhesive which had already broke it's bond. Despite having vacuumed the top of the molding off, the first couple screws pulled the molding from the wall a bit and it started venting all sorts of plaster dust and chunks from the bottom. I didn't want to remove it entirely, scrape all adhesive from wall and molding, then redo it with fresh adhesive (too-much-work) I applied force to make sure the screws dug into the studs and didn't lift the molding allowing venting of debris, which could have wedged itself behind the molding preventing it from sitting flush on the wall.

What a fiasco though...going behind and redoing work done by chumps is a frustrating thankless job! The chumps that put it in treated it as pure decoration (if they even gave it any thought at all)... they are clueless that in the era preceding drywall the picture rail was an integral part of the picture/wall hanging system. Plaster tends to dinner plate out and crack when you nail or screw into it so homes had the molding (along with 'S' shaped hangers + wire) in order to hang stuff on the wall.

Anyway, it's bomber now and ready to hold serious weight like the rest of the molding here. Big thanks to everyone for the guidance.

This room is almost done except for painting. I have one major hurdle to yet surmount and that is the fitting of an old pair of French doors which are about 1/2" too narrow at the bottom where they meet. I'll put some pics up with the problem in the construction section in the next couple days.

Lovegasoline 11-25-2009 02:13 PM

I spoke too fast, thereís one section that needs remedying
Where the two sections of molding are butt jointed thereís of coarse a very small gap or seam where they meet. The molding on the sheetrock side doesnít have a stud at that end so the nearest screw is about 8-10 inches away from the end of the molding. I went to put wood putty in the seam and noticed the molding there flexed. I need to secure that end firmly to the wall, but unfortunately hereís no stud there (the guy that cut it and palced it obviously didnít consider this).
How best to secure that end (of coarse without removing everything

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