Proper Mounting Techniques
February 6, 2013 2:37 PM   Subscribe

After years of renting, I can finally (finally!) mount my TV and speakers to the walls. Help me not screw this up. There is plaster and lath involved.

Some time over the next couple months I would like to finally get the TV and speakers in their rightful places on the walls of our living room. I don't really know what I'm doing, and I want to make sure I don't mess this up. There's a fairly obvious place for the television (a previous owner remodeled and put about a billion outlets on one wall), but other than that I need some advice.

1) We have a 32" TV, and looking online that size seems to be right at the crossover point between "small" and "large" mount sizes. I'm assuming I should get a "large" mount so I can upgrade in the future - is there any reason I should get the smaller one?

2) I have dutifully kept all the mounting hardware for the speakers (5.1 system) since I bought them years ago. Do I need to do anything special since I'm drilling into plaster and lath instead of drywall? I believe the front speaker mounts just have standard drywall screws, but the rears require drilling a larger hole and using butterfly bolts.

3) Where do the speakers go? How do I place them if I want to provide space for a larger TV in the future?

4) What's the best way to run all the wiring through the walls? Do I want to install wall plates for the speaker cable? What about all the other stuff?

Anything else I'm not thinking of? I'd like to accomplish this without a lot of extra, unnecessary holes in the walls. Thanks!
posted by backseatpilot to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
re:wiring, I recently asked this question and got some helpful answers.
posted by jon1270 at 2:41 PM on February 6, 2013

If you mount them next to the wall corners, you can run the speaker wire down the corner, tape over the wire with masking tape, and paint it.
You'll never notice, provided you can match the paint.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:21 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My home is plaster and lath. Here's what I've learned: For hanging heavy stuff, you ideally want to drill into the studs. For most things though, you can just screw into the lath. I've hung medicine cabinets and guitar holders like this and they are solid. I probably would not be comfortable hanging more than 40-50lbs in this way though.

Do not attempt to use drywall anchors or butterfly bolts or whatever. They don't work with plaster and you will end up with a gaping hole. Incidentally, if you need any tips about patching plaster, I have recently gained some experience in that subject...
posted by gnutron at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Don't buy such a big mount that you can see the widest parts of the mount sticking out from behind the television. The smaller mount will be cheaper and less likely to stick out. If you don't plan on buying a larger TV in the next five years, get the smaller one.

One thing you might not be thinking of: do you really want your TV on the wall? Here are a couple of reasons why you might not want to do it...

1. The most comfortable viewing position is achieved when the top of the television screen (or in a pinch the top third) is at your eye level. Wall mounting is generally much higher than this, and it would be a shame to find that you're stuck with an exhausting and uncomfortable viewing angle.

2. When flat televisions were brand new, it was exciting and cool to mount your television on the wall, but nowadays it kind of screams "look at me I am a flat screen television" and becomes a significant focal point.

I'd recommend doing a trial run by going to a friend's house to watch a movie, where the television is mounted roughly at the height you'll be going for. See how you feel about the viewing angle, and about their interior decorating choices in general, and let that inform your decision to move forward.
posted by davejay at 3:27 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do not attempt to use drywall anchors or butterfly bolts or whatever. They don't work with plaster and you will end up with a gaping hole.

Butterfly bolts should do fine with plaster or drywall. But I've never found an anchor that was worth a damn.

If a stud can't be found, the only way to be reasonably sure it will stay up is to get one with a lot of mounting holes and use them all. Two screws into two studs will hold up almost anything. But 12 of the right screws into drywall should be pretty darn secure too. You might have to make a bracket kind of thing, like a piece of 1/2 inch plywood screwed securely into the drywall, and then screw the mount into it.

Or, you'll have to make a hole and put a cross brace between the two studs where you need to locate the mount. But I suspect that good mounts come with adjustable things so that you can locate it by two studs and then adjust the TV mount to center where you want it.
posted by gjc at 5:05 PM on February 6, 2013

Most TV mounts are wide enough that you should be able to find two studs where you want to hang it. I bought this mount, which includes extensions for larger tvs that you can bolt on if you get a larger tv later, as well as a studfinder. I actually just mounted it on the back of an ikea entertainment center, rather than my wall, though.
posted by empath at 7:12 PM on February 6, 2013

What's the best way to run all the wiring through the walls?

Hire someone to run conduit to every room of the house, so you don't need to figure out how to run wires every time some new technology comes out.
posted by empath at 7:15 PM on February 6, 2013

FWIW, my speakers (which are really very lightweight) are attached to plaster walls with boring everyday plastic expansion anchors, and I had pretty much no crumbling/chipping problems when installing the anchors. If you've got seriously heavy speakers I wouldn't recommend them, but for anything less than, say, 2 pounds, you'd probably be fine.
posted by jackbishop at 6:01 AM on February 7, 2013

I'm assuming you're talking about wood lath, not metal? Wood lath can sometimes confound stud finders, so make sure you try from multiple directions to find both sides of it, and "zero" it to somewhere you're pretty sure has no stud behind it. Do you have insulation in your walls? It's harder, but you can probably find the cavities by knocking.

Also keep in mind that in a house built with wood lath, you're also probably looking at "true" dimensional lumber, i.e. a 2x4 that is actually two inches by four inches. It'll be nice and solid to drill into.

With lath and plaster, just make sure to predrill your holes, and be careful of putting too much pressure on the drillbit tip and cracking the plaster. Sometimes I use a punch or even just a normal (small) screwdriver to start the hole through the topcoat.

If you end up cutting actual holes in the wall (as opposed to drilling and then sinking a wood screw), score the top coat first with a knife so you have a nice edge around your hole, then tap with a hammer to break up the plaster, then use a small saw on the wood lath. They have work boxes that grab onto the plaster wall with a screw-down flap instead of nailing to a stud.

If you're pushing wire through walls, you will probably want a fish tape.

Feel free to MeMail me with more questions!
posted by bookdragoness at 7:08 AM on February 7, 2013

Did you buy a mount yet? 'Cuz you can get a great deal on Monoprice - and mine works great!

(Apologies if this is not appropriate commenting - I'm frugal though!)
posted by tkerugger at 3:20 PM on February 7, 2013

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