Q: My 46-year-old house has walls made of Sheetrock with a metal mesh and then a rough, thick coating like cement, and finally a thin white coating on top of that. What is the best way to hang pictures on these 1952 plaster walls? The family before me used nails that left chipped holes, and I can only find information on plaster and lath patching.

— Linda, Oxford, PA

A: Tom Silva replies: Old walls were plastered a number of different ways: over wood lath; over rock lath or huge 16x48 sheets of drywall; or over wire lath. (It's not unusual to find wire lath at the corners and rock lath beneath the walls in some old houses, but wire lath is used more commonly behind tile.) Back then, walls were finished with three coats of plaster — like the ones in your home — that dried like rock. Hooks with nails won't go in easily. You might consider using hooks that attach with adhesive. Otherwise, you could chip out a hole and nail into that space. But then you'll be spending a lot of time repairing the cracked plaster — scraping out the dust and pieces and patching it.
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