How to Hang Curtains on Plaster Walls
I hate hanging curtain rods. I think this comes from when I was living in this super old house in San Jose. One day, I was just minding my own business in my bedroom, when the curtain rod next to my bed suddenly crashed to the floor. All that remained on the wall were two gaping holes in the plaster where screws apparently used to be.
After a significant amount of googling, multiple phone calls to my father, and $20 in different sized molly bolts purchased at Home Depot, I managed to rehang the curtain rod. It was a giant hassle, and not a terribly pleasant introduction to hanging things on plaster walls.
So when I was faced with an entire room of windows to curtain in my future office, all I could feel was dread. Three different curtain rods, each with three brackets, into plaster walls. I wanted to cry. But since there was no curtain fairy around my house to hang curtain rods for me, I eventually found my fake positive attitude and did it myself.
It went super smoothly, and mid-way through I realized it’s actually easier to hang curtain rods on plaster walls than drywall. So I decided to write this nice post about my super successful curtain rod hanging method, and why hanging curtain rods on plaster walls is actually awesome!
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Plaster Vs. Drywall: A Short Note
The curtain+curtain rod combo is heavy enough that in an ideal situations, your brackets would go into wood. In the typical, recently-built house, this means getting your screws through the drywall and into a stud. However, studs are only found every 16-24 inches, so it’s unlikely there would be one everywhere you want to put a bracket. To make up for this, we put molly bolts into the wall to support the screw in lieu of a stud. In a house with drywall, you’re going to need molly bolts for most of your brackets. These typically come with the curtain rod, for the record.
However, in older houses with plaster walls, the plaster is supported by lath, strips of wood that look like this:
While I wouldn’t trust this wood to support super heavy things (like a TV), it’s more than enough for some curtains. Meaning: if you drill your holes and hit lath, you don’t need a molly bolt! You put your screw straight into the lath and trust it to hold up your curtain rods.
Now, you won’t always hit lath, so you’ll still need to use a couple molly bolt for the occasional screw. But that is much preferable than for every single screw/bracket.
The Easy Way to Hang Curtains on Plaster Walls
Note: I was using these curtain rods that I purchased off Amazon. I had a lot of big windows to cover, so a four pack of 120" long curtain rods was perfect for me (and the best value I could find!) They were super sturdy (and yes, I dropped them multiple times), and only required three brackets (not four,) which I think makes it easier to move the curtains. If you have a bunch of windows to cover, I'd at least take a look at them!
Step 1: Mark the Spot for the Bracket
I was hanging my curtains 100 inches above the ground. I marked where that was, then put my bracket up and marked where the holes should go.
If you're hanging your curtains high and wide like everyone says to do, make sure there is enough space for the finial (ball thing at end). Mine was dangerously close to hitting the wall.
Step 2: Drill Top Hole
I drilled the top hole first (check your instructions for the drill bit size, mine was 3/16”,) noting if I hit lath or not. I’ve found that plaster really dulls my drill bits, to the point where they struggle to go through wood after being used on plaster. As a result, it’s super obvious when I hit lath, because my drill bit resists moving further. If there’s not lath, my drill bit suddenly lurches into the wall when I finish drilling through the plaster.
Of the 18 holes I drilled to install my three curtain rods, I hit lath fifteen times, and was required to use a molly bolt on the other three holes.
I’ve written two different instructions based on if you encounter lath or not, read what you need!
If You Hit Lath:
Step 3: Add Screw
If you hit lath, you can add your screw directly into the wall. I didn’t screw the screw in all the way, so that I could take the hanger on and off to drill the second hole. Once the lower screw and bracket were in place, I tightened this top screw.
If You Don't Hit Lath:
Step 3: Insert a Molly Bolt Into the Hole
Molly bolts are typically provided with the curtain rod. They look like this:
Take one and insert it into the hole you’ve already drilled. You’ll need to gently hammer it into place. If, even after hammering, it doesn’t fit (aka, the bolt crushes instead of sliding into the hole) grab a drill bit slightly larger than the one you were using, and enlarge the hole. Be careful! The hole doesn’t need to be huge, just a little bit larger, so that a molly bolt will fit when you hammer.
Step 3.5: Add Screw
I don’t tighten the screw all the way yet, so that I can still add/remove the bracket to mark and drill the second hole.
Step 4: Dry Fit Bracket and Mark Second Hole Hole
I then placed my bracket on the first screw, and marked where my second hole should go. It typically was a little different from where I first marked in step 1, which was totally okay. It’s why I always did this step to double check before I drilled the second hole.
Step 5: Drill Second Hole and Add Screw
See steps 2 and 3 based on if you hit lath or plaster. Note that when you add the screw this time, you should be holding the bracket in place.
Step 6: Repeat for Other Brackets
I had three support brackets per rod.
Step 7: Add Finials to Curtain Rod
Most just screw in.
Step 8: Add Curtains and Place Rod on Brackets. Secure.
Tighten the screws on the brackets to secure the rod in place!
I’d been dreading hanging up these curtain rods for weeks, but it was done in less than two hours! Hanging (light) things on plaster walls is not nearly as difficult as I was imagining; the lath makes things so much easier! I’m almost looking forward to hanging the curtains the curtains in the living room (well, not dreading, at least.) If you haven’t already, check out my super cute curtain tiebacks! The hearts make them perfect for Valentine's Day, but if you have a a pink room like I do, they're great year round.