Q: I just read your article about hanging pictures in plaster walls and it was helpful. I am really interested in hanging my hammock.

I am in an old Chicago walkup and cannot locate any studs in the walls. I almost feel as if it might be all plaster and lath on bricks. Anyway, I can’t determine the nature of the wall; when I drill there is about an inch of plaster, then maybe some lath (a part where it is difficult to get the masonry bit to dig through whatever is there — my guess is wood).

So, I want to put two giant hooks in the wall to hang the hammock. This has worked well using 4-by-4s in the past, but now I am not sure what to do. Any thoughts?

A: Your question paints quite the picture in our minds’ eye. Chicago in the winter. Wind howling off Lake Michigan. Snow blowing horizontally. And you, flaked out in your hammock, dressed in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, pina colada in hand and dreaming of wasting away in Margaritaville. Not a bad fantasy this time of year.

We think you’re right on with your guess that the plaster in your walkup is keyed into wood lath attached to brick. But the lath may not be the 3/8-inch by 1 1/2-inch sticks we’re used to. We’re thinking the lath on your walls is a lot beefier, measuring at least 3/4 inches thick and 6 inches wide. The plaster is keyed into grooves cut at 45-degree angles into the lath. We’ve seen this system used in both interior plaster and exterior stucco.

We don’t see any reason you can’t hang your hammock. You simply have to make sure you have stout hooks and a couple of lead wall anchors, which are especially made to work with brick.

This is a case where bigger is better. Get two of the fattest hooks you can find that have a pointed screw head on one end. To secure the hooks in the wall use lead anchors of the appropriate size for the hooks — the longer the anchors the better. You need to get 1 1/2 to 2 inches purchase into the brick. This means anchors 3 to 4 inches long when taking into account the plaster and lath.

Drilling the holes in the wall is a multistep process. Start with a masonry bit to get through the plaster. Switch to a twist bit to drill through the wood. Try to stop just short of the brick to avoid dulling the cutting surface of the twist bit. Finally, switch back to the masonry bit to drill out the brick. Vacuum the dust from the holes and insert the lead anchors. Screw in the hooks and place the hammock onto the hooks.

We suggest you don’t just jump right on unless you want to chance ending up on your keister. Pull on the hooks to test for strength and then gingerly hop on. If for some reason the single lead anchor won’t hold your weight, an alternative is to attach a couple of 4-by-4 posts to the walls using lead anchors and lag screws. Four lag screws should do it. Then hang the hammock from hooks screwed into the 4-by-4s.

Whichever way it works for you, we wish you sweet lazy dreams of summer.


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