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What is My Wall Made Of?

What is My Wall Made Of?

Many homeowners don’t give much thought to what their interior walls are made of until they need to open them for renovation purposes. However, knowing the structure of your walls and what’s behind them can even make tasks like hanging a picture or installing new closet shelves easier.

Layers From the Outside In

The outermost layer of a wall is the last coat of paint applied to it. Some walls may have wallpaper applied over this, in which case there will also be a layer of paste to adhere the paper to the wall’s surface. Under the paint is a layer of primer, which increases the durability of the paint and protects the surface of the wall.

Up until the 1950s, the interior walls of most homes were constructed with plaster walls. Some homes in the 1950s and 1960s were constructed with plasterboard, but afterward, home construction utilized drywall. Assuming that your home has drywall, the panels are attached to vertical interior wood frames that are essentially the bones of your house. Wall studs, which are the vertical supports in the frames, are generally placed 16 to 24 inches apart. Along the middle, bottom and the top are wooden planks to which the vertical supports are attached. Drywall panels are attached directly to these studs.

Inside the wall cavity are various systems that are the lifeblood of your home such as HVAC ducts, electrical wires, internet and television cables, plumbing and natural gas connections. Knowing where all of these systems are is essential to successfully opening a wall without destroying what is inside.

Locating Interior Systems

Locating Studs

To ensure fixtures and shelving is safely installed, you’ll need to drill into a stud. The easiest way to find stud is to buy a stud finder. These hand-held devices are inexpensive and are well worth the money if you frequently do your own remodeling work. These devices work by detecting changes in the density of your walls, allowing you to find the perfect place to hang pictures or install modular shelving.


To locate plumbing inside walls, buy or rent a combination detector that will flash when it locates piping. Practice finding plumbing on areas where you definitely know that pipes are present, such as behind bathroom walls.

Electrical Wires

Electrical wires are usually located along the studs, particularly toward the top of a wall. Use a stud finder to determine where your electrical wiring may be located. Combination detectors are also good for finding various types of wiring, which can be particularly useful for locating cable and internet wiring that was installed after the house was built.

Hidden Beams and Support Columns

Sometimes the best way to determine whether or not a wall is load-bearing is to consult building professionals and have them evaluate the structure before you attempt any renovation.

No matter the size of your project, the experts at your local Doug Ashy store are ready to help you complete your renovation. Come on in for your tools and materials and let us know if you have any questions.


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