Challenge: I want to install a French Cleat wall but can't drill into the wall behind to hold it in place.
My house was built in 1937. The basement is lined with hollow structural clay blocks (not concrete or cinder blocks). It's divided into several rooms. One existing rectangular room has exterior walls south and east, interior walls north and west. All clay block. I'd like to put up French Cleats on one or both interior walls.
However, it's neither practical nor desirable to drill into structural clay blocks. They're extremely hard but brittle, and are prone to cracking if you try to drill them. Also, the point of the hollow blocks is to contain water within, so you don't want holes in them. There are some holes in the wall around the basement where it looks like someone tried to attach something to the wall, without success, and I've had workmen tell me those holes need to be filled.
The floor joists are exposed above.
This basement isn't suitable for studs and drywall, for several reasons. Not least is that at certain times of year and under certain weather conditions, the walls get damp and some water gets in, so the humidity goes way, way up. Whatever I put up has to be open enough so we can clean the walls in case we get mildew or mold. (We have run a dehumidifier continuously since we moved in and that mostly keeps the humidity around 30%.) Also, it's only 6'-11" from floor to joists so it can't be made into legal living space, and it's not worth the cost to try to fully finish it.
Also, note that the clay block is painted, which complicates the use of adhesive on it. I don't want to strip it. Too much work and it may have lead paint.
So I want to make a French Cleat wall that only relies on the joists above, otherwise supports its own weight. Thinking about the following idea, though this isn't the order of steps for building the thing.
1) Attach 2x4 cleat to each joist overhead,
2) Secure 1x4 or 1x6 to each cleat (could use 5/4 stock but not 2x)
3) Run 1x vertically, from the cleat to the floor, with the lumber flat against the wall.
3a) Optional: Run 2x2 or 2x4 footer across the bottom. I'd probably have to chisel out notches for the verticals.
3b) Optional: Secure the 1x verticals to the tile wall with epoxy adhesive.
4) Attach horizontal French Cleat rails to the 1x. This leaves a 3/4" gap behind the French Cleats, so I'd have to build anything I hang on them with 3/4" spacers along the back bottom, so they don't tip forward. No problem.
Does this system sound like it'll work? I'd like it to bear tool holders and/or cabinets. Not as strong as attaching to studs, but there are no studs.
I can think of alternatives but they all rely on the cleats and 1x verticals to support the weight of the system.
If I can get this to work there are several walls in the basement where I'd want to do this, all interior walls so they don't get as damp or fill up with water.