How to Find a Stud in the Wall – 7 Simple Ways

How-To Guides

If you’re looking to hang something on the wall that holds a bit of weight and you don’t want it to potentially fall or ruin your wall, it is important to use a nail or screw that is attached to a stud. That said, finding a stud can sometimes prove difficult. So, how do you find a stud in a wall?

Let’s find out.

How to find a stud in a wall

How Far Apart are Studs?

Most modern-day homes are framed with studs that make up windows, doors, walls and ceilings.

These studs (2-by-4’s also they are also known) are like the skeleton of a home and play an important part in holding the structure of the house firmly in place.

Drywall is then attached to the studs in order to create walls inside of the home and fashion room divisions.

Most commonly, studs are placed 16 inches apart from each other, with only some exceptions in older homes, in which the studs can be placed 24 inches apart.

So, if you happen to find a stud and measure from the very center, you can then know that 16 inches (24 inches in older homes) to either side, you will be able to find another stud. This can then allow you to plan and firmly hang heavy objects.

Or hang objects that extend multiple feet like shelves, TV’s and cabinets, by securing them to the screw or nail that is attached to a stud.

Because the wall doesn’t allow you to see where the studs are located, finding a stud can be tricky.

Although not the only way, the easiest and most efficient way to find a stud in the wall is by using a stud finder.

So, if you happen to find a stud and measure from the very center, you can then know that 16 inches (24 inches in older homes) to either side, you will be able to find another stud. This can then allow you to plan and firmly hang heavy objects.

Or hang objects that extend multiple feet like shelves, TV’s and cabinets, by securing them to the screw or nail that is attached to a stud.

Because the wall doesn’t allow you to see where the studs are located, finding a stud can be tricky.

Although not the only way, the easiest and most efficient way to find a stud in the wall is by using a stud finder.

How to Use a Stud Finder

A stud finder, as its name implies, is a handheld tool that when placed on the wall, can find wooden studs. Depending on the model, it can also show you on an LCD screen where the center of the stud is located.

Some models can even detect other materials hidden on the wall like metal studs, wiring and piping.

By finding the center of a stud and placing the nail or screw directly in the center, you can hang objects more precisely and with a better hold, without the potential of damaging the dry wall.

We recommend the highly rated Tavool 4-in-1 Stud Finder because with over 8,000 reviews and 4.5 stars out of 5, this stud finder can detect wooden studs, beams, joints, metals, AC wires and deeply embedded objects behind the floor, ceiling or wall.

Here is how to use it:

1. Ensure the stud finder is calibrated before every scan.

To calibrate, after choosing the mode, press and hold the scan button. Wait for the beep to confirm that the tool is now calibrated.

2. While holding the scan button down, move the stud finder along the wall slowly without shaking it or making sudden movements.

Sudden movements can cause the tool to become uncalibrated and not as accurate in finding the center of the stud.

3. When the signal bars are full and the beep goes off at its loudest, you have found the center of the object.

4. Mark the wall at the stud’s center point by using a pencil or a piece of painter’s tape.

How to Find a Stud Without a Stud Finder

Finding a stud without a stud finder can sometimes prove to be a difficult task.

Specially if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Not to worry! There are several ways you can learn to find a stud in the wall without a stud finder.

Check these out:

Find an Electrical Outlet

Only with a few rare exceptions, electrical outlet boxes are attached to a stud on either side of the outlet.

This gives the outlet box support and makes the box sturdy.

The trick is finding out if the stud is on the right or left side of the outlet box.

Here is how to find it.

1. Although this can be done without turning off the power to the outlet, in order to avoid possible electrocution, it is best to turn off the breaker switch that delivers power to the specific outlet you are looking at.

2. Once the power is cut off, using a flathead screw driver, remove the outlet’s cover.

3. With the cover removed, first look to see if you are able to see the stud by just looking.

4. If the box is flush against the drywall most likely will not allow you to find it by just looking. If that is the case, you can use the “tap and listen” method (keep reading below to learn how) on either side of the outlet. Listening for a more solid sound vs. a hollow sound. A solid or more deep sound means that you have located a stud.

5. If you are still unsure of the location of the stud, you can insert a small finish nail into the wall on either side. Feeling for resistance when the nail hits the stud.

6. Once the stud is found, measure ¾ of an inch in order to find the center of the stud and mark the location with a pencil or painter’s tape.

7. From there you can measure 16 or 24 inches to either side (depending on your home’s specs) and find the remaining studs on the wall.

Use the Window Frame

Windows have to be framed out of wooden studs in order to be sturdy and hold the window panes in place.

So, if you are trying to locate a stud near a window, you can use that to your advantage.

The studs are located on each side, top and bottom. However, finding the center of the stud can prove difficult since they may not be exactly flush to the edge, depending on the accuracy of the build.

1. To find the stud measure 3/4 of an inch from the edge of the window. This will give you an approximate center.

2. From there you can measure out using the 16 or 24 inch rule and find the additional studs on the wall.

Use a Magnet to Find a Stud

Drywall makes up the majority of the walls in your home and it is attached to the studs or the frame of the home by using screws.

This can then allow you to use a strong enough magnet to find those screws behind the wall, thus finding a stud.

Here is how to use this simple hack.

1. With a strong enough magnet, run it across the wall. Feeling for any pull towards the wall. Do this until you feel it attach to the wall.

2. Once the magnet is attached to the wall, you have found a screw, and you can be certain that you have found a stud.

3. Mark the spot and measure out accordingly to find the additional studs on the wall.

Use a Smart Phone App

Something that not a lot of people think about and although not a 100% accurate, there are a few smart phone apps that can help detect screws to which the drywall is attached to.

Similar to the above technique of using a magnet, smart phones have internal magnets that can be used by the application to alert you when it has encountered a metal.

Search for a “stud finder” app and give a it a try. Also, leave us a comment and let us know which app you tried and if it was successful in finding a stud for you.

Tap and Listen – The Knock Test

Since wooden studs are quite sturdy and flush behind the wall, when the wall is “knocked on,” at a place where there is a stud, the sound will be different. It will be more of a “solid sound” versus a “hollow sound” where otherwise there isn’t stud.

To try this method, you can use your knuckles or a tool, like a hammer.

But when using a hammer, it is recommended to wrap the head with a rag or small towel, in order to prevent damage to the wall.

Small Nail and Hammer

We’ve saved this technique for last, because at the end of the day you don’t want to have a bunch of small holes in your wall.

Specially if all you’re doing is hanging a picture frame.

However, this last-ditch effort is very successful in finding wooden studs.

You can apply any of the above techniques first in order to give you a more accurate start before making a hole in your wall.

Here is how:

1. Using a small finish nail, hammer it at a place where you suspect there is a stud.

Once the nail is past the drywall you will either feel no resistance at all, to the point that you can drive the nail all the way in with just your fingers. This means no stud.

Or you will feel a lot of resistance. To the point that it would be impossible for you to drive the nail any further. This means that you have found a stud.

2. Continue to drive the nail into the wall leaving about an inch separation between attempts until you are able to find a stud.

3. Once you have found the stud, mark the spot and measure out accordingly at the desired hanging spot.

We hope these tips helped you learn how to find a stud in the wall. We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments.

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