5 Easy Ways to Find a Stud When You Don’t Have a Stud Finder

5 Easy Ways to Find a Stud When You Don’t Have a Stud Finder

Do-it-yourselfers know how frustrating it can be to think you know where the stud is when hanging a picture, putting up shelves, or building cabinetry—only to find out you have to drill yet another hole in your wall because you missed the stud. But how do you find the studs when you don’t have a stud finder?

It would be great to always have a stud finder on hand, but for practical purposes, it’s not always possible.

Thankfully, there are some clever and easy ways to find studs for those times when you don’t have a stud finder but want an accurate way to locate studs. Mounting stuff up on your wall and any home decor projects will be fun when you got the studs figured out.

 

The 5 Easiest Ways to Find a Stud (In Your Wall)

 

1. Understand Wall Construction

Did you know that just by understanding how most walls are built you can locate studs accurately? First of all, the studs in most homes are placed 16” on center—that means from the middle of one stud to the next—so you can use a measuring tape to find studs if you know the placement of one.

Older homes and some custom-built homes have different measurements, but they’re normally either 12” or 24”. Sixteen inches between studs will be the most common finding in most homes.

Electrical outlets are placed on a stud. You can use this stud to nail into, or use it to measure 16” (or 12” or 24”) and find alternate studs to use.

Trim, like baseboards and crown molding, is usually nailed to studs. Again, once you’ve located the studs by finding the nails in the trim, you can measure over until you get to a stud located near where you need to work.

 

2. Use a Light

 

Shine a flashlight, work light, or even a lamp with the shade removed along with the length of your wall. You’ll see columns of slight waves or indentations in the wall which are caused by the drywall flexing in between the studs and where the drywall has was nailed to studs. Wherever you see a line of indentations, you’ll find a stud.

To test this, drive a thin nail into the area where you see your column. If the nail doesn’t hit wood, don’t panic. Remove the nail and take a wire or a deconstructed wire hanger, pass it into the hole, and wiggle it. If you’re a bit off, the slight bend in the wire will hit wood, helping you find the stud.

 

3. Magnet and Dental Floss

This is one of my favorite methods because it’s so unusual and simple, but works well. Take the strongest magnet you can find and attach it to some dental floss, so it swings at the end. Now walk along your wall letting the magnet run along the surface.

At some point the magnet will cling to the wall, normally at the area where a screw or nail has been driven into a stud. Don’t worry too much about magnet strength. Although using a strong magnet will help make the stud more obvious, even a refrigerator magnet will exert pull over a nail.

There you have it—your own simple stud finder.

 

4. Sound Waves

One of the simplest methods of stud finding requires no tools other than your ears and hands, and even professionals use this method when they’re in a pinch.

Here’s how to do it.

Walk along your wall tapping gently. It’s best to start at a corner, where you know there will be a stud and begin tapping to get an idea of the sound of tapping over wood. As you continue to tap and move across the wall, you’ll hear the sound change from a hollow knock to a sharper sound.

That hollow sound is the space between the studs. When the sound becomes sharp, sounding like it did at your test corner, you’ve reached a stud. Double-check by measuring between areas of sharp sound—they should measure 12”, 16”, or 24”—the spacing of most studs.

 

5. Doors and Windows

 

Don’t forget that every home is built using horizontal as well as vertical studs. Windows and doors have timbers called framing members above them, pairs of 2 x 6s that have been turned on edge. Windows have another set of studs underneath that can be drilled or anchored into. It is what you call the horizontal sill plate.

You can find series of cripple studs or short vertical studs placed above window and door openings. You can use this trick for anchoring.

 

Your Personal Stud Finder Kit

It’s not necessary to run out and buy an expensive stud finder just to locate a good place to hang your next piece of artwork. You can a stud-hacker with your own ingenuity, know-how, and a few simple, easy-to-acquire tools. You can now find studs whenever and wherever you need to quickly and accurately.

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