Finding a Stud

Ever need to find a stud but never thought to buy a stud finder- Well I’m here to help.

Ever have a time you were just finishing that new shelf or cabinet and really want to mount it to the wall and then…. AH $#!+ stud finder no where to be found or the batteries are dead.

Now what to do, you don’t want to run to the store for new batteries; you know that your motivation will disappear when you get back and your project will sit on the floor till next weekend when you can start again.

No worries; I’m here to give you a couple tips, one of which always surprises my friends (hint: its magnets).

By the way I recently bought my first stud finder and really like it. I highly recommend this one:

While writing this, the price was only 43 dollars at Amazon. I picked mine up at COSTCO while they had it.

I tried out some cheaper $20 ones in Lowe’s and was very disappointed.  ANYWHO… back to not owning one:

If you want to quickly get to a rough estimate of stud locations there are a few things you do to reduce search time before my methods.

  1. Take a look at where your outlets and light switches are placed; 9 times out of 10 this will be nailed directly to a stud to the left or right. The other time out of ten by the way is a combo of “old work” style boxes with flaps (these) or someone adding a piece of wood in an exact spot they want there outlet between two studs

    Notice outlet and switch plates located directly onto studs.
  2. Measure out from a corner or end of your wall. In any newer house you should have a stud every 16″; in some homes, on some walls, this could be 24″ so take a measurement and it should get you close.
  3. If you’re not sure if you found a stud or not, tap in a small finishing nail. If it continues in easily you’ve missed the stud, but you only have a small hole to Spackle. If you popped your small hole in line with where you intend to mount your project then it will be hidden when you do find that stud.

NOW, onto the pinpointing methods: 1) Wall Knocking  2) Defect search  3) Magnets

Method 1:

Knock on the wall and listen for either a hollow or solid sound. Move your knocking left and right along the wall listening for a difference in sound. The more solid sounding areas (less echo sounding) should be your stud locations.

This method is really tough for me and harder still if the drywall is thick or doubled up. Perhaps, if you never heard “you’re going to regret listening to your music that loud when you can’t hear any more” (quoted from dad years 2000 – present), your hearing will be better tuned and your luck will be better.

Method 2:

Next up, and not as obvious of method as knocking on the wall, is looking for a popped out circle on your wall or even an indent in a pretty close to perfect circle. Both of these are ordinarily caused by a defect in the hanging of the drywall. These locations should be located directly on a stud.

Nail Popout Image from

In the case of a popped out circle the nail has simply worked free over time of you and your family bumping into the wall and the natural movement of your house. Not all pop outs will be as obvious as the picture above; some will just look like a really small circus tent, the nail being the central pole.

In the case of a perfect little indent, it means someone did not take enough time on checking the finishing job of the wall and failed to put enough “mud” on the wall over the screw. When the mud drys, it shrinks; sometimes this is hard to see until you paint which brings out all kinds of imperfections. Unfortunately, I know about these spots all too well in my living room remodel – pictures coming soon.

Method 3:

Now, the best for last, for those times you forgot your hearing protection your entire project, your wall was built perfectly smooth (or textured to hide all the mistakes – GRR TEXAS), and you just can’t figure out where your studs were placed:

MAGNETS – preferably some stronger rare earth magnets. I’ve used the stronger magnets from my fridge, my name tag from work, and the fun little micro-magnetic balls.

This is a tip that works best using the prerequisites mentioned earlier (outlet, measuring from corner/end of wall). On your best guess at location of your stud take a magnet resting on the tip of your fingers (or tie it to a light weight piece of string) and held gently against the wall, move the magnet from left to right over a space of 8″-12″ and slowly work your way down the wall the magnet, if strong enough, will catch on the screw or nail heads holding your drywall to the studs. After finding the first stud you should be able to measure for the next and check again. I’ve also used this method on the ceiling in my garage and used a second magnet in the same plane as the first to determine direction.

Something to keep in mind with this method is it most likely will not work with PLASTER walls due to how plaster is applied you may have some metal mesh to add strength.


Author: Unleveled Designs

Small town guy living in a big city. Enjoy reading about finance and working in the garage turned woodshop. Trying to figure out how the blogging thing all works.

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