Just about everyone has learned the hard way when trying to hang a shelf, picture, or anything else on a wall. At first everything is going great. You make the perfect hole, screw it in perfect, everything is level, and then you finally let your hand go…. and CRASH!!!! Everything falls to the floor and breaks. Then you try again and again only to eventually end up with a wall that looks like swiss cheese. It only takes that one “oh crap” moment to realize how important wall studs are to anything and everything that will be hung on the wall.
So how do we find these wall studs? Most contractors have an electric stud finder, but most DIYers do not have these sitting around the house, and who wants to go to the store in the middle of a project. So the question we all want to know is, can you find a wall stud without a stud finder? There are several ways you can find a stud without a stud finder. The different methods are:
- Using the flashlight to locate irregularities in the wall
- Studying the baseboards for nails
- Measuring 16″ inches from a stud or corner
- Knocking on the wall
- Locating windows and measuring
- Locating outlets and measuring
- Using a wire hanger through a hole
- Using a magnet to stick to the wall
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We will go into detail below on how the methods above and how they can be practiced in order to find a stud without the right technology available to us.
Using a Flash Light to Find a Stud
One fast and simple way to find a wall stud is by using a flashlight. This method is pretty simple and easy to do. Go grab a flashlight, turn it on and point it at the wall. When the light is shining on the wall it will help us analyze the wall and see if we can notice any bumps, dimples, grooves, or any irregularities. When we catch any of these then this gives us an indication that there is indeed a wall stud under that part of the wall. Pretty simple right? Check out the video below for a step by step guide on how to use a flashlight to find a stud.
Check Out the Baseboards to Find a Stud
In about every home the wall and floor are separated by the baseboards. These baseboards should always be attached by being nailed to the wall studs. So the objective here is to study the baseboards and see if we can identify where the baseboard is nailed. When we identify where the nails are then this will give us the ability to find the stud. While trying to find where the baseboard has been nailed keep in mind the nails might be covered with paint or caulk to try and hide where the nails are. So make sure you are really reviewing the details of the baseboard to locate where the nails to the studs are. Details on using the baseboard to find a stud starts at the 2:15 mark of the video below.
Take Out the Tape Measure to Find a Stud
A construction workers best friend is the tape measure. If we know the construction of the home, then finding a stud will be simple. Most standard homes have wall studs that are 16″ inches apart. So once we find our first stud we can measure 16″ inches and find the next one. Keep in mind the 16″ inches is from center, meaning the middle of one stud to the next. If we do not have a standard built home, then there is a possibility that we are looking at our studs being 24″ inches apart.
Another way to locate a stud by measuring is by starting at the corner of the room. Studs are usually 16″ inches from the center, so this means we can generally measure 16″ inches from the corner and locate another stud, and keep measuring from that one to find the second and so on.
Knock on Wood to Find a Stud
Everyone has probably tried this the first time trying to find a wall stud. Straight up knocking on the wall.
A wall stud I hope!
When you hit a stud you should notice two things. One, the knock noise will change, it will become more high pitched. Then the second, the feeling of the wall will be much harder. This may seem too easy but it does work and doesn’t require any other tools besides your hands and ears.
Look at the Windows and Outlets to Find a Stud
Every house has both windows and outlets and the great thing about that is that they both give great ideas of where we can locate a wall stud.
So if the other methods are not working out, I always look at the windows. All windows have studs on each side. The only hard part about finding the studs by the window is that it may be hard to identify the edges of the studs.
Then we try and look at the outlets. Unlike windows, outlets have a stud only on one side. If we can determine which side the outlet is attached to the stud, then we can measure 3/4″ to find the center of the stud.
Some Unorthodox Methods
If everything else is not working then there are two additional ways to try and locate the wall stud. The first unorthodox method will require a wire hanger. What we will do here is, first make a hole in the wall, then we will take the wire hanger and move it on each side until we can locate the studs on each side. Not the best method since it requires us making a hole in the wall without a purpose, so we would need to also patch up the hole.
The second unorthodox method uses a magnet and a string. We need to use a string, dental floss, or anything we can tie to a magnet. Then we can the string and drag the magnet across the wall. When we see the magnet stick to the wall… BAM… we found our stud!
When All Else Fails Use a Electric Stud Finder to Find a Stud
So we have tried every method known to man and we are still making holes in our walls where we do not have a stud. Well this may be the time to bite the bullet and go buy an electronic stud finder. There is no shame in keeping one handy in the house. I’m sure you will be hanging things on the walls for decades and you will get more than enough use out of it.
Using a stud finder is the easiest and most effective way to find those pesky studs. However, if you do not have one there are multiple other ways to find those studs. Using the details above you can use those methods and be sure you find them.
Do all walls have studs? Yes, its good to know the basics of wall studs. Usually studs are spaced 16 to 24 inches from the center.
How deep are studs in the wall? Studs are as deep as the drywall is thick. The most common thickness is 1/2 inch.
Can you drill into a wall stud? Yes, you can drill into a wooden stud. However, you can not drill into a metal stud.