Easiest way to find studs without a stud finder?

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1. The old fashioned method

You’re going to use a nail and a hammer. Drive the nail into the wall at various points, maybe every few inches until you strike a stud. It’s not a very elegant way of finding a stud without a stud finder, but it gets the job done. This is one way you could do it. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the better solutions in a second.

5. Drill a hole

No matter which method you use, you should always confirm your findings before proceeding to hang your piece. To do so, drill a hole in the wall. You’ll know you’ve hit wood (a stud!) if you feel resistance.

3. Use windows as a guide

Windows usually have a stud on each side, but finding the edges can be tricky, rendering this method less reliable than the ones noted above, says Rothman. Still, when all else fails, locating the edge of your window and measuring 16 inches from there can help provide some general guidance.

Related Questions

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.

How Does A Stud Finder Work?

Now that you know about the various stud finders available to choose from, let’s have a look at how these work.

Magnetic stud finders are handy tools to have but do not have the same abilities as their electronic counterparts. While it is clear that these devices use plates to detect dielectric constant, there is much more to it than just that.

When it comes to instant stud finders, they use multiple sensor plates so that they don’t need to be moved against the wall. Thanks to their algorithm, they can analyze the readings from the plates in order to find multiple stud edges and centers across the surface of a wall.

These machines will notify you when they have located a stud by sending a signal through their LED display or through a vibration or sound depending on the model.

If all else fails, use a stud finder

There’s no shame in keeping a small stud detector in your toolbox, really, and you’re bound to find more uses for it than just to hang one heavy frame. Floating shelves, bathroom mirrors, flat-screen TVs can all benefit from the secure hold of a stud. Our researched guide to the best stud finders on the market and this primer on how to use a stud finder are terrific resources about selecting and using this tool.


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.

2. Locate the switches and outlets, which indicate a stud

If baseboards don’t offer any clues to the stud’s whereabouts, look for a light switch or electrical outlet. At least one side of an electrical box must be mounted to a stud. To determine which side of the box the stud is on, use the “knock test” by rapping on either side of the switch or outlet. The side that returns a solid, versus hollow, sound is the stud side. Next, measure about ¾ inch away from the outlet on the stud side and use that as a starting point to determine the 16-inch intervals of stud spacing.


3. Examine the baseboard

The baseboard is the board mounted on the studs, and generally speaking, things like lamps, photos, or other things that hang from the wall are mounted on a stud. Use this to your advantage to find the studs without a stud finder.

How To Find Studs Without A Stud Finder

Finding a stud without a stud finder is not only a long process but also hard work. That said, if you haven’t bought your device yet, here are some alternative ways you can locate a stud in the meantime:

Locate the switches

If you don’t have any luck checking out the trim, look for switches or outlets, knowing that at least one side of an electrical box will be mounted on a stud. Personally I’m not great at doing the “knock test” on the wall, but I can usually detect from tapping which side of the outlet is attached to the stud. Then you can measure about 2cm away from the outlet on the stud side and use that as the starting point to determine the 40cm intervals.

First: Some Notes About Wall Construction

While all houses are unique, there are a few commonalities you can rely on. For example: modern houses with stick frames that have been built since the ‘20s are likely constructed with 2×6 or 2×4 studs.

Some other factors that you can typically set your watch by include:

  • Wall studs are typically going to be spaced somewhere between 16”-24” on center. ‘On center’ is measuring from the center of one stud to the center of the next. The overwhelming majority of studs fall on 16” spacing.
  • You can usually find a stud at either side of a window. However, these will be based on the floorplan and not necessarily give you a reliable 16” count to find other adjoining studs.
  • When you find an electrical switch or outlet, its electrical box is commonly directly adjacent to a stud on one side or the other.
  • The true dimensions of a 2×4 piece of lumber will actually vary based on when the house (or that particular wall of the house you’re working with) was constructed. While this is a cumbersome and somewhat perplexing reality, it’s important to know. If your house was built between 1900-1950, then 2x4s were actually true to name. But between ‘50 and ‘65, many houses were built with 2x4s that measured closer to 1-⅝”x3-⅝”. Even worse, most of the modern “2×4”s you encounter can measure 1-½”x3-½”. They’re getting shorter! All of this is important to be aware of, as measuring ‘on center’ for studs will vary based on the 2×4 width.
  • install crown or quarter round moldingTrim (your shoe molding, baseboards, and crown molding) nails can usually be found at stud intervals. If you are trying to install crown or quarter round molding, check your baseboards or vice versa.

Investigate the Trim

You may be able to quickly ascertain where the studs are located by closely inspecting your baseboards. These will more often than not be nailed at stud intervals, so it’s a matter of seeing where these points are. While the nails will usually have been caulked in after and painted over, you can often spot their locations by looking for dimpled areas of the baseboard surface. If you believe you’ve spotted one, just measure about 16” away in either direction to see if you find more.

Let the Light Be Your Guide

If the trim doesn’t give you any satisfaction in your stud search, you next best bet is to use electrical outlets or switches. These are primarily installed on one side or the other directly against a stud. Using the “knock test” with the wall, rap at it to both sides of the electrical box. One of the sides should produce less of a hollow noise in response, meaning that there is a physical object (the stud) behind the plaster or drywall.

If this works out for you, get your tape measure. Measuring out about ¾” away from the edge of the electrical box should put you on center of the stud. Then work your way out 16” or so to locate your next stud.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try a Wire Ha

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try a Wire Hanger

If all of the aforementioned tips don’t yield any positive results, you can resort to the oldest method: after attempting your knock test, try a small nail. If the nail doesn’t find purchase in a stud, you can bend a wire hanger at a 90º angle. Insert it through your nail hole and investigate around with it behind the wall to find your stud.You can use a small marker to put a dot on the sid

You can use a small marker to put a dot on the side of the hanger protruding from the wall when it has smacked against the stud. Then once you remove the hanger, hold it against the outside of the wall and rotate until that same dot is facing straight up again. This will show you somewhat reliably where the edge of your stud is. Too easy!

We hope you find these tips helpful! Had a tough time finding your studs? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.