How to Find a Stud Without a Stud Finder

By Kealia Reynolds
How to find a stud

If you want to hang a picture, framed mirror, or TV on your wall, you will need to find a stud to make sure your hanging will be securely mounted. Mounting to drywall without an anchor can tear a hole in the wall, especially if you’re hanging a heavy mirror or TV. There are plenty of ways to find a stud without a stud finder—here are five simple techniques.

What is a stud?

First things first, a wall stud is a 2×4-inch wooden beam that is used to make up the structural features of a home, from the walls to the windows. Though mostly vertical, in some cases, the beams can be horizontal for lateral support in the walls. We’ve focused on vertical studs in this article. In most homes in the US, the distance from the center of one stud to the center of the next is between 16 and 24 inches. Most electrical boxes, switches, and outlets are attached to studs, and the nails that affix trim or crown molding are planted in studs.

5 ways to find a stud without a stud finder

For the best accuracy, combine a couple of these techniques so you can pinpoint exactly where the stud is.

1. Use a flashlight

For this technique, you will simply need a flashlight. Shine the flashlight along the wall and look for places where there are slight bulges. These bulges typically indicate where the drywall is fastened to a stud with a screw.

2. Use a magnet

Place a refrigerator magnet against the wall to see where it sticks. This will reveal where the nails and screws—and therefore studs—are located beneath the drywall.

3. Look at the trim

Since baseboards and moldings are attached to the wall at studs, look for screws or small nails in the trim. Indentations created by these screws are generally filled with caulk or paint but can be spotted with a keen eye.

4. Find an outlet

You will need a tape measure and a pencil for this technique. An outlet or light switch is almost always attached to a stud. Measuring 16 to 24 inches on either side will allow you to map out the other studs in the wall.

5. Try the knock test

Start in the corner of the room and knock on the drywall. Tapping on the area where a stud exists will produce a solid sound while tapping on an area where studs don’t exist will produce a hollow sound. To be even more precise, measure and mark areas 12, 16, and 24 inches from the corner. Tap at each distance to locate the studs more accurately.


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