a Wood 2 x 4 in the Wall*
Sooner or later
you will have to attach something to a stud in your wall, hang a picture,
put up a shelf, etc. It's also important to nail moldings and trim into
The first thing I try to do is to look at the wall sideways to see if
I can see any marks in the surface of the wall indicating that a sheetrock
screw or nail has been driven into a stud. If you are having a good day
you'll find one. The next stud is typically 16" to both sides.
It's also important
to nail moldings and trim into the studs. An old fashioned way to search
for a stud is to rap the wall with knuckles or a hammer.
Attach tape or thin padding to the face of the hammer to prevent marring.
The solid sound of the wooden stud beneath the wall will be different
from the hollow sound produced by the spaces between studs.
Once you locate a solid area, drive in a test nail. If you are lucky,
you may hit a stud on the first try - but don't count on it. More than
likely, you'll miss to one side and end up making several trial holes
before hitting pay dirt. Of course, any unwanted holes you make will have
to be patched.
This method is most effective on drywall or walls which are covered with
sheet paneling material with no form of rigid wall backing. Rigid and/or
well-insulated walls make it more of a challenge. A plaster and lath wall,
for example, may sound solid no matter where you tap it. When it comes
down to it, you may find that your ear can't distinguish any difference
and that all that tapping is getting you nowhere.
"Let's Go Fishing" Method
If you think
you know the general placement of a stud but just can't pin it down, this
method should help. It creates an unwanted hole, but one hole is better
than several. This method can be used in combination with the other methods
mentioned here, and is often used as a last resort.
Drill a small hole at a sharp angle toward the place where you anticipate
the stud will be.
an insulated wire with electrical tape over each end through the hole
until it contacts the stud. The wire should be heavy enough to be rigid,
but thin enough to require a small hole: A length of insulated, 14 gauge
home wire, for example, would be ideal.
the wire slightly at the hole, so that when it is removed you'll have
an approximate indicator of the distance from the hole to the edge of
the stud. It's only approximate because the measurement was made at an
angle. The actual distance will be slightly shorter depending upon the
angle and the distance between the hole and the stud.
the wire and the hole as a reference, mark the stud location on the wall.
Remember to add up to 3/4" to the measurement. You want to work from
the center of the stud, not from its edge.
"Wonders of Technology" Method
A low-tech and
inexpensive stud finder uses a magnet to locate nails or screws which
fasten wall materials to underlying studs. These units will find the nails
and screws, but they can also pick up metal conduit and galvanized pipes,
so a little creative cross-checking in different areas of the wall is
prudent when using these tools.
Check 16" to the sides of a given reading to see if another stud
is indicated. If so, this confirms the idea that the first indication
was actually a stud.
Bear in mind
that nails in studs provide intermittent readings, while galvanized pipe
and metal conduit provide constant readings to the magnetic finders.
The surest, most
elegant method of stud-finding doesn't rely on tapping, trial holes or
feeling about with a length of wire. Electronic stud finders locate studs
by measuring the density of a wall. These units flash a light when a stud
is found. By coming toward the stud from both ends, you can find and mark
its edges, and then accurately determine its center.
you find the stud
Once you are
sure you have located a stud, mark it with a light pencil mark. Use a
plumb bob - a simple weight on a string - to transfer the mark up to the
corner where the wall meets the ceiling. If the job you are performing
requires that you know the locations of other studs along the wall, they
can be found by measuring outward from your initial mark. Studs will usually
be located either 16" apart, although the placement of windows and
doors can complicate the situation. Double-check the anticipated stud
locations with a stud finder.
The simple and unobtrusive pencil marks you make near the ceiling will
make finding studs much easier next time. If you need to see the marks
clearly during a job that requires fastening to several studs, put temporary
pieces of masking tape at the marks to make them conspicuous until the
job is complete. A plumb bob suspended from the mark will provide you
with the vertical line of the stud.
to Topics Page