Studs… and how to find them

Studs are boards that frame elements in your home and support the walls. Spaced either 16 or 24 inches on-center (measured from center to center) , along the wall, they run between the floor and ceiling. 


Drywall or lath (for plaster walls) is attached to the edge of the studs.

The center of a stud provides the best support for the fasteners when hanging anything in the wall. 

Side notes:

•Some homes have steel studs. They require specialty fasteners such as toggle bolts to support heavy items. You can tell if your home has steel studs by running a magnet along a wall. 

•You can find studs with an electronic stud finder or you can find them manually. If you have drywall walls, you can locate studs quickly and accurately. It's less effective on lath / plaster walls. 

•Run strips of painter's tape along the length of a wall to simplify marking multiple stud locations.

Finding Studs with an Electronic Stud Finder

  1. Begin looking at the height you want to be on the wall. Base this on the height of the fastener you’ll use to secure the object being hung.

  1. Calibrate the stud finder (if necessary). This means positioning it on the wall where there is no stud and activating it. The stud finder will tell you if it's calibrated or if you need to move it and try again.

  1. Press the stud finder against the wall and move it along the surface at the installation height of the fastener.The stud finder signals when it senses the end of open space behind the wall and the edge of a dense object, such as a stud. Mark the location on painter's tape. Recalibrate the stud finder again if necessary. Move it back toward this mark from the opposite direction. Locate and mark the other edge. It should be 1-1/2 inches from the first mark. Measure and mark the midpoint between the edges. This is the center of the stud.

  1. Locate several points on the suspected stud. Locate adjacent studs as described above to confirm that you've found a stud.

If you just simply don’t have a stud finder for convenience, here are a free ways you can use your natural resources:

Since the baseboard should be attached to the studs, look to see if you can spot where it might have been nailed. These holes are usually filled with caulk and painted, but you may be able to see one to identify the location of a stud. If you do find one, try measuring in 16″ increments to locate the additional studs.

No luck!?! Then look for switches or outlets, knowing that at least one side of an electrical box will be mounted on a stud. 

Then there is always the “knock test” on the wall. You can usually detect from tapping which side of the outlet is attached to the stud. Then you can measure about 3/4″ away from the outlet on the stud side and use that as the starting point to determine the 16″ intervals. 

Let us know if this article helps you.

Kwesi Marbury