How to Locate Wall Studs

There are several ways that are almost as good as having X-ray vision when it comes to locating studs behind the wall. Take your pick of these locator tips. It’s best to try in the center of the wall as opposed to the ends.

1. Electronic stud finders are probably best. They sense mass and can indicate where the stud’s edges are.

2. Magnetic stud finders locate the nails driven into the studs to secure the gypsum board.

3. Rapping on the wall with a screwdriver handle can often detect the hollow spaces by the difference in the sound. Another sounding trick is to place the side of an electric razor against the wall. With the razor turned on, move it slowly across the wall, and you can tell the difference in sound when it crosses a stud.

wall studs How to Locate Wall Studs

4. Most electric wall outlets are attached to studs. Remove the cover plate and you can see the stud.

5. Another way is to drill an angled hole in the wall and probe with a length of straight coat hanger wire.

Once you locate one stud, you can usually measure 16 inches in either direction to find the next. If the 16-inch span doesn’t work, try 24 inches.

Now that we’ve found all those studs, you should know they are never exactly where you wanted to hang things. That’s where hardware comes in:

1. Picture hangers hold more weight than you’d think. The angled nail plus the flat plate gives much better holding power than just a nail. But each package will specify the weight limit. Don’t push it!

2. Plastic anchors can be tapped into predrilled holes to accept screws. As the screw goes in, the plastic expands against the hole for a better grip.

3. As we go up on the weight scale with shelves or mirrors, consider a Molly Bolt. They come in different sizes for differences in wall-board thickness and for different weights to be held.

4. For the moose head and other really big hang ups, there are various sizes of toggle bolts. The flange is held closed until it’s completely inside the wall. When released it springs out wide and when the bolt is turned, the flange is pulled tight against the inside of the wall. Keep in mind that once the toggle bolt is installed it can’t be removed without the flange falling down into the hollow space. So, you must have whatever it will hold already attached to the bolt.

5. An alternate to hardware is to attach a solid piece of wood as a bridge between studs. You can then nail or screw into this with good security.

6. If you need to hang something on a masonry wall, use a masonry anchor with an appropriate size bolt.


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