Simple Ways to Find a Stud in a Wall

There are times when locating a stud behind the ceiling surface or wall is useful. For instance, when anchoring a wall cabinet, it is essential to secure it to established framing members instead of just hanging it on the drywall. We take a look at the most efficient ways to find a stud without necessarily spending a lot of money.

 Use a Tape Measure

Starting at the corners studs are spaced at an interval of 16 inches on center. There are, however, instances when the walls are framed differently such as when 2 x 6 lumber makes the studs. Nonetheless, in most houses, the 16 inches on-center rule applies.

As a matter of fact, a carpenter tape measure has 16 inches increments, typically highlighted in red. Even though this technique is useful, it is not accurate enough. You may want to pinpoint the exact location before you start pounding nails.

 Use a Drill Bit or a Finish Nail

For better results, drive a thin finish nail or a small drill bit into the wall. Be sure to punch a small row of tiny nails to locate the stud. This method allows you to spot the wood fragments on the nail or drill bit when you hit the stud. You will have to paint the wall later on.

Use a Stud Finder

Clearly, this method is not specifically linked to other options we’ve discussed here. It is arguably the best way to find a stud in a wall. Stud finders come in two forms. There’s a small magnetic tools that works by sensing the location of nail heads. These require a bit of technical know how to use though and will only locate the stud exactly at nail or screw locations.

A better alternative is an electronic stud finder. This works by sensing the density of the wall. To use it;

  • Start by placing it 6 to 8 inches to the left of the general location of the stud. Slide it to the right and be sure to press the button on the bottom
  • When the machine beeps, that’s an indication it has located the stud. Stop moving it and mark this point with a pencil or masking tape.

Repeat the same process on right side, by moving the stud finder to the left. Again, mark the point where it lights up or beeps. You have now located the right edge of the stud.