When hanging heavy objects on a wall, it is important to know where the studs are located. However, it can be difficult to find studs behind drywall, and tapping on the wall is not always reliable. This is where a stud finder comes in.A stud finder is a tool that helps you locate studs or joists behind drywall or other wall materials. It works by detecting changes in density or electrical fields in the wall, allowing you to determine the exact location of the stud.
- 1 Types of Stud Finders
- 2 How to Use a Stud Finder
- 3 How to use a stud finder app
- 4 Are all stud finders suitable for all wall types?
- 5 Can stud finders detect live electrical wires or pipes?
- 6 How do I know if I have found a stud or something else?
- 7 Can I use a stud finder to locate studs in a ceiling or floor?
- 8 What do I do if I can’t find studs in the wall?
When hanging heavy mirrors, bracing large furniture, wall-mounting a new television, or erecting shelving, you need to start with the sturdy support of a 2×4 wall stud. Sure, nailing into drywall alone may be sufficient for hanging light wall art, but these fasteners can cause the wall to crumble if weighed down too much—not like the wood studs that exist to hold up drywall. There’s too much at stake to be less than 100 percent certain of the location of the stud’s center. Why risk a kitchen shelf loaded with dishes or baking supplies crashing down at any moment because you miscalculated where to place the fasteners?
Finding studs isn’t challenging, but you need a tool called a stud finder. These gadgets work by detecting metal nails or density changes. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to use a stud finder so you can spend less time prepping and more time decorating.In this article, we’ll explain the steps to using a stud finder, including the different types of stud finders and tips for accurate stud location. Whether you’re a DIYer or a professional, knowing how to use a stud finder will make your wall paneling projects easier to tackle and more successful.
Types of Stud Finders
There are three main types of stud finders: magnetic, electronic and combination. Each type works a little differently and has its advantages and disadvantages.
Magnetic stud finder:
A magnetic stud finder is a simple, affordable tool that uses a small magnet to find the metal nails or screws holding the drywall or plaster to the stud. You move the magnet along the wall until it sticks to a nail or screw, indicating the location of the stud.
- Advantages: Magnetic stud finders don’t require batteries, are easy to use and are suitable for a variety of wall types. They are also very affordable.
- Cons: They can only detect metal nails or screws and won’t work on walls that don’t have them. They can also be less accurate than electronic stud finders.
Electronic stud finders:
Electronic stud finders are battery-powered devices that use sensors to detect changes in density, electrical fields, or both, depending on the type of stud finder. When you move the electronic stud finder along the wall, it beeps or lights up when it detects a stud.
- Advantages: Electronic stud finders are very accurate and can detect studs hidden deeper in the wall. In some cases, they can also detect live wires and pipes.
- Cons: They can be more expensive than magnetic stud finders, and their accuracy can be affected by wall material, wall thickness and other factors.
Combination stud finder:
A combination stud finder is a device that combines both magnetic and electronic technologies to provide a more accurate stud search. These stud finders can detect metal nails or screws as well as changes in density, making them more versatile.
- Advantages: Combined stud finders provide more accurate results and can locate studs in a variety of wall types.
- Cons: They can be more expensive than magnetic stud finders, and their accuracy can still be affected by wall material, wall thickness and other factors.
Before using a stud finder, choose the right type for your needs and make sure you have the necessary tools and knowledge of your wall type.
Recommended reading:How to find a stud without a stud finder
How to Use a Stud Finder
1: Identify your hanging location
Decide where you roughly want to hang your item. Know where the top should be and how far down it requires mounting. This is the height at which you want to search the wall for studs. Remove any nearby wall-mounted photos or other partly-metal objects that could interfere with readings on a magnetic stud finder and set them aside for now.
2: Make sure your stud finder is powered up
Ensure your stud finder batteries are fresh and functioning, as weak batteries can greatly distort readings. Also, check to make sure the flat side of the stud finder (where you’ll see the contacts and usually some felt to protect the wall from scratches) is clean of debris and dust.
3: Locate the stud
Studs are usually 16 inches apart (sometimes 24 inches apart in really old homes), so you’ll be looking for a stud somewhere within a two-foot span. Hold your stud finder flat against the wall, about 1 foot left of where you ideally want to drill.
Turn it on. Usually, this is done with buttons mounted on the sides where you grip the tool. Now press a button to calibrate the stud finder; when the tool stops flashing or beeping, then it’s ready to go. (Check your manual for exactly how your stud finder is calibrated, as it varies.)
4: Move the stud finder
Slowly slide the stud finder to the right, horizontally, while keeping the unit flat on the wall.
5: Mark the spot where there is a stud
When the stud finder alerts you to a stud—via a beep or flashing light, depending on the finder in question—retrace the last few inches with the unit, to double-check where the alert is occurring.
6: Find dead center
Mark the correct spot with your pencil. If you’re using a center-finding stud finder, you’ll be shown where the edges of the studs are. Mark each edge so that, when you go to drill or hammer into the stud, you’ll know where dead center is.
7: Double-check your work
Don’t accept this alert as the end of your journey; instead, continue searching for the flanking studs 16 to 24 inches away from the initial mark following steps 3 through 6.
Even though your tool indicated that it located a stud right where you need it, a stud finder can signal false positives when there is metal piping or flashing or brackets within the wall. Make sure your alert wasn’t a false positive by also locating the studs on either side of the one on which you plan to mount your mirror, television, shelf bracket, or other heavy items.Mark their locations upon finding them, and then measure. If, in fact, they are 16 or 24 inches apart, then you’ve found your center stud. Now you’re ready to hammer or drill as needed. Proceed carefully and precisely, and you’ll have no regrets.
Recommended reading:10 best Stud Finders
How to use a stud finder app
Using a stud finder app is a convenient way to find studs without having to purchase a physical stud finder. Here are the steps to using a stud finder app:
- Download a stud finder app on your smartphone: There are several stud finder apps available in the App Store or on Google Play. Choose one that has good reviews and works with your smartphone.
- Calibrate the app: Once you have downloaded the app, you will need to calibrate it before using it. Follow the app’s instructions to get accurate readings. Typically, you will need to place your phone on a flat surface so that it can take a baseline measurement.
- Place your phone against the wall: once the app is calibrated, hold your phone against the wall and move it until it detects a stud. Some apps require you to tap the screen to take a measurement, while others automatically scan when you move your phone.
- Mark the location of the stud: once the app has detected a stud, mark the location on the wall. You can use a pencil or tape to make a small mark so you know where the stud is when you start hanging your object.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all stud finders suitable for all wall types?
No, not all stud finders are suitable for all wall types. For example, magnetic stud finders will not work on walls without metal screws or nails, and some electronic stud finders may have problems with thicker walls or walls made of other materials. Always check the manufacturer’s specifications to determine if the stud finder is suitable for the type of wall you are working with.
Can stud finders detect live electrical wires or pipes?
Some electronic stud finders can detect live electrical wires and pipes. However, not all devices have this feature, and it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when using a stud finder to avoid accidentally drilling or cutting into a live wire or pipe.How Do Stud Finders Work
How do I know if I have found a stud or something else?
If you use a magnetic stud finder, you will feel the magnet move toward a metal screw or nail holding the drywall or plaster to the stud. With an electronic stud finder, you will hear a beep or see a light indicating the location of the stud. However, there is always the possibility of false readings or other obstructions in the wall that can be mistaken for a stud. To confirm that you have found a stud, you can take several readings in the same area or use a combination of methods, such as tapping the wall to listen for a solid sound or using a thin nail to probe the area.
Can I use a stud finder to locate studs in a ceiling or floor?
Yes, you can use a stud finder to locate studs in a ceiling or floor. However, the process may vary slightly depending on the type of stud finder and the orientation of the studs. For example, with an electronic stud finder, you may need to change the orientation of the unit to locate studs in the ceiling or floor. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when using a stud finder in different locations.
What do I do if I can’t find studs in the wall?
If you are having trouble finding studs in the wall, verify that you are using the stud finder correctly and that it is appropriate for the type of wall you are working on. If you still can’t find studs, it’s possible that the wall was built with non-standard spacing or that the studs have been removed or moved. In this case, you may need to consult a professional or use alternative methods of hanging items on the wall.How to Find a Wall Stud Quickly and Easily