Whether you are hanging a picture or installing a light switch there are many times when you need to locate the studs that are in your finished walls.
Some people will suggest a tap and listen method to find where the stud is located but this is probably not a great idea. Since your wall may be made of paneling, drywall or plaster over lath depending on your untrained ear will leave you with a bunch of unwanted holes in your wall.
Stud Finders are probably the best method for finding studs because they measure the density of the wall letting you know when you are over solid wood or in the center of a void.
Don’t be skeptical about their ability to sense through the drywall material most good quality and cheep models can definitely find a stud through gypsum walls and I have used better models with deep sensing to find studs through plywood after it has been covered with Tyvek house wrap.
So how much should you pay?
For a really inexpensive but relyable stud sensor expect to pay about $15.
If you are a contractor and need something a little better then you can find models that will sense the stud and mark it with a led or laser for about $40.
Some models will also sense the presence of hot electrical wires in walls which is always helpful.
What if you need to find the stud and cant get to the store?
Well if you are in a pinch then there are a few quick ways to identify where a stud is.
First you can try eying the wall and looking for any nail pops. Don’t rely on just one bump on the wall you should see a few fasteners / nails or screw repairs that form a vertical line on the wall.
If you had really great drywall installers and can’t find where the studs are visually then you may be able to pop off a base board molding if it is a high one and look for the clues of a stud on the bottom plate of your wall. This is somewhat of a last resort.
You can also drill a test hole and push a piece of straightened coat hanger wire into the hole at a horizontal angle. This will give you a pretty close approximation but remember you are kinda on an angle and the hanger could be bending.
Finally and with caution you can also check at the location of light switch or outlet box if you turn the power to the outlet off first probe in the same method with a coat hanger as you would with a test hole.
Once you find a stud
Once you have found the first stud that is not near a door or window opening that could throw off measurements due to the extra studs used to frame the openings … you can then measure off 16 inches on center to your next closest stud.
Most homes are built on a conventional 16″ spacing of studs that is measured from the direct center of the stud not the outside edges. The actual void between studs is about 14- 1/2 inches apart.
The YouRepair Store carries a full line of Stud Finders and other home building tools at extreme discounts.
We also sell coat hangers and a coat if you need one.