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How To Find a Wall Stud without a Stud Finder

By Edited Dec 11, 2013 2 4

If you need to find a stud in your wall, there is no need to go out and buy and expensive stud finder. For many years builders, decorators and ordinary home owners did without that little tool. There is the tried and true method of hammering a nail every few inches until you hit a solid beam, but them you are left with holes in your wall which are not very attractive. When you are finished with your project you will be looking for a how to spackle your wall guide. Then there is the old knock on the wall and hope you hear a difference in the tone of your knocks. Not a very effective solution. So how do you find a stud in your wall without a stud finder?

Use a compass. A compass? Yes!

Hold the compass in your hand at a right angle to the wall and parallel to the floor. Move the compass along the wall at a slow pace while watching the needle on the compass. As soon as you see the needle move you have found your stud. If this doesn't work on the first pass, move the compass higher or lower, keeping the compass at a right angle to the wall and parallel to the floor and watch the needle. This works because the magnet inside of the compass will attract to the metal nails that are holding your stud in place.

Military Prismatic Sighting Compass w/ Pouch
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(price as of Oct 10, 2013)

Magnets

On the same train of thought with the compass, use a magnet. You will need a fairly strong magnet. Pass the magnet back and forth across the wall and up and down to feel for the pull of the metal. This is definitely more challenging than watching for a compass needle to move. It will work, but it takes a lot of patience.

Tape Measure

Use a ruler or tape measure. Studs are usually located every 16 inches along a wall. You may wonder 16 inches from where? The obvious best place to start is a corner and measure out every 16 inches, but this is basically a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast building code. Finding a stud based on every 16 inches also depends on where the builder started the framing.

Look Around

If you are looking for a stud look for an electrical outlet or light switch in the area. Electrical outlets and light switches are secured to a stud. Once you locate one of those, you know you are close.

Electric Razor

Electric razors aren't just for shaving! Place the head of your electric razor on your wall, switch the razor on and slowly move along the wall. As soon as the tinny hum of the razor turn to a deep, resonating hum you have found your stud. You won't miss the difference in sound, it is quite an obvious change.

Drop Light

Use a drop light. Shine the drop light along the wall and look for the small divots or depressions from the nails that were used to fasten the sheetrock to the stud.

Or better yet, go to the store and buy a magnetic stud finder for about $10.00. You really don't need an expensive one.

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder
Amazon Price: $15.99 $6.23 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 10, 2013)
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Comments

Jan 25, 2010 6:33am
JHKersey
Interesting ways to find a stud. I have never heard of some of these before but it makes sense that they would work.
Jan 25, 2010 11:06pm
Sullysee
I think all of your suggestions are helpful, especially the compass and magnet ones.
Jan 26, 2010 12:04pm
Sonni57
Good advice on finding a wall stud I have had this problem in the past.
Apr 15, 2012 10:51pm
southerngirl09
I will give your methods a try when I hang my next pictures. Thanks for the tips.
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