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How to Quickly Find a Stud in a Wall—With a Stud Finder or Not

Use the simple knock test or download a stud finder app on your phone.

To hang anything heavy on your wall—whether it’s a massive piece of art or mount for your TV—you want to do it over a wall stud. The vertical piece of framing within your walls offers sound support, which ultimately lowers the risk of your decor or technology falling, breaking, and damaging your wall in the process.

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“The easiest way to find a stud is to basically just knock on the wall,” explains Mike Patterson, construction director at Marmol Radziner. He adds: “Where it sounds hollow, there is no stud. Where it sounds solid, there is a stud.”

If you’re not too confident in your ability to judge hollow versus solid wall sounds, or you simply want extra confirmation, here are a few other ways you can locate a stud:

Use windows and doors as starting points.

Studs are typically 16 inches apart from each other. There are always studs on either side of a window or door, so you can measure 16 inches from the edge to get general guidance on where the next stud is located in the room. Pair this method with the knock test, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of where the studs are located.

Let light switches and outlets be your guide.

Electrical boxes for switches or outlets are often attached to a stud on one side. Knock to determine which side of the switch or outlet the stud is on, and use that 16-inch stud spacing method to guide you.

Drill a hole.

Once you’ve used a few non-invasive methods to determine where a stud is, the easiest way to confirm it is by drilling a hole in your wall. If you start to feel some tension, you know you’ve hit a wood stud.

Try a stud finder app.

Yes, stud finder apps exist! They’re ideal if you don’t have a physical stud finder at home or don’t want to invest in one. The apps use a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field when your phone is placed near metal objects. The only caveat is that they will sometimes detect other objects that aren’t wood studs, like nails and electrical wiring. Many reviewers confirm they do work pretty effectively for stud-finding purposes.

Use a stud finder.

Obviously, using a stud finder meant for this exact purpose will get the job done. You can buy the device from tons of retailers including Amazon, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware. Generally, all you have to do is place the device up against the wall and press a button. As you slowly move the device, it will beep to let you know you've hit the edge or center of a stud depending on the device you're using. Some have multiple features along with a light and v-shaped edge on top for easy marking.

Once you've determined a stud in the best spot for hanging your art or technology, there are plenty of hanging tools you can use to actually get your item on the wall. French cleats are a no-fail solution for art that you can drill into. Oh, and if you're not so sure what you want to hang just yet, we have you covered with some genius ideas. In any case, you'll have your walls adorned in no time!

Want to know absolutely everything before starting your reno project? We get it. Let’s obsess over the details together.

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