How to Find a Wall Stud Without a Stud Finder

woman measuring to find a wall stud without a stud finder

For many of us, even the mention of the word “stud” is enough to make us cringe. We’ve all experienced the stress of trying to find our home’s ever elusive wall stud supports. Despite the frustration, you know the extra time and effort will save you a lot of cash and headaches in the end. In this article, we’ll teach you the best ways to find a stud through drywall.

How to Find a Stud in the Wall Without Tools

When you mount heavy objects, such as a TV, large wall mirror, heavy frame, or floating shelves, it’s best to secure them to a wall stud. Studs provide much needed additional support, making it less likely your electronics and knick knacks will fall and break.

man mounting new tv to wall stud

If you’re here, you’re probably already in project mode, so leaving to buy a stud finder is out of the question. Once you have some basic knowledge about studs and their role in home construction, it’s surprisingly easy to find a wall stud manually. Instead of drilling a million test holes or risking damage to your new flat-screen, give these tried and true methods a try.

How to Find a Wall Stud by Knocking

One of the most well known techniques for finding a stud is using the “knock test.” What the average homeowner doesn’t know is that there are a few markers to start from, instead spending all afternoon knocking on every inch of the wall. From there, you can use industry standard measurements to find additional studs.

electrical outlet attached to wall stud
Left side of electrical outlet attached to wall stud

Find a Starting Point

  • Outlets & Switches. Most outlets and switches are mounted to a stud on one side.
  • Trim. Baseboards are attached at the studs, so if you are able to find a trim nail beneath the paint you will find a stud too.
  • Windows. There are always studs on either side of each window in your home.
  • Corners. Studs provide a structure for hanging drywall, so there is always one near each corner of a room. Corners are better starting points for exterior projects, so you may want to save this one for last.
man doing knock test on wall to find a stud by knocking

Knock on the Wall

Knock or tap directly above the trim nail, near the corner, or on either side of the window, outlet or switch. If there is a stud support, you will hear a higher pitched, solid sound, whereas the rest of the wall will sound hollow.

man measuring 16 inches from wall stud to find additional stud supports

Measure from the Stud

Studs are usually set 16 inches apart, but no more than 24 inches apart in rare cases. Since an average stud support is 1½  inches wide, the center should be about ¾ of an inch from an outlet or switch. From there, you can find neighboring studs by measuring 16 inches or so from either side.

How to Find a Stud With a Magnet

If you happen to have a magnet lying around, this is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Drywall is hung with steel screws, which will attract the magnet. All you have to do is slide the magnet along the wall until you feel an attraction between it and a drywall screw. The magnet should stay put if you let go, so you can leave it there to mark the stud while you work.

What if I can’t find a stud in the wall?

woman using stud finder tool to mark stud in the wall

If you still aren’t able to find a stud, you may just decide to wave the white flag and make a quick trip to the hardware store. A stud finder is definitely something you’ll use again, so it’s probably worth adding to your toolbox. They run anywhere from $20-$85, depending on quality. If you’re one that tends to “go hard or go home,” The Spruce, a popular DIY home improvement blog, was nice enough to give us their picks for The 7 Best Stud Finders of 2021.

Can you hang something heavy without a stud?

You can install drywall anchors to hang heavy objects on drywall without a stud. If you decide to go that route, we suggest using a buyer’s guide to find the best drywall anchors for the item you are hanging.

For more DIY tips and tricks, or to suggest our next “how to” topic, contact IRC today!


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