How To Use A Stud Finder Like A Pro

October 07, 2019 4 min read

How To Use A Stud Finder Like A Pro

Whether it’s picture frames, mirrors, or TVs mounting anything on a wall requires finding structurally strong elements that can bear the weight of any object that’s hung. And with most walls being drywall, a simple nail isn’t going to do the job.

However, the wood studs that are behind drywalls are far stronger and do just the trick in supporting heavier loads hanging on the wall. After all, the last thing one wants is that expensive picture frame crashing down and shattering all over the floor. 

Finding these studs can be difficult and that’s where a Stud Finder can come in handy. 


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What is a Stud Finder?

Stud Finders are tools that can help identify studs behind a wall and use a variety of technical methods to determine if a stud exists. Common ones are magnetic Stud Finders that can also identify any metallic objects behind the wall, but others will just use wall density measurement techniques to identify studs behind the wall. 

Nearly all homes come with studs that are placed 16 to 24 inches apart. Homes built post-1965 will have studs that are roughly 1.5 inches wide while homes built pre-1950s will have 2 inch wide studs. 

These stud finders will work on various materials such as drywall, floors, lathe, and even tiles!

Regardless, for a user, they all are operated the same way so here’s how to use a Stud Finder the next time something needs to hang against the drywall.

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Tools Required

  • Stud finder device: Higher-end models come with center-finding density measuring check and should be used when hanging heavier valuable items. Otherwise, a magnetic stud finder will do just fine.

  • Batteries:be sure to check that the stud finder has fresh batteries and functions well. It’s also good to clean the sensors located on the backside of the stud finder so that there are no particles that may give incorrect readings. 
    • Pencil:A pencil or non-permanent marker should be used to help market spots where a stud is found. 
    • Measuring tape:A measuring tape will be helpful in planning out the size of the object that needs to be hung and will help determine center studs. 

    Plan where the object should hang

    The first step is understanding what needs to be supported by the wall and its dimensions. This means using a measuring tape to get an idea of the height and width of the object as this will determine where to find the studs. 

    In addition to this, prepare the wall surface to be worked on by removing any existing items that are hung in other areas or in front of the area where you want to hang the item. Any surrounding metal objects can interfere with how the stud finder works so have these moved out of the way. 

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    Find a stud behind the wall

    Studs behind a wall help provide structural stability to the wall. These are commonly spaced apart in 16 or 24-inch intervals. 

    Turn on and place the stud finder on the wall roughly 1 foot from where the object needs to be hung, and slowly move it horizontally across the wall. Common models have buttons on the sides to turn on the device.

    If the stud finder finds a stud it’ll beep or flash a light. At this point make a slight mark and continue moving horizontally to find the outer edges of the stud. This helps understand how wide each stud is which will be helpful later when placing the object. A center-finding stud finder will also illustrate the edges of the stud so the mark can be made in the center.  

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    Mark multiple spots

    Each time the stud finder alerts to a stud, create marks so that the center of each stud can be determined. Note, this won’t be required if one has a center-finding stud finder. 

    As you mark multiple spots, there may be some instances of the stud finder providing false positives - that is alerts for metal piping or brackets inside the wall. As the stud finder is used, alerts that are 16 to 24 inches apart will be the actual positive results indicating it is a stud. 

    Once the center is located for each stud through triangulation as one moves horizontally, these centers can then be where one can hammer or drill as required to set up the object. 

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    Things to keep in mind

    Though most projects needing to use Stud Finders will follow the guidance above, here are some things to keep in mind:

    1. Some Stud Finder devices won’t work on drywalls where the layer is greater than ⅝ inches.
    2. The 16 to 24-inch stud finder doesn’t always apply and some homes may come with larger or smaller intervals. 

    Final Thoughts

    Stud Finders are life-savers when carrying out home projects that involve the need to hang objects against a wall. There are models that are inexpensive and others that are complex with many features to help identify edges and centers of a stud easily. 

    Either way, they are a useful tool to have in one’s DIY home repertoire. 

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