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Walls And Stairs

Fool-Proof Techniques For Finding Wall Studs

by Clare Kaufman

Repair-Home Columnist

There comes a time in many home improvement projects when the whereabouts of hidden wall studs becomes absolutely essential. When you're hanging heavy wall items such as mirrors, pictures, or lamps, for example; running electrical wiring or a plumbing line in the wall; or installing shelving. Before embarking on a wall-related remodeling task, follow these steps to finding wall studs.

Wall studs are found on 16-inch (occasionally 24-inch) centers, meaning that the distance between the center of each vertical beam inside the wall is exactly 16 inches. Thus you need only locate one stud and then measure to identify the position of all remaining studs.

Low-Tech Home Improvement Tips for Finding Wall Studs

  1. Find the stud closest to your home improvement remodeling project, keeping as much distance as possible from doors, windows, and corners. These features often wreak havoc on the otherwise regular 16" spacing between beams.
  2. If available, start your search at a nearby electrical outlet. Outlets are typically installed next to a stud, so you're likely to find a wall stud within an inch of either side of the outlet.
  3. Another way to estimate the location of a stud is to measure 14.5" from the room edge. Given a standard 16" spacing, that measurement should land you squarely in the center of the next stud.
  4. Tap along the walls, listening carefully to the knocking sound. Between the studs, you'll hear a hollow tone; when you reach a stud, you'll hear a flatter, denser sound.

A High-Tech Home Improvement Tip for Finding Wall Studs

The above techniques involve guesswork and judgment calls. A more reliable alternative is purchasing an electronic stud finder, which should run you around $15. Electronic stud finders measure the relative density of the wall by monitoring the "dielectric constant"--that is, the electrical conductivity of the surface beneath the wall. Air (indicating the absence of a stud) has lower conductivity than wood, so when the electronic stud finder passes over a wooden stud, it registers the change and activates a sensor.

Poking random holes in the wall is not an auspicious start to a home improvement project--better to improve your odds with these low-tech tips for finding wall studs. Or take the guesswork out of the process and invest in an electronic stud finder.

Sources

About.com, How to Find a Wood Stud in a Wall

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About the Author

Clare Kaufman works as a writer and editor for an online media company. She has completed a graduate degree in English.