How to find wall studs

Most of the time, studs are positioned 16 or 24 inches “on center” from one another, meaning that there’s a span of either 16 or 24 inches from the center of one stud to the center of the next one. In the days before stud finders, people were forced to measure in order to make an educated guess about the location of studs. Sometimes they would tap the walls and listen for changes in pitch, indicating the approximate location of a stud. There were a few problems with these methods though.

  • Trying to find studs without a stud finder can lead to incorrect guesses. Drilling and hammering nails into the wrong location leads to damaged walls, which then need to be repaired.
  • Other objects are embedded in walls, so there’s a risk of puncturing a water line, ruining an important cable, or even hitting a live electric wire when you’re not certain where everything is located.

Stud finders work by detecting density changes or finding metal screws and/or nails inside walls. These gadgets are better than nothing, but they can provide inaccurate readings caused by objects hung on the wall, even if they’re on the other side of the wall you’re working on. Furthermore, most stud finders don’t tell users what objects they are detecting.

Standard stud finders can’t see through walls, but the latest wall scanners are virtually foolproof. The Walabot DIY wall scanner  is a 3D imaging sensor that uses radio frequency technology to show you exactly where studs are located. It has the ability to penetrate different objects and determine what they are made of. This innovative wall scanner is compatible with drywall and concrete walls, and it can penetrate to a distance of four inches / 10 centimeters

Find wall studs with Walabot DIY detects studs, wires, pipes, cables and even moving rodents.

Find wall studs with Walabot DIY Stud Finder

To get started with your project, simply pass the Walabot over your work area and locate the number of studs needed to hang your object(s) safely or complete another task. Mark the location of the studs with a pencil, and then proceed with your project. You’ll be able to work without worry: Once you’ve found the wall studs and determined where to place your fasteners, you can hang up those shelves or that TV with complete confidence.

There are other uses for the Walabot DIY. Thanks to its ability to eliminate guesswork, it can be used to help locate the best position to install lights and fans without damaging ceilings and walls, and it is ideal for installing network cables, too. Having the ability to locate embedded objects speeds up many home improvement tasks while helping prevent costly, unnecessary repairs caused by inaccuracy.

Walabot is budget-friendly and easy to use. Thanks to its ability to provide real-time imaging, it is ideal for contractors, electricians, plumbers, remodelers, and everyday people who want to make DIY projects easier by finding wall studs and other objects accurately. Ready to see through walls? Try Walabot today!

What are wall studs?

Your house (most likely) is built with wood frame construction. Meaning, the bones of your house are wood.  And on those bones are sheets of drywall that make up your walls and ceilings.  If your home is not wood frame construction, then most likely metal or wood wall studs were still installed behind the drywall.  If not, then instructions for anchoring into brick or cement walls will be in a future post.

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How to find wall studs

Residential framing is typically 16 inches on center

Generally speaking, those bones, or studs, are spaced 16 inches apart in homes and 24 inches apart in commercial buildings.  This is not a hard fact, just a generalization that will at least give you an idea of where to start looking for wall studs.

How To Find Wall Studs: The Quick Way

Below are a few tried and true methods of how to locate studs. I’m listing these in order of personal preference, based off what has worked for me.

Use Your Knuckles To Find Wall Studs

Once you get the hang of this method, it is probably the quickest way to locate a stud. When you knock your knuckles on drywall, it makes a hollow sound. As you continue knocking slowly horizontally along the wall, the hollow sound will eventually turn into more of a solid thud where the stud is located. Often times this differentiation in sounds is obvious. Other times it is nearly imperceptible. But with practice, you’ll quickly be locating studs with just your knuckles.

Use A Measuring Tape To Find Wall Studs

Another reliable way to find a stud is to use your measuring tape.  From a corner or end of a wall you can lay out the tape and measure 16 inch increments (Remember, the studs are usually spaced 16 inches on center).  Bonus fact: the numbers on your tape measure are highlighted red every 16 inches. So no need to count 16 inch increments, its already been done for you! I almost always confirm my measurements by following up with the knuckle knock test.

How to find wall studs the easy and quick way

Highlighted red numbers represent 16 inch stud placement.

If you are looking for tips on how to read a tape measure, take a look at my post How To Read a Tape Measure And Understand Tape Measure Increments. It will walk you step by step on how to use a tape measure!

Using Magnets To Find Wall Studs

Using a magnet to find a wall stud is something I used to do as a kid.  Hang a strong magnet on a string and place it against the wall.  Let the magnet hang and slowly move the string and magnet across the wall until you see or feel the magnet stick to the nails or screws that are holding the drywall in place. You don’t have to use a string, but I have found that I’m able to see the magnet “sticking” to the wall a little easier with the string attached.

Using A Stud Finder To Find Wall Studs

There is a fairly inexpensive tool out there that is appropriately called a stud finder. This one is towards the bottom of my list though.  I’ve owned a number of different stud finders throughout the years, and have never really been satisfied with any of them.  The idea behind these is that you run them across the wall until an indicator tells you that the finder is over a stud. In ideal situations, these can work, and definitely have worked for me; However, I have probably had more false readings with these than positive readings.  I’m sure as a result of user error no doubt! But knowing that there can be so many false readings with stud finders, I would highly recommend following up with a knock test, magnet test or confirming with a tape measure.  If all else fails, and you do purchase a stud finder, make sure it uses magnets only to locate the studs.

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Locating Wall Studs In A Food Truck Can Be Tricky

Building codes for residential construction make a carpenter’s job to find wall studs a simple process. The same cannot be said for food trucks. Your food truck may have been fit out with wood or metal studs, and often aren’t placed in standard intervals.

Use these tips to find wall studs in your food truck:

  • Look for the rivets that attach the interior wall covering to the studs
  • Use a magnetic or electronic stud finder. These are fairly inexpensive and can be used to find both wooden and metal studs
  • Get a framing plan directly from the food truck builder. These plans should include all of the locations and sizes of the wall studs.
  • Push gently on wall paneling with your hands (8″ to 10″ apart) to see where the panel bends.

A few other important points:

  • It’s worth noting that studs inside a food truck are usually spaced irregularly, and sometimes up to 24″ to 36″ apart. They’re not like those found in residential construction which are on 16″ centers.
  • There may be sections of plywood added in between the studs to reinforce certain areas in your food truck’s walls. These plywood sections may throw off your stud finder with a ‘false positive’.
  • Use rivets to attach things to metal studs (instead of screws). The metal studs may be too thin to allow the threads on metal screws to grip correctly.
  • Use a small drill bit when first drilling into the stud’s probable location. That way if you mess up, you won’t have a huge hole in your wall in need of patching.

RELATED: Outfitting Your Food Truck With Restaurant Equipment

The Bottom Line

Contact your food truck’s manufacturer to obtain the structural drawings for your model, if possible. While this won’t guarantee changes weren’t made during construction but you’ll have a much better idea where to find wall studs in your food truck’s walls.

Have you had to find wall studs in your food truck? How did you find them? Did you use one of these tips or did you use something we didn’t include? Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section or social media. Twitter | Facebook

First: Some Notes About Wall Construction

While all houses are unique, there are a few commonalities you can rely on. For example: modern houses with stick frames that have been built since the ‘20s are likely constructed with 2×6 or 2×4 studs.

Some other factors that you can typically set your watch by include:

  • Wall studs are typically going to be spaced somewhere between 16”-24” on center. ‘On center’ is measuring from the center of one stud to the center of the next. The overwhelming majority of studs fall on 16” spacing.
  • You can usually find a stud at either side of a window. However, these will be based on the floorplan and not necessarily give you a reliable 16” count to find other adjoining studs.
  • When you find an electrical switch or outlet, its electrical box is commonly directly adjacent to a stud on one side or the other.
  • The true dimensions of a 2×4 piece of lumber will actually vary based on when the house (or that particular wall of the house you’re working with) was constructed. While this is a cumbersome and somewhat perplexing reality, it’s important to know. If your house was built between 1900-1950, then 2x4s were actually true to name. But between ‘50 and ‘65, many houses were built with 2x4s that measured closer to 1-⅝”x3-⅝”. Even worse, most of the modern “2×4”s you encounter can measure 1-½”x3-½”. They’re getting shorter! All of this is important to be aware of, as measuring ‘on center’ for studs will vary based on the 2×4 width.
  • locating-studs-in-wall-using-trimTrim (your shoe molding, baseboards, and crown molding) nails can usually be found at stud intervals. If you are trying to install crown or quarter round molding, check your baseboards or vice versa.
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Investigate the Trim

You may be able to quickly ascertain where the studs are located by closely inspecting your baseboards. These will more often than not be nailed at stud intervals, so it’s a matter of seeing where these points are. While the nails will usually have been caulked in after and painted over, you can often spot their locations by looking for dimpled areas of the baseboard surface. If you believe you’ve spotted one, just measure about 16” away in either direction to see if you find more.

Let the Light Be Your Guide

If the trim doesn’t give you any satisfaction in your stud search, you next best bet is to use electrical outlets or switches. These are primarily installed on one side or the other directly against a stud. Using the “knock test” with the wall, rap at it to both sides of the electrical box. One of the sides should produce less of a hollow noise in response, meaning that there is a physical object (the stud) behind the plaster or drywall.

If this works out for you, get your tape measure. Measuring out about ¾” away from the edge of the electrical box should put you on center of the stud. Then work your way out 16” or so to locate your next stud.


If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try a Wire Hanger

If all of the aforementioned tips don’t yield any positive results, you can resort to the oldest method: after attempting your knock test, try a small nail. If the nail doesn’t find purchase in a stud, you can bend a wire hanger at a 90º angle. Insert it through your nail hole and investigate around with it behind the wall to find your stud.find-wall-stud-with-wire-hanger

You can use a small marker to put a dot on the side of the hanger protruding from the wall when it has smacked against the stud. Then once you remove the hanger, hold it against the outside of the wall and rotate until that same dot is facing straight up again. This will show you somewhat reliably where the edge of your stud is. Too easy!

We hope you find these tips helpful! Had a tough time finding your studs? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

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