How to Use a Stud Finder


The use of a stud finder will support your investigation of, where in the wall, the supportive members are located. These sought after framing members are capable of support, and will result in a more stable and secure wall mount, for any item being hung or attached to the wall. The stud finder will eliminate attaching the item through only sheetrock, or plaster that makes up the surface of the wall assembly. Within the majority of residential walls, wood studs are used to support the wall and they are commonly spaced, at an interval of 16 inches from the center of one stud to the center of the other. This spacing is referenced as, 16 inch OC ( on center ). This will mean that the right side of one stud, is 16 inches from the right side of the next, and the left side will also measure the same. In most homes the width of the stud is 1 ½ inches. This is the width of standard 2 X 4 or 2 X 6 studs, which is the size most commonly used.

A stud finder is a mechanical apparatus that can be purchased at all builder supply stores or hardware stores. This device will allow you to more accurately identify the location of the stud within the wall. If you understand the common layout of most residential, as well as commercial walls, the location of one stud will allow you to pull a tape, and mark each successive stud, according to the 16 inch OC standard. Pulling a tape, merely references the technique of extending the tape measure the length of the wall, and marking each 16 inch interval, starting at the stud located by the stud finder.

Most stud finders are based upon the same principals. The device will identify the difference in the density of the wall. The wall, where the studs are located, will be denser than the wall areas between the studs. This is due to the wood density at the stud compared to the lack of density where the sheetrock simply spans the space between the studs.

Years ago, carpenters were experienced with the sound of the wall, at the studs, as opposed to the areas between the studs. The carpenter would lightly bang on the wall, in a consistent horizontal pattern with his hand or a rubber hammer. The emanating sound of hollowness, at the sheetrock only area, and the deadened sound at the stud, would allow the carpenter to approximate the location of the studs. The carpenter would then insert a nail or a screw in the location where they approximated the studs to be located. This insertion of the nail or screw would confirm the accuracy of the location. Once the location of one stud was determined, the remainder of the layout of the studs, would be identified based upon the 16 inch OC ( on center ) determination.

A stud finder will either beep, light up, or identify the stud with both a sound and a light indicator. The stud finder will identify both sides of the stud. The exact location of the middle of the stud is the midway point of the two indicators. A stud finder should be placed firmly against the surface of the wall that is being analyzed. Making sure that the stud finder is turned on, in most cases this is by the pressing of a button to activate the finder, the operator slowly moves the stud finder horizontally along the wall. The stud finder by a designation of sound, light or both will indicate the location of the studs as the stud finder is moved slowly along the wall. In most situations, a comfortable height for this operation will be chest level. It is recommended that the operator of the stud finder have a pencil handy to mark the two sides of each stud as they use the stud finder.

Once the wall has been marked, it is recommended that the 16 inch OC (on center) standard be checked against all of the markings made by the operator of the stud finder. This will be a double check for the standardization of the layout of the studs within this room.
Care should be taken, when using the stud finder that the directions are read. Some stud finders will need to be recalibrated by lifting the stud finder off of the wall, if it stops working, or does not appear to be indicating the stud locations properly. The operator will become very experienced with the use of a stud finder within minutes of operating the device.

The purchase of a stud finder is a convenient and practical tool, which will reduce the amount of unnecessary holes required to find the studs. How many homeowners will try to find the studs by hammering nails into the walls? This will result in a repeated progression of holes in the walls, in a horizontal pattern when the homeowner fails to find the stud. In addition, using a stud finder will ensure that the wall hung item, is properly and securely attached to the wall surface, eliminating repeated re-applications of the hanging procedure, or worse yet, the failure of the wall mounting, and the subsequent dropping of the item from the wall.

A stud finder is a necessary tool when installing handicap bars or railings, due to the fact that failure to properly secure these types of items could cause injury.
All homeowners should add a good quality stud finder to their “go to “bag of handyman tools.