Hanging a framed photograph or a TV on drywall is a challenge to most people. That’s because the wall itself is often too thin to hold a screw. Additionally, it doesn’t have enough strength to carry that kind of weight.
Inexperienced DIY’ers would probably drill a gazillion holes into the wall in an attempt to locate a stud. And if that doesn’t work too well; a TV that’s not well supported could fall off, and the wall would look seriously messed up.
The pros know that they can use their stud finder and locate the required spots right away. However, that’s not a tool regular folks have around the house.
To avoid all that drama, here’s how to find studs without a stud finder.
7 Easy Ways to Find Hidden Studs
First of all, knowing a bit more about how studs are used to frame a house is important. It helps a lot in finding them later on, even after they’re covered by drywalls.
Back in the day, wood was quite affordable, and it was rarely in short supply. That’s when the studs were thick, and the 2×4’s actually measured 2 inches by 4 full inches. The studs were placed at regular intervals of 16, 20, or 24 inches.
The 16-inch spacing between stud centers soon became the standard. But the thickness started varying. Nowadays, a 2×4 stud is mostly 1-½ by 3-½. This could set your measurements off if you’re not careful.
- Take a Photo of the House Frame
Documenting the details of your house doesn’t need to be just architectural plans and technical lists. Photographs and videos always offer clear and useful data about the house.
Taking photographs of the house at different stages of progress is highly recommended. You can add relevant notes on or below the shots for more accurate documentation.
This way, you can tell at a glance where the studs are. Moreover, you’d know where the electric wiring and plumbing go. This is important to avoid drilling in the wrong spot.
- Knock on the Wall
The sound you’d get if you knock on a hollow object is very different from drumming on a solid surface. Naturally, the pros do it better, and they boast of their powers to do that in a jiffy. However, beginners can train their ears to spot the differences in no time at all.
This is among the easiest ways to find where the stud is. From there, measure 16 inches left and right to find the next ones.
- Get a Clue From an Electricity Outlet
Outlets are usually screwed into the side of a stud. Thus, all you need to do is look for a socket or a light switch.
You might need to do a little bit of knocking to know where exactly is the stud. Alternatively, you could open the cover of the outlet and see where the screws are going.
- Use a Smartphone App
There are smartphone apps for pretty much everything, from counting the stars to finding hidden studs. The best part is; that many of them are free.
Currently, there are numerous Android and iOS apps for locating studs. And they all work in a manner similar to the pricey stud finders. There’s one little requirement for that solution to work though: your smartphone should have a magnetic sensor, also known as a magnetometer.
The magnetic detector searches for the nails and screws in the studs and beeps when it gets a good signal.
- Inspect the Baseboard
Baseboard, and all kinds of trim, are often nailed to studs. There would be no point in hammering them to the flimsy drywalls. Thus, a good place to start looking is the top part of the trim.
Oftentimes, the nails are cleaned up and painted over, so spotting where the nails are might take a couple of minutes. A really good finish on the baseboard would leave you with nothing more than a dimple in the paint. But don’t worry, it’s not completely invisible.
Locating just one nail would let you find where a stud is, and from there, you can go the usual 16 inches to look for another stud.
- Place a Flashlight Against the Wall
The finished drywall is rarely a perfect sheet. The places where it’s connected to the studs are often slightly bulging outwards, while the adjacent parts take a little dip inwards.
These irregularities aren’t terribly pronounced, and they’re barely visible to the naked eye. However, seen under stark light, the swells and hollows are a bit more exaggerated.
You can use a regular flashlight or even the one on your smartphone. Place the light source flat on the wall, or at a very shallow angle. Look for the places where the wall looks a tad convex, and that is where the stud is.
- Use a Nail and a Flexible wire
The most inefficient way to locate a stud is by pushing down a nail and waiting to see if it hits a void or a stud. A person could hit a dozen spots, and totally spoil the wall finish, before finding the stud.
This method involves using a nail, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the trial and error method described above. It also employs a wire, so let’s see how that works.
You can make a hole at a spot where a stud seems most likely to be found. If you hit the jackpot, then yay, you found gold. However, even if you didn’t, you don’t have to keep hammering nails ad infinitum.
Bend the flexible wire, and use it to explore the blank space behind the drywall. Move it sideways in both directions to see how far off you are from a stud. This should give you a better idea of the right location.
Working on home improvement projects, or even hanging a framed photo on the wall, has its inevitable challenges.
One of the biggest problems facing DIY enthusiasts and make-do handymen is finding the stud. These beams are pretty hard to locate, especially, if you don’t have the right tools.
This doesn’t need to discourage you though. You now know seven different methods to find studs without a stud finder!