Carpentry, Home, Repairs

How to find wall studs: 8 ways that work

how to find wall studs

Simple clear guide on how to find wall studs outlines several methods to find a stud in the wall even without a magnetic or electronic stud finder.

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Behind the wall is a system of two-by-four timbers that support the structure. Known as wooden studs, they run vertically and horizontally. Drywall, or plasterboard, is then installed over these wooden studs. Because you can’t see these wooden timbers, it might be difficult to find them. If you want to drill a hole in the wall studs, you must first know how to find a stud in the wall.

The wall studs hold the building structure in place and are tremendously strong. They provide a firm hold for any object that you want to attach to the wall. For example, you could put heavy bookshelves on the wall nails so they don’t topple over — because the wall studs are sturdy enough to take the weight without problems. You could also use bolts or screws to hold other items in place, including towel rails, picture frames, and mirrors. Even in an earthquake, drilling these items into the wall studs could keep them in place.

How to find wall studs: the best ways

Stud Finder

The easiest way to find horizontal wall posts is with either a magnetic or an electronic stud finder. A magnetic stud finder looks for the nails holding the drywall and studs together. The electronic stud finder costs more, but it scans for areas where the wall density is greater. Depending on the model used, the electronic stud finder may beep or blink a light when it finds a stud. Once you find a stud, move the stud finder sideways to confirm that the stud is horizontal rather than vertical.

Use a light

If you don’t need a dedicated tool for finding horizontal studs, other methods can be used. When you shine a light across the wall surface, you can see tiny depressions going through the nails, through the drywall, and into the tunnels. If you can find multiple depressions on the same horizontal plane, this would be the point where there is a horizontal nail or screw.


Alternatively, you can drill a hole through the wall, insert a long wire, and move it up and down to find a horizontal stud. Take a long wire (like a clothes hanger), and fashion it into a right angle. Then insert one side of your wire into the wall and spin the wire in a circle. Note where the wire makes contact. That’s where the stud is located.


You can also use a small lightweight magnet on a piece of string and run it over surface to see where it ‘pulls’… you will find that these spots are where the nails or screws are. Once you have marked few with tape, you will be able to work out the dimensions of all the framework hidden behind the wall.

Look for lights and switches

Light panels and power point switches are generally located on a wall stud, so that gives you a good starting point. If you know the building regulations in your area for the space between wall studs, that will allow you to measure across to the area you want to work in.

Examine the skirting board and cornice

Since the skirting board and cornice have to be attached to a wall stud, examine them to see if you can spot where the nails or screws are.


If you tap the wall on a vertical line, you may hear a different pitch where there is a horizontal bolt behind the wall. However, there are many other factors hidden behind the wall, such as wiring or insulation, that can make the sound appear to be different. So this is not the most reliable method for how to find a wall stud.

Drill to confirm

When you find a horizontal stud you have completed the difficult part of the project. Mark the location of the horizontal stud, then try drilling a shallow tiny hole with a small 1/16 inch drill bit to confirm the presence of the horizontal bolt. When you hit the horizontal stud, the drill would remove some sawdust from it. You can then drill a larger hole in the horizontal stud if you’d like.