How to Find a Wood Stud in a Wall

Carpenter placing a stud in a wall frame
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Finding a wood stud in a wall is important for many home repair tasks. Certainly if you ever want to hang a heavy item on a wall you need to know how to find a wood stud for backup. This tutorial guides you through the steps and tips to locate that elusive wood wall stud.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Start your search for a wood stud away from doors, windows or corners. These areas often have studs located in a non-regular spacing, something other than 16" on-center. What you want to find is the closest stud to where you need it located. Here's a few ways to do it:


  1. Electronic Stud Finder: Without question the easiest way to find a stud is with an electronic stud finder. These tools measure the relative density of a wall by monitoring its dielectric constant as the sensor is moved slowly and horizontally along the wall. When it senses that the wall density changes (as when there is a stud behind the drywall), the sensor notifies the user.

    Electronic Stud Sensor Compare Prices


  2. Visually Locate an Electrical Outlet: How does this help? Well, wall outlet electrical boxes are usually fastened to the side of a stud. The simplest way to find a stud is to check on one side or the other of an outlet. The stud will typically be directly adjacent to the outlet or up to 1" away.


  3. Magnetic Stud Finder: Ahh. The way of our forefathers in home repair is by using a magnetic stud finder. First you have to find a stud and then you have to find a nail or screw in that stud. If you do, and happen to pass this finder over the nail or screw, the little magnet moves just like a divining rod! My opinion? Not worth the 2 bucks... Compare Prices


  1. Once you've found a stud you'll find they are typically spaced 16 inches on center (16" OC). So simply measure in increments of 16" from where you found the stud to approximately where you need to find one. (See Tip #1 on how to physically confirm the stud location if you do not have an electronic sensor).



    1. To physically confirm the presence of a stud without an electronic stud finder, find an electrical outlet and measuring in 16" on center increments from one side or the other of the outlet, move toward the stud you are hoping to hit. Use a power drill with the smallest drill bit you can find and drill into the wall right above the baseboard where you think the stud is located. If you hit wood, you've found it!
    2. Infrequently you will find studs spaced at 24" OC instead of the building standard 16" OC.
    3. Invest $15 to $20 in an electronic stud finder and simplify your life!

    What You Need:

    • Electronic Stud Sensor
    • Drill with small bit