7 Ways to Find Studs When You Don't Have a Stud Finder

Drilling exploratory holes in the wall to find a stud

The Spruce / Jason Donnelly

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Yield: Located wall stud
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $10

Knowing how to find a wall stud makes projects like hanging heavy wall art, mounting floating shelves, and installing a wall-mounted TV quick and easy. A stud finder is obviously the best tool for the job, but what do you do when you don't have a stud finder or simply can't find yours? Even if you do have a stud finder, they aren't always accurate on thick walls, plaster walls, or walls filled with plumbing and electrical.

Luckily, there's no reason to delay your project, as we have seven ways to accurately find a stud without a stud finder.

What Is a Wall Stud?

A wall stud is the vertical frame member hidden inside the wall that's oftentimes made of wood but sometimes made of metal. Studs support the weight of the wall itself as well as anything above them, including but not limited to additional stories and roof systems.

Before You Begin

Why do you need to find studs, anyway? Without properly anchoring items to the stud, you're relying on the thin drywall to support the weight of whatever you're hanging. While drywall can support things like small pictures, it simply can't hold the weight of larger items, and attempting to do so will damage the drywall. Plus, when it comes to projects like anchoring furniture to the wall, mounting TVs, and suspending any sort of heavy item, it can become a safety issue.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Tapping Method

  • Your hand

Magnet Method

  • Small, strong magnets

Flashlight Method

  • Flashlight

Smartphone Method

  • Smartphone
  • Stud finder app

Drill Bit Method

  • Drill
  • Thin drill bit

Brad Nail Method

  • Hammer
  • 1" or longer brad nail

Measuring Method

  • Measuring tape


How to Find Studs by Tapping the Wall

Tapping the wall has a different sound and feel depending on if you're above a stud or not.

  1. Locate the Stud's General Location

    Find the spot where you wish to find a stud. Since the studs are likely on 16-inch centers, odds are there is one less than 8 inches in either direction.

  2. Tap the Wall

    Starting at your desired spot, firmly tap the wall while moving laterally across the wall. If the sound and feel start hollow and become increasingly solid, you're approaching a stud. If the sound begins to become hollow again, you've passed the stud.

How to Find Studs With Magnets

Strong magnets will stick to a drywall screw head even if it's beneath joint compound and paint.

  1. Grab Some Strong Magnets

    For this method, grab small-yet-strong magnets such as neodymium magnets. If you don't have some already, you can buy large quantities of these online for a low cost, and they're great for hanging art on the refrigerator while not in use.

  2. Move the Magnet Across the Wall

    Place the magnet on the wall and move it back and forth and up and down. You will eventually grab hold of a drywall screw beneath the paint, which is a key indicator of a stud's location. Repeat the process vertically on more drywall screws to mark the stud's placement.

How to Find Studs With a Flashlight

Even the most perfectly finished drywall has imperfections under the right light.

  1. Look for Drywall Dimples

    Look for dimples in the drywall representing the location of drywall screw heads.

  2. Shine a Flashlight Across the Wall

    If you have a hard time finding dimples, turn the lights out and shine a flashlight across the wall. The light will likely reveal the location of screw heads that have been filled with joint compounds, even on seemingly perfect walls.

How to Find Studs With Your Phone

These days, you can do anything with a smartphone. Even find a wall stud.

  1. Download a Stud Finder App

    Look wherever you download apps for your phone for a stud finder app and download it.

  2. Use Your Phone to Find a Stud

    Follow the stud finder app's instructions for finding studs. Typically, this consists of launching the app and holding the phone against the wall like a traditional stud finder. Then, the app will show you when you come across a stud.

How to Find Studs With a Drill Bit

Drilling holes in your drywall may not be the preferred method for finding studs, but it is certainly effective.

  1. Choose the Smallest Drill Bit

    Look through your drill bits and pull out the thinnest one.

  2. Drill Into the Potential Stud

    Once you've identified the potential location of a stud, drill into the wall at least 1 inch. If you hit wood after the drywall, you've found a stud.


    The drill bit method is a great way to find the middle of a stud to ensure that you're anchoring fasteners in the thickest portion of the stud possible. This is crucial when hanging heavy objects with large fasteners. Simply drill two to three holes in a small line to locate the full width of the stud, then place your fastener in the middle.

How to Find Studs With a Brad Nail

Brad nails are a surefire way to find studs, leaving microscopic holes that are barely visible.

  1. Find a Small Nail

    Find the smallest nail that you can drive with a hammer. The nail needs to be at least 1 inch long to pass through the drywall and penetrate the stud.

  2. Drive the Nail

    Once you have an idea of where the stud might be, drive the tiny brad nail into the drywall. If it pops through, there's no stud there. If it hits something solid, requiring you to continue to drive it, you're in a stud.

How to Find Studs by Measuring

This method may not guarantee a stud's location, but it's great when paired with any method above.

  1. Measure From the Corner

    Use a measuring tape to measure out 16 inches from the corner of the room. If your studs are on 16-inch centers, as is most common, you'll likely have a stud 16 inches from the corner.

  2. Measure From the Other Corner

    If you have no luck the first time, try again from the other corner.

  3. Continue Measuring

    Once you find a stud, continue measuring every 16 inches to find the next stud.


    This method assumes your studs are placed on 16-inch centers. If your studs are on 24-inch centers, which is possible, this won't work unless you know ahead and adjust your measurement. Also, there's a chance your studs are installed incorrectly and are on an uncommon center.

  • What is the easiest way to find studs in a wall?

    The easiest way to find a stud in the wall is to use a stud finder tool. If you don't have a stud finder, simply tap the wall and pay attention to the sound and feel. If the wall feels and sounds hollow, you're between studs. If it sounds and feels solid, you're on a stud.

  • How far apart are studs?

    Most often studs are placed on 16-inch centers, meaning there are 14-1/2 inches from edge to edge. For thicker walls, studs are sometimes placed on 24-inch centers, as the thicker studs can support more weight, requiring fewer studs to be used.

  • Are outlets always on studs?

    In most cases, an outlet is a good indicator that there is a stud in the wall located immediately to its right or left. Sometimes outlets do float in the middle of a wall, unattached to a stud if they were installed using something called an "old work box," which is an electrical box designed to be installed in an existing wall.