How to Find Wall Studs Without a Stud Finder

One of the most important things you can learn when you first dabble in DIY home improvement is how to … Continued

One of the most important things you can learn when you first dabble in DIY home improvement is how to find wall studs in your home. Doing so will allow you to hang things such as shelves, paintings, and plaques without fear of them being crooked or off-center. The simple solution would of course be to get yourself a stud finder, but you won’t always have one on your person at all times. In other cases, some people simply can’t afford purchasing one. Either way, we’ll teach you how to locate wall studs in your home with these few simple tips.

What is a Wall Stud?

Before we talk about how to look for the studs in your house without the need for a dedicated stud finder, let’s first talk about what studs are and what purpose do they serve exactly. A wall stud is a slender, vertical piece of wood, usually made out of lumber, that is used to provide framing or a “skeleton” to a building. They can be used to bear loads or they could bear no weight at all, such as in the case of partition walls, wherein the studs are merely used to create separation between two or more spaces.

Related Post: Best Stud Finders

Stud Finder

Look Out for Switches and Outlets

Now that we’ve talked about what studs are, let’s discuss how to find them. The first, and possibly easiest, way you can find studs without a stud finder is to look near switches and outlets. Studs can often be found near these landmarks. Most standard studs these days run all the way from the floor up to the ceiling. Also, they’re commonly used as anchor points for electrical fixtures. Just remove the light switch or the electrical outlet then look inside. There’s a great chance you’ll find the wooden framing structures you’re looking for this way.

Once you’ve found one of your house’s studs, you’ve already found most, if not all, of the others – you’re basically home free. Studs are usually spaced anywhere between 16 to 24 inches from one another, so just use your trusty tape measure to pinpoint the rest of them. When you’re ready to attach something on your wall, all you need to do is to make a straight line from the outlet to the point of mounting using a pencil.

Use the “Knock Test”

If you have a good ear, another way you can make do with how to find a stud without a devoted tool to do so is to check by sound. Tap along the entirety of the wall and look for spots where the sound is solid compared to other hollow-sounding areas. If the place where you tap sounds more solid, chances are there’s a stud behind that part of the wall. It would be better if you measured out increments of 12, 16, and 24 inches from each corner of the room and tap along these points. Doing so will stop you from wasting time blindly knocking all over random parts of your wall.

Go Back to Basics

It will also be good to have a basic knowledge of construction and architecture when looking for wall studs. As we’ve mentioned previously, these beams are spaced 16 to 24 inches apart, which is true for most structures put up in the 1920s and after. It would also be good to know that many studs are placed on either side of a door or a window. However, this largely depends on a building’s floor plan, so access to these blueprints may be necessary.

Search Nearby Trimmings

Trimming such as baseboards as well as shoe and crown moldings are also hotspots for studs. Keep your eyes peeled for obvious points where studs were nailed on. Look out for dimples, which are formed when holes are filled with material such as caulk and then painted over for a neat finish. Once you’ve found one stud using this method, all you have to do is measure in the appropriate increments to locate the others.

If you’re having a hard time locating the studs by way of your house’s trimmings, another way you can do it is by simply measuring from the corners. This technique works on most walls. However, it may not work as well for rooms whose measurements aren’t exactly divisible by the usual 16 inches. Doing a “knock test,” like we’ve talked about before would help as well.

Professional tool for drilling

Look on the Bright Side

If you’re still wondering about how to find a stud on your wall, try whipping out a flashlight. It may seem weird, we know, but trust us on this one. Start by looking for a rather steep angle on one of your walls. Shine your handheld light against this area. If you see a collection of dimples along the surface, it’s likely caused by the nails or screws used to attach the walling to the supporting stud beams. This method may be a bit tricky to get the hang of, but once you’ve gotten used to it, it may become your go-to when you’re doing a DIY project.

Make a DIY Stud Finder

If all else fails in trying to locate the studs in your house – we imagine you’ve put a couple of unsightly holes in your walls already after a few failed attempts – try fashioning a tool out of a piece of wire such as an old clothes hanger. Straighten out whatever wire you can get your hands on and make a right angle out of it. It doesn’t have to be at a perfect 90º, but getting it as close to looking like the corner of a square surely helps the cause out a lot. Take one end of this wire and put it into a hole in your wall. Spin the wire continuously in a circle until you hit a hard surface. The point where the wire makes contact is where the stud can be found.

If you’re unable to get your hands on a stud finder, using any of these methods is always going to be better than blindly nailing stuff to your walls. However, we do recommend using a combination of these techniques to accurately look for the studs in your home.


  1. How to Find a Stud Without a Stud Finder, Life Hacker
  2. How to Find a Wall Stud Without a Stud Finder, SF Gate