5 Super Handy Hacks for Finding Studs Without a Stud Finder

Need to find a wall stud to hang something heavy, but don't have a stud finder? Try one of these hacks.

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How to Find a Stud Without a Stud Finder

Need to install a wall-mounted coat rack, shelf or cabinet? The first step is locating one or more wall studs beneath the drywall. Wall studs are vertical wooden framing members that form the structure of many buildings. In Europe, masonry buildings are more common, which don’t include studs. But chances are if you need to hang something heavy on your wall in North America, studs will be involved. The reason is stability.

Experienced DIYers understand that heavy wall-mounted items need to be secured with fasteners that go directly through drywall and into studs. That’s where stud finders come in. These electronic devices make locating studs hidden beneath your drywall easy. Don’t have a stud finder? Not to worry. Keep reading for five helpful hacks on how to find a stud without a stud finder.

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Nails Sticking On Edge Of Horseshoe Magnet
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The Magnet Hack

We came across this useful stud-finding hack on TikTok. All you need is a powerful magnet, some masking tape or paper, and a level (or a weighted piece of string). Wrap the magnet in tape or paper so it won’t leave marks on your wall, then hold it against the wall in the approximate area where you need to find a stud. Slowly slide it up and down and back and forth across the wall. The idea is to find a drywall screw, which will cause the magnet to stick in place on the wall. Drywall screws are always driven into studs, so you know when your magnet sticks to the wall that there’s a stud beneath it. Use a level (or weighted string) to “reveal” the rest of the stud extending vertically above and below your magnet.

@mrfixitdiy How to find a wall stud with a magnet! #househack #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner ♬ AUTOMATIC – Theo Vermaak

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Light from Flashlight casts on a wall

The Flashlight Hack

Shine a bright flashlight on the wall where you need to find a stud. Hold it at a shallow angle to the wall so the beam illuminates any surface textures and imperfections. Often drywall screws are betrayed by a small circular dip in the drywall surface where the plaster concealing them dried and slightly shrank. Your flashlight will make these dips easy to see. Locate one in the area you need to find a stud, then move the flashlight up and down to look for more dips in vertical alignment with the first one. If you see some, you’ve found yourself a stud.

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Handsome Young Man Hammering Nail On White Wall
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The Finishing Nail Hack

Is the object you’re mounting fairly large and wide? If so, chances are it will conceal a few tiny holes in your drywall once it’s up. Use a small hammer to tap a finishing nail into the drywall in a spot you know will be covered. You’ll know right away if you hit a stud or not since studs provide noticeable resistance to the nail. If you hit nothing, the nail will pierce through the drywall and beyond easily. If this happens, pull the nail out, then try again an inch to the left or right. You’re sure to hit a stud before long.

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Man Marks out points on a wall with a tape measure
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The Tape Measure Hack

Most stud walls are built 16 inches on center. That means there are exactly 16 inches from the face of one stud to the same face of the neighboring one. Use your tape measure to measure over from the nearest corner of your wall in 16-inch sections until you reach the approximate area you need to find a stud. Then tap a finishing nail into the wall. If you don’t hit a stud on your first try, you’re almost certainly very close.

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Male Knocks On A Wooden door or wall with his hand
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The Knocking Hack

It sounds too simple to work, but knocking on the wall is a tried-and-true way to find a stud in a pinch. Give it a try. The hollow area between studs will give a noticeably different sound when rapped sharply with your knuckles than the drywall directly above a stud. Start knocking in the area you want to find a stud. If the spot sounds hollow, move half an inch to the left or right and knock again. Keep moving and knocking until the sound changes. Chances are when the knocks start sounding solid, you’ve found a stud.

Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell has been a passionate DIYer since the mid-1990s, when he received his first childhood tool set. His rural upbringing gives him a lifetime of experience in all things DIY, from carpentry and fine woodworking to welding and vehicle repair, all of which he practices regularly from his self-built cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario, Canada. Robert has been a regular contributor to Family Handyman since 2020, where he writes from firsthand experience on a surprisingly wide variety of DIY topics.