Ways to Find a Stud Without a Stud Finder

When hanging large pictures, cabinetry, shelves, towel holders, and other items on the wall, it’s important to find a stud that supports the weight to reduce wall damage. If you don’t have a stud finder, our maintenance professionals have some tricks that will help you find a stud without using a stud finder.

What you need to know before you start

Before you get started, it’s important to note that most homes built after the 1920s utilize 2x4 or 2x6 studs that are placed, on average, 16 inches apart. Additionally, during the building process, studs are typically placed on the sides of windows or doors, connected to at least one side of a light switch or outlet, and are used as secure points where baseboards and crown molding are nailed. Knowing this basic information will help you find a stud more efficiently without a stud finder. 

Study the trim to find nails

Most home builders attach baseboards and crown molding to studs with nails during the building process. Study your baseboards to see if you can find a location that has been nailed. These holes, commonly known as dimples, are usually filled in and painted over, but sometimes can still be seen. If you happen to find one, you can measure 16 inches from the nail to locate the additional studs along the wall. 

Locate light switches and measure 

As mentioned above, at least one side of an outlet or light switch will be mounted on a stud. Using your knuckles, tap the sides of the outlet or light switch to determine which side has the stud. Listen carefully as you tap along the wall. The area with a stud will not sound hollow. Once found, measure ¾ inches away from the outlet on the side the stud is located, and then use that as a starting point to begin measuring out 16 inches to find the next available stud. 

Use magnets to find a stud

Attach a magnet to a string or piece of tape. This can be a refrigerator magnet or something similar. It’s important to remember that the stronger the magnet the better chance you’ll be able to find a stud. Drag the magnet across the wall, once it sticks, it means that you have found the stud.