Finding Studs Without a Stud Finder

What You'll Need
Tape measure
Tiny nail (optional)
Small hammer or rubber mallet

A stud finder is a commonly used tool in various building projects. For smaller projects such as hanging framed artwork, it is not necessary or practical to add the expense of a stud finder if you do not already own one. It is essential to drive the needed hardware into a wall stud so as to avoid the frame falling off the wall. It is possible to locate wall studs without the stud finder, using a few simple tools and noting some standard measurements. The good news is that standard home construction calls for wall studs to be placed 16 inches apart, so once you have located one stud the rest of the process is quite straightforward.

Step 1 - Locate Sound Differences

Start at one end of the wall where you want to hang your paintings or other objects. Gently tap your hammer or mallet against the wall while listening for a certain pitch of sound. If what you hear sounds hollow and at a lower pitch, you are only over drywall. Move along wall in a straight horizontal path and continue tapping and listening.

When the sound you hear is at a higher pitch, then you are over a wall stud. The sound should also be tighter and confined to one smaller area where the stud has been installed. If you are not sure when comes to the differences in sound, try hammering a small nail into the wall just above the baseboard where you think the wall stud is located. If it meets more resistance, you are driving it into the stud rather than open drywall. Be sure to make a nail hole small enough in an area where it will not be readily noticed.

Step 2 - Create Stud Markings

Once you have located the first wall stud, mark the exact spot with a pencil. Use the tape measure from this mark and extend it horizontally 16 inches. Use the same sound testing as you did in step one to find the next stud. If you do not find one at this distance, your wall studs may be spaced at wider intervals that are typically 22 or 24 inches apart. Extend your tape measure these distances and repeat the same process until you locate the next one.

Step 3 - Troubleshoot if Needed

If you're having difficulty finding wall studs by the above described methods, try locating an electrical outlet. Boxes for outlets are fastened to at least one wall stud when the home is first constructed and wired. This can be a helpful tip for locating studs behind somewhat thicker drywall installations.

Step 4 - Decide Wall Hanging Location

When you have successfully located two evenly spaced wall studs and marked them visibly, you can decide where you want to hang your pictures, paintings, or other wall decorations. Nails and other hanging hardware can be attached anywhere along the vertical length of a wall stud. Depending on the rest of the room decor, the size of your wall hangings, and your own personal preferences, there are many different options.