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What is a Stud Finder?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A stud finder is a small device that allows the user to identify where wooden or metal beams are located behind walls. This can help the person to find good places to use nails or picture hangers. Often, sheet rock without a stud behind it easily yields to even a pushpin. On the other hand, sheet rock with a stud behind it can cause difficulties in attempting to stick in that pin.

Generally, stud finders come in one of two types. An electronic device notes differences in density to identify a wooden beam behind the wall. A magnetic one finds metal studs, and also may be helpful in identifying when screws or nails are on wooden stud. Usually, both types are small handheld devices that use batteries to perform this operation.

This tool may beep, although some have a small viewer screen with readings that help the user to easily locate the stud. The device usually beeps or displays an image on the screen when it is placed over the stud. This is more efficient and less damaging to the walls than nailing everywhere until the person gets lucky and finds a stud.

Some people find that they can locate a stud by sound. Knocking on the wall against a stud will yield a dull noise, while rapping the wall where there is no stud will sound somewhat hollow. This method can also help someone to use the stud finder more efficiently because it tells the person where to start looking.

Locating a stud can be necessary when a person wants to hang something heavy. A large picture or a new flatscreen television is likely to fall off of the wall if it's only attached to the drywall and not to the studs or beams behind it. The device also makes hanging curtains or blinds easier, since they also tend to pull out of walls unless secured to studs surrounding the window.

In any location with frequent earthquakes, using a stud finder allows the user to secure tall large furniture, like bookcases, as well as heavy items. Securing heavy tall furniture to studs is a helpful step in being prepared for an earthquake, as these items will be less likely to fall forward during moderate quakes.

There are many different companies that make both types of stud finders, and they are usually relatively inexpensive. Most people find them to be a great investment as they take the guesswork out of finding studs for securing heavy items.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By jmc88 — On Aug 05, 2012

I didn't even know they made these things until I was walking around the hardware store one time. I moved into a new house last year, and have been replacing a lot of the floors. When I moved in, there was a lot of worn and ugly carpet on the floors. Whenever I get it replaced, I always have to take off the trim from the bottom of the floor. Putting it back on afterwards is always a problem, because I can't figure out where I need to put the nails in.

Now that I have the stud finder, I can just run it along the wall and find where to put the nail in. It makes putting up the trim much faster and less frustrating.

By Emilski — On Aug 05, 2012

@JimmyT - I agree. I also used to use the knocking technique, but I could never find the studs that way. The whole wall sounds the same to me. I finally invested in a good laser stud finger, and it has been great. I even use it a lot more than I originally thought I would.

The one I have has a little guide on it that even shows you where you are along the stud so that it's easier to find the middle. Otherwise, you have to find and mark both ends of the stud. This is a great help when you have double studs near doorways or other places in the wall where they aren't expected.

By JimmyT — On Aug 04, 2012

I went the longest time without ever using a stud finder. I finally got one not too long ago, and I can't believe how much faster it makes when I am trying to hang things on the wall.

Before, I just used the knocking method. I found that it wasn't always fool proof, though. Sometimes I would put a nail in just to have it pull out when I put pressure on it.

I don't know why I waited so long to get one. The least expensive ones without any frills can be found for about $10 and are well worth having around.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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