How to Use a Stud Finder

Last update February 15, 2019
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There are a great number of different tools out there that will help you with a variety of different applications and purposes around the house. Of course, some of them are fairly simple and even those people that aren’t really that into the whole DoItYourself schtick will be able to operate, say, a staple gun or a pair of wire cutters with relative ease. But others can be somewhat complicated. Well, where does a stud finder land on the difficulty spectrum is up for debate, but we decided it certainly wouldn’t hurt to explain how does a stud finder work and how to use one since we believe it to be a basic skill that just about any homeowner should have in his arsenal. But, in order to understand how to use it, we will first have to figure out what exactly is it and what its purpose is.

What Is the Use of a Stud Finder?

A stud finder is, essentially, a battery-operated electromagnetic tool that detects the so-called framing studs. They also detect metal nails, density changes, and wires. As you would imagine, this is an indispensable gadget when it comes to hanging a coat rack, a shelf, or any heavy-duty object on the wall. Fortunately enough, finding a stud isn’t really that difficult, as long as you have a stud finder by your side and a couple of additional accessories.

The Items You Need

In order to get started, you will first have to make sure that you have all of the necessary items. Barring the stud finder itself, you will also need a number of batteries, a pencil, and a measuring tape. The batteries can often prove to be the most important part so make sure to double check those if you would like to get a good reading on the wall. If the batteries happen to be compromised or simply old, there’s a good chance that you will struggle trying to locate a stud. Also, before you get started, take your time and carefully remove your wall clock, all of the shelves, and every piece of furniture from the particular wall that you are planning on using. Aside from the obvious question of comfort, these things may interfere with readings of even the most accurate stud finders.

Turn the Stud Finder On

With all of the preparations out of the way, it is time to turn the finder on. Of course, in order to do that, you will first have to insert the batteries. Then, make sure to place the gadget to the left of the particular area that you are trying to examine. Though, before that, you should calibrate the finder according to the manufacturer’s instructions that you will always be able to find in the package. You will know that the stud finder has finished the process of calibration the moment it starts beeping.

Put It on the Wall

Now, it is time to apply the stud finder against the wall. Keep in mind that even the most sophisticated models won’t be able to get a good reading if only half of the gadget is in full contact with the wall. Using a stud finder, you should always hold the entire thing flat against the wall. Only when both the bottom and the top contacts are in full contact with the wall will you be able to get a good reading.

Bearing the latter in mind, you can start slowly moving the stud finder along the wall in a horizontal manner. If you see a light turning on, that means that the stud finder was able to identify a stud. That said, your job isn’t quite done there yet. Once you found a stud, always make sure to move the gadget back and forth in order to identify the precise location of the outer edges of the stud. You will need those parameters in order to have a clear picture in mind where and what you can hang around that part of the wall.

Mark the Studs

As you would probably imagine, this is where the aforementioned pencil comes in. Use it to mark where every stud begins and where it ends. Now, even though you may be planning on using only a small part of a wall for, say, a relatively small mirror, we would recommend you to keep moving horizontally along the wall in order to locate each and every stud since you never know what you are going to hang next and when you will need those in the future.

Make Sure It’s a Stud

The final step is to whip out the measuring tape and to check whether all of the marks that you have made are actually studs. In order to do that, you will have to measure the distance between them. Generally speaking, the studs are put 16 to 24 inches apart. So, if one of your numbers isn’t necessarily in that vicinity, there’s a chance that what you’ve marked is any other kind of wall obstruction, like a pipe.