Locate Studs in walls (16″ or 24″ apart) – Find with tools you own NOW!

These tips show you how to Locate Studs with Tools You Already Own 

  • Standards. Spaced 16″ “on center”
  • New construction codes require studs at 16″
  • Old construction commonly used 24″
  • Tools. Tape, magnet, hammer, nail, stud finder
  • Several methods. electrical outlet, light, app, hybrid
  • Hybrid method. Easily find them with these neodymium magnets, stud finder and light switch – every time!

Wall studs are inserted in the wall as a framework with the drywall. The wall studs will keep the wall intact and hold the roof at its place. These are the main pillars which are holding the vertical weight of the house.

What is the standard spacing for studs in exterior wall framing?

The standard spacing for studs in exterior wall framing is 16″ on center. This is for several reasons.

The building code requires it. Sec. 2326.11.1. Size, Height and Spacing. The size, height and spacing of studs shall be in accordance with Table 23-I-R-3 except that Utility grade studs shall not be spaced more than 16 inches (406 mm) on center, or support more than a roof and a ceiling, or exceed 8 feet (2438 mm) in height for exterior walls and load-bearing walls or 10 feet (3048 mm) for interior non-bearing walls.

Source: Single Family Residential Construction
  • Drywall. Drywall is normally 4′ x 8′. So drywall put up vertically can be fastened to 3 studs. (48/16 = 3)
  • Exterior sheeting (OSB or plywood). The same dimensions apply to the exterior sheeting as does the drywall. Most sheets are 4′ x 8′.
  • Insulation. Rolled insulation easily fits in the standard spacing for studs in exterior wall framing when they are 16″ on center

    • Cheap and Easy Insulation Ideas for Sheds

There are different types of wall studs. These are used according to the need of the house being constructed. Mostly used wall studs are 2 by 4 inches. This is not fully true because when we say 2 by 4 inches, we are referring to the 1.5 inches into 3.5 inches. Usually, all types of wall studs are is placed at 16 inches but sometimes 24 inches wall stud distance is also preferred in some cases. Here are some of the examples which can differentiate the use of the different type of studs in a different type of building.

Wall stud spacing in old houses

In old houses firstly there was no concept of the distance of wall studs.

  • All the wall studs were placed randomly and no scientific measures were followed.
  • Mostly these wall studs were placed at a 24-inch distance.
  • If you are finding the wall studs in an old house you should start looking randomly or you should check at every 24 inches because this was the routine followed that that time. When you try to find wall studs in an old house, it is better to get a stud finder.
  • This is because other methods are not as effective in old houses as the wall studs are not placed at a regular distances.

There are also cases when builders made homes in the past and they used a 16-inch distance for studs rather than 24-inch studs distance so there is no accurate way of knowing which kind of distance was used for the wall studs in old homes. Your best bet is to use a stud finder & a 🧲 magnet.

Wall studs spacing in your basement

The basement is holding the full weight of the house. Basements need more support so wall studs are placed 16 inches apart from the center. At last, the bottom plate is secured properly. If you are looking for the wall studs in the basement. You should always look for a distance of 16 inches. This is also important because you do not need a highly sophisticated machine to locate the wall studs in the basement. you will be able to locate them by mobile app or by the magnetic test.

Wall studs distance in sheds

Sheds mostly consist of a frame. Sheds will not require the walls to be extremely strong and they don’t have drywall. The cost-effectiveness is the most important aspect of sheds. If you are making a shed then you should consider going after 24-inch distance wall studs rather than 16-inch distance wall studs. It is said that using a 24-inch distance wall stud can reduce the cost of a shed up to 30%. Now, when you are looking for the location of wall studs in a shed, you should always go for a 24-inch distance estimation.

You can start measuring from the corner of the shed. Measure distance of 24 inches. You will be able to find the first wall stud at that distance. There are certain times when placing the 24-inch distance wall stud is not an option. In case of the sheds which are going to be approved by the municipality of the government, you will have to use a 16-inch distance wall stud to get your shed approved by the government.

Wall stud distance in trailers

Trailers should have strong walls because these are the moving homes. Most of the time there will be stress on the trailer because it cannot stay aligned on the road. One time pressure is more on one side while other time pressure will be more on the other side. Outer walls need to be stronger than the inner walls so in trailer outer walls have 16-inch distance wall studs.

Inside of the trailer does not need that strength so 24-inch distance wall stud is also acceptable on that side, This should be clear that inside wall stud are not weight-bearing but only for structural stability so it does not need to be 16-inch distance and rather than that 24-inch distance is also acceptable. If you want to find the wall studs, you can do it easily by using the magnetic test or using the flashlight test. You just need to keep in mind which wall you have selected for the search.

How far apart are 2×6 studs?

They are normally the same distance (16″ on center) although they can be spaced larger in some instances.

How to find studs in the walls?

Tools to get:

  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Strong Magnet
  • Hammer
  • Nail

Wall studs refer to the frame in the wall which supports the vertical load of the wall. There are different types of studs available in the market. Mostly studs are made up of timber and metal. Timber studs are lightweight, easy to handle, and cheap.

Finding studs with magnet

Effectiveness? 8/10

Metal studs are a little expensive and difficult to handle but their tensile strength is far better than the timber wall studs. Wall studs will function as a framework for electrical outlets.

This is one of the cheapest ways of finding the studs.

Pro tip: Use a strong neodymium magnet…if you have one. These little suckers are great for locating metal from screws, or nails. Weaker magnets won’t work very well.

  • You will have to get a good magnet that has high magnetic strength. This method will work best when you are using it for the metal studs. This is because of the magnetic attraction of steel. The stud will attract the magnet.
  • You can locate the wall stud by comparing the relative strength of magnetic attraction. For the timber wall studs, it is going to be difficult to locate them with the magnet.
  • Still, as the timber wall studs have screws attached, It is possible to find the wall studs. This method is not very reliable in the case of a timber wall stud.

Stud finder

Effectiveness? 9/10 (best of all options)

One of the best ways to locate the studs in the wall is to use a stud finder. A stud finder is an electrical device which costs usually a few dollars. The stud finders will locate the stud which is less than one and a half inches deep inside the wall. A stud finder will view the width of the wall at different places and this will let it estimate the location of the stud.

Best Process: how to find studs in the wall

Use a hybrid method (Stud finder & magnet

  1. Locate the electrical outlet and or switch on the wall.
    1. It should be on the bottom of the wall but may run vertically. You don’t want to cut into it and get shocked.
    2. Use a good stud finder that identifies the AC current. This will identify where the wire is and where it is not.
  2. Start at the beginning of the wall and move across at least 6′ so you locate several studs. You don’t want to get a false reading…which is easy to get if you don’t go over enough of the surface drywall or plaster…depending on what type of wall you have.
  3. Key point: Studs are usually 16″ on center. This means they are spaced out 16″ between the middle of each stud. This assumes your builder or your handyman built according to code…and many don’t. Keep this in mind when you think that your stud should be right “here” but it is an inch or two over. Sometimes the studs are spaced 24″ inches apart.
  4. Once you locate a stud – use a magnet to pinpoint the exact location of where the nail or screw is in the stud. It is usually in the middle. This will help get you in the exact middle of the stud.
  5. Hammer and nail. Use a hammer and small nail to nail into the stud so you can verify that you have located and didn’t get a false reading. This is more common than you think. If you missed than you can move over half an inch either direction so you can find the dead middle of the stud. The nail leaves a small enough hole so you won’t have to use a drywall saw to punch a hole in the drywall unless you are removing it.

RELATED:13 Electrical Mistakes You Are Making & Expert SAFE Fixes!

Estimating location by electrical outlets

Effectiveness? 7/10

⚡Electrical outlets are usually positioned in a way that these come next to wall studs. The electrical outlets are never placed above the wall studs because it will cause the electrical outlet to bulge out of the wall. Usually, you will have to find the wall studs because you have to insert nails in the wall and knowing the wall stud’s location will give you an edge.

Here are some of the methods for how to find studs in a wall easily.

  • This is one of the ways by which you can estimate the location of the studs. Electrical outlets are mostly placed right next to the wall studs. This is just an estimation and you will not be sure of the location of the stud so you can confirm with a magnet test also.
  • Combining the magnet test and electrical outlet location estimation can estimate the stud location accurately. Your aim should be finding one stud and remaining you can find by measuring tape. This is because the distance between the studs is mostly 16 inches to 24 inches.

Once you find one, others can be located more accurately. This way is not very accurate on its own because in some houses studs are not located at a regular distance so checking the location of the electric outlet and finding the rest by the measuring tape will not give an accurate result unless it is confirmed by the magnetic test.

⛑️ SAFETY. Be Safe around AC live wires. Often in your walls there are live electrical wires at various heights. This is very common in remodeled homes when the owner/ or hack did not follow code.

When would this matter?

  • Hanging a picture
  • cutting out drywall with a drywall knife?
  • Adding shiplap to your wall?

Wall stud finder app

📲This is one of the latest ways of finding wall studs. You can go to the app store or the iTunes app downloading page. Search for how to find studs in a wall. You will get some apps in the result. You should install the app with the highest rating.

This app will use the magnetic field detector in your smartphone. This is the same thing as the magnetic test. The only difference is that it will pinpoint the location of the stud rather than giving an estimate. This app will detect the metal studs better than the timber studs.

RELATED: 15 Mistakes New Home Owners Make (& How to Fix Them!)

Other ways to find studs in wall

1.Use a strong light to find the studs in the wall

Effectiveness? 3/10

If you don’t have a magnet or stud finder or an app for your phone, then you can try this method. After a few tries it did work but you really have to look closely at the wall to see where the studs are.

When a wall stud is placed in the wall. Some color irregularities or a dimple will become visible on the wall. This kind of irregularity is not visible to the naked eye but it is also not impossible to find. If you use a flashlight and place it parallel to the wall, you will find that extra shadow is created on the wall.

This will show that there is some irregularity in the wall and this might be the location of the wall stud. The same thing can be confirmed with the magnet. This method is not very reliable on its own but using a confirmation tool as the magnet can get you to a better and accurate result.

2. Sound test to locate studs

Effectiveness? 4/10

This is one of the averagely effective ways of finding the wall studs. You will need a measuring tape and your ability to hear and differentiate the different types of sounds. First, go to the corner of the wall and measure 16 inches from the wall by measuring tape.

Tap the wall with the back of your finger or with the back of a spoon. If you find that the wall is producing damp sound rather than a sharp sound, this must be the location of the wall stud.

If this location is not correct and you hear the same sound then try at 24 inches. Studs are placed between 12 inches to 24 inches distance. Once you find one stud, it will be easy for you to find the others by measuring the same distance from the first one.

Next: Learn How to Find Studs in the Wall

D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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