How to Use a Stud Finder

Knowing how to use a stud finder is a basic skill every homeowner should have. We'll show you the right way to use this simple tool.

If you've ever hung a shelf, coat rack, or other heavy-duty object on your wall, you're familiar with studs. Studs are the bones of the wall—they support the frame, drywall, and any mounted fixtures. 

Finding studs isn't challenging, but you need a tool called a stud finder. These gadgets work by detecting metal nails or density changes. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to use a stud finder so you can spend less time prepping and more time decorating. 

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using stud finder and marking wall with pencil

What You Need

  • Stud finder
  • Batteries
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape

Step 1: Turn It On

Insert batteries into stud finder. Place the stud finder on one end of the wall you're checking for studs, then turn the tool on. Make sure the stud finder is calibrated per the manufacturer's directions. 

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Step 2: Start Moving

how to use a stud finder

Slowly move horizontally along the wall. A light turns on to indicate when the finder has found a stud. At that point, move the finder back and forth to locate the outer edges of the stud—you'll want to know exactly how wide each stud is so you can work within those parameters.

Step 3: Mark Studs

Mark the start and stop point of each stud with the pencil. Keep moving horizontally along the wall until you've located all of the studs in a wall.

Step 4: Verify Placement

Check to make sure that all of the marks are actually studs by measuring the distance between each mark. Studs are typically placed 16 to 24 inches apart. If you have an off measurement, it could be pipes or some other wall obstruction.

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