Hanging up a flat-screen television?

Putting up wall-mounted racks so you can organize your garage?

Installing shelves?

In each of these scenarios, you’ll need to know where the studs are in your wall so that you can mount this kind of stuff securely to it. 

Here’s a quick guide to how to find studs in a wall quickly and painlessly.

Using a Stud Finder

Studs are vertical wood 2x4s that make up the frame of most homes in the United States. Besides being used to provide structural support for your home, drywall is mounted to the studs to give your house its solid walls. 

After drywall is affixed to the framing of your home, you can, of course, no longer see a wall’s studs with the naked eye. But there are devices which can help you “look” into the wall to find them.

There are two different kinds of these stud finders which each help you locate studs in a different way:

Magnetic Stud Finders

The more rudimentary type of stud finder uses a magnet. 

Magnetic stud finders don’t actually locate studs. Instead, they locate metal fasteners (like nails and screws) that fasten the drywall onto the studs. As you slide the magnetic stud finder across the wall, its magnet will stick to the wall when you’ve come across a metal fastener; if there’s a metal fastener, there must be a stud that it’s fastened to. 

Any high-powered magnet can work as a magnetic stud finder. But there are ones made for the purpose like the StudBuddy, which you can pick up for $10 at most home improvement stores. Just run it back and forth across your wall in a zig-zag pattern. When the StudBuddy sticks to the wall, you’ve found your stud. You can leave the StudBuddy on the wall to act as your stud marker. No need to mark up your wall with pencil. 

The upside of a magnetic stud finder is that it’s cheap, easy to use, and accurate. 

Its downside is that you can spend a long time running it up and down and across the wall to find a metal fastener so that you can find the stud. This is the big reason why most people have upgraded to . . .

Electronic Stud Finders

Electronic stud finders use capacitance to help you locate a stud behind the drywall. If you’re interested in the details of how capacitance works, read this article. The short and dirty explanation is that an electronic stud finder can sense when there’s a density change behind your drywall. When it senses more density, thar be your stud, matey, and the stud finder will start lighting up to tell you so.

Below, I show you how to use an electronic stud finder. In the demo, I’m using a Zircon stud finder that locates the edges of studs. Zircon has stud finders that can pinpoint where the center of the stud is, but they’re more expensive.