How to Use a Stud Finder

A stud finder is essentially a hand-held device that is primarily used to detect studs behind the drywall. Having the know-how of using a stud finder comes in pretty handy especially when mount heavier objects, such as a mirror, TV, or a shelf, on your drywall.

So, basically, to use a stud finder, start off by locating the hanging position. Then, you need to prepare your stud finder for the job and simply, find the stud. Finally, to improve the accuracy of your results, repeat the process.

In this guide, we will be diving deep into the details of all these steps and more. So, let’s get started!

The Working Principle of a Stud Finder

How to Use a Stud Finder

There are essentially two types of stud finders, namely electromagnetic stud finders and magnetic stud finders.

Powered by batteries, an electromagnetic stud finder utilized light-emitting electrodes to locate a stud. It focuses on wall density as well as the nails that hold drywall to studs. Generally, the more sensors an electromagnetic stud finder has, the better the vision of studs that it will offer.

On the other hand, a magnetic stud finder does pretty much the same thing though it uses magnets to achieve the desired purpose. It is a much older technology that limits its applications. However, in commercial buildings, they are quite useful when looking for steel behind the walls.

Supplies you are Going to Need

You can choose either of the two types of stud finders for your DIY project. Once you have made the choice, here are supplies, that you should have, at your disposal before starting out:

  • Batteries, in the case of an electromagnetic stud finder
  • Measuring Tape
  • A Pencil
  • Appropriate Screws
  • Mounting Items

Step 1: Choose Your Hanging Position

First off, you need to identify where you need to hang the desired item. Take note of the entire area it is going to cover, from the very top to the bottom. This is the area where you’ll want to search for studs.

As a general rule of thumb, make sure that there are no pictures or metal objects, mounted on the wall nearby so that there is no interference with the readings of your stud finder (if it’s magnetic).

Step 2: Set Up Your Stud Finder

For your stud finder to work properly, its batteries must be band-new and robust. Else, you would observe considerable distortion in the readings.

Apart from that, make sure that the flat side of your stud finder, having contacts, is free of dust, so that it can conveniently be pressed against the wall.

Step 3: Find the Stud

How to Use a Stud Finder

With your stud finder set up, it is now time to look for the stud.

Studs are normally 16-24 inches apart. So, you will basically be scanning a wide span of 2 feet.

Having said that, place your stud finder flat against the wall, about 12 inches left of where you want to drill, and turn it on.

Now, press a button to calibrate your stud finder. When the tool stops beeping or flickering, it means that it is ready for use.

Now, with the stud finder held flat against the wall, move it horizontally to the right.

If you are having trouble finding the required buttons or understanding how calibration works, refer to your stud finder’s manual.

Step 4: Mark the Spot of the Stud

As soon as you get a sort of alert from your stud finder – either a flashing light or beeping – stop and retrace the last few inches. Doing so will help you figure out exactly where the stud is. Mark this point with a pencil.

Step 5: Find the Center of the Stud

In case you are using a center-finding (electromagnetic) stud finder, you will also receive a display of the edges of the studs. Accordingly, you will want to mark each of these edges so that when you dig into the stud, you are aware of where the dead center is.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat

Oftentimes, a stud finder can indicate false positives, because of the metal piping inside the wall.

So, to be absolutely sure that there is a stud on your desired spot, look for studs on either side of it. For doing that, repeat steps 3,4, and 5.

When you do find them, be sure to mark them. They should be between 16 to 24 inches apart from the stud you found earlier.

With that being done, you are now ready to mount your TV, shelf, or anything else, without having to worry about whether or not you are aiming for the right spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Use a Stud Finder

Can I use my Phone as a Stud Finder?

Yes, you can, given that you have installed an application made for that purpose. These stud finder applications basically use the magnetometer function of smartphones to pinpoint metal studs, embedded in drywall and wood.

How Deep is a Stud Behind Drywall?

It is normally 24 inches on-center.

Is it Ok to Drill into a Stud?

Yes, you can drill into a stud for better fastening, especially if you need to mount a heavy object.

However, it is advisable not to drill the screw deeper than 1 inch into a stud since normally, there is electrical wiring passing the stud center. Just to be sure, always drill a pilot hole first.

What Does it Mean When My Stud Finder Beeps Continuously?

There could be two reasons behind this incessant beeping. The first one is that your stud finder needs to be recalibrated. So, accordingly, reinitiate your pass along the wall.

As for the second reason, your stud finder may detect voltage and alerts you of live wires behind the drywall.


We sincerely hope that by now, all your queries, regarding the usage of a stud finder, have been addressed.

To reiterate, once you have chosen either of the two types of stud finder, you need to locate the hanging position and set up the tool before starting to look for the studs in your drywall. Once that’s done, be sure to re-check your results as you don’t want to have any regrets later!

Liam Weissman

Hello and welcome to PowerToolGenius! My name is Liam and for the last 9 years, I have worked extensively with various power tools and accessories. I have tested hundreds of different brands and models and understand the industry extensively and have been working with tools my entire life!

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