Tell me about it, stud.
You’ve been planning your gallery wall from the moment you first walked into your apartment. You’re ready to go with all of your frames, photos and overall design. But have you checked where the wall studs are? Those wood studs will keep your frames secure on the wall — and help you keep that security deposit.
But do you know how to find the studs? Hammering into the wrong spot is frustrating. Here’s how to find studs in a wall and how to use a stud finder in your apartment.
What is a stud?
During construction, contractors use vertical parallel wood pieces, equal space apart, to create the framework of each wall. Then on top of those, drywall or another material goes on top to make it look like the wall you’re used to seeing. As the wall frame goes up, contractors will place plumbing, insulations and other wires in between to protect them.
Besides hanging a heavy picture frame, you should also always find them when wall-mounting a TV or an appliance to keep the wall damage-free. The stud will keep it safely attached to the wall.
How far apart are wall studs?
The vertical wood studs are found with equal spacing of 16 inches on average. Some bigger homes may go up to 24 inches in between wall studs. However, time and moisture may warp the wall studs as the building settles and they sometimes are off by an inch or more.
Luckily, it’s easy to identify where a wall stud is since most trim is nailed on a stud and outlets are always housed on a wall stud. With this referral point, you should be able to get started on your wall-mounting task. It’s important to find the center of the stud and there are a few ways to do so.
Finding a stud with a stud finder
There’s truly a tool for everything out there. If you haven’t yet, add a stud finder to your toolbox. It’s the easiest way to find the wall stud you need and decorate.
You can find a stud finder at any local home improvement store. Prices range from $15 to above $100, depending on features. There are two types: magnetic stud finders and electric stud finders. Magnetic stud finders use the stud’s metal fastener to find the stud, while electric stud finders detect changes in the wall density with sensors.
For the novices, an electric center-finding stud finder is a good fit as it shows the edges of the stud, so you know where to put the nail. First, to use one, clean the targeted wall area to make sure debris doesn’t interfere with the reading.
Once you have your handheld stud finder, place it flat on the wall and slide it over the area where you want to hang your frame. The finder scans and beeps as it detects a stud. Mark the edges with a pencil so you know where the wall stud’s actual center is.
Run the stud finder over the area again to double-check your work and look for the wall studs on both sides of the one you marked. Once marked, hammer a nail in the middle of the stud and hang your photo frame.
Finding a stud without a stud finder
Sometimes you have everything ready to go except the stud finder, and well, going to your home improvement store isn’t feasible. That’s OK! You can still use a few tricks to find a stud in the wall without a stud finder.
1. Download a stud finder app
No stud finder? Grab your phone and head to the App Store to download one of the best stud finder apps out there. Download Stud Finder (available on iOS and Android) to detect metal and find the wall studs. This app functions as a magnetic stud finder, and all you have to do is slide your phone on the wall.
2. Knock on the wall
This old-school trick typically locates where a stud starts — all you need is a good ear. Knock on the wall and slowly move toward the area where you are hanging the picture frame. As you progress, you’ll hear a hollow sound since there’s nothing behind it. Pay attention as you’ll listen to a solid, not as hollow sound when you hit a stud.
Knocking is not an infallible test, so if you’re hanging a TV, double-check with another method if possible.
3. Find a window
As part of the framework of a building, there are studs on either side of a window. You can start measuring 16 inches from a window and use an app to check if there’s a stud nearby. Once you find it, mark the spot and keep going until you have a good idea of the wall stud placements.
4. Look for outlets and trim nails
Electric outlets are installed on a wall stud, so finding an outlet along the wall you want to use will help you line up your gallery wall. Then move up to eye level and mark the spot. If your apartment has trim or molding along the floor and ceilings, you can try to identify where the nail holes are.
Usually, in construction, the trim and molding are nailed to a wall stud. Depending on your building’s quality and age, this may not be an excellent way to tell, but it could help when paired with another technique.
Hanging pictures on a stud
Now that you know what studs are and how to find those wall studs in your room, here are a few tips on how to hang your pictures after you find that stud:
- Dust off the area where you’re hanging the picture frame
- Make sure you find where the wall stud is before committing to a spot
- Once you have the wall stud spot, hold up the picture frame at the height you need it and mark the top of the frame on the wall with a pencil
- Grab a measuring tape and using the end metal hook, hook it to the hanging wire or hanging metal piece in the back of the frame. It should mimic how it will hang on the wall.
- Note down the distance between the tip of the wire and the top of the frame
- Mark the distance on the wall below the height you marked earlier — hammer in a nail that holds the frame’s weight and hang your picture frame
Keep it secure
Don’t skip the step of finding the wall studs when hanging heavy frames or TVs in your apartment. If these things are not safely attached to a wall stud, every movement you make in the apartment could dislodge it and bring the drywall down with it.
So take the time to add a stud finder to your toolbox before planning your decor to avoid any headaches and keep your security deposit.