Blindly guessing where to hang artwork or shelves is one of the biggest DIY home mistakes we see. When you’re hanging something, especially something heavy, or securing furniture to the wall, it’s really important to locate a stud to use as support. If you don’t, you risk the item falling and/or damaging your walls.

When it comes to getting things done right around the house, you can count on our support, along with all the information you need to make your DIY project a success. So, whether you want to do it yourself or call in the Mr. Handyman pros, keep reading to learn how to securely fasten your pictures, artwork, and shelves.

What is a Stud Finder and Why Do I Need One?

Before you start hanging anything on the walls, you’ll need to know where the studs are in your walls. This is a lot easier to do when you have a stud finder. What’s a stud finder? A stud finder is a tool used by DIYers and professionals of all trades to help find the 2” x 4” framing studs that hold your drywall securely in place. Ideally, these wall studs should be spaced 16” apart (from center to center). Theoretically, once you find one, you should be able to locate the others, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Locating the stud in your wall is very important regarding hanging heavy objects or when making renovations to your home. Securing something like a TV, shelving, or a heavy piece of artwork directly into the stud gives the item more support. It will also hang straighter and look more aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t secure the object you're hanging to a stud, you run the risk of damaging your wall or letting your item fall to the floor. Drywall is fine for hanging objects under 5 lbs, but it is not designed or intended to support heavy objects.

How Does a Stud Finder Work?

A stud finder works by detecting differences in electrical properties or the density within the wall. Some stud finders can also locate a stud by using a magnet to identify screws or nails in the stud. Others use an electrical current to measure the electrostatic field within the wall. Some can also scan for electrical wires that are secured to the stud. Depending on the type of stud finder you decide to use, whether you use magnets, electricity, or even radar to find the stud, the important thing is locating a stud to securely anchor whatever you’re hanging.

How to Choose a Stud Finder

Before using a stud finder, let’s review the different types of stud finders that are available. Here are the three most common types of stud-finders on the market today:

1. Magnetic stud-finders

This type of stud finder uses strong internal magnets to detect the screws used to fasten the drywall. Once the stud finder locates these fasteners, it alerts the user with a flashing light or beeping sound. This type of stud finder works great when the screws used to secure your drywall are‌ secured to the stud. However, in some instances, a few screws may have missed the stud, which will result in an inaccurate reading. Using this type of stud finder requires a slow, steady approach.

2. Electronic stud-finders

This type of stud finder uses dielectric sensors to detect density changes in the wall. Since they are more high-tech than magnetic stud finders, they can be used to find other materials behind the walls, like PVC piping and wiring, in addition to wall studs. They can also penetrate thicker material, such as ceramic tiles, which can prove to be very difficult for a magnetic stud finder.

3. Radar stud-finders

One of the more modern and high-tech stud finders available today uses radar technology to find studs, pipes, wires, or even rebar in concrete. Since this device can be used to find more than just studs and is often more accurate than magnetic or electric ones, they are more expensive.

How to Ensure Accuracy When Using a Stud Finder

Depending on which type of stud finder you choose, there are some slight differences in how to use them. A magnetic stud finder requires a slow, steady approach. Moving too fast may result in a missed stud or incorrect reading. Stud-finders that use electronic sensors or radar are typically more accurate and easier to use. Regardless of which type of stud finder you choose, here are some general rules you should follow when using one:

1. Check the Batteries

This one seems pretty simple, right? Whether you’re using a magnetic, electronic, or radar stud finder, the first step is always to check the batteries in your tool to make sure that they are supplying enough power to ensure an accurate reading. If the batteries are old or have been in the device for a while, switch them out for new ones.

2. Calibrate the Stud Finder

To calibrate a stud finder, place it against the wall’s surface. Once it’s flat against the wall, press and hold the power button for 1-2 seconds. This will reset the tool and adjust it to the wall’s surface. Also, check the owner’s manual for specific steps regarding the calibration of your device.

3. Find a Stud

Once your stud finder is fully charged and calibrated, run it slowly over the wall until it alerts you that it has found a stud. Most stud finders today are highly accurate. However, if you’re searching for a stud behind drywall, you can confirm the accuracy of your finding by pounding on the wall with the palm of your hand or a fist. First, pound where the device tells you the stud is located (it should feel solid and make little or no sound). Then, pound a few inches to the left and right (it should not feel as solid and make a hollow sound when you tap on it).

4. Mark the Stud

Once you feel confident you’ve located a stud, mark it with a pencil or chalk. You can use a ruler to draw a straight line on the wall based on where you want to hang your item. This will help you keep track of the studs once you’re ready to start hanging your item.

5. Repeat Steps 3-4 Until You Have Found All of the Studs

Depending on the size of your item, you might need to find more than one stud. If you’re hanging something that is fairly large and needs to support additional weight, like shelving, you’ll want to secure it to more than one stud. As mentioned earlier, if your home was constructed properly, each stud should be located 16 inches apart (from center to center). So once you find the first stud, the next one should be located approximately 16 inches from your original line. Use a tape measure to mark each stud, and repeat this process using your stud finder until you’ve located all of the studs you need to hang your item(s).

Make Completing All of Your Home Projects Easier with Mr. Handyman

Using the right tools will make locating studs to hang your items securely a lot easier. And while finding the time to complete all of the things on your home project to-do list is not as easy, finding a reliable local handyman to lend you a hand is easy. Our team of experienced pros are experts at hanging pictures, shelves, or just about any other home project you need to get done.

Plus, all Mr. Handyman’s projects are backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which means we’ll do the job right – the first time around. Don’t put off your home projects any longer. Request service today!