How To Find Your Wall Studs With Just A Magnet And String

Picture this: you're all jazzed to hang a new piece of wall art or a great shelf you found thrifting and realize you have no clue where the studs are hiding in your wall. Why is that important? Studs are typically solid two-by-four pieces of wood, making up the skeleton of your living space. Securing your picture hanger or anchor into a stud will make sure whatever you hang stays put, according to Engineering Specialists Incorporated. The heavier the item being held — like a television, the more crucial it is to find studs to hold the hardware.

While there's nothing like having the right tool for the job, that might mean dropping everything and running to the hardware store to purchase a stud finder. That's not always possible, whether you're on a budget or need to get the job done quickly. A hack using other items you probably have around the house can be a huge problem solver.

Finding a stud with a magnet and a string

Yes, it's possible to find a stud by simply using a magnet and a string; the latter can be any type. Jennifer Gizzi, a designer and renovation expert, suggests using dental floss on Instagram, but it can be anything from kitchen twine to knitting yarn. If you don't have a magnet handy, consider swiping one off the fridge. Small is better, in this instance, about the size of a button cell battery.

To make this work, all you need to do is adhere the magnet to the string with tape. Then dangle it in front of the wall, moving slowly until it sticks to one of the nails holding the boards together behind your drywall. Mark the spot with a pencil. If that's not the perfect place, keep in mind that studs are typically 16 inches apart in modern homes. You can easily measure to find adjacent studs. Another pro tip for finding the general vicinity of studs is to look at crown molding or baseboards for clues. Most of the time, they will be nailed into studs, although they may not be readily visible if the trim is painted.

Selecting a stud finder for next time

The old magnet on a string trick will certainly save you in a pinch. If you're hanging lots of stuff after a move or need to rehang artwork after paint refresh, you might want to go ahead and invest in a good stud finder. The most affordable stud finders use magnets to locate studs, as noted on Wirecutter. They find the metal behind the wall the same way the little dangling magnet locates it. The difference is that a stud finder is moved along a wall until a stud is located, and then it makes a sound or lights up. 

You can also buy more advanced stud finders that employ electricity to locate studs. The priciest models, however, use radar. They can identify wiring and pipes behind walls in addition to studs. As you probably suspected, the more high-tech you get with these tools, the more they cost. The expensive models tend to be the most accurate, but lower-priced stud finders are all that's needed for most DIYers. All stud finders require batteries, so be sure they're fresh before use. A stud finder can give an inaccurate reading if the batteries are less than full of juice. You might also have to calibrate your new stud finder before using it. Check the manual included with your new gadget for more details.