How to find wall studs for connecting a TV?

How to find wall studs for connecting a TV?

Johann a TV mounting Technician and Editor
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7 min read for expertise
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Last Updated on June 7, 2022 by Johann Holsinger

Wall studs are the vertical timber support in your home’s wooden frame. They’re often found in the center and edges of your drywall sheets. When you’re attaching a TV bracket, you’ll need to locate wall studs to install one securely.

That’s because drywall can easily snap if anything is screwed or mounted directly without solid fixing behind it. Wall studs solve this problem as the timber support can take the weight of even large TVs by default, however, horizontal dwangs or nogs will not, unless you install jack studs supporting from underneath. 

They are strong and made most commonly out of solid wood or metal. That means they’ll hold the weight required for a TV bracket.

Understanding studs, their spacing, and your bracket

When our duties as a DIY’er come to finding wall studs for a TV mount, you’ll need to know a couple of basic details, like the wall stud dimensions and spacing and then you need to cross-check your conclusion before drilling permanent holes.

They are 2 inches by 4 inches and are vertical. When installing wall studs, the spacing should be the same between each one.

The distance should be between 16 and 24 inches. The precise distance should be carefully chosen so that the plasterboard edges align with each stud. The plasterboard provides a surface for the bracket to be fixed. 

Newly built wall studs for TV

Where do studs hide?

When locating wall studs, you’ll want to look in several places to start, like next to electrical box switches, the tops and bottoms of walls, the sides of windows and doors, at wall lining sheet joints, and in the middle of wall linings.

You’ll want to check each of these so that you’re aware of where each wall stud is located.

This makes our life easier for inserting the screws or nails when fitting an extendable TV bracket and ensures you also don’t damage your walls.

Hidden studs revealed inside a room

Ways to find studs without a stud finder

Locating studs in a wall doesn’t have to be difficult with the fundamental operation of a stud finder.

In this section, we’ll show you how to find studs without a stud finder. There are 7 ways to do this, and each one will be explained.

Those 7 methods are: Referring from your electric boxes, tapping the wall, lighting up lining edges with a bright torch, referring from windows, using a wire, looking for nails and fasteners, and using a magnet.

Refer to your electric boxes

To find studs from your electric boxes, turn off the power first. Then take the cover plate of the boxes off. After that, use a pair of pliers and gently push the box in and out.

Whichever side wiggles the least will be where the wall stud is. You can also slide a thin object like a nail file into the gap at the top or bottom of the boxes. you should hit the wall stud.

Installed electric boxes on primary stud

Tap the wall

The easiest way to find wall studs to mount a TV is by tapping the wall. All you need to do is use your knuckles and tap along the wall. Go from the left to the right and listen closely.

When you hear a different sound, you’ve probably found the stud. Then you can measure another 16 inches from that location to find additional studs, and pick where you want to mount the TV.

Light up lining edges with a bright torch

When looking for how to find studs behind drywall, here’s another simple method. Look for dimples in the wall.

Hold the torch close to the wall, facing upwards. The light should help illuminate the screw dimples or sheet joins from under the paint and plaster.

These are hard to spot without a bright light when you’re only using your eyes, so checking is easiest when you use a torch or a bright light source.

Pivots you may notice with light in the wall are where the drywall has a join this indicates a stud location.

You can then repeat this across a wall to find studs in different areas.

Refer to the windows

Another way to find studs without a stud detector is to refer from your windows. In many cases, the windows in your home will have a stud on either side.

Finding them is easy. You can try to measure 16 inches from the edge of the window nearest to where you’d like to install a TV bracket. 

Keep going until you find the studs. And tap the wall to confirm as this does require a bit of guesswork, as the window trimmers might not have anything to do with the stud spacings.

Measuring the window with a level

Use a wire

If you can’t find studs on the wall to mount your TV, even after putting a hole in the wrong place. You can use a wire. 

Take a wire coat hanger, and twist an end to a right angle. Once you’ve done that, you can use your new DIY tool for finding studs.

Simply take the coat hanger and put one end into the small hole in your wall, go ahead and push it deeper in until you eventually hit the end of the cavity, confirming the stud location. You can then repeat this as many times as needed.

Coat hangers for locating studs

Look for nails or fasteners

When considering how to find studs in a wall for a TV bracket, you may also want to look for nails and fasteners.

You can do this visually. The nails and fasteners attached the plasterboard to the wall studs.

Once you find one, you can measure out 16 inches to find the next stud.

Use a magnet

How to find studs with a magnet is simple. You’ll want to use a small magnet, like one from a computer hard drive. Place a soft cloth between the magnet and your wall to not scratch your walls.

Move the magnet across your wall until you can feel where the drywall nails or screws are, this will indicate a sheet join and a stud location. 

Look for multiple vertical fixings to confirm a stud location as sometimes there are odd screws or other fixings in nogs otherwise known as dwangs.

You can also tie a magnet to a string [1] and hang the rare earth rock on the surface of the wall rocking it side to side on the string. 

Once you’ve found a stud with the magnet, you’ll have a starting point to measure the distance to find the next stud location.

How to find studs with a stud finder?

Electronic

Locating wood and metal studs behind drywall can be done electronically. Electronic stud finders measure an electrical charge.

A plate inside the stud finder is used to measure this charge when it’s placed close to a wall.

When the amount of charge changes, the stud finder indicates that a stud is present.

A light, symbol, or number should display on the screen, and that’s how you can confirm where a stud is located with an electronic stud finder. 

Depending on your electric sensor model the screen will also display other objects like wire and pipe locations inside the walls.

Stud finders make DIY and locating solid fixing points inside your wall much easier.

Marking wall with a pencil and a stud finder

Magnetic

If you’re trying to figure out how to find wood and metal studs behind drywall a bit cheaper, using a magnetic stud finder is probably the best way to do it.

These are like electronic stud finders, except instead of detecting electrical charges, they detect magnetism.

Magnetic stud finders contain extremely strong magnets, which help when detecting even wooden studs through walls.

Using a basic stud finder to install Tv in the corner

Tips for using a digital stud finder

Here are some tips for how to find wall studs with a stud finder. Make sure your tool is set to auto-calibration.

To do that, hold the device against the wall wherever there are no studs, and switch the unit on.

It will indicate when calibration is complete. And when finding a particular stud, mark a few points and find nearby studs and check the distance between them to ensure accuracy.

What to do with your mount if you find off-center studs?

All these methods should be used to confirm stud location not just relying on measuring as not all studs are placed at predictable spacings. 

If studs are off-center, and you cannot find 2 in the right spot for a TV mount then here’s what you should do.

You can install a sheet of plywood [2] on top of the closest two studs to provide a surface for the TV mount bracket to instead be fixed.

Otherwise, you should get a mount with a large base plate that can reach studs at a larger spacing.

With the plywood method, you’ll want to cut some holes in the plywood for electrical outlets and to run cords through. 

But if you want to mount your TV on walls without studs, here’s how.

Drilled hole on a plywood for mounting on off center studs

Just a quick word

Now you know everything you need to know about how to find wall studs behind plasterboard for mounting your TV bracket. This is every way needed to find a wall stud, and a simple and fast and doesn’t require any more expert knowledge than what you already now know.

Now all you need are the tools to get the job done. And maybe a better TV bracket with a bigger mounting plate and longer extending arm.

Check how much your drywall can carry. for more information from me on the subject of fixing heavy brackets to drywall.

More information:

  1. How to use a magnet to find studs? an article from https://www.instructables.com/How-to-Use-a-Magnet-to-find-Studs/
  2. How to hang a television on the wall without centered studs? a blog from https://www.homestoriesatoz.com/diy/how-to-hang-a-television-on-wall-without-centered-studs.html

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Johann Holsinger portrait

Hi, my name is Johann Holsinger, here at mountyourbox.com I share all of the tips and tricks I have professionally learned to help you set up your ultimate home entertainment system.