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How to Find a Stud for Installing Shelves

by Robin Noelle

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Man holding a cordless drill

Things You Need:

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Towel
  • Drill
  • Coat hanger
  • Flashlight

When attaching shelving to a wall, it's important to securely anchor the shelves to a stud, especially if those shelves will be supporting any kind of weight. Failure to do this could result in damage to your property or even personal injury if the shelf falls. Like any home improvement project, there's a right way and a wrong way to do the job and you need the right tools. In this case, there are actually several ways to do the job right. Read the following home improvement tips to find out how to quickly and easily find the studs in your walls without using an electronic stud finder.

Finding a Wall Stud:

  1. Look for an outlet or switch. During construction, the electrical boxes are normally attached to studs for support. Find the outlet or switch nearest to where you want to hang your shelves.

  2. Measure 16 inches from the switch. The normal spacing for studs in modern construction is 16 inches apart. One way to find a stud for hanging shelving is to measure in 16 inch increments from the outlet or switch until you get to the place where you want to hang your shelf.

  3. Tap it out. Wrap the head of your hammer in a dish towel or other cloth to prevent wall damage and rap gently on your wall where you suspect the stud should be. If you hear a hollow sound, then the stud is to the right or left. If you hear a more muffled sound, you have found a stud.

  4. Drill a test hole. To make sure you have found your stud, drill a test hole. If, for some reason, you have missed the stud, take a wire coat hanger and straighten it out. Insert it into the hole and move the wire to the right or left until you have located the stud.

  5. Locate nearby studs. If you are hanging wide shelving, you may want to know how far apart your studs are so that you can anchor both ends. In most homes, they are placed 16 inches apart, but occasionally, you will find them spaced 24 inches apart. Measure the distance and use the steps above to locate your second stud.

Stud Finding Tips:

  1. Look closely at your baseboards. If you can see the small nail heads used to attach them to the wall, you can assume they are most likely attached to studs.

  2. Shine a light on your wall. If you see indentations, this is where the drywall was attached to the stud.

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