Despite all the handy-dandy household hints available I must be 100% idiot because I have never, ever drilled into a wall with any glimmer of self-assurance that I would be reaching the stud.
Most of the time my self-doubt has been justified. I have more holes between studs than I have pictures hanging from hooks anchored in studs. Of necessity, I’m a fair hand at most things around the house, but locating studs was impossible until I hit upon the following method.
Mind you, I have a stock of Stud Finders languishing in tool boxes and workshop cabinets. Perhaps it is the depth of my uncertainty rather than the cavity density that they sense and respond to, causing me to drill in the wrong spot. I’ve tried probing in the newly-formed "wrong spot" and the usual result was an enlarged hole.
If I tried measuring out from a known stud I invariably ended up with two or more holes on either side of the stud I was trying to hit. What to do, what to do? With no further ado, here’s a surefire Method to Locate Studs:
1. Start from a sure spot.
Corners of rooms are always framed and the studs are set 16 inches apart. If a wall is not a perfect multiple of 16 inches, you still have a 50% chance of being spot on, and this method lets you verify your findings before putting a hole in the middle of a pristine wall.
2. Start measuring out just above the baseboard.
Start at one corner and measure from there in multiples of 16 inches until you get to just about where you want to drill a hole higher up. (Some tape measures have 16 inch markings.) Put a tiny, little pencil mark an inch or so above the baseboard at the end of your last 16 inch increment.
3. Verify your findings.
This is where we get clever. We are not going to drill a hole in the wall for the shelf bracket, picture hook, or whatever. Not yet. Remember that the studs are set vertically, running from floor to ceiling. Once the stud is located at floor level, a hole can be drilled higher up for the actual fastener.
Use a needle-fine drill bit on an electric drill and sink it into the pencil mark. If the bit goes through the drywall or plaster and then hits something more solid, you’ve found the stud. On the other hand, if the bit goes though the wall and then sinks in for its entire length, you are off target. No problem. Move left or right a bit and try again. The holes will be very small and in an unnoticeable spot; you can drill as many holes as you need to find the exact center of the stud.
4. Check again before you drill.
When you are sure you’ve centered the stud, measure up to the height where you want the picture or shelf to hang, and put another wee pencil mark at that spot. Drill another another test hole before you change the bit to one of the proper size for your fastener.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you have to drill several test holes. In addition to these holes being tiny, chances are your picture, when hung, will hide any mistakes.
With thanks to rootbeer777 for pointing out my mistake on spacing between studs. It is now corrected in the above, and it partly explains why I’ve always had a problem finding studs.