How do you Know if You’ve Drilled into a Stud?

Drilling into a wall stud is an extremely common task you’ll need to master whenever you’re hanging anything of substantial weight in drywall. Whether it’s a knife holder, a coat rack, or lighting, drilling into a stud is the key to getting a rock-solid hold.

You’ll know you’ve drilled into a stud when the drill feels different – like it’s coming up against more resistance than it does when drilling into drywall alone. You’ll also notice sawdust and wood chips coming out of the wall instead of just drywall dust.

There are a number of other methods to check where the stud is before drilling, so you don’t need to start drilling large holes in your wall to find the stud. These can also be useful for avoiding drilling into studs, which will help make sure anchor screws go into the wall easily.

How to Locate a Stud?

While you can drill a bunch of holes in your wall until you locate a stud – there are much easier and less destructive ways of doing this. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Tap the Wall

This is a pretty rudimentary method of locating a stud, but it works in a pinch.

If you think you know approximately where a stud is located (typically spaced at either 16- or 24-inch increments from the wall edge) then start there. Tap at the wall every inch or so, until you notice there is a different sound. This indicates a stud is located behind that spot, and it should have less of a hollow sound than other areas.

Stud Finder

A stud finder is an electronic device used for scanning behind drywall to find studs. Many are also capable of finding wiring and other metal objects behind the wall, which can help you avoid accidentally drilling into the wiring.

using a stud finder
Using a stud finder to pinpoint the stud locations.

All stud finders are slightly different, so you’re particular one may have slightly different indicators. Generally, you slide the stud finder along the wall at a slow and steady pace until the indicator lights start to illuminate. Once two or three lights are all illuminated you know you’re completely over the stud.

Magnetic Stud Finder

A low-tech version of an electronic stud finder that works really well is the magnetic stud finder. like the Master Magnetics Magnetic Stud Finder. This locates a stud by finding the nails or screws used to fasten the drywall to the stud.

When the stud finder locates a nail or screws the magnet holds it in place and allows you to make a mark on the wall with a pencil or pen.

While this may sound like a step down from an electronic stud finder, in reality, it can be superior in many situations. There are no electronics to fail, no batteries to run out, and no false positives to worry about with a magnetic stud finder.

Poking into the Drywall

If you think you know where a stud is located, you can poke into the drywall with a small screw, nail, or drill bit. If you’re drilling directly into drywall, then after a ½-inch you’ll be through the drywall and there will be no more resistance past that point. On the other hand, if you’re into a stud, then you’ll encounter more resistance after the ½” point.

How to be Sure You’ve Hit the Stud?

There are other things behind drywall besides just wall studs. Wiring and plumbing pipe are both located behind drywall, and you want to avoid drilling into these to avoid expensive repairs.

When you’re drilling into a stud, the drill will begin to slow down and require more force to work its way into the stud. You’ll still be able to push through, which is different from what happens when you drill into a section of pipe.

Another issue that can come up is drilling only partially into the stud but not fastening into it completely. This can happen when you hit the edge of the stud instead of the center. You’ll notice this happening when your screw suddenly stops facing resistance before its completely fastened.

Hopefully, you have a better idea of how to know when you’ve drilled into a stud now. Now, go get that home improvement project you’ve been putting off done!

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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