Finding Studs in Plaster Walls

Why hello there! True to the blog name, I’ve been making a TON of stuff lately (which I’ll share, at some point!) but doing terribly at documenting them and even worse at publishing. Terrible blogger right here.

However! Today I share with you a nifty trick that’s been oh-so-useful in our various house projects. Ever tried to use a studfinder on a plaster wall? In my experience, one of three things happens. 1) Perma-beep. Apparently studs everywhere. 2) Radio silence, or the occasional-but-unreproducible beep. Apparently studs nowhere. 3) Slightly plausible beeping but not repeatable enough to trust. Though I must say, husband has had uncanny luck with studfinders on plaster walls… I’m taking it personally.

The trouble with regular studfinders is how they’re designed to detect studs. They measure capacitance as a way to detect changes in density behind the wall. Sounds like it should work no matter what, right? In drywall, no problem. The rub is that plaster walls can be highly irregular (or too thick for the studfinder to detect anything) and thus give false readings.

What, then, are you supposed to do? (Assuming you’re not great at the whole knocking-on-the-wall and listening for a change in the sound it makes. Like me.)

If you’ve got some rare earth magnets and a piece of string, you’re in luck. Let’s exploit what we know about plaster and lath walls: they’re made by nailing lath strips to the studs and covering these strips with layers of plaster. Hey! Nails! Magnets will want to stick to the nails – and thus tell us where the studs are! So simple.

The kind of magnets you choose here matters, by the way. They’ve got to be super strong for the best results. Here, I’m using the neodymium magnets that usually keep Christmas cards on my fridge, and attached to them is a piece of thread left over from my DIY roman shades extravaganza.

Dangle the contraption slowly across the wall in question. Watch for any wiggles – you might need to move up and down an inch or two to get the magnets to catch. Eventually you’ll end up with your magnets sticking right to the wall, and that, friend, is where your stud is.

Easy, fast, and cheap! The perfect DIY.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.