A stud finder may look like a futuristic weapon, but it's an excellent way to locate the stud behind a wall. See more pictures of hand tools.

Hanging heavy objects on walls requires that you anchor the fastener to an unseen wall stud rather than just to drywall. A stud finder can identify a stud's location.

What a Stud Finder Does

A stud finder is a battery-operated electromagnet that identifies the location of vertical wall framing members called studs. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) display the change in the electromagnetic field to signal proximity to the stud. The electromagnetic field also identifies the location of metal nails that attach drywall to the stud.

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How to Safely Use a Stud Finder

To use a stud finder, place the unit on the wall and turn it on, typically by holding down side buttons. Slide the stud finder horizontally across the wall until the lights indicate the location of a stud and mark the point with a pencil. Other studs will be spaced 16 or 24 inches from this stud.

Be careful of erroneous readings, as the stud finder may identify another mass behind the wall, such as plumbing. Verify location by finding two or more studs at standard distances.

How to Maintain a Stud Finder

Stud finders are battery-operated. Make sure your unit has a good battery and that the back surface is clean before operation.

Tools Related to the Stud Finder

Other handy stud finders include a soft-nosed hammer that can be used to gently tap a wall to identify the hollow spaces between studs.

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