How To Find Studs in Plaster Walls

We have tried a number of different methods to find studs in plaster walls. Plaster walls pose a unique challenge because of their thickness and how the lath and plaster walls were originally built. We made a list of some helpful methods to go about finding the studs in plaster walls. The video below is a demonstration of one of our more favorite plaster wall stud finding tools. Hope this helps!

best way to find studs in plaster and lath walls

The tool in that video is called a : Zircon MetalliScanner m40 Handheld Electronic Metal Detector. It’s advantage is it can penetrate thick walls looking for metal. In old houses, lath is attached with numerous small nails and this scanner seems to do a good job finding them and the studs the lath is nailed onto.

Below, you can read up on some additional tricks of the trade to help you to go in search of and discover those illusive studs!

  1. Follow the outlets: If you’re trying to hang a picture or mount a shelf, a good place to start is by finding the electrical outlets or switch boxes on your wall. These are typically attached to the framing behind the plaster, so if you can locate an outlet or switch, you can use it as a reference point to find the studs on either side. To do this, turn off the power to the outlet or switch at the breaker box and remove the cover plate. You can then use a small flashlight or phone light to look inside the box and see if you can spot the edges of the framing.
  2. Go fishing with a magnet: Plaster is not magnetic, but the nails or screws used to attach the framing to the studs are. You can use this to your advantage by getting a small magnet, like a refrigerator magnet, and holding it up to the wall. Slowly move the magnet over the surface of the wall and see if it sticks in any one spot. If it does, that could be a good indication that there’s a nail or screw (and therefore a stud) behind the plaster.
  3. Tap it out: Plaster is a softer material than wood, so it will have a different sound when you tap on it. To use this method, simply grab a small hammer or other hard object and gently tap on the wall in different areas. Listen for a change in the sound – a solid, more muffled sound is likely to be a stud, while a hollow, more resonant sound is likely to be just the plaster.
  4. Invest in a stud finder: If you don’t want to get too hands-on with your wall-hunting, you can always opt for a stud finder. These electronic devices use sensors to locate the framing behind the plaster and can save you a lot of time and effort. Just keep in mind that they can be a bit on the pricey side, so you might want to consider one of the other methods if you’re on a tight budget.
  5. Check the corners: The corners of a room are usually the strongest points in the wall, and the studs are often located close to the corners. If you’re having trouble finding a stud elsewhere, try feeling along the corners of the room for a stud or use one of the other methods above to help you locate it.

Remember to use caution when working with walls, as there may be electrical wires or other hazards hidden behind the plaster. If you’re not sure what you’re doing or feel uncomfortable with the process, it’s always best to consult a professional. Happy hunting!