If you wish to mount a TV or something similar onto a stud plasterboard wall, it’s helpful to find the studwork to get your wall fixings into as this will offer the most secure fixings. Although there are plasterboard fixings that can be used to good for effect to install TV’s which are very lightweight nowadays, if you wanted to mount something heavier it may be essential to find the studs as this may be the only way that you can get a secure, safe fixing. In this blog, I discuss tips and offer advice for how to find the studs in your wall. Let’s begin.
What Is A Stud Wall?
It helps before we begin discussing how to find and fix into stud walls, what they are and how they are constructed. A stud wall is usually a partition wall that divides a large space into smaller rooms. Although not always, these usually are not load bearing walls. A stud wall is constructed with vertical “studs”, usually made of timber(2x4) or metal which fix's between the floor and the ceiling. Often there is a small, horizontal fixing piece in-between the studs called a noggin. On top of the studs, sheets of plasterboard are fixed and screwed into the studs. In the UK a plaster skim is usually applied over the top, but is the US it is standard just to tape and skim between plasterboard joints. It is common for some form of insulation to be installed inside the stud wall to stop heat losses and/or soundproofing.
For a deeper explanation I recommend this Wikipedia article:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_stud
Distances Between Studs
It helps when securing into studs to know the distances between the studs, these are usually 16”(406mm) or 24”(610mm) apart when measured centre to centre of the studs, which are usually 2" apart. This means once you have found one you can usually find the next one. The studs run vertical and often a horizontal timber piece in between called a noggin. The noggins are usually about halfway up the wall and help strengthen it.
Pro Tip- On a measuring tape, there is a little arrow that indicates what the distance between studs should be.
Identify The Wall Type
There are various types of plasterboard wall, just because you have a plasterboard wall doesn’t mean that there will be studs inside of it. There is another type with modern building techniques that involves sticking plasterboard on top of brickwork or breezeblock, this is called a “dry-lined” wall or a “dot and dab” wall. There would be no point looking for studwork in this type of wall as there is none and different fixings will be required, like Corefix fixings. Dot and dab walls are very common in new-builds and buildings that have been recently renovated. These are usually, but not always the exterior and load-bearing walls in your property. I also mention a couple other wall types at the end of this article.
Wooden or Metal Studs
There are two different types of studwork, wooden studs or metal studs. You may or may not know what is in your wall or you may have to begin work before you find out. You should try to identify which type you have beforehand as this would alter the fixings that you use to fix into them. For timber studs you can use a conventional screw, if the thing you’re mounting is particularly heavy you may want to first drill a pilot hole and enter a larger diameter screw or coach bolt. For metal studs, the studs themselves are usually hollow meaning once you have penetrated the wall there is nothing behind it, you can get self tapping screws to light items or small TV's, for larger and heavier items you may want to drill a larger pilot hole and use a conventional plasterboard fixing like a toggle bolt or wall anchor which will fix like normal bit around the stud also.
Use A Stud Detector
Perhaps the easiest way to find studs is to purchase a stud detector, these help identify the stud positions behind the wall. You hold these up to the wall and it will tell you where the stud is as you move along the wall. Please note that these differ in quality between manufacturers, I once had a stud detector that kept finding things that were not there so I could never proceed with 100% confidence.
For metal studs, a standard cable/ pipe detector can be used or you could purchase a stud-detector that allows you to find wooden or metal studs. Once you have found your metal stud position you should be extra careful to make sure that it is a stud you have found and not in fact a pipe or a cable as the last thing you will want to do is flood your house or electrocute yourself. Please also be aware that often cables and pipe run down alongside studs so please be careful to make sure that you don’t accidently catch one of these.
I have seen this done to good effect a few times. You can purchase small, high power magnets like Neodymium magnets that can be used to find metal studs or the screws securing the plasterboard to the studs. These will remain in place and once you have found a couple of screws a line can be drawn in which the studs run.
Look At The Wall
In may sound silly but sometimes you can tell where the studs are in a wall just by looking at the wall, there is often a slight visible fold, bend, lip, indentation or crack in the wall and you can see where the studs in the wall are. Another thing to look for is if any screws are visible, sometimes the plaster doesn’t take to the wall where the screws fixing the plasterboard to the studs are and the plaster falls away or breaks slightly lose. You know that if you can see one of these that it’s most likely this is where the stud is from here you can measure up and identify you fixing points.
Knock On The Wall
If you knock across a wall you can often identify where the studs are inside, this does take a skilled ear but the studs will typically sound more solid and the further you get away in between studs the more hollow it sounds. Once you have identified where you believe the studs are you can drill a small pilot hole to see if you are in fact correct.
Remove Sockets And Look Inside Wall
If in doubt, if there are nearby sockets, if you are competent with electrical systems and terminations you could remove the sockets and back-boxes and look inside to see if you can identify where the studs are making sure you first switch off the electric first! If you can’t see the stud you could poke something like a rod inside and then mark how far it goes inside with a piece of tape and then measure this. Once you find one stud, it is USUALLY 16” to the next one. If you are not competent with electrical connections have a nearby TV aerial, satellite, telephone or data sockets you can remove these with more confidence of not getting a electric shock. There is a chance that there may be a small voltage running through coax cable and data cables but it isn’t enough to cause harm, you may just want to shut off the electric just to be on the safe side.
Cut Away Plasterboard
If in doubt you could always cut away a section of the plasterboard and look inside. When installing TV’s on walls I sometimes do this and use the hole I have cut to route the connecting TV cables through. If you cut out a standard size back-box you could then terminate in a brush faceplate to look nice and professional. The whole thing could then be hidden behind the TV (or thing you are mounting to the wall)
For large heavy items or TV’s on full motion articulating TV brackets that allow the TV to be pulled away which places more stress on the wall fixings you may want to install a section of plywood behind the plasterboard between the studs and then fix into this. When doing this you could cut away and then stop when you hit the studs, if you are careful you can even use the same section of cut-away plasterboard to go back on top of the plywood you have installed to fill the gap. To cut the plasterboard I recommend using a oscillating multi-tool as it makes lightwork of plasterboard and it's easier to cut slim, straight and neat lines.
There are a couple other types for you to be aware of as you may encounter them with your own installation.
Lath & Plaster Walls – This is an old building technique before the use of plasterboard, where instead of fixing between studs, beams and joists for walls and ceilings. Small individual pieces of wood called laths are nailed between what would be the studs. This is then plastered directly on top of this.
Honeycomb Plasterboard – This is, in my opinion a horrible type of wall especially when fixing thing to it. A honeycomb plasterboard wall is a wall panel where two pieces of plasterboard are separated a few inches apart with a cardboard honeycomb type pattern. Often you will find with small sections there will be no in between studs making not ideal for the mounting of TV’s and other things. I once had a customer joke that when he had some building work done, that when the builder had realised there was no studs in what he found to be a honeycomb wall that to remove it he ran and jumped through it!
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That being said I will help where I can, until next time.
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