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I lack a studfinder at the moment, and I'm considering getting a wall lamp that I think is just too chic. However, I live in an apartment, meaning any holes that I drilled would need to be filled in. I'd rather not drill all over the world, and I am not very good at the knock-and-listen trick.

But I do know that my electrical outlet's location, which the wall lamp would need to plug into. So, in the U.S., are electrical outlets installed atop a stud? And, do studs (in apartment buildings in the U.S. built in the last 10 years) go straight up and down?

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Does your lamp have a two- or three-prong plug, or bare wires? You use a different box type for each, though the installation technique is similar. And how heavy is the lamp because there's a limit to how much weight drywall can support (though it's probably not an issue for a lampm you never know...) – Niall C. Aug 19 '11 at 21:39
This would be a lamp that I would mount and simply plug into a three-prong grounded outlet. I believe the plug is three-prong, though it may be two-prong. All wires would be covered. The box is already installed and is three-prong. It is, however, triggered to turn on/off with the switch by the door, which is about three feet away from the lamp itself. Obviously, I would have the switch (and the breaker, if needed) off during drill/install. – Aarthi Aug 19 '11 at 21:42
You should be able to take the cover plate off to determine if it is attached to a stud, and which side the stud is on. If you don't feel comfortable with this, shut the power off at the breaker first. – Tester101 Aug 19 '11 at 21:54
If the stud is that big metal thing I saw inside, then yes -- studs in my apartment are (1) metal, and (2) position next to the electrical outlets. Fortunately, it appears my...drywall? sheetrock? walls are about an inch thick of The White Stuff (amateur here, can you tell?) so I can at least use pushpins and short screws if need be. – Aarthi Aug 20 '11 at 14:22
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes, in general electrical outlets are installed directly next to a stud.

enter image description here

However, apartments may have some different things going on:

  • There may be metal studs. These are much harder to find by knocking.
  • Outside walls especially, may be a sheet of drywall on thin strapping with concrete behind, or even the drywall right on the concrete. These walls can still have outlets (they usually install them prior to pouring), and so to hang something up, you need a hammer drill with concrete bits, and a wall plug. I'd be cautious about even using a tapcon, because you don't really know what the concrete is like underneath (poured or block - and if it's block, you may be right on a mortar joint). With a wall plug, it's mostly the drywall that will hold it up.

Do you actually need a stud? How heavy is this lamp? Certainly a stud is better, but you can always use a wall plug. Put a screw in where you suspect you have a stud and want to mount the light, and if you get it wrong, put in a plug.

If it's light enough, as you suggest, some of the adhesive-based hooks are probably good enough (assuming the light can be hung that way).

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IKEA lists the lamp as weighing 2lbs. I might just mount it with spare Command Hook strips -- they're listed as holding up to 5lbs, come off clean, and are white anyway, meaning they'd blend into my wall itself. If my walls are concrete-backed, that would explain the firmness and the uniformity of the sound. I nearly bruised my hand/knuckles knocking against the wall. – Aarthi Aug 19 '11 at 21:45
if the outlets were installed when the place was built, it's almost a sure thing the boxes are attached to a stud. but if they were added later, who knows. – Tester101 Aug 19 '11 at 21:59

If you have to pull a cord to turn the light on, I'd be careful about a 5lb strip, remember it's not just the weight of the object but also the pressure you apply.

A stud finder with a power line sensor is a worthwhile investment. Even being adept at knock and listen won't help you if someone does something unexpected inside the wall. Last year I hit a 110VAC line with a drill bit because there was a line running inside the wall through the studs at about 3' off the floor without a metal plate on the stud. The line was running diagonally from a thermostat to a baseboard heater. The power line sensor would have saved me a lot of aggravation.

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Fortunately, this is a rotary-clicky kind of lamp, so no extra pressure would come into play! In my case, I'm waiting on buying said studfinder because (1) I'm only renting for a year here, so drilling holes really isn't cost-effective, and (2) I'm on the bottom rung of the rich ladder. laughs But you bring up a really good point -- it's a tool that will be useful well into the future, and will save me much grief long term. Any product suggestions? – Aarthi Aug 20 '11 at 13:46

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