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I'm mounting a vanity and mirror in a small half bathroom and there's only 1 stud to hit behind my drywall (1990's build). However, this stud seems to be flanked on either side with pipes. To make matters worse, there is another bathroom right above this one so I must assume both the copper pipes and the drain pipe continues straight up.

So my question: how do I hit this stud perfectly and not the pipes, and secondly how do I place drywall anchors on either side of the stud for additional support without hitting the pipes?

Attached are some photos. The magnets are stuck to drywall screws/nails.

Zoomed out Zoomed in

UPDATE: Here's another picture after I've probed into the wall with a metal hanger (those are hard to find these days!) I believe the pin prick my screwdriver is pointing to is the center of the stud as the hole to the left of it just barely graced the left side of wood. But how is that possible with where the drain pipe is below this? I still don't have confidence in what I'm seeing. still unsure

One more photo showing this stud's relation to the only other stud that isn't in one of the corners of the room. enter image description here

  • A stud goes straight up and down. Remember there may be misplaced drywall screws, those guys move fast, if they drive a screw and it misses, they will just leave it. Also if driving screws into the stud, don't use drywall anchors, the ate for attaching to drywall directly between studs. – Tyson Oct 24 '16 at 1:59
  • @Tyson You've hit the nail on the head! (See what I did there?!) I realize I can't trust the drywall screws but this gives you a good visual of my problem. As for the drywall anchors, I'll have to use drywall anchors for the mirror. Can't hang it on just 1 stud that isn't centered for the mirror. – Jaxidian Oct 24 '16 at 2:02
  • I'm going to be mounting in the future shelf brackets on newly installed (and finished) drywall. Your method of locating screws with magnets is perfect for my purposes. I watched the contractor install the drywall and there are zero missed screws, as they marked the line prior to placing the drywall. I also have a stud detector that will locate density changes at the edge of the stud, providing for two references. It prevents me from relying on one method, improving the chance for success. Even though you posted a question, thank you for an answer! – fred_dot_u Oct 24 '16 at 15:10
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If the mirror is not over 50 lbs or more you can use picture hooks that are rated for 75 lbs that go only into the drywall.

Drywall will hold it, it is not like the wall vibrates or anything like that to make them loose. Besides the nails are set at an angle so it keeps hanging, not able to slide out.

enter image description here

  • That's good to know and solves my drywall anchors problem. But what about hitting the studs and not pipes for the vanity? – Jaxidian Oct 24 '16 at 10:04
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    Where the cabinet covers the wall and any probe hole will not be seen. So find the stud by your magnets, then drive a nail at you best chance of hitting a stud, not hard, just enough to go through the drywall and hit the stud if it is there. If there is a void, go no farther, the round of the pipe will always create a void by the studs. The nail will not poke a hole in the pipe all that easily. On top of that when the nail goes in the cavity, you will "feel" the round of the pipe. Probe at the stud until you find the edges and mount the cabinet. – Jack Oct 24 '16 at 14:59
  • I've added an additional photo. The pin prick my screwdriver is pointing to is where I believe the center of a stud is, but that seems impossible with where the drain pipe is located. I'm still very uncomfortable with this. – Jaxidian Oct 25 '16 at 1:34
  • So one more piece of info. I pulled my rag out of the drain pipe and it immediately turns to the left. So I think there's no way that stud goes to the floor. Is that possible? There are no other studs in the area (says the stud finder and the bang-on-the-wall-with-my-knuckles test). – Jaxidian Oct 25 '16 at 1:48
  • Plumbers have been known to notch studs to get pipe in where they need to go. If you are covering the area where the drain is with a cabinet with a back, cut around the pipe to find the stud behind the pipe where I believe it is notched. If the cabinet has no back. then the cut will need to be a little smaller around the pipe. Have the escutcheon handy so you can make the biggest cut possible and still cover the enlarged hole at the pipe – Jack Oct 25 '16 at 4:03
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There's no reason to deviate from your plan. Drill carefully through the drywall (put some tape on your drill bit at just over 1/2"), then feel your way from there. If there's a pipe at that location, you'll almost certainly feel a gap first, and even if you don't you should detect plastic or metal, and either should move somewhat when pressed.

If you hit wood, drill slowly and check often. However, code in the 90s required steel protection at any point where pipes were run through studs close to the surface (say within 1"). One of our resident plumbers can confirm this for us.

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I'm not a fan of the magnet trick. Use a real stud finder and map out both edges of the stud, in several locations, before you proceed. You want to make sure it does run floor to ceiling, or there may very well be shenanigans going on inside there.

If I had to guess, your pinprick is the somewhere towards the right edge of the stud. And the hot water pipe is attached directly to the left side of the stud, and the drain is attached to the right side (the fitting is larger than the pipe, which will skew your perception). Looks to me like there's exactly 1.5 inches between those two pipes (one stud).

Stick a coat hanger inside the wall through the hole above the drain pipe, and poke around to the left. Feel a stud? Verify that with a stud finder.

You mentioned in a comment that the drain immediately turns to the left, so you might not hit the stud with the coat hanger because you're slipping into a cored hole in the stud. If you can't get magnets to stick all over in the place, then definitely proceed with caution. That means there's either no protection plate or no stud, both of which equals shenanigans.

See if you can find any horizontal studs with a finder (try to figure out what they did to frame around the pipes being in the way of where studs should be). But that's more of an issue for rehab jobs, not in a 90s construction house.

Assuming no shenanigans, I'm relatively confident of my deemed location of the stud, just by looking. Still, I'd do everything aforementioned above.


When using a stud finder, you mark both edges of the stud. Those marks tell you where the middle is.

  • I have used a stud finder and it agrees with my guess that the pin prick is the middle of the stud. The whole to the left of it is definitely hitting the side of a board. I get that the magnets are not reliable but they're great for visualization for you. Also, I've already tried finding a horizontal board with a stud finder but no such thing exists. And no magnets stick in front of the drain pipe that goes 90° to the left so I don't think there's a plate there, at least not a magnetic one. – Jaxidian Oct 25 '16 at 2:46
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There may be a horizontal member as it is entirely reasonable to terminate a vertical stud on a horizontal noggin to frame anything that needs to interrupt the vertical line (like the openings in this example http://www.oas.org/pgdm/document/codedraw/images/fig-a-12.gif )

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