I'm trying to hang a handrail in the stairwell to the upstairs, but there is a half wall at the top of the stairs that is 3/4" wood paneling and no matter what I do (3 different stud finders/techniques), I cannot reliably find a stud. If I measure 16"-24" from the corners where you think there would be a stud, there isn't. The finders tell me two studs being an inch apart sometimes. I've tried to see about removing the trim to see behind the paneling but it's not coming off gently and I also don't want to destroy all of it. I've also tried to drill a few small holes where the tool is seeing studs to see if I find any and haven't had any luck.

Is the paneling too dense to find studs or is the paneling itself what is being sensed?

Here's what the paneling looks like at the top of the stairs.

  • 1
    One small trick, since yo mention you already have a few small holes in this wall: you can insert a thin curved piece of wire into one of the holes you have drilled, and by slowly rotating the wire you might be able to 'feel' where the stud is in the wall. Sep 11, 2018 at 21:55
  • I'll give this a try too.
    – Craig
    Sep 11, 2018 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


There may not be any vertical studs (apart from at each end). It could just be a bottom plate and a top plate, to essentially form a rectangular frame which the cladding fixed onto top and bottom.

To be honest, 3/4 timber is pretty strong if it's just the one, top bracket going there. Just make sure you use a heavy gauge screw and one which has threads right up to the head (no plain shank).

Depending on whether you're house is full of raving teenagers it shouldn't fail in normal use. If you're not convinced, maybe you could use a butterfly type fastener which opens out behind the panel (drywall style)?

  • An alternative to a stud finder is a handheld metal detector or even a powerful magnet wrapped in a cloth to find the metal fasteners... I have a powerful 100kg 60mm diameter magnet which will find pins in a panel or drywall screws in a second...
    – handyman
    Sep 11, 2018 at 21:57
  • "It could just be a bottom plate and a top plate, to essentially form a rectangular frame which the cladding fixed onto top and bottom." This is what I was thinking too, one of the stud finders was definitely finding something if I turned it sideways and looked for a frame, just no luck vertically. It's just me and my wife usually using this stairwell. You mentioned a butterfly type fastener, would a toggle bolt for hollow walls with high weight capacity be appropriate? I saw some that said for 240lbs in drywall and 800lbs in concrete.
    – Craig
    Sep 11, 2018 at 22:14
  • Yes Craig, a toggle would be strong enough. Two problems though. One: toggle screw heads are not very 'pretty' and two: "will the handrail bracket cover the larger holes"? You might need to drill pretty big holes 10mm or larger for a toggle. In a painted wall you could pop the toggle though the panel and fill around the bolt but on stained wood, not so much.
    – handyman
    Sep 11, 2018 at 22:23
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    Incidentally, you don't say how many screw holes are in your bracket? Common here is three. And trust me, three one inch 12g screws in solid wood takes some force to pull out!
    – handyman
    Sep 11, 2018 at 22:25
  • Correct, three screw holes. They may cover the holes but it may be cutting it close. I believe the pilot hole for the ones I saw was 1/2". So if I just go with a longer better gauge screw than what's provided for the bracket on the wood, I could probably get away with it without using toggle bolts it sounds like.
    – Craig
    Sep 11, 2018 at 22:31

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