I bought a suitable TV wall mount bracket (45"-55") for my 48" television, however, I have reservations about committing to the work. My concerns are

  1. Should I look for a wall stud, and screw into that?
  2. Will hollow wall bolts be strong enough to support the TV if I just mount it to the plasterboard?
  3. What if I hit a power cable?

What techniques can I use to alleviate my fears?

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    Be aware that if you are in an apartment or townhouse with shared interior walls with another unit, you may find those walls are built to fire-code with an extra layer of fire-resistant sheet-rock on the studs, then with the normal sheetrock hung on horizontal "furring" strips on top of that. These will make matters much more complicated, though safer and quieter. The furring strips are not substantial enough to attach much to. Driving through to the stud is possible, but starts to compress the furring strip and bow the sheetrock, as well as conduct noise.
    – Tim T
    Jan 21, 2021 at 2:48
  • @TimT We're in a semi-detached property in the UK, and the wall in question is an external wall. A useful tip though! Jan 22, 2021 at 9:08

4 Answers 4


Although you TV set may be light enough so that wall anchors will support the weight they may pull loose when the set gets re-positioned and adjusted.

Always try to secure the mount to a framing member (stud). Most mounts are designed for this installation as they have openings spaced at 16 inches (the distance between each studs' center).

A stud sensor is the easiest way to precisely find a stud, but locating a stud behind the wall isn't that difficult with out one if you know what to look for:

  • Tapping along a dry-walled wall listening for a duller less hollow sound is good.

  • Looking for a nail head that has popped up works.

  • Floor molding is usually nailed through to studs.

  • Switch and receptacle boxes are sometimes nailed off to studs (on one side of the box or the other).

You should be aware of cable and plumbing that may be in the vicinity. Usually electric cable is ran through studs so that it is recessed back from the wall about 2 inches so that an 1 5/8th's drywall screw won't damage it. Plumbing is also usually protected by the same location and/or a metal stud plate directly over it. Drill slowly and cautiously if in doubt.

  • A strong magnet works great for finding nail heads even when they aren't popped up.
    – noslenkwah
    Jan 21, 2021 at 14:07
  • Great comments! Of course a lot of this assumes a newer house that is up to standard practices. If you live in a house that is over a hundred years old, your mileage may vary.
    – zephyr
    Jan 21, 2021 at 16:00
  • Most mounts I've seen actually have slots so that you can slide the TV left and right or up and down as necessary to match wherever the mounting screws are. A 16 inch spacing wouldn't be useful up north where studs are often spaced 24 inches on center, for example.
    – TylerH
    Jan 21, 2021 at 17:02

Personally I've never had much luck with electronic stud finders.

Other techniques that work for me:

  • Use a magnet out of an old hard drive to locate nails/screws. Find one then search up and down for others. Hits in the top/bottom plate can be misleading. Wrap the magnet in some tape to help it slide over the wall without marking. I tried dangling the magnet from a string too, but that wasn't much help.
  • If the wall is sanded/painted, use a very bright light at an acute angle to look for subtle imperfections in the finish that indicate a nail or a vertical joint.
  • Get into the roof space and look at the top plate. Big nail heads can show where the studs are. This doesn't work for metal-framing, nor from underneath a floor.
  • Existing fixtures - most power socket plates are screwed immediately to the left/right of a stud. So take a plate off the wall and have a look inside. You can also use a thin poker like a steel ruler or wire to slip behind the wall cladding and feel for the stud. (mind the power etc)

It is tempting to find one stud (or start beside a door/window) and then measure off 24"/600mm centers, or 18"/450mm centers, or whatever your home was built to. And that helps give a starting point for a magnet search. But there are many standards, and the spacing may vary across the wall.

For complete confidence, you can identify the center, create an access hole in the drywall, and mount in some wooden support dwangs/nods/noggins exactly where you need them. Of course this is the most work but the most long-term reliable solution. Additionally, this helps with hiding data/signal/aerial cables to have ready access into the wall. You might put a removable panel on the wall, or a cupbaord door, or drywall/plaster/paint the hole behind the TV.

Perhaps in the future you have a hundred inch TV which needs more support, so future proofing is a good idea. There is no overkill, especially if you live in an earthquake/tornado/etc region.

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    Plus one for magnets. Doesn't need to be a super strong one, even the magnet on the end of a measuring tape will be enough (though waving it around is a bit tedious, compared to rubbing a magnet of a better shape over the wall)
    – Caius Jard
    Jan 21, 2021 at 9:43

1 - Absolutely yes. Use a stud finder.

2 - No.

3 - Don't. A stud finder will help you again. Look vertically to see if you have an outlet directly below where you're drilling or above as that's an indication of a conduit as well.

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    A good stud finder will also detect live electrical wires and/or plumbing
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jan 20, 2021 at 15:44
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    After I located my studs, I nailed in and removed a finishing nail several times to find the exact center of the studs. The tiny holes are easy to patch. And I pre-drilled holes for the lag bolts. Jan 20, 2021 at 15:47
  • The small holes from the "probe with nail" technique that @SteveWellens promotes will also be hidden behind the TV mount and will be much smaller than the hole made by the mounting screw. If needed they can be patched when the mount comes down, but can be left unpatched until then.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 20, 2021 at 15:52
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    Using the "probe with nail" holes, stick a cut piece of clothes hanger into the hole and move it up and down while pushing it into the wall. You'll be able to feel if there's any cables passing through the stud..
    – JACK
    Jan 20, 2021 at 16:47
  • Electrical cables are deep enough in the studs that drywall screws won't reach them, but the lag bolts that you need to use definitely will. They ought to be protected with thin metal plates, so as you pre-drill your lag bolt holes, stop and re-locate if you feel any kind of resistance that could be such a plate. For plumbing, just ask if there's a bathroom or kitchen in the area above where you're working. Pipes are run in pretty straight lines.
    – CCTO
    Jan 21, 2021 at 14:22

Def. use a stud finder. I have something like this and it also alerts me to electrical cables. Like another poster said, just sheetrock is NOT strong enough to mount a TV to. You'll end up with a ripped up wall and a crashed TV at some point.

wide stud finder

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    Kirk, I get the edits. I'm not what you said I was, but just wanted to warn other users about my experience. I won't reject the edits. Jan 21, 2021 at 15:19
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    Sorry, you're right, I should have phrased my edit change without the implied accusation.
    – Kirk Woll
    Jan 21, 2021 at 16:00
  • @KirkWoll No prob. I have no issues with people of various orientations (being careful with wording here so I don't get snipped), I just found it very uncomfortable to see those ads and wanted to warn others. I'm using private browsing more and more to avoid getting ads for things I have zero interest in. Jan 21, 2021 at 18:09
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    @KirkWoll In thinking more about this, I misstated my OP, in fact, I had TEXTED my neighbor asking to borrow a stud finder, then got those ads on my PC! Big tech knows WAY too much about everybody and monitors everything to monetize it for ads. Scary....I know this is way off topic and will probably get deleted, but Kirk, just wanted to explain my experience. Take care and smoke on! Jan 21, 2021 at 18:14
  • The stud finders locate the high density where a magnetic stud finder only finds metal, if a screw missed or was shot at an angle an electronic one is much better but reading the directions is important for proper operation some don’t work correctly until calibrated.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 26, 2021 at 14:14

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