So, I'm trying to find the studs in an exterior wall. The following techniques have all failed:

  • Running a stud-finder over the wall just produces "lost calibration" beeping after a few inches of movement.
  • Tapping doesn't produce any changes in sound or feel over several feet of wall.
  • Running a magnet along the wall at various heights doesn't produce any results.
  • Waving a non-contact thermometer at close range doesn't show any reveal any patterns in the temperature variation.
  • Measuring off 16" from a known stud and drilling just hits air.

Anything else I can try?

  • Insert an improvised probe through the hole you just drilled? Insert a borescope through the hole you just drilled? May 23, 2016 at 9:55
  • Do you have access to the interior? You might have better luck finding studs there. May 23, 2016 at 13:11
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate, I've got access to the interior, but finding the outside counterpart to any stud locations I find would be a bit tricky -- the interior wall is in a walk-in closet, so I can't just run a tape measure to the nearest window or door.
    – Mark
    May 23, 2016 at 18:44
  • Don't forget 24" and the one everybody likes to forget, 19" and a bit (black diamond on most tape measures - 5 studs in 8 feet.) Are you using any old magnet, or specifically a very strong rare-earth magnet? I find regular magnets somewhat useless, but a good strong RE magnet finds me screws/nails every time, no matter how weirdly screwed up the wall is. Old hard-drive head positioner magnets are my first choice. Of course, if it's glued, you might be out of luck with that.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 25, 2016 at 2:08

2 Answers 2


Look for studs at 4 foot marks from one or the other outside corner. These are often edges of plywood sheathing and are important for the framers layout to hit. Other studs can be off or shifted due to plumbing or structural issues. Once you find one of the 4' breaks you might be able to find studs on 16" centers from there.


Option 1: Measure 15 1/4 inches minus the thickness of the drywall (or panell etc.) from another exterior wall. If that misses, measure 23 1/4 inches minus the drywall. If that misses, go to the other side and measure from the opposite wall.

Option 2: locate an outlet. A stud will (probably) be on one side or the other.

Option 3: read more on How do I locate studs in my wall?

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