Seeking Studs, Avoiding Trouble
November 20, 2008 12:50 AM   Subscribe

How do I find the studs while avoiding water pipes? Need recommendations for stud-finder.

Our condo's FAQ book made it quite clear that if we hit a water pipe while attaching things to the walls we are responsible for paying for the fixing of the pipe and any damage the leaking water might do. The building uses hot water radiators for heat and apparently there are many pipes in the walls that we don't want to hit.

I am looking for a good recommendation for a stud finder which can tell the difference between studs and pipes. Preferably one that you have personal experience with. Looking for $0-$50 range although if need be the price can go higher.
Also, any tips on avoiding water pipes when attaching things to walls would be welcome.
We will be attaching a very large bookcase to the studs (when/if we find them) and hopefully artwork in the future. The building is early 1900's in Seattle.
posted by silkygreenbelly to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
An early 1900s building with stud-and-drywall construction? It's not plaster & lathe? This seems unlikely unless the inside's been utterly gutted and replaced, which of course may be the case.

If it is truly stud framed, studs are typically on 16" centers, which will of course give a bit of a clue. I don't have a rec on a studfinder (though I do own one, I live in a house built in 1910 and it's all plaster, baby), but you probably needn't worry about finding them except for the big items (bookshelf, of course, but only the largest and heaviest of your art pieces).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:52 AM on November 20, 2008

Similar question, with recommendations about stud finders. Get one that finds wiring, also.
posted by beagle at 5:32 AM on November 20, 2008

Don't have a recommedation for studfinder, tho I own one, but along with the stud finder I'll also tap a few longish brads through the wall to confirm stud location, just to make sure.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:29 AM on November 20, 2008

SnooKloze: The building structure was from 1907, though my understanding is there was extensive remodeling.

Beagle: I saw that when I was looking through older posts. I am really looking for something that will help me not hit pipes.

Flanders: thanks for the tip
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2008

Get a studfinder (I have one like this, which can't differentiate between studs and pipes but keep reading), some blue (low-tack) masking/painter's tape, and a pencil. Pick a wall, and map out every stud/pipe/whatever in the wall -- when you get close, put a strip of blue tape horizontally on the wall (so you're not writing on the wall), and then a pencil to mark the "edges" that the finder finds. The studs should be equally spaced (16" or 24" on center), and the other stuff should be things you want to avoid.

Option 2, which I used recently an was amazed that it worked -- get a strong magnet and run it carefully over the surface of the wall (maybe protect the face of the magnet with some of that blue tape, or it will mark your walls). If you are lucky, the magnet will "snap" to the screw heads that hold the drywall to the studs, and then you know you have found a stud and not a pipe.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:56 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

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