The Wall Stud: The unsung hero of the home building industry


If you are taking a construction course or in the process of learning how to build a house then you may have no idea what a wall stud is.  A wall stud is the vertical piece in the light frame construction process called balloon and platform framing of a buildings wall.


The wall stud can also be referred to as the “stick and frame” or “stick and boxes.”  Sticks carry vertical loads and rectangular platforms made of floor joints that hold the outward forces which keep the building walls from bulging.  The wall studs are extremely tall in length and run from still plate to roof plate with the walls holding up the floors.  Wall studs are in the corners of long walls in balloon framed buildings.

Types of studs

There are four different types of studs:

  • King stud:  A stud that is left or right of a window or door that runs from top to bottom plates.
  • Trimmer or jack:  A stud that is left or right of a window or door that runs to the header
  • Cripple stud:  Stud located above or below frame, but it does not run the entire length of the wall
  • Post/column: A double or integral multiple of a group of studs that are aligned side by side

Locating studs

When someone is hanging a picture or mounting objects to the wall, the person wants to find the studs to maximize the strength.  The best thing to use is a stud finder such as the magnetic stud finders and internal capacity stud finders.  The magnetic stud finders use a magnet to find the screws or nails placed into the studs during the wall development process.  The magnetic stud finders will “pull” when it finds the nail or screw in the wall and signals the user with a “pull” action.  The internal capacity stud finder uses the internal capacitor plate to detect changes in the dielectric constant of the wall.  A change in the dielectric constant specifies that there is a stud in the wall.  There are three categories that the stud finders fall under: edge finder, center finders, and instant stud finders.

Try the “knock test” near the corner of the door or light switch to see if you can control where the smaller stud-spacing might have been put.  This only really works if you’re measuring a corner off the exterior of the house, which is why it is most people’s least favorite thing to do.  But it’s worth a shot before you go crazy with the test holes.

If you do not have a stud finder then you can tap on the wall with your fist.  Tapping on the wall may sound silly or remedial, but you can feel the studs because there will be less vibration.  It is suggested that you can also use a hammer and tap the wall while listening for different sounds.  Either way, finding the studs within the wall can be easy and convenient way to assist you in hanging up your new pieces of art.