A stud finder is a small device that allows the user to identify where wooden or metal beams are located behind walls. This can help the person to find good places to use nails or picture hangers. Often, sheet rock without a stud behind it easily yields to even a pushpin. On the other hand, sheet rock with a stud behind it can cause difficulties in attempting to stick in that pin.
Generally, stud finders come in one of two types. An electronic device notes differences in density to identify a wooden beam behind the wall. A magnetic one finds metal studs, and also may be helpful in identifying when screws or nails are on wooden stud. Usually, both types are small handheld devices that use batteries to perform this operation.
This tool may beep, although some have a small viewer screen with readings that help the user to easily locate the stud. The device usually beeps or displays an image on the screen when it is placed over the stud. This is more efficient and less damaging to the walls than nailing everywhere until the person gets lucky and finds a stud.
Some people find that they can locate a stud by sound. Knocking on the wall against a stud will yield a dull noise, while rapping the wall where there is no stud will sound somewhat hollow. This method can also help someone to use the stud finder more efficiently because it tells the person where to start looking.
Locating a stud can be necessary when a person wants to hang something heavy. A large picture or a new flatscreen television is likely to fall off of the wall if it's only attached to the drywall and not to the studs or beams behind it. The device also makes hanging curtains or blinds easier, since they also tend to pull out of walls unless secured to studs surrounding the window.
In any location with frequent earthquakes, using a stud finder allows the user to secure tall large furniture, like bookcases, as well as heavy items. Securing heavy tall furniture to studs is a helpful step in being prepared for an earthquake, as these items will be less likely to fall forward during moderate quakes.
There are many different companies that make both types of stud finders, and they are usually relatively inexpensive. Most people find them to be a great investment as they take the guesswork out of finding studs for securing heavy items.