How to Find Studs Behind Aluminum Siding

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Got a stud finder to start locating those studs behind aluminum siding? It's not as simple as it seems. The outside wall is significantly thicker than the inside wall. Also, layers of wire mesh, insulation, and vapor barrier make it difficult for the sensor to work.

The question is, how to find studs behind aluminum siding?

Weather can sometimes assist you in locating those studs. Secondly, you can use the standard code to find out those studs. However, if you aren’t aware of the stud spacing, just locate the studs on the inside wall. Then, on the exterior wall, transfer the measurements.

You’ll still need guidance to follow through. So, we have provided the step-by-step process of three individual methods for your convenience. 

Without any further ado, let's get this treasure hunt started. 

Grab Your Safety Gears 

The best part about these processes is, they aren’t entirely dependent on any tool. Did you get the tool? Great! Even if you don’t have it, no worries! You can still find your studs. 

In any case, maintaining a safety code is important. So, don’t forget to use:

  • Protective Clothes
  • Goggles
  • Mask
  • Rubber Gloves

So, hurry up, grab the tools and start working. 

Ways to Find Studs Behind Aluminum Siding

Sidings are beautiful and bring character to your living space. Whether you pick dutch lap or clapboard, they add value to your home. But, the aluminum siding makes finding those studs very difficult.

Locating studs is important while making some changes. Whether it’s in terms of design or structure. But our exterior walls have layers like stucco, brick, wire mesh, siding, and insulation. Which makes it super hard to find studs on the exterior wall. 

You can think of prying up a piece of siding. And see where it was nailed to. But that seems like working your fingers to the bone to lift a feather.

To help you out, we’ve mentioned some simpler ways to find the studs-

Taking Weather’s Help

We know what you’re probably thinking right now. “Eh! weather?”

It might sound absurd, but nature can actually help you find those studs. 

if your home has dew on it in the morning, you're in luck. Or any other time of the day. Dew works like a cheat code in your stud-finding mission. 

Studs are warmer than the rest of the wall. So, when dew starts to evaporate, it evaporates from the studs first. Creating a very easy visual map of studs. 

Don’t just stand there, my friend. Start marking those studs with a marker before the map disappears.   

Using Standard Construction Code

In today’s world, builders have to follow the standard wall structural code for construction. The code specifies stud spacing to accommodate plywood and other 4-by-8 foot sheeting materials.

16” is the most common stud spacing. So, start from one end of the wall. And you can find the center of each stud every 16 inches apart.  

In some cases, for older homes, this spacing may vary. The spacing may be:

  • 24 inches
  • 12 inches 

Try to figure out the stud spacing keeping these facts in mind. Suppose you find two studs with a 16” spacing. Be sure that the rest will follow the same pattern.  Once you’re done, move to the main process. 

The best part here is, no matter what spacing you have, the process is similar.

Transferring Measurement from One Side to the Other

Whether it’s insulation or flashing between the siding, both thicken the wall. So, finding a stud on the exterior wall can be tricky with a stud finder. 

When it comes to aluminum siding, brace yourself. Because this can be a real pain in the back. 

Don’t worry, buddy! There is a workaround. You can easily find the stud on the interior wall with a stud finder. And then, transfer the measurements to the outside. 

Simply put:

  • Use the window as a reference point of measurement.
  • Measure the distance of the studs from the window center point.
  • Go to the outside wall, and place marks on the exact same distance out there.

Even if you don’t have a stud finder, don’t rush to buy one yet. You can easily use our other approaches if it's a one-time project. 

A stud finder is a useful tool to have on hand in the future. Here are some of our favorite stud finders:

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All you have to do is grab your favorite stud finder quickly. In case, you’re not interested in one.

We have mentioned three other ways to locate a stud without a finder.

Following Nails in Baseboard

Inside walls are full of clues to help you find those studs. One of them is nails in the baseboard in an unfinished house. 

Carpenters usually nail through the baseboard. And, they’re nailed directly into the studs for better support. So, follow your nail crumbs and you have all the studs. 

Even if the nails are painted over, don’t worry. If you look closely, you can still see a little depression where the nails are.

Using Strong Magnet 

Got a strong magnet? Then you are in luck. Because another clever way to find a stud is by using a magnet. 

With so many layers, a magnet won’t work well on the exterior wall. However, it’s useful for the interior wall. For this hack:

  • Get a really strong magnet.
  • Move the magnet up and down the wall till it sticks to one of the steel fasteners.

These fasteners help hold up the drywall. Once you find the spot, move it up and down on a vertical line. If it sticks all the way to the wall, you got your stud. 

Here is a list of great magnets for you:

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Take your pick of any magnet and get moving.

Using Electrical Outlets 

Locate an outlet or switchboard in the room. Usually, outlets and switchboards are mounted on the side of a stud. To find out which side it is:

  • Turn off the power of the room. 
  • Remove the cover plate.
  • Look in the box for the nail, which is nailed to the stud.

You can find it nailed to either side of the wall horizontally.

Whichever side the nail is facing, the stud is located there. From there on, you can go 16”/24”/12” all the way to the end of the wall. And there, you have all your studs.

While examining the outlet, make sure not to damage it. Because one bad outlet can affect others. Once you are done, put the cover plate over the outlet. 

Tip: Whichever technique you use, don’t forget to mark those studs with a pencil. In order for you to remember where they are.

FAQs

Question: Will a stud finder work through metal?
Answer: Older metals are magnetic, which makes the stud finder useless. So, it’s better to find other ways to locate studs. 

Question: What kind of screws to use on aluminum siding?
Answer: Stainless steel screws are less likely to corrode aluminum sidings. Sheet metal screws are also a good option due to their versatility.

Question: Can you drill into aluminum siding?
Answer: You can, but you should be careful to not dent it. Minimize the pressure on the drill and drill gently.  

Conclusion

Now we’ve answered all your questions on how to find studs behind aluminum siding. Don’t sit idle, go hang those additional shelves. Or were you planning to do something else?

Did you find another way to easily find those studs? Even if you haven’t, you’ve got our guide.

All the best for your project!

Scott Kelly