How to Find Ceiling Joist With Magnets

If you’re in the market for a new home, then the chances are that you’ve been exploring your options. You might have even seen some houses that had an unfinished basement with exposed ceiling joists. This blog post will teach you how to find ceiling joist with magnets! 

To find joist locations, all you need is some solid adhesive magnet strips and a metal detector. First, attach one of the magnets to one end of your metal detector’s probe cord. Next, walk around with it until it starts beeping wildly at a location where there is no metal present on the wall or floor. If you want to know more, then keep reading this full blog post!

How to Find Ceiling Joist With Magnets

10 Ways on How to Find Ceiling Joist With Magnets:

1. Start from the Wall:

While it may seem obvious, you can start a metal search starting from a wall. Ceiling joists run perpendicular to walls, so they will often be located on a small space’s exterior or interior wall. Like finding studs, you’ll have to hunt for the screws found along the length of these joists. You can mark them with nails or pushpins to help track where they are.

2. Start from the Window:

If you’re lucky enough to have a window, you can use it as a reference point to find ceiling joists. While it may be challenging to locate screws, if any exist along the joist, you’ll see where they converge when your metal detector is nearby. You can mark these areas with nails or pushpins, so you know where to return once the area is clear of furniture.

3. Start from Cabinetry:

Another option is to start your search near cabinets because joists are typically located close to them on exterior walls. However, unlike with exterior walls, it’s not recommended that you use the metal detector directly against cabinetry because it could damage the finish. Instead, use your hand to feel for joists through the back of the cabinets because this is where they are usually located.

4. Check Behind Receptacles:

If you’re checking an area that has receptacles, you can locate a ceiling joists behind them because most are located within about 6 inches of them. You can then mark their locations with nails or pushpins on the wall.

Ceiling Joists Can Be Found Near Smoke Detectors

5. Check Behind Smoke Detectors:

Another receptacle to check is smoke detectors. Since they are installed on ceilings, it’s most likely that ceiling joists will be found near them, so you should start your search using them as reference points.

6. Start from a Door:

If you’re lucky enough to have a door, it can be used as a starting point for finding a ceiling joist. However, since they’re typically located near exterior walls and doors are usually located along interior walls, you should first try using the metal detector along the wall’s baseboard behind or around a door. You can then mark its location with nails or pushpins.

7. Look in the Attic:

The joist is usually located near trusses. If you have an attic, check it for joists starting from trusses and work your way out because they’ll usually run perpendicular to them. Since you probably won’t see joist with just your eyes, you’ll have to use the metal detector to locate them.

8. Look for Joist Under Carpet:

Suppose you have carpet or flooring that can be removed. In that case, you may want to start by looking under it because joist are usually located near homes’ exterior walls and therefore should be close to trusses, which are also located along exterior walls. As always, start from trusses and work your way out, so you don’t miss anything.

9. Look Between Studs:

If joists aren’t located near a wall or if the area is small enough, they may be between two studs. To check, you’ll have to remove studs from the equation and use your metal detector in between them.

10. Look at the Electrical Box:

Since joists are located near exterior walls, and electrical boxes are typically located along them, they may be found in the same general area. If you suspect this is the case, check around them because ceiling joists should be nearby.

Some Tips and Suggestions:

Trying to Find Hidden Ceiling Joists

1. Don’t use a magnet in an area too close to fluorescent lights, they generate their own magnetic field and will interfere with your readings.

2. Don’t rely on the north end of the magnet touching to floor joist; due to potential problems such as sagging ceiling and loose hanging wires this may not always be true. Also, just because there is a gap between the north end of the magnet and the floor joist doesn’t always mean there is no ceiling joist in this area.

3. If you have access to your Attic or crawl space, use that; trying to find hidden ceiling joists from the floor is very difficult because they may not be in line with exterior walls. This may be the case, especially in basements with sloping ceilings.

4. You can use a compass to locate where magnetic fields are and then verify them after locating them with your magnet; if you do it this way, make sure that your compass is free of movement and you hold it steady above your target location.

5. You can use a flashlight to check for nails or screws, make sure that the wiring is free of any insulation and then try to locate it with your magnet.

6. Make sure that you look under stairs because many times, ceiling joists are located underneath them.

7. Try not to go by what you see in the finished areas; ceilings are not always symmetrical. Instead, try looking in closets or hallways; these areas are more likely to have ceiling joists.


When you are faced with a problem, sometimes the solution is hiding in plain sight. The simple act of using magnets to find ceiling joists can be an easy way to solve it. Ceiling joist location may not always be obvious, but if your home or office has metal framing and drywall installed over the steel beams, then there may be a magnetic attraction between them.

After reading this article, you should know how to find ceiling joist with magnets. The process is simple and relatively quick. Just follow the steps above! Don’t wait any longer to get started today by locating your ceiling joist with magnets now!

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