How to Find Ceiling Joist on Popcorn Ceiling

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find ceiling joist under popcorn ceiling

Popcorn texture can be trick to navigate when trying to locate hidden ceiling joists. After all, you’ll need to find them if you’re planning on installing a fixture, lighting or hang a plant.

In this article, we’ll reveal our top two stud finders up to the job. We’ll also demonstrate their use and effectiveness on a textured ceiling.

We’ll also dive into methods for locating them without their aid.

Tired of look up at that old popcorn ceiling? Thinking about increasing your homes resale value by removing it? Lean how to scrape popcorn ceiling yourself safely in our detailed guide.

Does a Stud Finder Work on Popcorn Ceilings?

Stud finders need flat surfaces to properly function. Since popcorn ceilings are textured, a stud finder cannot be level on them. You also can’t easily slide the stud finder around on a bumpy surface.

However, you can use a stud finder on popcorn ceilings. You simply need to place something flat on the ceiling in between the stud finder and texture.

To create a flat surface for the stud finder, simply place a thin piece of cardboard on the popcorn ceiling. Place the stud finder on top. Turn on the deep scanning option. The stud finder should be able to locate the joists through the cardboard and popcorn texture.

Best Stud Finder For Popcorn Ceilings

Stud Finder Wall Sensor – 4 in 1

The Tavool Electric Stud Finder is a great tool for this project. It has four different scanning modes for wood, beams, joists, metal, AC wires, and other embedded objects.

Tavool TH250

To easily find wall and ceiling studs with just a click of a button, you can’t go wrong with the Tavool Electric Stud Finder. This tool has advanced sensors that scan for changes in density, allowing you to quickly locate wooden or metal studs even through popcorn texture.

This electric stud finder is as simple to use as a traditional stud finder. For the best results, calibrate the scanner by pressing and holding the scan button. The Tavool stud finder will confirm calibration, and you can scan the ceiling.

Unlike other stud finders, the Tavool scanner finds studs or joists up to 1.2 inches deep. The deep scanning mode can locate studs through popcorn texture. Even if the joists are 1.77 inches deep, this scanner will get the job done.

This tool was specially made for homeowners who don’t have professional experience in renovation. With this product, you can avoid messy, unsuccessful DIY repairs. Because of its versatility, you can continue to use the Tavool electric stud finder for future projects.


  • 4 different scanning modes for wood, beams, joists, metal, AC wires, and other embedded objects
  • Deep scanning mode can find objects up to 1.77 inches deep
  • Automatic calibration
  • Ergonomic grip for maximum comfort
  • Large LCD display

We Like:

  • Accurately scans on a variety of surfaces
  • Brightly lit display
  • Comes with clear, simple directions
  • Reasonably priced

We Don’t Like:

  • 9v battery not included
  • Recalibrate the scanner before every use, even when you switch scanning modes
  • Your hand needs to hold the scanner with consistent pressure for an accurate scan
  • Occasional false positives

Stud Finder Wall Scanner – 4 in 1

The VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner is another reliable, safe way to find studs and joists in a ceiling.


If you’re looking for a reliable, fast way to find studs or joists, the VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner is a great option. With a deep scanning mode that reaches 1.49 inches deep, you can easily locate joists underneath popcorn ceilings.

After calibration, this scanner easily displays the center of studs and joists. Finding ceiling joists beneath popcorn texture becomes an easy DIY project because of this tool’s audio and visual cues. The LCD display points to an object’s location and you won’t miss the loud warning sounds.

You will hear continual beeps when the scanner detects an object. Once you hear this, you can simply take a pencil and mark the location of every ceiling joist or stud.

This wall scanner detects the location of any live AC wires so that you can avoid drilling into them. This ensures that your project won’t cause any unexpected problems.


  • Four scanning modes: stud scan, deep scan, metal scan, and AC scan
  • Graphical LCD display
  • Sound warning when an object is detected
  • Sliding button to switch between scanning modes
  • Low battery indicator

We Like:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to calibrate and use
  • Clear audio and visual cues
  • Accurate display with a bar that increases in size as a stud gets closer

We Don’t Like:

  • Manual switch between scanning modes
  • The button needs to be held during use
  • Slow calibration time
  • Batteries not included

How To Find Studs on Popcorn Ceiling

Step one: Stand on a ladder to easily reach the ceiling.

Step two: Press a 2 by 2-foot piece of cardboard to the ceiling. The studs are typically 16 to 24 inches apart.

Step three: Hold the cardboard in place with one hand and place the stud finder on the left side with your other hand. Turn on the stud finder.

Step four: Turn on the deep scanning function. It’ll need to be able to scan through the extra layers of popcorn texture and the cardboard.

Step five: Hold the cardboard steady with your right hand while slowly moving the stud finder from left to right. Notice any changes in the display of the stud finder.

Step six: The stud finder will indicate the location of the joist’s edge with a LED light. When this comes on, place a sewing pin into the ceiling, but not through the cardboard. Keep your stud finder close to the edge of the cardboard so you can place pins in the popcorn texture.

Step seven: Continue to slide the stud finder until you find the other edge of the joist. Mark this with another pin.

Step eight: Remove the stud finder and cardboard, leaving the pins in the ceiling. These will show you where to make installations.

How To Find a Ceiling Joist Without a Stud Finder

It’s possible to find a ceiling joist without a stud finder, but it will be a little more difficult. The process is less accurate, you can successfully finish this project without buying a stud finder.

It’s easy to find studs with a magnet, but this may not work on popcorn ceilings. The texture may be too thick for a magnet to find the nails in the ceiling joists.

Step one: Measure 16 inches from one wall toward the center of the room.

Step two: Hammer a nail into the ceiling to check for a joist. If it doesn’t hit a solid surface, place another nail about an inch away.

Step three: If the nail still doesn’t find the joist, measure 24 inches in from the wall. The ceiling joists are usually 16 or 24 inches apart.

Step four: Hammer a nail into this area. Move as needed.

Final Thoughts

Finding the joists on a popcorn ceiling can be an easy experience with the right tools. A stud finder is important to have in this process, even though it is possible to find the studs without one.

There are a couple of electric stud finders that aren’t too expensive but have advanced technology. These are incredibly helpful in this DIY project.

Using a stud finder is the best way to find ceiling joists, but always use a thin piece of cardboard to level the ceiling. This will allow you to get an accurate read from your stud finder.

  • Gregory A Seely
  • Gregory A Seely

    Greg is a self taught home renovator and writer for RenoViso. His shares his experiences with Southern Living, Traditional Home and other publications.

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    Popcorn texture can be trick to navigate when trying to locate hidden ceiling joists. After…
    Popcorn texture can be trick to navigate when trying to locate hidden ceiling joists. After…
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    Popcorn texture can be trick to navigate when trying to locate hidden ceiling joists. After…
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