How do you know what lies beneath your wall? The best stud finders help you locate studs beneath the surface so you can get the job done faster and with less guesswork.
We analyzed the benefits of stud finders and gauged opinions of professionals and buyers to reveal how they work, what they do, and why you should own one.
- Easy to use, which is ideal for beginners
- No batteries to replace or charge
- Compact and cheap
- Simple to use, making it ideal for beginners
- Compact and thin for easy storage
- Hands-free operation when it finds the stud
- 4 scanning modes cover every possibility
- Wire warning feature that alerts when scanning live AC wires
- Auto-correction feature to improve accuracy
- 5 scanning modes, including metal, AC wires, and wood
- Incredible retail price
- Center-finding feature for better accuracy
- 13 sensors for deeper scanning
- Wide sensor pad increases your work rate
- Simple to use switch it on and start locating
- Highly accurate to within 0.0625 mm
- Pinpoint laser technology penetrates deeper
- Finds live AC wires, wood, and metal
- 4 scanning modes for metal, depth, wood, and AC wires
- Self-calibration for better accuracy
- Ergonomic handle for comfort
How Do Stud Finders Work?
A stud finder is either an electronic or magnetic device that uses capacitance (a change in electrical charge) to detect metal studs and other supporting structures beneath the surface of your wall.
Because the stud is part of your wall support, the way the studs are inserted forms a logical pattern of a stud, then a gap, then a stud. The stud finder detects changes in the wall density to locate the studs and nails.
Stud finders have been around since the 80s, when the magnetic models first appeared on the market. Since then, they have come a long way. They are way more advanced and accurate today.
Types of Best Stud Finders
To decide which stud finder is right for you, we need to discuss the 3 main types of stud finders available. Each of the models does a specific task and suits every budget.
Magnetic stud finders are the original models, and they are still around today. The magnets have improved, along with their accuracy, but these models are less precise than their electronic and ultrasonic counterparts.
Magnetic devices are a lot easier to master and use. They react with the metal when the stud is located, sticking to the wall. If you are looking for a budget stud finder, a magnetic option could be a great choice.
Electronic stud finders use electrical signals to find wall studs. The distinct advantage of an electronic stud finder is it is multi-talented. It can detect pipework and even live AC wires, making it incredibly useful to construction workers, homeowners, and electricians.
These modern devices are so accurate; they can even determine where the edge of the stud is rather than the middle.
Ultrasonic stud detectors use sound waves to locate studs beneath the surface. They are pricier and bulkier compared to the other two models, which makes them better suited to commercial settings.
How To Choose the Best Stud Finder
What are the important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a stud finder? Let’s find out.
What Is It For?
How you intend to use the stud finder matters because, for general DIY tasks, you could probably settle for an electronic or magnetic model. If you are using it commercially, you might get away with an electronic variety, but you might be better using an ultrasonic stud finder.
Type of Sensors
Stud finders come with sensors that differ in size and depth capabilities. This matters because if you are searching for nails and screws in a brick wall, you need something with the depth capability to work.
The wall depth, the material used to cover the wall, and the sensor’s abilities are all considerations when choosing your new device.
What About Accuracy?
Modern stud finders are more accurate than their magnetic counterparts. Some sensors are larger to cover more space. With a wider search area, you can accurately detect several studs in one hit.
While having more sensors spreads your range, they are less capable of dealing with deeper walls. Look for center-finding sensors that detect the stud with pinpoint accuracy, determining the edge of the stud.
What About the Budget?
The prices range massively. If all you want is a basic finder, you can spend as little as $15, while the more complex models with all the bells and whistles can cost $50 or more.
What About Self-Calibration?
Like all electronic devices, they need calibrating. Calibration is the way to ensure continued accuracy by resetting the sensors. Some do this automatically, which is super convenient. Others need manual calibration, which should happen regularly.
The Best Stud Finders of 2021
Having spent hours researching and reviewing the best stud finders, we bring you our top 7 choices based on customer experience, sales numbers, and ratings.
CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder
This CH Hanson magnetic stud finder is an exercise in simplicity. It is compact, requires no batteries, and even has a 2-way level finder. Because this stud finder is magnetic, you can place it on the wall, and once it finds the stud, it stays there, giving you a hands-free option.
This is the ideal stud finder for home use, and because it is such a simple system, it will not malfunction. The price is also attractive, retailing for a fraction of the cost of more expensive models.
There are downsides. It isn’t the best tool for finding studs on thicker walls, and it won’t help you locate pipework and electrical wires. But for such a low price, you wouldn’t expect this stud finder to be comparable to more advanced devices.
- Easy to use, which is ideal for beginners.
- No batteries to replace or charge.
- Compact and cheap.
- Comes with a 2-way level.
- Limited to shallow surfaces.
- No pipework or electrical wire function.
- Doesn’t locate wooden studs.
|Dimensions||3.18 x 1.91 x 7.62 cm|
The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder
StudBuddy claims that this is the world’s simplest stud finder, and it certainly looks like a basic system. It is magnetic, so it requires no batteries. You place it on the wall, and it goes hands-free when the stud is located. It also finds wood behind drywall, but it won’t work with plaster walls.
The magnet is a powerful neodymium variety, and because the StudBuddy is so small and thin, it slips into your pocket easily. The other great thing is you get 2 stud finders for the price, so individually, this stud finder is the cheapest to feature.
It is a limited device. You don’t get any LCD, no indicator lights, or beeping alarms to alert you. All you get is the pull of the magnet when it detects the stud.
- Simple to use, making it ideal for beginners.
- Compact and thin for easy storage.
- Hands-free operation when it finds the stud.
- Powerful neodymium magnet requires no batteries.
- Doesn’t work on plaster walls.
- Lacks any features and displays.
- Limited to drywall only.
|Dimensions||5.75 x 1 x 1.13|
Zircon Multiscanner 740 Electronic Wall Scanner
The differences between this Zircon multi-scanner and the CH Hanson are stark. This model has 4 scanning modes for AC wires, depth, wood, and metal. It has an auto-correcting feature to help improve user accuracy and a floating head that stays flat even when scanning over rough surfaces.
In StudScan and DeepScan mode, it detects the edges and the center of wooden joists and metal and wooden studs. In MetalScan, it finds non-ferrous metal like copper pipes and ferrous metal such as Rebar.
The AC Scan locates live and unshielded electrical AC wires. It also has a Wire Warning that operates when in StudScan mode when you find live AC wires. And when you discover your target, it has an erasable marker that pinpoints the exact location of the stud.
This model is the complete package, but all this technology costs. This one retails at over 3 times the price of the CH Hanson model. Many users also report that it locates wires, but when they make a second pass over the same spot, it shows no results.
- 4 scanning modes cover every possibility.
- Wire Warning feature that alerts when scanning live AC wires.
- Auto-correction feature to improve accuracy.
- Floating head for scanning rough surfaces.
- Expensive compared to other models.
- Possible inaccurate readings according to some buyers.
|Dimensions||21,59 x 10.16 x 5.08 cm|
|Features||Wire warning, auto-correct|
FOLAI Finder Detector 5-in-1 Multifunction Wall
The first thing you notice about this stud finder is the incredible price. For a 5-in-1 finder, it seems ridiculously cheap, which is why it has such substantial sales numbers on Amazon.
It has 5 scanning modes that detect wood, metal, live AC wires, copper pipes, and metal brackets. It even locates deeply embedded objects in ceilings. The grip is ergonomic, and it has an auto-calibration feature for convenience and increased accuracy.
The LCD locates the object and tells you when you are near the center, with the warning signal getting louder the closer you get to the target.
According to some buyers, when scanning the wall, you need to keep the stud finder completely flat because if you tilt it, it loses the signal and starts to beep.
- 5 scanning modes, including metal, AC wires, and wood.
- Incredible retail price.
- Center-finding feature for better accuracy.
- Auto-calibration and ergonomic grip for comfort.
- Unless completely flat, the scanner loses signal.
|Dimensions||5.4 x 7 x 3.2 cm|
Precision Sensors ProFinder 5000
Sometimes professionals need a stud finder with greater capacity. This ProFinder has a wider sensor pad, which increases your range both in width and depth. It comes loaded with 13 sensors and a spirit level and ruler.
It’s also simple to use. Just switch it on, place it on the wall, and the light indicates the stud’s location. It may not be the most advanced stud finder, but it is super-accurate. The increased size of the pad means you can work your way along the wall faster to complete the task.
The only downside is it won’t find studs beneath ceramic tiles and other similar surfaces. Plus, while it locates most objects, it doesn’t tell you the shape or what it is because it lacks a readable display.
We get that this model is a pro scanner, but with so few features and the high price tag, it might put some people off.
- 13 sensors for deeper scanning.
- Wide sensor pad increases your work rate.
- Simple to use. Switch it on and start locating.
- Has a level and a ruler.
- No LCD, so it doesn’t tell you the shape.
- Doesn’t work on ceramic tiles.
- Lacks features but has a high price tag.
|Dimensions||7 x 2 x 3 inches|
|Features||Spirit level and ruler|
Bosch Digital Multi-Scanner GMS120
This Bosch multi-scanner uses multi-mode laser detection to find metal and wooden studs, metal pipes, and live AC wires. Thanks to the latest laser technology, it penetrates up to 4.75 inches deep in cured concrete.
It also finds live wires up to 2 inches deep, over 3 inches for copper wire, and 1.5 inches for wooden studs. It has 3 scanning modes; wood, metal, and AC wiring, and the system self-calibrates for better accuracy when you switch it on.
As you would expect with this Bosch, it has a center-finding feature with an accuracy of 0.0625 mm.
On the downside, it is expensive compared to some stud finders, and you only get 3 scanning modes instead of 5 with comparable models.
- Highly accurate to within 0.0625 mm.
- Pinpoint laser technology penetrates deeper.
- Finds live AC wires, wood, and metal.
- Self-calibrates for better accuracy.
- It only has 3 scanning modes.
- Expensive compared to similar models.
|Dimensions||9.84 x 5.91 x 1.97 inches|
Tavool Stud Finder 4-in-1 Electronic Stud Sensor
This stud finder had to feature for sheer sales numbers alone. This model has sold in the tens of thousands. It’s a 4-in1 scanner, so it detects studs, metal, and live AC wires. Plus, it also has a deep scan facility.
It locates studs up to 1.2 inches in drywall, metal, aluminum, and copper up to 1.57 inches and wires up to 2.36 inches. It has an automatic calibration feature that activates when you turn on the unit. This increases your accuracy. It also has an ergonomic handle for a more comfortable experience.
The downside is this scanner is temperamental on rough surfaces, so detecting studs in exterior walls might be a challenge. Plus, many buyers have mentioned that it delivers inconsistent results.
- 4 scanning modes for metal, depth, wood, and AC wires.
- Self-calibration for better accuracy.
- Ergonomic handle for comfort.
- Deep scan facility for buried studs.
- Doesn’t like rough surfaces.
- Buyers indicate inaccurate results.
|Dimensions||6.49 x 2.75 x 1.1 inches|
|Features||Self-calibration, ergonomic handle|
|CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder||Best Value||3.2 oz||1.25″ x 0.75″ x 3″||Magnetic||2-way level||$$|
|The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder||Best Magnetic||4.5 oz||5.75″ x 1″ x 1.13″||Magnetic||N/a||$$|
|Zircon Multiscanner 740 Electronic Wall Scanner||Best Electronic||4.8 oz||8.5″ x 4″ x 2″||Electronic||Wire warning, auto-correct||$$$$|
|FOLAI Finder Detector 5-in-1 Multifunction Wall||Best Budget||5.4 oz||2.13″ x 2.76″ x 1.26″||Electronic||Auto-calibration||$$|
|Precision Sensors ProFinder 5000||Best Professional||14.1 oz||7″ x 2″ x 3″||Electronic||Spirit level & ruler||$$$$|
|Bosch Digital Multi-Scanner GMS120||Best Laser Level||9.6 oz||9.84″ x 5.91″ x 1.97″||Electronic||Self-calibration||$$$$|
|Tavool Stud Finder 4-in-1 Electronic Stud Sensor||Best Ergonomic||5.4 oz||6.49″ x 2.75″ x 1.1″||Electronic||Self-calibration, ergonomic handle||$$$|
Tips for Using Stud Finders
As with all tools and devices, there are hints and tips to help you get the most from them. Here are some easy ways to use your stud finder.
Know Where To Start Looking
Sometimes some basic knowledge of where the studs are is the easiest way to use a stud finder. Door frames, window frames, even seams where the drywall meets the next sheet in the wall are all tell-tale signs of where the studs are likely to be.
Keep the Battery Charged
It all sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed how many times rechargeable batteries get forgotten about until it is too late. As the cell dies, you lose accuracy until, eventually, the stud finder is rendered unusable.
It’s also a great idea to keep a spare battery if your model allows for a detachable power pack.
Patience is always the best policy when locating studs. You might not find them straight away, even with the best quality stud finder. Don’t panic! You should start getting results within 15 minutes.