LAST UPDATED: October 7, 2019
Best Stud Finders: Quick and Accurate Stud Detection
Track a stud’s position behind any surface with these top-rated stud finders
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PUBLISHED ON October 7, 2019
Stud finders are a popular tool with mechanics. They help you find studs and beams hidden behind non-metal surfaces, so that you can avoid hitting or ripping them out. It can help you know where to drill when installing new speakers in your car door or dashboard. Our buying guide will help you find a high-quality stud finder for your garage work.
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Benefits of a Stud Finder
- Easily find studs. The biggest benefit of a stud finder is that you can easily find the studs behind your walls. This gives you a solid, secure, and stable base from which you can hang objects on your wall.
- Safer. Using a stud finder makes doing your projects safer. Look for a unit that can locate pipes and live wires. This will prevent you from drilling into something that will create a big mess or potentially injure you.
- Multifunctional. Look for a higher-end stud finder that can perform more than one function. This lets you use one tool for multiple tasks and reduces the number of tools you need for a single project.
Types of Stud Finders
This is the modern type of stud finder. They’re a bit more complicated to use than basic magnetic ones but come with a few benefits. They typically have a display screen of some type, which is useful. Most people consider them more accurate, and they reduce the risk of user error.
What’s nice about electronic stud finders is that they can help you locate the edges and center of the stud. They also have additional features, such as finding more than studs, have a level, or come with a laser.
The downside of these stud finders is that they require batteries. This means your stud finder may be dead when you need it most.
For a simple and easy-to-use stud finder, consider a magnetic one. They work by having a magnet in them that reacts with the metal in the stud. This makes them very easy to use. They also don’t require any batteries, so your stud finder is always ready to go. They’re smaller than the electronic version, which makes them easily portable.
The downside of a magnetic stud finder is that it can take a little finesse to get it to work. You need to know how it works when it’s over the metal. It also won’t work if the metal in your walls isn’t magnetic.
Most stud finders will tell you when they find metal or when there’s something behind the wall. A whole stud finder takes this a step further by showing you where the entire stud is located by identifying the edges and center. This helps you to locate the center point of the stud. They also tell you the depth of the stud, which can help you choose the right fastener or hanging hardware for your project.
While these stud finders aren’t any more expensive than electronic stud finders, they do take a bit more skill to use. They’re typically meant for professional use in construction and contractor applications.
Founded in 1975, Zircon is based out of Silicon Valley in California. The company got its start in making digital watches but soon expanded to hand tools. Today, its products are distributed to more than 30 countries worldwide. This Zircon Stud Finder StudSensor A150 is sure to perform well for all of your projects.
The first stud finders on the market were from Franklin. The company has worked hard to create a reputation for producing durable and accurate stud finders. Today, the company offers some of the most feature-rich and innovative stud finders on the market. The Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710+ will give you professional performance for your home projects.
Founded in 1866, the company is family-owned and currently run by the fourth and fifth generations. It’s known as one of the longest standing DIY tool companies in the world. The company produces everything from hand tools to license plates. The CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder is a two-pack to help you with larger projects.
Stud Finder Pricing
- Under $20: Stud finders in this price range use simplistic technology and focus on one function: finding studs. They’re a mix of decent-quality and low-quality stud finders.
- $30 to $60: Most decent stud finders fall into this category. They are durable, have a couple of features, and use reliable technology. You can’t go wrong with a stud finder in this price range.
- $60 and up: These are high-end and professional quality stud finders. They’ll use the latest technological innovations and have several functions, modes, and features.
This feature won’t matter with a magnetic finder, but it’s important with an electronic one. Any stud finder that uses a battery should have an automatic shutoff feature. That way, you can preserve the battery’s life and have to replace it less often.
The feature will work by automatically shutting off the stud finder when the unit isn’t in use for a specific amount of time. The time needs to be long enough to not shut off while you’re using the unit, but not so long that it wastes the battery’s life.
Pay attention to how the unit alerts you. The simplest of units that use a magnet will have a basic alerting system of a toggle that moves to align with the metal and magnet. Basic electronic units will use a series of LED lights that are often color-coded red and green. The most advanced units will have a full LCD screen that displays a wide variety of information.
Some stud finders have a hands-free feature. This lets you hang the finder on the wall without having to hold it. If you’re hanging a picture or mounting something on the wall, then this is an extremely useful feature.
Some finders use the internal magnet, others use a suction feature, and then others have a plastic hook and pin feature that you’ll press into the wall.
- Multiple Modes. Some stud finders can find more than just metal in the stud. Having multiple modes means you could find both magnetic and non-magnetic metals, wood, pipes, and live wires. If you want to use your unit for multiple projects, then these different modes can allow you to get more use out of it.
- Additional Features. You’ll also find stud finders that can do more than finding objects behind the wall. The most common feature is a level. This will help you immensely when trying to hang items on your walls. Another common feature is a laser light. This will help you hang multiple objects on the wall in a straight line.
- Auto Depth Detection. This feature is mainly found on high-end and advanced stud finders. It tells you the depth of the stud, which will help you to determine the thickness of the drywall over the stud. By knowing this thickness, you can choose the right approach and tools for your current project.
Best Stud Finder Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This stud finder uses multi-sense technology to provide you with an accurate determination of your stud’s location. It’ll instantly find your metal and wood studs in addition to other hidden objects. It’s capable of scanning a depth of up to 1.5 inches. While scanning for multiple objects simultaneously, it can also determine their width.
What’s nice about this stud finder is that it requires a one-step operation. This makes it very easy for even a beginner to use. Push on the button to turn it on and read the LED lights for the stud’s location.
Unfortunately, the accuracy rate of this stud finder isn’t great. This can lead to frustration and using multiple stud finders to confirm your readings. It also won’t work on older construction homes that use plaster and lath construction.
You can buy this stud finder as a single piece, set of two, or a pack of three. A magnet both finds the stud and gives you hands-free use. In the center of the unit is a level. It can scan to a depth of one inch. On the sides of the units are soft grip pads to make holding it comfortable.
You’ll like how small and compact this stud finder is. It fits comfortably into your pocket, which makes it readily within reach and easy to carry with you. You also don’t need any batteries to work it, so dead batteries are no longer a concern.
Unfortunately, the magnet is not very strong. This makes it rather ineffective at finding studs. It won’t work through the plaster. When using it on drywall, it’s only effective at finding nails and electrical wires. It’ll also leave scratches and marks on the wall as you slide it while trying to find a stud.
This magnetic stud finder actually moves and clicks when a metal fastener is located. It has powerful magnets that can work to locate your studs up to a half an inch deep. You’ll receive a single round black unit with a colored center post.
What makes this stud finder stand out is that it can work on a wide variety of walls. This includes plaster, sheetrock, and wood lath. It’s also accurate and doesn’t require any calibration or batteries.
One downside of this unit is that you can’t choose the color. It’ll be a randomly chosen surprise upon arrival. The pictures also show multiple units in each picture; however, you’ll only receive one. The magnet also struggles to work on plaster walls.
This stud finder comes with several modes to provide you with the performance that most suits your needs. The precise mode works up to 20mm, while the depth mode works up to 38mm. There is also a metal measurement mode that detects non-magnetic metals up to 80mm and magnetic metals up to 100mm. The final mode is the power cable mode that works up to 40mm. Its other function is to work as a laser to give you distance, length, volume, range, continuous measurement, and the Pythagorean method.
This stud finder stands out because of its extra features. It has an automatic shutdown function that engages after 20 seconds. It uses a lithium battery for longevity and comes with a USB cable for quick and easy charging.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this unit is getting it to work. It’s very technical, and you’ll need the manual to figure it out. Unfortunately, the manual is printed in a very tiny font, which makes reading it a real challenge. There is also no online support for this specific product.
This wall scanner can perform two functions: It can detect both magnetic and non-magnetic metals. It can work through drywall, tile, paneling, stucco, wood, concrete, and plaster. You can use it to find both studs in plaster walls and rebar in concrete walls.
You’ll appreciate that it comes in easy-to-open packaging, and the required 9-volt battery is included. This makes getting to work much faster and easier. It also has a maximum depth detection that is much deeper than other stud finders on this list. It’ll detect magnetic metals up to four inches deep and non-magnetic metals up to two inches deep.
The downside of this wall scanner is that the directions aren’t helpful or clear. It also can have inconsistent performance. You may find that turning the unit off and letting it sit can improve accuracy, but will severely slow down your project.
The StudBuddy comes in a single or double pack. It’s the simplest stud finder design on this list. It will find the stud and hang on the wall hands-free. The unit is a bright yellow color and won’t get lost in your toolbox. It can work on walls that have drywall to find metal and wood studs.
The two-pack is a nice option, as it allows you to use both at the same time for hanging larger items. It also doesn’t require batteries, so it’s always ready to go when you need it. The fact that it hangs on the wall is convenient and lets you use both hands for the project at hand.
One drawback of the StudBuddy is that it won’t work on plaster and lath. It also doesn’t work on thicker sheetrock walls. When finding wood studs, it’s dependent on finding the drywall sheet nails, which can result in the unit not working or having spotty accuracy.
You’ll use laser detection with this stud finder to locate wood studs, live wiring, and metal objects in your walls. It can work to detect objects up to 4¾ inches deep in cured concrete, 2 inches deep for live wires, 3⅛ inches for copper, and 1½ inches deep for wood. There’s an additional feature that can locate the center of an object. You can turn it on and off with the push of a button. When it locates the center, it will make an audible beep sound.
You’ll find using this stud finder easy with its self-calibrating features. Choose one of the three available modes for the type of material you want to locate. The unit has a large LCD display screen to indicate all of the necessary information.
Unfortunately, you may find this unit difficult to use. The LCD screen is dim and can be hard to read. It also delivers inconsistent results when looking for a specific object in the wall. You may struggle with a lot of false positives.
This stud finder is two tools in one. It’s a stud sensor and auto-leveling laser. You can use it to detect wood, studs, metal, and live wires. There’s an LCD screen to display location information. You can hang the unit on the wall and it will project two horizontal level lines.
Each unit comes with a plastic case that you can use for storage. This will keep the unit clean and protected in your toolbox. The laser line also extends a decent distance, which makes hanging multiple items fast and easy.
Unfortunately, to hang this unit on the wall, you’ll need to use the included plastic push pin hanger. This will create another small hole in your walls. It also only creates horizontal laser lines, so if you need a vertical line, this isn’t the best option.
This small stud finder measures just 1.3 inches tall. It comes in a pack of three for conveniently locating multiple studs. The bottoms have a notch in them for convenient marking once you locate your stud. They use a magnet to locate the steel nails and screws that are used to attach the drywall to the studs.
You’ll find the magnet in these finders to be quite strong. This lets them find metal through thicker walls. Using the finder is easy as you simply watch for movement of the bright yellow pointer.
The downside of these tiny finders is that they are tiny, and can easily get lost in the bottom of your toolbox. They’re also made of plastic and can get damaged.
This stud finder will sync with your Android smartphone. It can find metal studs, pipes, wooden studs, and wires. It also helps you to see movement and locate pests in the walls. You can use it with both drywall and plaster walls. It works at a depth of up to 4 inches. When looking for studs, it will automatically find and show you the center of the stud.
What’s really nice about this unit is that the app on your phone actually shows you what’s behind the wall. This gives you a more detailed image of what’s behind the wall and not just a beep and LED lights for you to decipher.
The biggest drawback of this unit is that it doesn’t work with iPhones. If you have an Android phone, you’ll need to download an app to work on the unit. You’ll also find that the unit has a poor design that lacks ergonomics. This makes it awkward to hold and use.
- Always use fresh batteries to maintain the accuracy of the stud finder. Weak batteries may give you false readings and may reduce the detection depth of the finder.
- A pencil will come in handy when marking the edges of the stud. It will help you know the exact point to drive your drill or fastener.
- Always double-check your work to make sure that you correctly marked the edge of the stud. Run the flat side of the stud finder on the surface from the extreme edges to the center of the stud.
Q: Is it possible to get a false positive when using a stud finder?
A: High-quality stud finders are less prone to inaccuracies and can give you the exact size of the stud. Cheap units have weaker magnets that may give false readings. You may get false readings from metal piping, brackets, wires, and other materials. Also, you may get a false reading if there are dirt particles at the contact point of the stud finder and the surface.
Q: Can a stud finder detect wires?
A: Most electric stud finders have the ability to detect electrical wiring in your walls or car door. They typically create a strong electrical field that can easily detect the location and length of the wiring. After pinpointing the location of the wire, you can use a voltage detector to tell if it’s a live wire or not.
Q: Does a stud finder work trough aluminum?
A: It will depend on the design and sensitivity of the stud finder. Aluminum or copper may shield the magnetic field of some low-strength magnets since they aren’t magnetic materials. However, aluminum is extremely inadequate against high-frequency magnetic fields typically produced by high-end electronic stud finders.
Our top pick for one of the most accurate stud finders is the ProSensor Franklin Sensors. It gives accurate readings without sliding it back and forth from the surface. Its wide design is also great for finding double studs.
You can also opt for the CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder, which is a cheaper option.