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How to Find the Best Stud Finders
Knowing the exact places where your house studs are located comes in handy and it is necessary when you want to hang mirrors, shelves, or heavy pictures on one of your walls. The best stud finder you can afford must be reliable, accurate, and durable. Those models that don’t even need calibration or batteries are even better.
In today’s guide, you will find everything there is to know about how to find stud finders and the best options available on the market.
The CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder is ideal for users who need a basic stud locator for a very affordable price and do not use completed tools. The CH Hanson does not use batteries so you wouldn't have to worry about that and it uses industrial strength magnets that can find studs through paint and thick drywall layers.
What Is a Stud Finder?
Stud finders are handheld tools that you can use to detect framing studs that exist behind the surface of your house walls. These devices measure the electrostatic field that’s generated by a wall and determine small differences that occur in the electrons’ flow. In other words, stud finders show you the ideal spot to insert a nail by discovering relative changes in the wall’s density.
Some of these tools rely on magnetic fields to either scan the wires or find nail heads that are located in the studs. On one hand, you can hang photos or shelves on your walls anywhere you want without using a stud finder. On the other hand, if you don’t use a stud finder, those objects could come crashing down because there’s the risk of placing them on sheetrock.
How to Find the Best Stud Finders – Buying Tips
If you want to find the best stud finder that matches your needs and budget, there are certain things you should consider. First of all, decide what type of stud finder you want to purchase. Secondly, characteristics such as materials, design, ergonomics, and precision are also very important.
Stud finders aren’t normally expensive tools. Some people even consider this purchasing decision a lot easier than the one buying a new table saw. Nevertheless, you still need to find the right tool that’s worth both your time and money.
Things to Look for When Searching for the Perfect Stud Finder
The majority of homes are made with wooden studs. At the same time, commercial buildings are different because their structure might contain metal studs. In some cases, even plastic studs are used. Some stud finder models have a simple caliber that’s focused on finding one single type of studs.
Therefore, before buying a stud finder, do your homework and discover what types of studs your walls are made of.
Where are you searching for studs? Do you want to locate them in your house’s walls, floors, or ceiling? You need to know these details because stud finders that come with basic features might not be powerful enough to locate studs through thicker floors.
Another thing that’s linked to the location of the studs is the tool’s grip which must be good. A comfortable grip enables you to operate the device regardless of the angle.
Some people just want to buy a straightforward handheld machine that doesn’t do anything besides finding studs and that’s perfectly fine. Still, certain high-end tool models provide additional features that are extremely valuable because they will help you if you’re involved in more complex projects.
For example, some stud finder units are created to detect live wires as well. Others can register a virtual map of the wall or the surface you’re examining.
Although many stud finder models are pretty affordable, the best models that come with the most valuable features are quite expensive. A basic stud finder can cost as low as $20 while a top-notch model can have a price tag of $100 per unit.
Before establishing a final budget, think about how often you intend to use the device and the projects you are going to use it for. If you plan to complete numerous home improvement projects, you may want to opt for a better model that’s also more expensive.
Usually, electronic stud finders cost more than their magnetic counterparts.
Besides the sensor type which can be electric or magnetic, there’s also its size that you must keep in mind. A bigger sensor might provide more advantages compared to a smaller sensor. A tool that features a wide sensor area will definitely cover a larger surface in less time. Some models can even detect multiple studs at the same time.
This is a feature that you will find only on electronic stud finders. Magnetic models don’t have and don’t need one because they are built to stop in whichever place they encounter a stud. There are many versions of visual displays so it all comes down to the things you want to see.
Simpler electronic stud detectors have LED lights that start to blink when they come across studs while more complex alternatives also show the distance from the tool to the stud.
Design and Grip
The best stud finders are those that make it easy for you to hold and handle the tool. The grip must be strong yet comfortable because you will have to move the device across the wall or another surface while also performing smooth and continuous motions. If the design is bulky and it lacks ergonomic structure, you won’t be able to hold it properly and the reading will be less accurate.
There are two main categories of stud finders and each of those types comes with its own alert system which relies on the sensor type. Electric stud finders offer a visual cue through a display screen every time they detect a stud. Magnetic stud finders don’t normally have additional alert systems.
To make sure you accurately locate where studs are, you should find tool models that feature audible warning noises or beeps. Certain devices have extra light displays that you can see reflected on the wall, right above the scanner.
Types of Stud Finders
There are many stud finder options out there but most of them can be included in the following two categories:
- Magnetic stud finders;
- Electric stud detectors.
Electronic Stud Detectors
Most people prefer to buy electronic stud finders rather than purchasing magnetic ones because they are easy to handle and have plenty of useful visual display options. Also, they seem to be a tad more accurate compared to magnetic tools.
Using an electronic device is quite intuitive due to the fact that there are only a couple of buttons you will have to manage to complete the job. Having a few buttons will maintain confusion at a minimum. On the other hand, the majority of electronic stud finders are powered by batteries. This can be pretty inconvenient because you must always verify the tool to see if the batteries are charged before starting a project.
The main advantage of this type of stud locator is the abundance of details you receive just by looking at a screen that will help you detect the exact place in which a stud can be found.
Magnetic Stud Finders
This is a common type of stud finder and many people use it due to its simplicity and straightforward design. It is also more affordable than its electronic alternative. These devices function with magnetic sensors that locate studs in your walls. They are highly accurate.
You don’t have to be an expert to use a magnetic stud finder because it isn’t complicated at all. This version of a stud detector is elegant in its simplicity. You won’t have to decipher any complex data on a screen. Moreover, these tools don’t need batteries to function. This is certainly a huge advantage because it means that you will be able to use the device for a really long time.
Another great perk of magnetic stud finders is their high level of portability. Although many stud locators aren’t very large, magnetic ones are easy to carry around. They fit inside many toolboxes or even storage chests where you can keep them for easy access.
Whole Stud Detectors
It’s true that the most common types of stud finders are magnetic and electronic ones. However, there’s also the whole stud detector which is a very interesting model because it has a different operation method.
While the other devices determined a stud’s edges and then locate its center, a whole stud finder discovers the entire stud. So, you can understand the stud’s full depth and find out more information about it.
These types of stud finders are mostly used by construction workers and building service professionals but you can easily use them for your home projects. You’ll need both hands to maneuver this tool around a surface.
One of the most convenient features that a whole stud detector comes with is an auto-depth scan which enables users to find out how thick drywall is. When you get hold of this information, you will know exactly what to expect.
Styles of Stud Finders
In terms of styles, there are five different available stud finders that you should know about before making a purchasing decision.
Stationary Magnetic Stud Detectors
These devices function with a stationary magnet to locate where studs are inside a wall. The magnet will quickly determine the exact location of screws and nails within a surface. All you have to do is move the tool around the wall until you feel its magnetic power pulling in. This item is less accurate than other categories of stud finders.
These products are very affordable but, if the stud was placed too deeply into a surface, it will be very hard for you to detect its exact location with a stationary magnetic device.
Moving Magnetic Stud Locators
Another sub-category of the magnetic stud finder group is the moving magnetic alternative. Instead of using a stationary magnet, this product features one that’s moving. This helps you find the stud a lot quicker and more accurately. It is also more powerful than the previous version and it can locate even those studs that are deep inside the wall.
As soon as it locates a stud, the magnet will start moving while also making an audible noise. It is a highly effective gadget and many professionals like to use it due to its reliability.
Electronic Edge Finders
These are the most frequently-met types of electronic stud detectors. They work great when you want to drill into the wall for a TV mount or hang up a framed photo or a painting. Just like the name suggests, these devices locate the edges of studs so that you know the proper place to hammer or drill in order to reach the stud.
As a possible downside, this tool won’t tell you where the stud’s center is. Therefore, you will have to establish or estimate that on your own.
Electronic Center Finders
These gadgets will accurately detect where the stud’s center is within your wall. They rely on two sensors to complete a proper reading of a certain surface. You must keep moving the tool over a wall until both sensors show the same information. This product works on batteries and it is marketed at a reasonable price.
Instant Stud Finders
This type of stud locator was recently launched on the market and, when it was first presented to the public, it was considered pretty innovative. It functions with a multitude of different sensors that work together to locate studs behind any wall. The best part about this option is that users aren’t required to move the product around the wall.
It is very easy to use but there’s a drawback: its price which is higher compared to one of the other similar stud detectors.
Radar Stud Finders
These are the newest models of stud locators and they use radar technology. These tools release radio energy pulses that bounce right back to the stud finder as soon as they reach items such as nails, electric wires, wood, and pipes. All these elements reflect those radio waves.
Although these stud locator models are very effective, they are also more expensive than previous versions like magnetic or electronic ones.
Speaking of wall finders, here are also the Best Drywall Sanders you might need in case you do wall work soon.
The Most Important Features to Look for in a Stud Finder
There are many features that you must consider when buying an efficient stud finder. Let’s detail some of the most important characteristics.
Automatic Shut-Off Function
This particular feature will help the tool last longer because it prolongs the life of the batteries. Some stud detector models have an energy-saving option and if you purchase an electronic model, you might even enjoy its automatic shut-off trait.
This feature enables users to establish the drywall’s thickness, providing them with plenty of useful information to work with. This will further lead to a more effective plan and a better result. These types of stud finders are very convenient because many of them are sold at reasonable prices.
LED displays are another convenient feature that a good stud finder has. This characteristic shows both the center and the edges of any stud it may encounter. Therefore, you will receive accurate information regarding the things you find under a surface.
This feature allows you to find out exactly the type of studs you’re dealing with, whether they are made of metal, wood, or plastic. Also, it can determine a stud’s depth and detect any AC wire that could be present.
To make the work even easier for you, some stud locators will feature two levels to help you mark the exact spot of a stud. It is highly convenient and comes in handy all the time, regardless of the type of stud you’re trying to find or the type of project you’re initiating.
This is a characteristic that can be found in magnetic studs. Some products have so powerful magnets that they enable hands-free use. These devices attach themselves to a wall due to their strong magnetic force. It allows you to let go of the tool and mark off the place where you find the studs.
How to Properly Use Stud Finders – Main Tips
Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines on how to correctly use these tools to locate studs in your walls:
- While the stud finder is in use, avoid touching the wall with your hands because it can alter the reading;
- You may have to calibrate the tool before starting the scan which is why it is best to begin the search away from things like outlets, switches, and light fixtures;
- Applying a layer of painter’s tape right over the surface you want to scan is good because you can then mark the locations of the studs on it without writing directly on the wall;
- Once the device locates a stud, scan around it to make sure the item continues up and down the wall to either the ceiling or the floor. These could be plumbing or wiring;
- If your wall is freshly painted, you might want to wait a couple of weeks before scanning. Errors might occur because of the wall’s paint moisture.
The Best Stud Finders on the Market
There are many amazing stud finder options out there and each one of them comes with its own features, design, and functions. Although the best model would be the instant stud locator, I have gathered a wide range of product types to make sure that you’ll find something suitable for your needs and budget.
1. Franklin ProSensor 710
This instant stud finder has an advanced multi-sense technology that clearly sees multiple stud locations in the wall simultaneously. Not only will this product identify where a stud is but it will also tell you the hidden object’s size. It has a deep scan feature that always remains active and it can detect multiple studs at once.
The ProSensor Frankling 710 is easy to use and has a high level of accuracy.
- It is a high-accuracy tool;
- It’s easy to use;
- Has a wide-body design that can identify double studs;
- This tool will locate numerous studs at the same time and instantly, even through uneven surfaces or materials.
- There’s no AC detection.
2. The LED Indicator ESF5001 Whole Stud Locator by Ryobi
This is the most compact and durable stud finder you will ever encounter. You can toss it in your toolbox and it will still function for a long time. The LED indicator ESF5001 is the model I currently own and I keep it in my toolbox along with several screwdrivers, two hammers, pliers, a few wrenches, and a box full of nails.
- The Ryobi ESF5001 model provides very accurate readings;
- It has an auto-depth scanner that determines the thickness of drywall;
- It comes with an AC detection system;
- You will be able to operate it in no time just by pressing one of its two buttons;
- This product works amazingly even when textured walls are involved.
- The operation of the buttons might seem a bit awkward for some of you.
3. Zircon MultiScanner 740
The Zircon MultiScanner 740 is a great stud finder that works with amazing accuracy. What makes it stand out is the fact that, besides showing you where studs are, it also lets you know the material that the stud is made of.
This product is a professional-grade one that improves the outcome of any building project by lowering the risk of error. The MultiScanner 740 model from Zircon operates with 4 different modes and indicates the presence of electrical AC wiring.
- It can locate many different types of stud materials;
- It comes with an auto-correcting technology that eliminates any potential scanning errors;
- There’s an erasable wall marker integrated into the gadget that allows you to mark specific targets with just the push of a single button.
- It is a tad on the pricey side;
- It could be more complex and perform multiple functions; this model is a bit too simple for its price.
4. The 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder by CH Hanson
The CH Hanson stud finder works amazingly for users who don’t need too complex tools; someone who needs a basic stud locator and doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on this type of device.
With it, you won’t have to waste time changing batteries because the product doesn’t need them. It features industrial-strength magnets that can find studs through thick paint and drywall layers.
- This stud finder is small and compact; it even fits in pockets;
- It operates on powerful magnets that allow a hands-free use;
- The product doesn’t need batteries to function;
- The grip is soft which enables an easy grabbing and handling;
- It is highly affordable.
- It works great on drywall but not so great on plaster;
- It can display errors when the walls are too bumpy.
5. The GMS120 Digital Multi-Scanner by Bosch
The Bosch Multi-Scanner features added functionality and can locate both magnetic and nonmagnetic power cables and metals as well as plastic pipes and wooden substructures. It has a deep-detection mode that can find studs that are up to almost 5 inches away from the surface of the wall.
- It works amazingly even through concrete;
- It detects studs deep within a structure;
- The product comes with a hand strap for better grip;
- All the information is displayed on an LCD screen;
- It has multiple detection signals: through sounds and lights;
- The package also includes batteries.
- Although the manufacturer says that this stud finder works well on concrete, some users stated that the accuracy is lower on this type of material;
- It is a pretty expensive stud detector.
FAQs About Stud Finders
How Much Do Stud Finders Cost?
Based on their features, brand, model, and other characteristics, stud finders have price tags that range from as low as a couple of bucks to over $100. Obviously, the more complex the model is, the higher the price will be.
What Are Studs that You Can Find in the Wall?
These are boards that play the role of framing elements in any house. They support your walls and are placed between the ceiling and the floor. Normally, drywall is attached to a stud’s edges but lath can also be used in the case of plaster walls.
Does a Stud Finder Truly Work?
Yes, all stud finders work. It is true, however, that some are more effective and more accurate than others, based on how innovative their technology is.
Why Do Some Stud Finders Not Work Properly?
There are several possible reasons to why you may encounter difficulties in using your stud finder:
– Maybe the batteries are weak;
– You must place the device on the wall first and only then start scanning it;
– Find out the material that the wall is covered with: drywall, plaster, or lath; some stud finders are built to scan only through certain types of materials.
A good stud finder makes a huge difference. With it, the framed painting you hang on your wall will look majestic for years instead of falling down several hours after you placed it there. These tools are also great at avoiding drilling or inserting a nail into a water pipe and producing a lot of damage.
It’s up to you if you want to buy an electric stud finder or its magnetic version. The electric models detect a surface’s density by basing their search on the wall’s dielectric constant. The magnetic options magnetize everything that contains metal and it’s located behind a surface.
Most DIY projects don’t require a complex stud finder but, depending on how intricate your project is, you could also purchase a more comprehensive device.