A stud finder is a handy tool for any homeowner or DIY enthusiast to have in their toolbox. That’s because it gives them the power to find studs in their walls, which allows them to mount a variety of objects to their walls including televisions, shelves, mirrors and other objects that are too heavy to be mounted only to the wall.
Some people avoided buying stud detectors because they felt they were overly complicated or were hard to use. While that may have been the case in the past, that’s no longer true. Now stud sensors are accurate, reliable and easy-to-use. So much so, we’ve decided to list the ten best models below.
Best Stud Finders – Top List
10The Stud Buddy Magnetic Stud Finder
The Stud Buddy doesn’t require batteries or to be plugged into an AC outlet because it uses the power of magnetism to detect wall studs. This unit was designed by a general contractor who had forty years of experience finding wall studs and is one of the simplest units on the market today. It uses powerful neodymium magnets to locate drywall nails and screws, which leads to stud location discovery. This unit will hang on the wall when it finds a stud, so the user can have both hands free to mark the location. It’s a quick, easy and fool proof stud discovery method.
9Welquic Electric 3-in-1 Stud Sensor
This 3-in-1 stud detector has three different modes to help users get their work done quickly and accurately. It can scan for studs, scan for metal and scan for AC wires. It can detect metal and voltage up to a depth of 3-inches and can detect wood to a depth of 1.5-inches. This model is operated by a single 9-Volt battery and has a back-lit LCD display and an auto shut-off feature which shuts the unit down when it hasn’t been used in awhile. This makes it a simple and inexpensive tool that can be used by everyone from professional contractors to novice do-it-yourselfers.
8Dr. Meter Stud Wall Sensor
This ergonomically designed handheld wall stud sensor comes with an assortment of features which make it useful around the home or job site. It has an LCD backlit display that shows detection information and an audible indicator that alerts the user when a stud is found. This unit has a multi-mode detection system which can detect metal studs up to 1.4-inches deep, metal pipe or rebar up to 3-inches deep and live AC wires up to 3-inches deep. This allows it to not only detect wall studs but also can be used to find wall joists, pipes, and metal bars.
7Zircon A100 Stud Sensor
The A100 is designed to quickly and accurately find the edges of studs, all while alerting the user to the presence of live AC wires. This unit comes with two specific modes which are extremely useful: a deep scan mode and a stud scan mode. The stud scan mode can detect wood or metal studs up to .75-inch deep, while the deep scan mode can detect studs up to 1.5-inches. This model uses only a 9-Volt battery to operate and can easily be packed in a tool bag or suitcase for transport. It’s a good stud finder for anyone looking for an accurate reading.
6Precision Sensors Pro Finder 5000+
The beauty of this wall stud sensor is that it has an array of lights which will indicate where the stud is located. It does this using several different sensors at once and only requires the user to hold it up to the wall and push a button for it to work. Since it’s equipped with thirteen different sensors, it’s extremely accurate and can easily detect the center of a stud quickly. This model also has a built-in level, so the user can make sure they are marking the studs evenly. All things considered, this unit is a powerful unit that may be more expensive than comparable sensors but works very well.
5Studpop Magnetic Stud Finder
Sometimes simplicity is the best route when it comes to stud detectors, which is proven by this simple yet effective stud detector. It doesn’t use batteries, doesn’t have a screen and doesn’t need to be calibrated. All the user has to do is run it across the wall and wait until this unit’s popper stands out straight. This indicates that the wall fastener that fastens the drywall to the stud has been found. That makes this tool easy to use and very effective. This model works on plaster, lath, tile, and sheet-rock and is made in the United States. It’s a product that’s extremely simple but works very well.
4Tacklife DMS04 Stud Sensor
This tool can be used in a variety of different ways using one of its two modes. It has a stud scan mode which can detect the edges of wood or metal studs up to .75-inch deep, and a thick scan mode which can detect studs up to 1.5-inches deep. This unit has a large LCD display, an easy-to-use mode switch and comes with audible alarm buzzers for AC wire detection. With just a push of a button, this tool can calibrate itself automatically and has a target indicator that allows for easy detection. Overall, this stud finder is easy enough to use by novices but powerful enough to be used by professionals.
This tool has a simple design but is capable of delivering professional results. It only needs a 9-Volt battery to operate, and once equipped with one, is capable of scanning walls for studs, rebar and live AC wires. This unit is also capable of being used to find ceiling joints as well. It has a compact design that can be easily transported to a job site and is lightweight enough to use for long periods of time without fatiguing the user’s arms. And since it has a clear-to-read LCD screen, it can be used by just about anyone, no matter their level of experience with stud detectors.
2Franklin Sensors Pro Sensor 710
Unlike most sensors which can only detect one stud at a time, this unit can detect multiple studs at the same time. Using bright LED lights, it can also indicate to the user the position of hidden objects. This makes it extremely easy for the user to visualize the position of the wall studs exactly. It can scan for studs up to 1.5-inches deep and is less prone to errors than many competing sensors currently available. It’s a tool that’s designed for professionals and by professionals but is also one that’s easy enough for beginners to use as well.
1CH Hanson Magnetic 03040
Form, function, and ease-of-use all come together in this small and compact tool. It doesn’t require batteries to operate but instead uses rare Earth metals to detect all kinds of metals in the wall. This makes stud finding quick and easy. Once a stud is found, the magnets in this unit will hold it to the wall, so the user’s hands are free for other things. This unit also has a soft grip that makes it easy to hold onto and use and has a bubble level in the center of it. All of these features make this small tool one of the best stud finders which are currently available.
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Features in the Best Stud Finders
In the past, if you wanted to find a stud in the wall you only had a few options, and none of these options were all that great. You could either use a magnet to find a nail in the hidden stud, or you could tap on the wall and listen to the wall density to find the stud. While this method worked for highly skilled workmen, it often wasn’t a very good method for homeowners or novice handymen to employ.
Then stud detectors were invented and everything changed. Now, just about anyone could find the studs in their walls quickly and easily. These devices revolutionized everything and made it easier for home handymen to hang shelves, mirrors or mounts for their flat-screen televisions. However, even after their introduction, there continued to be some confusion about these devices – particularly, what features are needed and how they should be used.
Because it isn’t always crystal clear which features are needed on a stud sensor or exactly how these devices are supposed to be used, we decided to write a guide which will cast a little bit of light on the subject. Below are some tips which will help the average person find the best stud finder for their particular needs and some tips on using it once it’s been purchased.
Electronic or Magnetic?
There are basically two different types of stud detectors: magnetic ones and electronic ones. Magnetic models use magnets, so batteries aren’t usually required. And the principle behind them is rather simple. The magnet is attracted to the metal fasteners attaching the wall to the stud and either cause a piston to sink down or rely on the user to feel the attraction. Electronic models, on the other hand, often have a variety of other features they support. This can include the ability to detect pipes or wiring, and they work on a very simple principle. Inside the electric stud finder is a sensor that detects minute changes in the dielectric constant of the wall. When it comes to these type of electronic stud finders, there are three models available. Let’s take a look at them in the next section.
Types of Electronic Stud Finders
When it comes to electronic versions of stud detectors there are three basic types: Edge Finders, Center Finders, and Instant Stud Finders.
- Edge Finders -These detectors are calibrated using a section of the wall the user knows doesn’t contain a stud and then when it passes over a section of the wall that has a change in density, like the edge of a wall stud, then it gives a signal. Using this type of finder requires the user to make several passes to find the edges of the stud, so they can determine where the exact center portion of the stud is located.
- Center Finders -This type of stud sensor actually uses two different centers to find the center of a stud. When the values of the two sensors match and is denser than empty wall space, then the device assumes it’s on the center of a stud and alerts the user in some way. While they are more convenient than edge sensors, they still require calibration to work correctly.
- Instand Stud Finders -These sensors don’t need to be run across the wall to work. Instead, they use multiple sensors, and an advanced algorithm to determine where the studs in a wall are located. These are the most convenient of all the stud sensors, but they are also usually the most expensive models.
- Built-In Levels – Some stud sensors also come equipped with built-in levels. This is an extremely handy feature to make sure that pictures or shelves are hung evenly.
- Hand-Free Usage – Some models stay attached to the wall when they finally find the studs. This frees up the user’s hands so they can measure or mark the spot with a pencil.
- LED Lights & Alarms – Some stud finders have LED lights which flash and alarms which sound when studs are found or when wires are detected.
Finding Studs With a Stud Finder
While there are a few methods for finding studs with a stud detector, and the methods vary between magnetic models and electronic ones, below are a few tips for operating a stud finder. As is always the case, be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions and pay attention to the location of ductwork, electrical wires, and pipes.
- Step One – Decide at what height you’ll want to start looking for a stud in a wall.
- Step Two – Follow manufacturer’s instructions and calibrate the stud sensor if necessary. This is usually done by positioning it to an area of the wall where’s there’s no stud and activating it. Many stud finders will alert the user once it’s been properly calibrated.
- Step Three – At the intended height of the fastener, hold the stud finder against the wall and move it horizontally across the wall. If using an edge-finding model, mark the area where it finds the stud. If necessary, calibrate the sensor again.
- Step Four – Now approach from the opposite direction and mark the other edge of the stud. The marks should be 1.5-inches away from each other. Now measure the exact center point between these two marks and that will be the center of the stud. If using a center-sensing model, then the sensor will automatically detector the center of the stud, and this can then be marked directly.
- Step Five – It’s important to double check your work, so go back over and located several other points on the suspected wall stud. Once this is done, then the stud can be confirmed with pretty high accuracy.
The History of Stud Finders
While traditional stud finders have been around since the beginning of the 20th century and were pretty much just powerful magnets which detected the nails that attached the wall to the stud, modern stud finders haven’t been around quite as long. The modern stud detector was invented in 1977 by Robert Franklin. His stud finder had an internal capacitor that carefully measured density changes behind walls. Since studs are denser than the otherwise empty opening of the wall, the stud detector is able to concur that this increase in density is a stud. He would go on to patent this product, and it was finally put into production by the Zircon Corporation. While these detectors weren’t especially effective in finding wall studs, the company continued to produce them until the patent expired in the late 1990s.
When the patent expired on stud seekers, then a variety of different companies was able to produce their own versions, and this is when real innovation began to take hold in this industry. Companies began to make stud finders which not only improved on the internal capacitor design of the original stud finder but also could detect multiple studs in a wall. This was done by using multiple sensor plates in the device itself. Nowadays, there are a number of different stud detectors, and they are highly accurate. That’s not saying that innovation has stopped for these devices, however. New and better ones are always hitting the market.