Stud finders are a somewhat little-known wonder of the DIY world. Being so simple to use, so freely available and with a price that’s just right for both pros and rookies, it’s a wonder that more people don’t utilize these to their full ability. With the majority of the original designs looking a little like a soapbox, it would be easy to understand how these can frequently be overlooked when seeking to stock a toolbox to its best capacity.
Like all good things, however, the changes these little guys have undergone in the last 40 years have allowed these to become almost indispensable to most handymen, builders and even the casual DIY-er. Many beam finders now come pre-loaded with some great features, saving you time and energy, while allowing work to continue as safely as possible.
In order to showcase these stud finders to their fullest, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites for you to peruse to your heart’s content. Check out our top 10, below and- if you’re still not sold on the beauty of these handheld devices- read on for our buying guide and answers to all your frequently asked questions.
The Best Stud Finder
This instant stud finder comes at the top of list thanks to its amazing ability to multitask- meaning you don’t have to. The ProSensor 710 and 710+ stud finder is able to locate multiple studs around the room thanks to the thirteen in-built sensors. This also eliminates the need to calibrate your device before use, as they automatically detect changes, distances and space using intelligent algorithms. In other words, you can cut your work in half by using this much-loved stud finder!
Speaking of being much-loved, the stud finder reviews for this particular item range in the thousands- and with an average of 4.5/5 from over 3,000 customers, you can be sure that this product will leave any user happy. The most common remarks include the ProSensor’s amazing ease-of-use and accuracy, since you’ll simply need to switch on and go, when finding your wall studs.
Visualization of studs
Able to detect multiple studs, simultaneously
Identifies full width of studs
Instant electronic stud finder
- Weight9 ounces
The lightweight and compact magnetic stud finder from CH Hanson comes in at number two, thanks to its simple design and ease-of-use. Perfect for those who are budgeting, this stud finder is a great option for beginners to DIY or those looking for a pocket stud sensor that gives amazing accuracy without the astounding price.
The CH Hanson magnetic stud sensor comes with a two-way level to ensure accuracy and comes with a built-in soft-grip and handle- which doubles up as a guide for nails. Indeed, the magnets are so powerful in this beam finder that you can even use it hands-free, even for those walls which have a depth of up to 1”.
Magnetic stud finder
- BrandCH Hanson
- Weight0.16 ounces
Zircon stud finders are well-known for their quality and endurance and the e50 is no different. This electronic stud finder works as an edge sensor, allowing users to discover the edges of beams, joists and studs. There are two scanning modes built in to this wireless device, allowing you to choose between a standard stud finding and a deep scan of your walls, floors and ceilings.
Once found, the on-screen display indicates the changes in depth with a sliding scale in the form of an arrow. Once the display shows the “peak”, you’ll know you’ve hit the central spot of the beam. Meanwhile, the pivot-pitch design of the handle allows for comfortable handling and smooth use, great for when you calibrate your sensor to register the standard depth of your wall or floor.
Electronic stud finder
Depth range of up to 1.5”
- Weight8 ounces
The Studpop magnetic stud finder is so small that it’s almost impossible to believe just how powerful it can be. Unlike most magnetic sensor types, the Studpop does exactly what it says on the tin, in that the central magnet will stand straight and clearly pop out at you, when the stud has been found. If you want to reassure yourself, simply move the tool up and down the area to allow the magnet to discover more of the hidden fastenings behind your wall.
This incredibly lightweight and slightly kooky stud finder will fit just about anywhere and is so easy to use that even occasional users will find this an absolute breeze. The simplicity also allows for a bargain price, meaning you don’t have to break the bank in order to get the most practical and safest use out of your wall studs, when doing work around the house.
Magnetic stud finder
Lightweight and easy to use
- Weight1.12 ounces
With an amazing 1.7” depth detection ability, the ProFinder from Precision Sensors is one of the best electronic stud finders available on the market thanks to it’s 13 sensors and pretty much every feature you could want in a wall stud finder. Simply place the beam finder against the wall and allow the electronics to calibrate. You can then measure, accurately level and mark your studs, all with one tool.
The instant stud finder is perfect for bigger jobs, and reviewers mention how the accuracy of this tool is pretty much spot on, every time. While missing some of the nicer features of our top pick, this makes for a great second spot when it comes to instant electronic stud finders. Do be aware, however, that this stud finder will pick up on everything- so be sure to check that your stud isn’t actually a pipe, before cracking on with nails and screws!
Detects wood and metal
Electronic instant stud finder
- Weight15.5 ounces
Black and Decker are known for making hard-wearing, quality goods, so you can be sure that this electronic stud finder is a great little gadget to have around the home. The easy-to-read LED display indicates changes in the density of the wall and the design even allows you to remain hands-free, once the stud is found- allowing you to get on with whatever DIY project you have your heart set on.
There’s also the handy add-on of being able to discover live A/C wires and letting you know when you’re nearby a danger zone. The biggest plus to this bit of kit, however, is the in-built auto-leveling laser, which projects a straight line for you to work along, as you begin your project. This makes it perfect for putting up shelves or following specifics such as tiling.
Electronic stud finder
- BrandBlack & Decker
- Weight1 pounds
Another option from a giant in the trade industry, the Bosch stud finder is a self-calibrating electronic stud finder that works to find metal, wood and live wires around the house- including floors, ceilings and walls. The LCD display clearly indicates mode, detection strength and even allows the operator to clearly see where the center of each stud, joist or beam is based.
This looks to be slightly more complicated than our other choices but, once the user has become accustomed to the specifics, we can assure this is actually really very easy to use. The in-built multi-scanner may well be designed for day-to-day use by tradesmen and frequent handymen but, with so many abilities and options, we couldn’t discount this for use around the home, either thanks to its ability to self-calibrate before use.
Detects wood, metal and wiring
- ModelGMS 120
- Weight1.1 pounds
Another offering from Zircon and this wall stud detector is another simple electronic option that quickly and easily allows you to pinpoint changes in your walls, ceilings and floors, with one slight change. The MetalliScanner uses a metal detector to find fastenings within your house and uses these to indicate the absence or presence of wall studs.
Unlike magnetic stud finders, however, this powerful option works through pretty much any surface including tiles and even concrete- something that many others on the market simply can’t handle. Just slide the scanner across the area you would like to work in and, once a stud, joist or beam is found, a light will come on, alongside a slight buzzing sound- alerting you to the presence of metal below the surface.
Electronic stud finder
Works with uneven surfaces
- Weight9.6 ounces
As one of the newer offerings available on the market, the electronic stud finder from Classware has some heavy competition- however, it matches that competition with vigor and can easily outshine some of the many options available on the web, today. The powerful and long-lasting battery allows this metal detector and stud finder to work to its full capability, for longer while the simple design means that even the occasional user will find themselves at home with this stud finder.
Classware are so sure that you’ll be happy with their product, that they’ve even offered a money-back guarantee, although the many happy stud finder reviews indicate that this shouldn’t be something you’ll need to take up.
Easy to use
Electronic stud finder
- Weight1 pounds
Last on our list is the Stanley stud finder with the rather unusual nickname of FatMax. The exceptionally simplistic design of FatMax makes this the perfect option for those new to DIY, although veterans will be pleased with the lack of unnecessary features found on this bit of kit, making this one of the easiest items to use in the world of stud finders. The design is one of the key selling points here, with an LCD screen that illuminates the right depth and width, showing operators where studs are, simply and clearly.
The real selling point here, however, is the sheer range at which FatMax can reach- being up to 3 inches in depth. Simply slide the electronic stud finder over the area you’re looking to work with and wait for audible beeps and sequential lights to appear, to indicate the presence of a stud, joist or beam, no matter how deep.
Electronic stud finder
Simple and easy to use.
- Weight6.4 ounces
Best Stud Finder Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look For in a Stud Finder
The first thing you’ll want to check when buying a beam finder is the method of which that stud finder works upon. You may notice that we’ve included a vast array of different types in our Top Picks, all of which are the best stud finders on the market- but your choice should depend entirely on what you feel comfortable using. The main differences between these stud sensors are written below, when discussing different methods, to help you navigate the choices and decide on the best method for your needs.
Features aren’t always necessary, but they can help make a tedious task much simpler, quicker and a little more fun if you’re a geek like us. While the options below aren’t necessary when it comes to finding your wall studs, they’re always handy to have.
- Auto shut off- shuts down after a set period of time in which it has not been in use, saving energy.
- Depth detection- Indicates the depth of the stud or beam, as well as the depth of the drywall itself, making it safer and easier to continue working.
- Display- an LED display can make it much easier to understand where exactly the stud finder is indicating a beam, as well as giving information to the user in a clear manner.
- Multi-mode- These handy little doo-dads will help you find both metal and wall studs, ensuring you stay clear of the right areas while working around the safest parts of the house.
- Two-way Level- A simple feature that is usually found in even the most basic stud detector. It’s simple but easy to use and allows you to remain perfectly in line, every time.
- Hands-free- Somewhat self-explanatory but essentially allows you to continue working without the need to switch hands, constantly.
Different Methods of Detection
The majority of electronic stud finders are much easier to use than their magnetic counterparts, due to the screen which gives way most of the essential information. As such, the electronic versions of stud finders tend to be much more popular, and often come doubled-up with a range of handy features. There are three main types of electronic stud sensors:
- Edge finder
These are the most common sensors you’ll find. They are easy to use and tend not to be over-complicated. Simply switch on and move the stud finder over the area you are looking to work around, and the screen will indicate the edges of each side of the stud.
- Center finder
Another popular sensor, as it allows you discover the center of the stud you’re searching for. The on-screen display should simply show you the length between each edge of the stud and you should place the sensor between these areas until they are of equal value.
The most recent stud finder and one that uses multiple different sensors and indicators- making this the more expensive of our options, as you can imagine. The good news, however is that you won’t need to move the tool around too much, to discover your wall beams. Just place the instant stud finder against the wall and the machine will use complex algorithms to accurately locate the stud.
A magnetic stud finder uses a remarkably simple method that should help you feel comfortable finding wall beams, easily. All you need to do is place the beam finder against the surface and move it along, or around, the area you wish to work with.
When your stud sensor is near a wall stud, you’ll feel a gentle pull from the magnet based inside the tool. These are the cheapest wall stud finders available on the market, as well as the simplest. The issue here, of course, is that a deep wall stud may only have a very gentle pull and might therefore be difficult to detect.
Moving magnetic sensors make an audible sound and have a loose magnet within the tool itself, so you can get a better sense of when a wall beam is below the surface. These are usually a little easier to use, since they tend to contain a stronger magnet, and the audible aspect of their detection makes discovering wall studs much easier.
How To Use a Stud Finder
While each item will have slight variations, the general gist is the same for each type. For magnetic stud sensors, you’ll notice a pull from the tool toward the stud, as you move the sensor around the area. The stronger the pull, the closer you are.
With electronic stud finders, you’ll need to begin by calibrating your chosen stud finders for walls, depending on whether you need a wood stud finder or metal beam sensor. Then slide it along the wall, in the same way as the magnetic sensor. The on-screen display or light indicators will then let you know how close or far away you are.
Finally, instant electronic stud finders will usually use lights or sounds to indicate studs as you move across the wall. These will vary depending on the make and model but are usually pretty straightforward to understand.
Best Stud Finder FAQ:
Q: What is a stud finder and how does it work?
A: A stud finder is a piece of equipment which allows users to discover studs and beams beneath the surface of the average house, without the need to do extensive research or take apart any sections of said house. These stud finders use a variety of different methods, depending on the type that is being used, to let you know exactly where these beams are based, so that owners can either work alongside or avoid these areas, in order to maintain the integrity of the home.
The two main methods used with stud finders are magnetic and electronic. The magnetic stud finder works with magnets inside a small, handheld tool which are attracted to the metals used in studs and beams when the house was built. The slight pull felt by this attraction allows the user to “feel” where the studs are based.
Meanwhile, electronic stud finders use a vast array of different sensors and abilities to help indicate the exact whereabouts of these essential aspects of the house. The most common format is one which allows users to discover just the edges of the beams, therefore giving the operator a general idea of where the stud is housed. The most expensive and all-encompassing stud finders, however, will use plethora of algorithms to clearly indicate where walls studs are based, allowing the workmen or homeowner to clearly mark the presence of beams, studs and joists.
Q: What are common false positives when using a stud finder?
A: Like all things, it is unlikely to create an exact science when it comes to finding studs and beams, without stripping the wall down. However, the more adept you are at using a stud finder, and the higher the quality of the sensor you decide on, will greatly affect the accuracy of your stud finding capabilities.
Common false positives depend on the type of wall sensor you are using. For example, magnetic stud finders can easily be misread, especially when the item being used is cheaper or has a weak magnet within the tool. They can also be pulled elsewhere, if there are any other magnetic materials within the walls themselves. This is becoming more common as the materials used in construction have changed greatly from when magnetic stud finders were first invented, and our reliance on metal-based products increases.
In electronic stud finders, common false positives come from inexperienced users, who mis-read the display. However, the most likely cause for these false positives come from an incorrect calibration before beginning. Without the correct calibration, the electronic stud finder can easily incorrectly identify the space and distance of the wall, joist, beam or stud. This can therefore mean that the size of the stud has been miscalculated and the project could be placed in peril.
Therefore, it’s very important before beginning your project and using your stud finder, that you locate and follow the instructions very closely. It might be a little boring at the time but it can save you heaps of work and a big headache, later down the line.
Q: Can I use a stud finder to find floor joists?
A: Absolutely. Just be sure to calibrate your electronic sensors to match the required depth, in order to locate your joists accurately. If you’re looking to use a magnetic sensor, be sure to grab a high-quality stud finder that has a strong magnetic pull- we would recommend a moving magnetic stud finder in these cases as this will allow you to hear the differences as the sensor moves over the area, as well as being able to feel the pull of the magnets.
Our Top Pick
The ProSensor 710 from Franklin Sensors easily comes at the top of our list, thanks to its ability to eliminate the awkward calibration process and lack of false positives. This small but mighty sensor uses an incredible 13 sensors to locate multiple studs at any one time and the use of the lighting allows for even the most novice operator to accurately mark studs around the home.
Simply place on the floor and allow your room to light up with accurate readings, perfect for those who just want to mark out their studs, ready for work to be completed. The patented technology can indicate both wood and metal studs, and deep detection allows it to penetrate even the thickest walls, ceilings and floors.
- How do stud finders work? - HowStuffWorks
- Detectors Can Find Just the Right Spot to Drive That Nail - The New York Times