BEST STUD FINDERS | NOVEMBER 2017
Whether you’re taking on frequent DIY projects or simply looking to hang art, shelves or mirrors, a reliable stud finder is an essential part of your toolbox. Stud finders take the guesswork and measurements out of finding steady spots to anchor nails and screws, saving you a lot of time and effort (not to mention holes in your walls). We looked at both magnet-based and electronic stud finders to find the most dependable and useful models for a wide variety of wall and stud types, from lath and plaster construction to homes with metal studs. Read more about our methodology.
This simple and accurate electronic stud finder offers an intuitive interface and a straightforward design. An array of LEDs lets you find the edges and center of each stud, even on walls made of thicker materials.Read full review.
This handy magnetic stud finder is both very effective and extremely affordable. For less than $10, it accurately and reliably finds studs in a wide range of wall types, while also fitting into even the smallest tool boxes.Read full review.
If you’re looking for a multi-scanner that works well with thicker walls or more difficult materials like insulation, this multi-scanner provides very precise and accurate readings, especially if you’re trying to locate the center of a stud.Read full review.
Stud Finders BUYING GUIDE
Magnetic vs. Electronic
The foremost consideration when choosing a stud finder is whether to purchase a model that uses magnets or electronic density detection to find studs. Generally, magnetic stud finders cost less than electronic models, but don’t offer added features like the ability to detect wiring or pipes within walls. Some electronic models, however, have a more difficult time finding studs in lath and plaster walls.
Many homeowners and apartment renters don’t need a high-end stud finder with tons of features to occasionally hang a shelf or heavy piece of artwork. If you’re tackling frequent DIY projects or working as a contractor, however, you’ll likely need a more robust and dependable stud finder. This doesn’t necessarily mean the highest-priced model, however: several excellent stud finders that we researched were at the lower end of the price range while still offering contractor-grade performance.
Stud finders have a wide variety of displays and user interfaces, so another important consideration is which style provides the most useful information based on your needs. You may want a detailed LCD screen showing you density, signal strength, and nearby wires; or you may want a stud finder that provides at-a-glance locations, whether it’s magnetic or density-based. This is largely based on user preference, however: one person's useful information may be another user's information overload.
Prices for stud finders can vary from a magnetic model that costs less than $5 to top-of-the-line electronic versions that can cost around $70. The most basic models use powerful magnets to find the metal fasteners holding drywall or plaster to studs, rather than finding the studs themselves. Higher-end electronic models, on the other hand, use sensors that measure wall density. A denser section of wall usually means there is a stud behind the wall covering there. Most electronic stud finders cost between $20 and $50 and offer similar features, including screens that indicate stronger stud-sensing signals and audio indicators when they locate a stud. Within this price range, you can find models with features that alert you to hidden wires, as well as stud finders that are designed to scan a larger wall section, providing a more in-depth look at where studs are located.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
Franklin Sensors’ ProSensor 710 is an intuitive and effective electronic stud finder that delivers excellent performance and accuracy. While some of its competitors at the same price point offer wire- and pipe-sensing technologies and display screens, the ProSensor instead opts for simplicity, using a straightforward system of LEDs that shows the width and location of studs as you pass it over a wall.
Why We Recommend It
- Simple and intuitive interface. The LED display system is what really differentiates the ProSensor 710 from other electronic stud finders. Users love that it provides a clear visual display of exactly where studs begin and end, allowing you to accurately center nails and screws.
- Multiple sensors provide higher accuracy. Because it uses an array of LEDs to display stud locations, the ProSensor 710 also provides very accurate readings. If you pass it over the same spot several times, you can pinpoint the exact location and center of each stud.
- Excellent detection depth. Several reviewers also note the ProSensor’s excellent sensor depth, which makes it a great pick for areas with thicker drywall, such as outside walls.
- No added features. The ProSensor's straightforward design doesn't offer extra features like wire and pipe detection and audible alerts. But it does outperform its competitors at this price point while locating studs, without the performance issues that can come along with those added features.
- Not ideal for all wall materials. Because it detects studs based on wall density, the ProSensor does have some issues with certain wall materials. Users report some false alert issues with wood-paneled walls and tile in particular.
The aom 4-in-1 Multi-Scanner packs a lot of features into one device: it’s a stud finder, but also detects metal and alternating current. It offers a relatively high level of accuracy with all of these functions, although some definitely work better than others. At this price point, it’s a great buy, providing comparable functionality with competitors that cost twice as much.
Why We Recommend It
- Useful multi-function design. The aom Multi-Scanner offers several features in a compact design, which users find useful for projects that require functionality that goes beyond simply locating studs.
- Screen displays a lot of information. Reviewers find the information on the screen particularly useful, especially for locating the exact center of a stud. The multi-scanner displays signal strength as you pass it over a wall, letting you pinpoint the areas with higher density to affix nails and screws.
- Detects through a wide variety of wall materials. This stud finder performs particularly well when detecting studs through drywall, but it also provides accurate readings through more challenging wall materials, such as plaster and plywood.
- Current detector isn’t always accurate. While the alternating current detector is a useful feature, many users find that it isn’t always the most reliable feature. If you’re more concerned about finding studs, however, this isn’t too much of an issue.
- Operation is not intuitive. Many reviewers also note that this isn’t the most intuitive stud finder on the market. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to read and use the information on the screen.
The C.H. Hanson magnetic stud finder is an extremely affordable, easy to use, and convenient stud finder. There’s not much to it: just powerful magnets and a small bubble level, but its simplicity is what makes it such a useful device. Instead of sensing density, it uses magnets to find fasteners holding drywall to studs, gripping to the wall so you can sink a nail or screw.
Why We Recommend It
- Very easy to use. This is a no-frills magnetic stud finder, which makes it incredibly easy to use: by sweeping it back and forth over walls, you can locate nails and screws and pinpoint studs.
- Powerful magnets work with many wall materials. Because it senses metal instead of density, the C.H. Hanson stud finder can work with most wall materials, including lath and plaster and newer drywall.
- Battery-free design saves money. Users tend to love this stud finder’s battery-free operation, which can add up to significant savings if you’re taking on frequent DIY projects. And you'll never have delays in work while you change batteries.
- Compact design fits anywhere. This stud finder is also very small, so it’s easy to toss into a tool bag or carry on a tool belt. Reviewers who live in smaller spaces have noted that it’s a great addition to an apartment tool kit.
- More difficult to locate stud center. One major drawback of this stud finder is that it is more difficult to locate the exact center of a stud. Since it only finds nails or screws, users have to use some guesswork to sink fasteners in the center of studs.
- May detect other metal in walls. Another shortcoming users have noted with the C.H. Hanson stud finder is its tendency to find other metallic objects in walls. While this is to be expected with magnetic stud finders, it can be a hassle.
This multi-scanner is an excellent pick if you’re working with thicker walls or materials like plaster or sheets of insulation. While it does take some time and effort to set up and calibrate, it provides very accurate readings and can help quickly locate stud centers, while also providing the general locations of electrical wires and metal elements like pipe or rebar.
Why We Recommend It
- Multiple functions provide added versatility. The FOLAI multi-scanner allows you to switch between stud finding, metal detection, and alternating current readings, which can really help provide an accurate picture of wall construction.
- Detects through both wall materials and insulation. Users note that this multi-scanner works on a wide variety of wall types and materials. It works particularly well on plaster walls and insulation-backed drywall, which some other readers have a more difficult time with.
- Signal strength indicator provides higher accuracy. This device’s signal strength indicator is also very accurate, and several reviewers mention how easy it is to locate stud centers once it’s calibrated.
- Difficult to calibrate. If there’s one major flaw with this scanner, it’s that it’s somewhat difficult to calibrate. Users say that the included instructions don’t provide as much setup information as they could.
- Current detector isn’t as accurate. While it does state that it detects wires up to three inches deep, several reviewers find that the current readings are off by up to a foot, which can be a problem if you’re worried about accidentally cutting or drilling into wires.
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Best Stud Finder for Plaster Walls
If your home has plaster walls, a stud finder is an incredibly useful tool, since you’ll likely need to drill holes in your walls before driving screws, you’ll want to ensure that you’re not blindly making holes in plaster, which can cause cracking and instability. Some stud finders tend to have problems with lath and plaster, however, so you’ll need a reliable stud finder that’s designed to work with plaster walls without giving you too many false readings.
The Studpop Magnetic Stud Finder is an inexpensive and straightforward alternative to electronic stud finders. It works very well with thicker lath and plaster walls, which can cause problems for many density-based stud finders. It uses a small magnetic “popper” that stands upright as it passes over nails or screws in walls, which provides an easy-to-read indicator that doesn’t suffer from interference or false readings.
Why We Recommend It
- Simple, easy-to-use design. The Studpop Magnetic Stud Finder is a simple, but effective design: a plastic “popper” contains a powerful magnet that makes it stand on end when it detects a metal fastener in a wall or ceiling, letting you quickly find stud locations.
- Very effective on difficult wall types. Users find that the Studpop Magnetic Stud Finder works well with a variety of wall types that cause electronic stud finders some difficulty. Most notably, it can find fasteners through both lath and plaster and tile over drywall.
- Extremely affordable. The low price point of the Studpop stud finder makes it a great choice if you’re trying to add a stud finder to your toolbox without too much of an investment.
- Popper occasionally gets stuck. Some users report issues where the popper on the stud finder gets stuck, which makes it difficult to get accurate readers. Luckily, the simplicity of the design makes this relatively easy to remedy.
- Doesn’t find edge and center of studs. Like most magnetic stud finders, the Studpop doesn’t do much to indicate the centers and edges of the studs it finds. This means you’ll have to do a little bit of extra work to mark the exact center before driving nails or screws.
Best Stud Finder for Drywall
Since most newer homes use half-inch drywall for interior walls, a stud finder that’s specifically designed to detect through this material is a great addition to your toolbox. Most newer-model stud finders detect material density to find studs, so they’re much better-suited to drywall than to lath and plaster, which can cause false readings and interference. This means you can find effective stud finders at a wide range of prices that offer excellent performance, along with added features like wire and pipe detection.
The Zircon i520 multiscanner is a powerful and versatile stud finder that really excels at finding studs, metal, and wire behind drywall. It’s easy to use, requiring very little setup to get started, and excels at finding stud centers and edges, which makes it a reliable addition to your toolbox. While it does run into some issues with other types of walls, its performance on drywall is ideal for newer construction.
Why We Recommend It
- Easy to use. Unlike some of its competitors, the Zircon Multiscanner can be used without too much arduous setup. Users like that it can be used to detect studs without the need for calibration.
- High level of accuracy on drywall. This stud finder excels on drywall, providing reliable and highly accurate stud locations as well as alternating current and metal objects. Many reviewers note that this stud finder exceeds expectations on newer drywall construction.
- Identifies stud centers and edges. Another major benefit several users praise is the ability to identify edges and centers of studs. This is a great feature, since it lets users confidently affix heavier items to their walls.
- Display can be difficult to read. A recurring complaint with the i520 is that its screen is difficult to read, especially from an angle. This can make certain projects more difficult, since you may not be able to see the information you need.
- Inconsistent on other wall types. While it performs very well on drywall, other wall types give the Zircon i520 a more difficult time. Lath and plaster, as well as tile, produce false readings and make stud detection difficult.
Best Stud Finder for Metal Studs
While the vast majority of homes have wooden studs, there are some that use metal studs (usually a combination of steel and aluminum), which can cause some interference with some electronic stud finders. Generally, a magnetic stud finder is your best bet for finding metal studs, since these are much easier to detect with a strong magnet. There are some newer electronic stud finders that work very well with metal studs, however, and can eliminate confusion between metal studs and other metallic objects in your walls such as pipes.
The N52 Neodymium Pocket Magnet Stud Finder excels at locating metal studs, while a simple handheld design means it’s ready to use straight out of the box. It also offers one of the most powerful magnets we’ve found in a stud finder, which gives it added performance on thick drywall, plaster, or tile. It won’t find electrical currents or help find stud centers, but if you’re working with metal studs, it’s a very useful tool.
Why We Recommend It
- Durably constructed for job sites. This stud finder consists of a brass housing and a powerful magnet, which gives it great durability if you’re using it on construction sites.
- Incredibly powerful magnet works on thick walls. Several users note that this stud finder works very well on thicker walls, whether they’re drywall, plywood, tile, or plaster. Because the magnet is so powerful, it’s able to find studs even through materials that are more than an inch thick.
- Convenient design can clip onto tool belt. This is a very handy stud finder, and the inclusion of a D-ring makes it easy to clip on a belt while working on a project. Reviewers also like that it’s a perfect size to fit in most hands.
- Expensive compared to other magnetic stud finders. This stud finder is significantly more expensive than other magnetic stud finders, so some users may prefer a lower-priced model or an electronic stud detector at a similar price point.