The 9 Best Stud Finders

Updated October 20, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

9 Best Stud Finders
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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. While it may not help you locate a hunk of a man hidden behind your drywall, a good stud finder will guide you to a solid mount for hanging pictures and shelves while avoiding dangerous wiring and sensitive pipes. Check out our comprehensive selection to find the right model for your next project. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best stud finder on Amazon.

9. Zircon e50-FFP

The Zircon e50-FFP utilizes a patented spotlite pointer to shine an arrow-shaped light on the wall over your intended target. If you start your scan over a stud, the unit will ask you to begin again in a new location, ensuring you'll know where the stud's edges are.
  • ergonomically designed
  • handyman club approved
  • doesn't penetrate plywood
Brand Zircon
Model StudSensor e50
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Studbuddy Magnetic

With the help of strong neodymium magnets, the Studbuddy Magnetic is one of the easiest DIY utensils on the market. It readily responds to wood or metal studs, and sticks to the wall in front of them, providing a vertical mark for your drilling needs.
  • made in the usa
  • easy to find in a tool box
  • not for professional construction
Brand The Studbuddy, LLC
Model 001
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Zircon StudSensor i65

The Zircon StudSensor i65 provides an easy-to-read LCD image to guide you toward the center of a stud. It's strong enough to work on single or double-layer drywall, and it can detect live wiring up to two inches deep into a wall.
  • includes an instructional dvd
  • shows edges in real time
  • occasionally gives false readings
Brand Zircon
Model SS i65
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Zircon MultiScanner i520

The Zircon MultiScanner i520 is the perfect choice for DIY-ers who have a lot of home projects to tackle. It features Auto Correcting Technology to adjust for the most common user errors, as well as a simple graph on its backlit display.
  • detects items behind plaster walls
  • live wire alerts
  • sensitive to rotation
Brand Zircon
Model MS i520
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Bosch GMS120

By allowing its user to calibrate degrees of sensitivity and specific material responses, the Bosch GMS120 provides nuanced and detailed detection of woods, metals, and wiring, even when all three occupy the same general area.
  • illuminated lcd screen
  • runs on a single 9-volt battery
  • complicated to use
Brand Bosch
Model GMS 120
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Franklin ProSensor 710

The innovative technology of the Franklin ProSensor 710 easily identifies the size and placement of objects hidden behind your walls. Its light system of powerful LEDs clearly indicates where the exact center of a stud lies.
  • sensor pad detects copper pipes
  • works on ceramic tile
  • weak through wainscoting
Brand Franklin Sensors Inc.
Model ProSensor 710
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Precision Sensors Profinder 5000

The one-step operation and advanced technology of the Precision Sensors Profinder 5000 make for a fast and accurate user experience. It has a larger sensor pad than most of its competition, and it can even sense studs without touching the wall.
  • works without sliding
  • lights indicate exact location
  • conveys width information
Brand Precision Sensors
Model pending
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. CH Hanson 03040

The CH Hanson 03040 comes at a remarkable price for its effectiveness. In addition to detecting studs, it can sense screws and nails hidden in your walls with no false positives. Plus, the powerful magnet allows it to hang hands-free above an ideal mark.
  • polarized pull adds feel to sensing
  • penetrates sheetrock
  • built-in bubble level
Brand CH Hanson
Model 03040
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Black & Decker BDL190S

Simplify your next project with the Black & Decker BDL190S. It's a 2-in-1 tool featuring a horizontal laser that projects a perfectly straight line across whatever surface you require, making it great for hanging heavy frames, mirrors, and shelving.
  • ideal for installing new blinds
  • self-levels without adjustment
  • won't slip out of your hand
Brand Black & Decker
Model BDL190S
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Classifications Of Stud Finders

There are two main classifications of stud finders: magnetic and electronic. Magnetic stud finders make use of a magnet to locate metal, often a nail or screw inserted during installation, inside of walling material. As the stud finder moves closer to the metal object, the pull on its internal magnet gets stronger, signalling that a stud is located beneath the wall. Unfortunately, sloppy construction can result in installation screws and nails being off-center or near the edges of a stud, so despite the detection of a stud when using a magnetic stud finder, one can not be sure that spot is suitable for anchoring heavy objects.

Magnetic stud finders can be further broken down into two types: stationary and moving. Stationary stud finders rely on the user to feel the pull of the magnet inside the unit, which means they can be erratic and hard to use. If the metal object is located deeply inside the stud, the pull might not be strong enough for the user to notice. Moving magnet stud detectors are considerably more effective. These make use of a neodymium magnet, which is suspended in an enclosure. The magnet can move around freely inside of the enclosure and always returns to a centered home position when not located near a metal object. As the user moves a magnetic stud finder over a wall, the magnet will move towards the location of the metal and will make a distinct thud as it hits the wall of the enclosure. This signals to the user what direction they should move and makes it easier to find a stud.

Electronic stud finders, also known as internal capacitor stud finders, are considerably more accurate than any type of magnetic detector. They make use of sensors, which can detect changes in the relative permittivity, or dielectric constant of a wall. The relative permittivity of a wall changes when there is a stud behind it. A lower reading means there is a stud in the wall. Many electronic stud detectors come with additional features for locating metal and live AC voltage.

Electronic stud finders can also be further broken down into types. There are instant finders, edge finders, and center finders.

Types Of Electronic Stud Finders

Each type of electronic stud finder is ideally suited for a specific task. Edge finders are the most basic as they only take one reading to determine the presence of a stud. They achieve this by detecting the change in density when the user moves it from an empty section of wall to one with a stud behind it. Edge finders require calibration over an empty section of wall before they can be used to find studs. If the user is unsure of the location of an empty section of wall, they will not be able to calibrate the edge finder and it is essentially useless. Because edge finders only use one sensor, they are more prone to errors than center finders and instant finders. There is always a chance that it could indicate a spot more than an inch from the stud's edge.

A more efficient way to locate the center of a stud is with a center stud finder. These use two sensors to register separate measurements of the wall's relative permittivity. Once the two readings match, it signals that the stud's center has been located. Center stud finders do not need to be moved in both directions over a stud to determine the center as edge finders do to locate an edge, but they do also require calibration over an empty section of wall.

The most recent innovation in types of stud detectors is the instant stud finder. These have multiple sensor plates, which take numerous readings simultaneously and are not hindered by erratic wall textures as center stud finders often are. Nor does the user need to sweep them over broad sections of a wall. They make use of the multiple readings and an algorithm to find the the center and edges of studs, and which regions of the wall has studs and which regions do not. Instant stud finders can also detect the location of multiple studs at once and indicate the width of found studs.

Invention Of The Stud Finder

It is believed magnetic stud finders have been in use since the early 20th century, but Richard D. Bray filed for, and was granted, a patent on February 15th of 1957. Electronic stud finders are a more recent invention, and were patented on July 25th, 1977 by Robert Franklin. His revolutionary design was the first of its kind to utilize an internal capacitor to measure changes in a wall's density.

Franklin tried selling the rights to produce internal capacitor stud detectors to a number of major tool companies, but they all turned him down. Finally, he approached the electronics manufacturer Zircon Corporation, who found it a worthwhile invention and agreed to produce and market the device. Until the patent expired in 1998, Zircon was the sole manufacturer of electronic stud finders.

Since the expiration of the patent, many other companies have started producing internal capacitor stud finders and are responsible for the continued development of the technology, such as the inclusion of an LED spotlight on the location of a stud. These new developments have made them more accurate, more efficient, and more popular than ever.

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Last updated on October 20, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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