We’ve assembled a motley crew of stud finders, suited for everyone from the novice without much of a budget to the budding professional. We think the Zircon MultiScanner is a great option. Read on, one of them is certain to meet your needs quite perfectly, and allow you to get your job done without any extra holes in the wall or “shocking” revelations.
One of the most overlooked tools in the home handyman’s tool box is a stud finder. Getting one will allow you to find studs, whether you need to avoid them or insert something into them for your next project. There’s a lot of them on the market, and it’s not always obvious to the consumer which one they should go with. We’re here to show you some of the best, and then help you decide which of them is the best suited for your next DIY project.
For the novice who wants a serious stud scanner, the i520 offers an amazing amount of value but it does come at a high price.
Top 5 Best Stud Finders
|Zircon 68314 MultiScanner i520||Electronic||Live Wire Detection||Check Price|
|CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic||Magnetic||Level||Check Price|
|FOLAI Stud Finder||Electronic||None||Check Price|
|Zircon 68315 StudSensor i65||Electronic||None||Check Price|
|ProSensor 710+ Professional||Electronic||Rule and Level||Check Price|
1. Best Overall
Zircon 68314 MultiScanner i520
Zircon is a huge name when it comes to stud finders. Ask a dozen professionals which brand they use and ten will tell you they go with Zircon, and the i520 is a worthy addition to the brand.
It’s fairly simple to use compared to some of the other options on the market, and it can detect both the center and edges of studs as you’re scanning with it. The LCD screen makes it extremely easy to find both the edges and the center of the stud for pinpoint accuracy.
In addition to that, it can also detect live wires while you’re scanning. This can add quite a bit of protection, since you know you won’t accidentally drill into the power lines for your house.
It scans up to 1 ½” deep, which is more than enough for most residential applications as well as many commercial ones. The standard scan will penetrate up to ¾” while you can set it to a deeper scan to get the most out of it if you have particularly thick walls to work with.
In addition to that, you can also detect metal under the surface of the metal so you don’t accidentally drill into a support bracket or other structure which will prevent you from getting in. It detects both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, so you can avoid drilling into pipes as well.
Pros and Cons
- Live wire detection and alert
- 1 ½” scanning depth
- Easy to read screen
- Ferrous metal detection
- Doesn’t perform well on textured walls
2. Best Budget Option
CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic
Anything is better than nothing, and the CH Hanson 03040 is a popular choice for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a stud finder.
What it lacks in some of the features you’ll find in electronic finders it makes up for with it’s amazingly convenient usage. It’s also small enough to fit in pretty much any pocket and comes with a built-in level to help you align whatever you may be hanging.
This one doesn’t require batteries, instead you’ll pull it along the wall until it catches on metal. Generally under drywall this will indicate the center of the stud, and you can make your adjustments from there.
While it’s not the most advanced stud finder around, you’ll find that it can definitely be a huge help for smaller projects.
This one is best suited for a single, small project. It’s cheap enough to be nearly disposable, and you’ll find it gives you an advantage over the tap-and-pray method you’d have to use without it.
Pros and Cons
- No batteries
- Extremely cheap
- Built-in Level
- Small and convenient to use
- Lack of advanced features
- Fairly weak magnet, so be careful while using it
3. Best Single Project Option
FOLAI Stud Finder
If you want a quick upgrade from a magnetic finder in order to make sure you can find wires and things the magnet won’t stick to, but don’t have a lot of money to drop on a finder, then the FOLAI stud finder is the one for you. It’s not perfect, that’s for sure, but it’s more than capable of finding studs and wires right out of the box and it comes at a comically low price.
The best part about this unit is the sheer simplicity of it all. Nearly anyone will be able to pull it right out of the box and get to work in a hurry. The instruction manuals cover it, and it can detect both the center and sides of studs.
It’ll also alert you to any live wiring in the area. This feature has been found problematic by some users, but the problems have mainly been false positives resulting from improper calibration instead of people getting hurt because it didn’t find a wire.
It can also find pipes and rebar, but you should probably stick to using this one around the house instead of trying to use it on concrete.
The FOLAI Stud Finder is probably the cheapest decent electronic finder that can be found. If you just need one for a single project and don’t intend to be using it heavily then it might be the right choice for you.
Pros and Cons
- Live wire detection
- Simple to use
- Multi-detection modes
- Mediocre build quality
- Live wire detection can have a lot of false positives
4. Best Value For The Money
Zircon 68315 StudSensor i65 Center-Finding
The best value for the money is a hard thing to find these days, which is why we present to you the Zircon i65. It’s a no-nonsense, high-quality studfinder without much in the way of frills.
It’s not quite up to par with the best of the best, but it’s got an easy-to-read LCD screen and it detects wires, which is pretty much exactly what most people are looking for.
Most of the corners cut with the i65 seem to have come in the build-quality, we’d recommend not dropping this one off of a ladder. That said, the internals are still good and you’re not going to have any safety hazards while working with this one.
It has a little bit of difficulty with textured walls and it doesn’t have any metal finding features, but it’ll get the job done for the average at home repair.
If you want the best value for your money then the i65 is a good way to get a high-quality stud finder without having to dig too deep in your pocket book.
Pros and Cons
- Great value for the money
- Detects 1 ½” deep
- Live wire detection
- Easy to read LCD screen
- Trouble with textured walls
- No metal detection outside of wiring
Best For The Home DIYer
ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder
The ProSensor 710+ is one of the best stud finders that you’ll be able to find, period. In addition to having fantastic sensing capabilities it comes with a built-in level and ruler which will allow you to clearly and accurately mark studs as you go.
It has 13 sensors built into it and uses them to triangulate the exact center point of studs. It’s a little bit more unwieldy than a lot of lesser stud detectors but the increased surface area allows for a deeper and more accurate scan.
It’ll even work through plaster and wire, which a lot of other finders have a ton of trouble with.
Even better, it’s a one button deal. Stick it on the wall, hit the button, and get looking to find the stud without any further complications. The LEDs will guide you to the exact location of the sides and center of the stud you’re looking for.
This is a professional quality tool, and you’re not going to find a better one without stepping up to one of the high-end ultrasonic models which can run in excess of a thousand dollars.
For the home DIYer, the ProSensor 710+ represents the best of the best. You simply won’t be able to beat it at anywhere near the same price range.
Pros and Cons
- 12 sensors allow for extreme accuracy
- Built in level and straight edge
- One button operation
- Works easily on most materials
- Sometimes has trouble with corners of drywall due to wide surface area and metal reinforcements
What is a Stud Finder?
A stud finder is a tool which allows you to find studs.
Okay, it’s a little bit more complex than that. A stud finder uses one of a few different methods in order to return a signal which can give you the precise location of the wood reinforcement in your home.
FIn addition to that, they’re used in the construction field for everything from avoiding pipes while drilling in foundations to penetrating steel walls without hitting a live wire.
For the average home owner, they’re just a way to make life a lot easier when you’re hanging a TV or some shelving. You can skip the wall anchors and get things done right in the wall without wondering if you’re going to have a collapse in your near future.
What Are the Advantages of a Stud Finder?
There are two categories that a stud finder really helps with around the house: safety and convenience.
Most finders will allow you to find wires and pipes, which is an essential feature.
If you’re not already aware, the power lines and pipes that run through your walls really have no special protection from something like a drill bit or nail.
A nail or bit put in hastily and without hitting a stud can cause a lot of damage or even injury while you’re working on your project.
Burst pipes can lead to extensive water damage even if you get the water off as quickly as possible, and cutting into a live power line comes with a whole host of complications of course.
By using a stud finder, you can make sure you avoid ever having to deal with these issues. Most of them are very unlikely to give you a false reading where power lines are concerned, and by making sure you’re on the stud you can avoid hitting pipes every time.
If you’ve ever tried to hang something heavy, then you know what a pain it can be to find a stud by tapping.
Or maybe you just threw the screws in without thinking about it and found out quite quickly why you’re supposed to hang TVs and heavy pictures from studs when it tore a chunk out of the wall.
Stud finders aren’t always perfect, but once you get the hang of using one you won’t have to worry about either of those scenarios ever again.
What Kind of Stud Finders Are There?
There’s three main types of stud finder that you’ll want to be aware of when you’re trying to pick one out.
Magnetic finders are the oldest type of finder and pretty much all that can be said about them is that they work.
Instead of actually finding the stud, they find nails that are within them. This can be both a long task and something of an inaccurate one, as you’ll have to move around quite a bit in order to make sure you’ve figured out the position.
They’re better than nothing, but if you have the money to get something better then do that instead.
Metal detecting stud finders are kind of a step up from the original magnetic ones.
They’re essentially a handheld metal detector and they find the same kind of things as a magnetic detector.
We haven’t included any in our listing because they’re largely obsolete, but if you’ve used an old, shoddy electronic detector before then they were likely to be of this type.
Ultrasonic detectors can sense wood, metal, live wires, and pretty much anything that’s going on under the surface of the wall. They’re commonly just called electronic stud finders now and they’re the gold standard of the industry.
They range from cheap and relatively effective to extremely expensive models which are suited for construction sites and can read through pretty much any amount of any material.
You should go with one of these if you’re serious about using your finder for any reason.
What Should I Look for in a Stud Finder?
The main thing that you want to do is just buy the best finder you can afford.
Barring that, the minimum for most people will be to get an ultrasonic finder that can find live wires, without this capability you can put yourself in jeopardy in a hurry. If you know for a fact that you’re not dealing with any live wiring then a magnetic detector is acceptable but think about the following:
A near miss can be much more dangerous than a complete miss, since the wires are generally held to studs and crossbeams.
Once you’ve figured out your budget range, then you can think about the following:
- What materials do you plan on using it on?
- Are live wires present in this area?
- Are pipes present in this area?
- Is there a risk of hitting metal reinforcements when drilling here?
If you can honestly answer no to all of those then the small investment in a magnetic finder might be the best way to go, otherwise make the investment in an ultrasonic finder.
Pretty much any electronic detector will find wiring.
For most homes, the ability to detect ferrous metals is more of a bonus than a necessity but it’s pretty much always paired with the ability to detect the copper piping which makes up most plumbing systems.
Hitting a pipe might be less dramatic than severing a live wire, but it’ll end up costing you a lot more in most cases.
This means that metal detecting abilities are pretty much required in order to do any work in most homes, particularly in kitchens or bathrooms where there’s a much bigger chance of hitting plumbing.
Lastly, you’ll simply have to price out your time. For the most part a cheap finder will work as well as a good one, but it might require four or five times the amount of time to find a stud.
The choice is up to you, but in this area it’s best to go with the best stud detector you can afford.
While a stud detector isn’t the first thing most DIYers think about, it’s one of those essential auxiliary tools you’ll often find yourself wishing you had until you make the plunge. Stick one in your tool box today, and save yourself a lot of time and possible injury.