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Get a better idea of what’s going on inside your walls with these stud finders

Whether you’re hanging a picture, mounting a TV, renovating part of your home, or working as a professional contractor, a stud finder is one of those tools that you will eventually need. Thankfully, today’s tech has led to a crop of highly accurate stud finders that provide additional information, simple calibration, LCD displays, and a host of other features. So no matter your goal, if you want to find out what’s going on inside your walls, then we’ve got the list for every budget and need.

Related: Mountaing troubles? Here are five simple ways to find a stud

Before we start, a quick word about apps. While there are many apps for detecting studs on a variety of platforms, these are not real stud finders and — as the ratings often show — and thus have a very poor track record. Smartphones simply aren’t designed to reliably detect studs in your wall. It’s a little like using the butt of a screwdriver as a hammer: There’s a chance it may work, but it’s definitely not the right tool for the job. That said, check out the dedicated stud finders below.

CH Hanson 03040 ($7)

CH Hanson 03040 Thumb

Cheap, simple, and reliable, this is one of the best-selling stud finders around for people who don’t want to waste their money or their time. It uses the traditional system of magnets to locate studs, so there are no batteries to worry about replacing. It also comes with the “bubble vial” common in levels, so you can make quick adjustments on the fly and make sure everything is even (no laser sight lines included, though). There aren’t many extra features on this model, and it is a specialized tool for homeowners… but that’s probably exactly what most of you are looking for, which is why it gets top billing on our list.

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Amazon Home Depot

Zircon i65 ($29+)

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If you want broader functionality and more ease-of-use than the simple Hanson model, this Zircon stud finder should be right up your alley. It includes a small LCD screen that can show you exactly where the stud’s center is at, plus audio cues to help you quickly locate additional studs. Then there’s the surprisingly handy wire warning feature, which detects the presence of live wires up to two inches into the wall – useful for contractors, but also nice for homeowners who would rather not ruin their own wiring when doing a little DIY work. The downside is that these extra features increase the price.

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Amazon Walmart

ProSensor 710 Franklin ($51)

ProSensor 710 Franklin Thumb

This model offers remarkable stud-finding quality and can work equally well for ambitious DIYers or professionals. It has a broad horizontal sensor setup that allows you to get a good look at the wall, with a row of LED lights that mark just where objects begin and end for more detailed work (up to 1.5 inches deep). However, the 710 is a one-tricky pony: It can detect studs and similar objects, but you won’t get any other information out of it – there’s no LCD screen and no live wire detection. But what it does, it does extremely well.

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Stanley FatMax Stud Sensor 300 ($27)

Stanley FatMax Stud Sensor 300 Thumb

This Stanley model is a step closer to the professional grade, ideal if you are undertaking a big project, move around a lot, or just really want to hang a bunch of things on your walls. It includes a backlit LCD screen for low-light conditions and auto-calibration that makes setup a whole lot easier. There are also a couple secondary detection features that can sense live wires, as well as any metal present up to three inches in the wall, which is useful for a lot more than just finding studs.

Note that this stud finder is currently on sale at stores like Amazon, which makes it a very compelling alternative to the Zircon model with even more features at a similar price – the MSRP is closer to $50.

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Black & Decker BDL190S ($51+)

Black & Decker BDL100S Thumb

This solid Black & Decker model can stand up to tough project conditions without failing and is an ideal model for more professional installation and wall work – or those ambitious homeowners who want the best of the best. It includes auto-leveling tech and projects little horizontal lines so you can make your marks with confidence. The LCD screen is particularly full of information, showing you studs, metal studs, and live wires. A wall attachment accessory allows you to lock it in place it for longer projects as well. Note that you will need a couple AA batteries to run this weighty stud finder.

The downside here is that this model may be difficult to find, especially online: You may have better luck heading to a local department store.

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Amazon Home Depot

Craftsman Wall Scanner with AC WireWarning ($60)

Craftsman Wall Scanner with AC WireWarning Thumb

This solid model is another professional product that skips out on the complicated LCD screen for a more basic readout that shows the edges and center of wood and metal studs, as well as live wires. It also includes that helpful laser light to indicate center positions on the wall. There are four different modes you can quickly switch between based on what you want to look for, along with a signal strength indicator that shows if your target is shallow or deeply embedded in the wall. This is a great model for those who are experienced in renovation or DIY and want a device that can give them exactly the data they want, fast.

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Precision Sensors Profinder 5000 ($42)

Precision Sensors Profinder 5000 Thumb

If you have been exasperated with stud finders in the past and prefer one that offers a bit more, this model may be what you are looking for. It uses a wide sensor area that includes LED lights that show you exactly where multiple studs are. This allows you to get a larger picture of what’s going on inside the wall than most stud finders, which may be particularly useful for your work. It works with wood, metal, and other large objects that may be found in your wall, but there are no live wire sensors.

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