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.
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 — 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 our list of the best stud finders below.
CH Hanson 03040 ($8)
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 ensure 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.
Zircon i65 ($30-plus)
If you want broader functionality and more ease of use than the simple Hanson model provides, this Zircon stud finder should be right up your alley. It has a small LCD screen that shows you exactly where the stud’s center is at, and offers 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, which is especially 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.
ProSensor 710 Franklin ($51)
This model offers remarkable stud-finding ability 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 exactly 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.
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.
Black & Decker BDL190S ($54+)
This solid Black & Decker model can stand up to tough project conditions without failing, and is an ideal model for more professional-grade 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 more involved projects. Note that you will need a couple AA batteries to run this weighty stud finder.
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 features a wide sensor area which 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. It works with wood, metal, and other large objects that may be found in your wall, but there are no live wire sensors.
Are you looking for a more professional stud finder that offers a number of wall-scanning features? While expensive, this DeWalt model offers all the scanning functionality you need and has gotten some excellent reviews. It can sense five kinds of embedded materials: Plastic, ferrous/non-ferrous metal, wood, and live electric wires (as long as they are unshielded). The 3.5-LCD screen gives you precise details for all nearby materials, and the tracking bar helps you see how far these materials extended. If you are a contractor that needs a reliable Eye of Sauron to help in your construction and remodeling work, this model is probably worth the price.
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Okay, let’s go really simple: If you’re looking for an extra-easy and super affordable stud finder for basic house projects, Studpop is the way to go. You put the button-like model on the wall. It pops up when sensing a stud. You put a screw on the spot and you’re done. It works on common materials like sheetrock, plaster, lathe, and tile, and doesn’t require any batteries. If you are hanging shelves or mounting simple objects around the house, you may want a casual stud finder you can keep in a kitchen drawer and pull out when needed.
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