Rating the 9 Best Stud Finders

When you want to find a stud in order to hang a shelf or mount a flat screen TV, you do not want to mess around.  The old hunt-and-peck system of detective work leaves you with multiple holes in your wall.  Using a stud finder is cleaner, plus it gives you more time to work on the project itself.

  • 01 of 09

    Bottom Line:

    Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera Pointing to House Wall
    BanksPhotos / Getty Images

    The best stud finder is the dielectric constant/electronic type, notably the 7" wide Franklin ProSensor.  Finders that incorporate rare earth magnets are cheaper and return accurate results.  Thermal imaging cameras present a global picture of the array of studs behind drywall.  UWB or radar finders rate low.  Magnetic rod finders rate last.

  • 02 of 09

    Franklin ProSensor 710 is a dielectric constant stud finder, but the device is set up differently than the usual one-sensor finders you may be accustomed to.

    Instead of sliding the device back and forth to find the edge of a stud, the ProSensor has 13 red LEDs in a line that light up to provide the general width of the stud.

    Franklin gets high marks for understanding that users want better visuals of what is behind the drywall.  The 710 is a solid product.

    Why It Is So Good

    Finally, you can have a...MORE sense of the dimension of the stud you are locating.

    Where It Needs Improvement

    Awkward viewing:  your hand and/or the ProSensor's handle always seems to be in the way of viewing those LEDs.  Plus, it is expensive--about twice as much as the Zircon below.  You pay dearly for that view of the full width of the stud.

  • 03 of 09

    Single sensor dielectric constant/electronic stud finders have been around for a long time.

    Slide the stud finder across the wall. When you near the edge of a stud, a light or sound will alert you. Make a mark. Carry the device to the other side of the stud. Move toward your mark. Pencil in the other side of the stud. Hopefully, the two marks will be 1.5" apart--the width of a stud.

    Or not.  It can be a bit worrisome when you know that studs are 1.50" wide, yet your stud finder returns...MORE results of 1" or 2" or 1.75".

    These shenanigans involved with finding the right and left side of the stud are lessened, if not eliminated, with the Zircon e50.

    Instead of a single red light that gives you a "yes or no" answer to the edge-of-stud question, it displays a liquid crystal pyramid shape shows how close you are to the stud.  This is a far more accurate reading than the "yes or no" types of stud finders.

    Why It Is So Good

    Still a dielectric constant/electronic stud finder, but a exponentially smarter and more informative one.  And half the price of the Franklin ProSensor 710.

    Where It Needs Improvement

    Users report that it sometimes returns false positives.

  • 04 of 09

    A colorful, simple, nifty little device that finds studs without fuss.  The Studpop's black cylinder has an inner knob that looks like a colorful game piece from a board game.  When you sweep the wall and hit a fastener, the knob springs upright.  

    With magnetic-style finders, it is nice--though not necessary--to populate a stud with a line of magnets (like those round yellow magnets in the Magic Stud Finder kit, below).  This helps you to visualize the stud.  Or you can put some on one stud...MORE and a few on the adjoining stud, in order to see the relation between the two.  The cost of Studpop would make it prohibitive to purchase four or six of them to do this.

    Why It Is So Good

    Dead-simple and fun to use.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Consumer-level thermal imaging tools are not, strictly, stud finders.  But they do are pretty good job of finding studs.

    Thermal imagers sense the difference in temperature between warm studs and the cooler areas between studs.  

    Seek Thermal is a tiny camera that you attach to your iPhone or Android phone.  Combined with a free app that you download from Google Play or the Apple Store, this little wonder does an admirable job of showing you the general arrangement of studs in your wall.

    But it...MORE does not work for up-close work (nor is it intended for such use).  For this, you need one of the wall-contact stud finders mentioned elsewhere in this article. 

    Why It Is So Good

    You get an overall picture of where studs are located in your wall.

    How It Could Be Improved

    Change zoom-ability to allow users to get closer to the wall.

  • 06 of 09
    Magic Stud Finder
    Wikimedia Commons

    This rare earth magnet stud finder is based on the simple concept that magnets stick to metal. Your walls have metal drywall screws or nails positioned on the edges of the drywall. Edges are located on studs. Thus: if you find a fastener, you have found a stud.

    What really makes this a studfinder-on-steroids is the rare earth magnet. Rare earth magnets, if large enough, can mash fingers beyond recognition (not to worry with these, though).

    But they are powerful enough that they will practically...MORE leap to a fastener when they get within a couple of inches of it.

    The downside of this or any other type of studfinder that senses fasteners is that fasteners are often not located on the center of the stud. For example, if you are dealing with drywall installed parallel to the studs, the fasteners alternate left/right of the on-center line.

    Thus, do not just locate one fastener and assume that this is the stud's on-center point. It is best to lay down four or more (the more, the better) magnets to get an average representation of where the center line lays.

    Why It Is So Good

    You get several magnets in the package.

    Where It Needs Improvement

    Magnets tend to fall out of the holder when you slide it across the wall.

  • 07 of 09
    Electrical outlet
    Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

    All stud finding methods incorporate a level of human intuition.

    But what about detective work as a sole means of finding studs? It can be done, but trial and error is involved. Most walls have studs 16" on-center (measuring from the center of one stud to the center of its neighbor).

    Non load-bearing walls might have 16" OC spacing or something wider, for instance 24". You will also know that studs are placed in corners and alongside a window or door and over doors and windows and...MORE sometimes alongside an electrical receptacle.

    Your knowledge of basic construction techniques and a tape measure will help you find a stud. Trial and error? Sometimes it is necessary to drive a finishing nail through drywall to determine if a stud is really below.

    Why It Is So Good

    Zero cost.  Plus, it helps you understand how wall systems work.

    Where It Needs Improvement

    It sometimes involves making small holes in the drywall.

  • 08 of 09

    Ultra wide band (UWB) scanners are radar for your walls. They scan deeply and they present a graphic cross-section of your wall.

    But they are far more than scanners of studs; they also find PVC and metal pipes; metal rebar; and live electrical wires.

    These are the only "stud finders" that can scan through concrete and other masonry.

    So UWB scanners are clearly more than just stud finders. As a casual do it yourselfer, you may not have an interest in UWB scanners' many features.  

    Also,...MORE they are priced more for the professional trades. The Bosch D-Tect Wallscanner costs over $800.

    Why It Is So Good

    Concrete and masonry scanning.

    How It Could Be Improved

    By making a lower-priced model that is more accessible to the DIY home remodeler.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Magnetic Rod

    Magnetic stud finder

    Magnetic rod stud finders have been around for a long time.  They cost next-to-nothing. Unfortunately, that is also the value they return.

    For a few bucks, you get a clear plastic box with a magnetized rod inside. When you slide the box across drywall, the rod should flutter when you near a metal fastener.

    The problem is that anything--any bump in the wall--will make the rod flutter, making it impossible to discern if you have hit pay dirt.

    Back in the old days, these stud finders had their place...MORE in toolboxes. Today, with more advanced and fairly inexpensive dielectric stud finders available, there is no need to purchase one. These rate among the worst tools you can buy.

    Why It Is So Good

    Nothing good about it.

    How It Could Be Improved

    By throwing it away.