The Stud finder Buyers Guide

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Stud Finder Buyers Guide

Heavy items on hollow walls. The two really shouldn’t mix but often do end up going together!! Mirrors, shelving, cabinets, flat-screen TVs… they’re all pretty weighty so hanging them on a wall isn’t something you can just do without thinking about it. 

In order to secure heavy objects safely, it’s strongly advised you anchor into the wall stud. Wall studs are vertical running timbers that give hollow walls their strength. Normally around 2” wide and 4” to 6” deep, they serve as a pretty dependable foundation to screw into. You can’t see them so half the battle is finding them, but a stud finder is designed to do just that job; to find a stud’s location quickly, non-invasively and above anything else, accurately. 

Consequently, there’s a degree of trust involved when it comes to using a stud finder as you’re ultimately working with the unknown – you’re not able to see what you’re dealing with on the other side of that wall so you need a stud finder which will act as your eyes, and guide you to the point where you can confidently and safely insert wall fixings, which you know are adequately supported to hold your TV, shelf or picture frame steadily and securely. 

Best Pick Stud Finder

Bosch Detector Truvo (3 x AAA batteries, case, max. detection depth: 70 mm)
  • Truvo detector – Simply switch on, detect and then drill
  • Safety when drilling thanks to detection of metals and live cables
  • Easy-to-use thanks to single-button operation. Working range approximately is 0.07 meter
  • Interpretation of the measurement results via LEDs and an acoustic signal
  • Items included: Truvo, 3 x AAA batteries, case (3165140853644)

Only got 5 minutes

Before you decide which type of stud finder you’re going for, make sure you’re clear on what you intend on using your stud finder for:

Stud MaterialStud Location
Most domestic dwellings have wooden studs, but in some cases, metal or plastic studs may have been used. Depending on the model of stud finder you go for, certain stud finders are only calibrated to locate one type of stud material, so consider what type of studs you’ll be working to locate and choose a model accordingly. Where are the studs you’re trying to find? Are they in a wall, ceiling, or in some cases, the floor? Basic stud finder models are unlikely to be strong enough to penetrate a thick surface. You’ll also need to consider if you’re going for a hand-controlled model, how much grip you’re going to need so you’re able to hold and control the stud finder comfortably. 

Once you’re clear on what you’ll be using your stud finder for, you can start to think about the type that is best suited to your needs and your budget.

  • Magnetic stud finders

Old-school magnetic stud finders keep things simple. They locate the stud area by displaying magnetic attraction when they source the nails that hold the studs and the plasterboard fixings. When you feel the pull, there’s a good chance your stud finder has struck gold (well, a wall stud nail!!!) They’re long-lasting and portable as they don’t rely on an electric power source and will fit easily into a toolbox or tool belt. 

Basic magnetic stud finder models consist of just a fixed magnet, which you manually slide across the wall until you feel the magnetic force take hold. The next step-up is a magnet encased, usually in plastic, which makes a noise or has a visual indicator when the magnet moves inside the casing. A useful design feature to look out for on a magnetic stud finder is a central groove or V indentation on the magnet or casing, which you can use to position a screw or make a pencil mark. Some models also have a spirit level incorporated to help with straightness. 

The disadvantage when it comes to magnetic stud finders is that they actually locate the plasterboard fixing, not the stud. This is fine if the stud’s where it should be, but if it’s off-centre, even slightly, you could be a few centimetres away when it comes to drilling, which can make all the difference in terms of safety and accuracy! The magnets are also attracted to any ferrous metals (metals which contain iron) so if there’s anything hiding behind that wall that falls into this category, such as piping or an old electric box, you’ll feel the attraction from the magnet.

  • Electronic stud finders 

Electronic stud finders are battery-powered and use sensors to detect changes in wall density. As the sensors are moved along the surface of the wall, they indicate changes in density. Unlike magnetic stud finders, which will only source ferrous metals, an electronic stud finder can find also find wooden studs. Results are clearly displayed on a digital screen, which gives a quick and clear indication of what the sensors have detected. 

Best Budget Stud Finder 

INTEY Stud Finder with 3 in 1 Scanning Mode and Center Finding Metal Stud for Wallpaper, Lath & Plaster, Extremely Textured Walls or Acoustic Ceilings
  • 3 IN 1 Scanning Mode - Three mode - Mental scan mode, AC wire scan mode and Stud scan mode .You can choose suitable mode according to your needs. METAL SCAN is suitable for locating and detecting metal; AC SCAN for locating live AC wires; and STUD SCAN is used for finding and locating the center and edges of wood.
  • LCD Backlight Screen- Our wall scanner detector has a graphical LCD backlight, it can show detection mode, signal strength, automatic calibration and so on.What’s more, it can indicate the battery capacity, reminding you to replace a new 9-volt battery (not included) in time.
  • Fast and Accurate - The stud wall scanner can locate the edges and center of metal studs, pipes, joists behind walls, floors and ceilings as well as the live AC wire quickly. And the scan button on the left side of device, which helps you easily read the information on LCD screen and detect the objects behind walls quickly.It can make your DIY activity become easier.
  • Wide Application - As for plumbers, contractors, carpenters, masons, home renovators, construction workers, electricians, DIY enthusiasts, and others who need reliable detection, it is a great assistant .The wall detector will provide users with maximum reliability, which can reduce errors in application
  • Ergonomic Design- Hand held body and anti-slip design are convenient to be a handy household device. When you have detected an object with the wall scanner, the big sound warning together with the LCD screen remind you of the stud’s location.

There are two types of electronic stud finders:

Edge finders Centre finders 
An edge finder works with a single sensor that reacts instantaneously when it detects a change in density – this will be the edge of a stud. It isn’t able to tell you the actual size of the stud so, once it’s reacted, you’re best marking the point, then bringing the stud finder from the opposite direction until it reacts again – that should indicate the edge of the stud parallel to the one you located initially. You’ll then know the size and be able to mark the centre point.Center finders are seriously clever. They cut out the calculating and the changing sides as they have multiple sensors, which will pick up location; stud size, and calculate the central point by obtaining two matching readings – displaying all the information clearly on an LED display.

A disadvantage of an electronic stud finder is that the sensors can struggle if the wall thickness is inconsistent, particularly with lath and plaster walls. If your electronic stud finder has a “Deep scanning” mode this can be used to try and overcome this problem but even so, with an electronic stud finder, be prepared that on older uneven walls, in particular, it’s likely you’ll need to take several readings in order to pinpoint exactly where the studs are. 

Multi-sensor or instant stud finder 

The latest addition to the stud finder family is the multi-sensor stud finder. The clue is in the name – these stud finders have a multitude of sensors, which have the capability to read a whole wall, detecting multiple stud locations almost instantly. They effectively eliminate any guesswork that inevitably goes into stud finding! They’re clearly more high-tech than the magnetic and electronic alternatives, using a complicated algorithm to process data received from its numerous sensors, so inevitably this type of stud finder is going to be expensive! However, if you’re after a stud finder that has the ability to take multiple readings; combat irregularities better than an electronic stud finder, and produce much more accurate results, then an instant stud finder is the tool for you. 

Useful additional features of electronic & multi-sensor stud finders

Feature Use 
AC Wire detection Some electronic stud finders can detect live electronic (AC) cables. A very useful safety feature.
Metal identification Some models can detect metals and identify whether they’re ferrous or non-ferrous. Without this feature, your stud finder might be a little too keen to flash its indicator light –  screwing into a copper water pipe can be a costly mistake!
Battery included Most electronic stud finders require at least a 9V battery or 3 AAA batteries; as with most battery-operated products, you’ll probably have to buy these separately.
Automatic shut down For electronic stud finders, it’s all about preserving the battery life; models with this energy-saving feature will make sure that when the stud finder isn’t in use, it’ll automatically shut down and so avoid any unnecessary draining of the battery. 
Deep ScanningA feature on electronic stud finders which helps combat the problem of walls of varying thickness, or those constructed from plaster and lath. 
Auto Depth ScanProvides the stud finder with the exact thickness of drywall so you’re able to plan your approach much more safely and effectively.  


You can pick up a basic magnetic stud finder for under around £10. These basic, budget models will do what the name suggests – find studs, but they’ll also detect any other ferrous metal that’s lurking in your walls. If it’s accuracy you’re after (which if you’re hanging anything of any value that needs to be straight and secure than the answer’s yes!), you’re probably better considering an electronic stud finder.  

Edge-finding electronic stud finders cost around £20-£30 but they’re worth increasing your budget for – for the top end of the price range you should be able to pick up a model with deep scan mode and AC wire detection. 

For around £40 you can step up your edge-finding electronic stud finder to a center finder model. Again, it’s likely that you’ll get depth modes, plus live AC detection. You’re likely to also get the added feature of metal identification, which is handy if you’re working on old walls, which may contain piping.

Multi-sensing models are the newest, most high-tech addition to the stud finder family. You’re looking at between £40-£60 for one of these but if you’re a pro, or likely to be using your stud finder regularly, one of these is certainly worth considering due to its impressive level of accuracy.  

Best of the Rest

Stud Finder Wall Scanner - 4 in 1 Stud Detector Detector Beam Finders Wall Detector Sensor Center Finding with LCD Display for Wood AC Wire Metal Studs Cable Joist Detection (Stud Finder)
  • ➤ADVANCED SENSORS TECHNOLOGY FOR ACCURATELY AND QUICKLY LOCATES STUDS WOOD METAL AC WIRES!- A good stud finder detector needs to be Accurate. Tavool wall scanner is an electronic stud finder with multi-sense technology which can locate studs/wood/AC wires in multiple locations on your wall. Whether you are a professional, homeowner or a DIY enthusiast, you can find great use in this digital stud scanner.
  • ➤4 IN 1 MULTIFUNCTION PLUS DEEP DETECTION - The digital wall scanner includes four different scanning modes for woods, beam, joist, metals, AC wires and deeply embedded objects. Stud mode detects wooden beams and joists in drywall up to 1.2 inches. Metal mode detects pipe , rebar, aluminum and copper up to 1.57 inches.Deep mode detects wood and metal parts located up to 1.77 inches while 85~240 volt AC current for voltage and live electrical lines up to 2.36 inches
  • ➤EASY TO READ LCD SCREEN Displaying the Desired Stud Material As Well As the Precise Position of the Stud – The Tavool digital stud scanner features large LCD display together with the big sound warning to detect the accurate location of the objects. When find the material, the LCD display will indicate the direction and the intensity of beeping tells whether you are more close to the target. The fast detection saves users time and efforts, making the task completion EASIER
  • ➤AUTOMATIC CALIBRATION AND SIMPLE USE - Turning on the stud finder and Completing calibration by placing the wood beam finder on the wall when the BEEP sound and screen shows disappear. The automatic calibration before using provides users with maximum reliability and accuracy. Then put it on the wall. The wood beam finder will flash and beep once it has picked up the edge of a stud
  • ➤ERGONOMIC GRIP FOR COMFORTABLE USE - The ergonomic design of this wall stud finder makes it comfortable to hold from any angle. This stud joist finder wall detector can quickly LOCATE the metal wood AC wire that are hidden in the walls, floors and ceilings of your house, help you avoid hazards while installing TVs, cabinets, garage shelves etc
Ginkano Finder Wall Scanner 4 in 1 Electronic positioner with Digital LCD, Central Positioning Sensor and Sound Alarm are Display for Wood AC Wire Metal Studs Detection, Th210
  • The most accurate and higher safety - stud detector is specially designed! The most advanced sensor technology is used to accurately and quickly locate the metal pipes fire lines studs wooden frames steel bars and supporting beams hidden behind walls floors and ceilings Whether you are a professional homeowner or DIY enthusiast you can find a good use in this electronic screw scanner
  • The wall scanner includes five different scanning modes suitable for metal tubes fire lines studs wooden frames steel bars and brackets as well as ceilings deep embedded objects behind walls The bolt mode can detect wooden beams and joists in the dry wall up to 1 5 inches Metal mode can detect up to 3 inches of pipe Depth mode detects up to 3 inches of wood and metal components while 85 to 240 volts of AC current can be used for up to 2 inches of voltage and live wire
  • Auto-calibration and ergonomic grip comfortable to use before testing please hold down the scan button for 1-2 seconds Auto-calibration provides maximum reliability and accuracy for users The ergonomic design of this wall stud detector enables it to be fixed from any angle
  • LCD screen upgrade design display the required stud material and the exact position of the stud - Digital stud scanner with large LCD display and loud warning can detect the exact position of the object When the material is found the LCD display will beep to tell you if you are close to the target Fast detection saves time and energy for users and makes task completion easier
  • Graphic liquid crystal display multi-functional wall scanner detector has a graphic liquid crystal display which can display many prompts in detection such as detection mode signal strength automatic calibration battery indication and maximum readability When the battery power is insufficient it will display the indicator icon of insufficient battery power reminding you to replace the full battery in time New 9 Volt Battery

Frequently Asked Questions

What is AC Detection?

AC detection is a function available on some stud finder electronic and multi-sensor models which indicates the presence of any live cabling running below a surface. The parameters of AC detection will vary between models – generally, more than a couple of inches and they’re likely to struggle – so as a precaution, you should always ensure the mains power is switched off before you start drilling.

Will an electronic stud finder work on lath and plaster walls?

Electronic stud finders are likely to struggle with lath and plaster walls as the density is inconsistent and they’re often reinforced with steel mesh. Electronic stud finders with a ‘deep scanning’ mode have been designed to try and overcome the problem but it’s likely you’ll still need to take several readings in order to pinpoint the stud’s exact location. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, multi-sensor stud finders are designed specifically to combat irregularities in density.

Last update on 2020-04-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Mike Jones 155 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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