The Best Stud Finders for DIYers and Pros

Updated: Feb. 01, 2024

Take the guesswork out of locating the studs behind your walls with one of these stud finders and hang heavy items worry-free.

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The Studbuddy Magnetic Stud Finder Ecomm Via AmazonVIA MERCHANT

When it’s time to hang or mount anything that weighs more than a couple of pounds, it’s best to anchor it into a wall stud. Wall studs are the vertical framing lumber behind the drywall or plaster. Experienced carpenters simply knock on the wall and listen for the noise to go from hollow to firm. For everyone else, a stud finder is the tool of choice. Stud finders locate these hidden studs without drilling any unnecessary holes.

What is a stud finder?

“A stud finder is a handheld device used to locate wall studs and floor joists. A stud is a vertical beam that extends from the top to bottom of a wall that offers support and structure,” says Alanna Yee, Director of Global Communication Strategies at Zircon. “You’ll want to find a stud to secure heavy objects into the stud center, to install a window, door or electric box next to it or to avoid cutting into it. Not securing or anchoring objects to the stud can result in broken and ripped walls or falling objects,” she notes.

How does a stud finder work?

Yee says that a typical electronic stud finder works by sensing density changes. They determine the edge, center and direction of a stud as well as detect other objects behind the wall. However, electronic versions aren’t the only type of stud finder. There are also magnetic versions, which are less expensive by typically have fewer capabilities.

Consider these factors when choosing the best stud finder for you:

  • Electronic or magnetic: Electronic stud finders use sensors to detect a change in density behind the wall and send an alert—usually an LED or audible beep—to indicate a stud. Magnetic stud finders use powerful magnets to detect the metal nails used to fasten the wall to the studs. Magnetic stud finders can be more challenging because they must locate the metal in the stud, but they don’t require any batteries so they’re always ready for use.
  • Type of display: Electronic stud finders have a range of display options. Basic, inexpensive models use a single LED to show when a stud has been located. Others feature a large LCD screen to show exactly what exists behind the wall and where you should drill. Magnetic options offer display variations. Some simply stick to the wall when a stud is located, while others use a colored ball to “pop” up when it detects a stud.
  • Cost: If you’re a DIYer with little experience locating and mounting things on studs, consider a higher-end electronic stud finder that does all the work for you. It can be tempting to save money on a cheaper tool, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, you can end up damaging your wall and spending more money to patch it up. If you’re comfortable with stud finders, a simple, inexpensive magnetic stud finder is just fine for most experienced DIYers.
  • Wall material: While most people deal with drywall, older homes may have plaster-and-lath walls. In our experience, magnetic stud finders are more effective on plaster-and-lath, because the line of nails that secure the lathe to the stud runs all the way up the wall.
  • Sensors: The number of sensors can vary by model and brand. “More does not equate to better,” says Yee. “The accuracy in which the tool detects its intended target is the most important.”

The Best Stud Finders

1 / 10

Zircon Multiscanner L550
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Best Overall Stud Finder

Zircon MultiScanner L550

At the top of our list is the overall best stud finder, the Zircon MultiScanner L550. According to our in-depth review of the similar HD900 model, Zircon stud finders are beasts that tackle a variety of projects. Apart from studs, this scanner locates metal and electrical wiring, making it useful for avoiding both during drilling. A deep scan function locates studs set farther back into the wall, up to 1.5 inches deep.

Using sensors that pick up on density variations behind the wall, the unit lights up and makes a clear beeping noise when it detects the center of a stud. We also love that the bright yellow hue makes it difficult to misplace. And don’t let the compact size fool you—the bright LCD screen is easy to read, even in low light.


  • DeepScan mode finds studs up to 1.5 inches deep
  • WireWarning detection indicates the presence of live, unshielded wiring
  • Metal scan mode locates non-ferrous metal
  • Compact and lightweight at under a pound


  • Some limitations on rough surfaces

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2 / 10

Craftsman Cmht77633
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Best Easy-to-Use Stud Finder

Craftsman CMHT77633

The Craftsman CMHT77633 Stud Finder provides the convenience and straightforward operation of an electric stud finder without breaking the bank. It can detect studs through 0.75 inches of drywall and the red LED clearly alerts the user when they’ve reached a stud.

Only two light indicators on the front—the red detection light and a green “on” light—make it simple to use, even for DIY newbies. Simply stock up on a few rechargeable nine-volt batteries to ensure it’s always ready to use.


  • Works on wallpaper and fabric
  • Shock and water-resistant body
  • No complicated settings or screens
  • Incredibly budget-friendly


  • Only senses the edge of the stud

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3 / 10
Rack A Tiers 52300 Studball
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Best Magnet Stud Finder

Rack-A-Tiers 52300 Studball

Want something a little more portable, but not skilled enough to find a stud without a stud finder? Armed with a rare-earth magnet that generates 27 pounds of pull, the Rack-A-Tiers 52300 Studball Stud finder can detect nails and screws behind 0.625 inches of drywall as well as 0.75 inches of plywood and tile.

A colorful handle makes it easy to locate in a cluttered toolbox and the plastic body is less likely to leave marks on your wall. At just 3.35 inches long, it can stick to the wall on its own, which is a nifty perk.


  • No batteries or chargers
  • Fits in a pocket at only one inch long
  • Incredibly simple to operate
  • Works on textured walls
  • Less flux leakage than traditional magnets


  • Difficult to clean

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4 / 10
Intelligent Stud Detector Ecomm Via 1
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Best LCD Screen Stud Finder

Intelligent Stud Detector

When thicker wall materials are a main concern, this intelligent stud detector comes in handy. Not only does it belt a hearty “beep” at the center of a stud, but it also detects the stud’s edges, eliminating any guesswork. Apart from an easy-to-read backlit display, the stud finder comes in a variety of attractive colors that blend in with any toolkit.

It’s able to find a variety of different screw types, from shorter wood screws to larger drywall screws. The scanner can also read through two layers of drywall, hitting a depth of up to 1.5 inches (or 38 millimeters) deep.


  • Locates both the edge and center of a stud
  • Includes stud scan, deep scan and metal scan modes
  • Bright backlit LCD display
  • Comes in a variety of colors


  • May detect false positives on electrical wiring

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5 / 10

Prosensor 710+ Franklin
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Best Splurge-Worthy Stud Finder

ProSensor 710+ Franklin

The ProSensor 710+ Franklin Stud Finder may be expensive, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive and accurate idea of what’s behind your walls, this is a great choice.

The 13 sensors (each with a corresponding LED) let you visualize exactly where your studs lie across a 21-inch-wide area. An integrated ruler allows you to do quick measurements on the go without fumbling with a measuring tape. As a bonus, an ergonomic handle also makes it comfortable to hold and operate.


  • 13 sensors with their own corresponding LED
  • One single mode locates both wood studs and metal studs
  • Displays the center and edges of studs simultaneously
  • Integrated ruler and bubble level


  • Pricey

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6 / 10

Ch Hanson 03040
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Most Durable Stud Finder

CH Hanson 03040

Made of plastic and heavy-duty rubber and measuring just 3.25 inches long, the CH Hanson 03040 Stud Finder isn’t just convenient to carry; it’s practically indestructible. I used this stud finder for several years and marveled at how much abuse it could endure without affecting accuracy.

With a bubble level, it can be used vertically or horizontally to detect metal up to one inch behind 0.5 inches of drywall. At this low price, it’s hard to pass up.


  • Compact size fits in pockets
  • Soft, ergonomic grip
  • Straightforward, no-frills operation
  • Inexpensive


  • Magnetic pull isn’t very strong

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7 / 10

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Most Compact Stud Finder


The tiny Studpop Magnetic stud finder is just 1.5 inches wide, the smallest option on our list. It’s extremely easy to use. Just move it across the wall and when its strong magnet detects a nail or screw, the ball pops up!

This straightforward indicator is great for those who prefer quick and easy results and don’t want to hassle with more complex options. The extra-large magnet works well for plaster-and-lath walls.


  • Indicator moves and clicks when running over fasteners
  • Suitable for plaster, wood lath, sheetrock and metal studs
  • No batteries or calibration


  • No choice of color

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8 / 10

Zircon Metalliscanner
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Most Powerful Stud Finder

Zircon MetalliScanner M40

Capable of detecting nails and screws up to four inches deep, the Zircon MetalliScanner M40 Stud Finder is powerful enough for use on drywall and plaster walls. The entire sensor—along with the yellow LEDs—lights up bright blue, making it extremely easy to know when you’re on top of a stud.

This powerful sensor is also useful for locating other metal components like plumbing pipes, ductwork or rebar supports.


  • Works up to four inches deep for magnetic metal
  • Senses non-magnetic metals
  • Pinpoint scan locates small metal objects
  • Wide scan for detecting metal in concrete


  • Pricier than other models, but also has far more capabilities

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9 / 10
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Best Budget Stud Finder


We love the one-piece design and simple operation of the Studbuddy stud finder. Its powerful magnet and light weight allow the magnetic force to stick to the wall when it finds a stud.

Because it stays on its own, this tool is great if you’re working alone. It’s also one of the cheapest options you can find. The compact size and lack of moving or electronic parts mean you can toss it around without damaging it.


  • Sticks to the wall when studs located
  • Incredibly compact at only six inches long
  • Very inexpensive


  • Not for use on lath and plaster walls

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10 / 10

Black And Decker Line Laser Stud Finder
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Best Stud Finder With Laser Level

Black and Decker Line Laser Stud Finder

When installing garage storage or stair railings, it’s important to ensure that studs brace any brackets or bars. The Black and Decker line laser stud finder locates studs and is a handy tool that helps DIYers level pictures, shelves and televisions.

The two-in-one line laser and stud sensor detects metal, live wires and studs while simultaneously offering a bright level line to ensure pictures and other wall hangings look and perform their best. At over $50 it’s a bit pricey, but considering it’s a two-in-one tool, we give it a pass.


  • Two-in-one line laser and stud sensor
  • Detects wood and metal studs, plus live A/C wires
  • Offers a bright laser-level line for wall hangings


  • Doesn’t offer vertical leveling lines

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What to Look For When Buying Stud Finders

Finding the type of stud finder is just as important as locating the correct model. It’s also important to consider the project. “Stud finders typically are not recommended for use on lath and plaster because of the inconsistent way the lath is applied and its varying density,” warns Yee. “The use of wire mesh and metallic surfaces can also interfere with the tool’s sensor capabilities. Dense surfaces like concrete, brick and some tiles are not recommended. Stud finders are designed and recommended for interior use only.”

For big projects, an electronic stud finder may be the right choice. “Electronic stud finders sense density changes and manufacture a wide range of models that can find the center, edge and direction of studs, as well as metal and live electricity,” says Yee.

This is especially important to consider when working around electricity lines and plumbing. “Magnetic stud finders can be less expensive but are limited to detecting the nails or screws attaching the drywall to studs and cannot discern other items the way electronic stud finders can. To find studs, magnets can be inaccurate because the nails and screws could be placed at the edge of the stud and can also detect other metals.”

In addition to electronic vs. magnetic stud finders, there are different types of screens to consider. “LED versions use light indicators to designate a mode or indication while LCD screens display images or text onscreen. Functionally, LEDs can work well for their simplicity,” says Yee. “Stud finders can range from $14 for a basic model to $100 for multifunctional models with exclusive features.”

Why You Should Trust Us

I’m a freelance writer who specializes in the home improvement, DIY and appliance space. Having spent more than five years as a residential and commercial carpenter in NYC–specializing in custom furniture construction and installation–I use my hands-on experience and expert insight to craft product reviews, buying guides and how-to articles. I have previously written for CNN Underscored, Business Insider and Popular Mechanics, in addition to Family Handyman.

Emily Way is an Associate Shopping Editor for Family Handyman with experience researching products and recommending the best designs to consumers. She researched and updated this piece. Way consulted Alanna Yee, Director of Global Communications Strategies at Zircon.

How We Found the Best Stud Finders

Because there are a variety of stud finders, we focused on finding a wide range of top-tier options for every project. While looking for the best stud finders, our shopping experts took into account the different applications, from mounting pictures and TVs to anchoring heavy furniture. Each wall material—be it tile, wood or plaster—is different, so it’s important to find the right tool for the job at hand.

We combed through top-rated stud finders, locating those with a mountain of positive ratings. From there, we narrowed down the list to include options from every price point, ensuring that we include a variety of different types for every DIY project. Then, we tested our top pick, the Zircon HD900. Our Senior Editor used it to re-install a bathroom towel bar. To confirm the scanner’s accuracy, we tested it against a nice magnetic stud finder and a cheaper, electronic version. All stud finders located the stud in question. Looking at the cost, quality and reviews, it quickly became our best overall winner.


Do stud finders scratch walls?

While safe to use, stud finders may scratch or damage walls, so always operate them with care. Yee mentions that some stud finders use velcro or gliding pads that make for smoother scanning and do not damage walls. For delicate surfaces or specialized paint jobs, this type is your best bet.

What’s the difference between a center finder and an edge finder?

Stud finders will either be a center finder or edge finder model. An edge finder only finds the edges of studs in your wall, so you’ll need to determine the center. A center finder displays the center and edges of the studs. Center finders tend to be more expensive, but for many it’s worth the price to get more detailed information about what’s behind your walls.

How far apart are studs in a wall?

Studs are typically 16 inches apart. The distance can vary in older homes, but it’s rare that your studs would ever be more than 24 inches apart. To find the distance in your home, use your stud finder on a large wall and measure the distance between each stud.

Can a stud finder be wrong?

It’s fairly common for stud finders to go off when they detect a pipe or other object that isn’t a stud behind your wall. You’ll see less of this in higher-end models, but it’s always best to double-check the work of your stud finder by locating three or more studs in your wall. If they are equidistant apart, you know that you’ve found studs and not something else and can continue with your project.