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Which stud finder is best?

Some believe that old-school methodology works best. However, knocking on walls to listen for a stud is outdated and unreliable. If you’re trying to hang something on your wall, you’ll need a stud finder. These convenient, handheld devices help you reliably locate studs in the walls and avoid electrical mishaps when drilling. Despite their simple function, different stud finders have varying key features that set them apart depending on your needs. 

For an all-around, reliable tool with the capabilities most users require, check out the Zircon SuperScan M4 Stud Finder

What to know before you buy a stud finder 

What is a stud finder?

stud finder is a handheld device that uses electricity or magnets to detect the framing studs behind your wall. Commonly used for homes constructed with drywall, stud finders are an essential tool for drilling and hanging items safely. 

How to use a stud finder

Stud finders are easy to operate. All you need to do is press down on a button and hold it to activate the sensor. Then, place the finder on your wall to find where the studs are located. Don’t worry if it takes a little time to find a stud. Just relocate the finder on the wall and move the finder back and forth, waiting to hear a beep which indicates a stud within dead wall space. Mark this location with a pencil so you know where to drill.  

Why you should use a stud finder

Drywall can only hold about 1 pound of weight. So if you’re mounting shelves, brackets or hanging wall art, your best bet is to locate a stud. A screw in a stud can hold around 80-100 pounds. If you can’t locate a stud, you can try using an anchor, even though these are generally weaker and may cause more damage to your walls to install. 

What to look for in a quality stud finder 

Type of stud finder

  • Edge: These are the most common stud finders. Simply calibrate them on the empty part of your wall and move them to locate the edge of the stud. You will likely need to do this from both sides of the stud to locate each edge and determine the center point yourself. These stud finders are a little more error-prone than other styles, and they can potentially be off by about an inch.  
  • Center: These use a dual set of sensors to identify the center of a stud. These have a similar calibration as edge finders, but you only have to use them from one direction.  
  • Instant: Also known as multi-sensor stud finders, instant finders have a complex array of sensors that take multiple readings of your wall. They can locate centers, edges and empty wall space. Their unique design doesn’t require calibration or moving the finder back and forth.

Scan modes

Some stud finders can locate electrical wires in the walls as well. If you want to make sure you don’t accidentally drill into a live wire or damage an unseen electrical setup, get a stud finder with wire detection.


Standard stud finders can detect anomalies at about 2-inches deep, making drilling difficult if you have thick drywall. Deep scan modes let you extend the detection range to 4-6 inches, so you can identify pipes and other structural elements hidden in your wall.

How much you can expect to spend on a stud finder 

You can find a budget stud finder for $10-$25. If you want something with greater functionality, you’ll likely spend about $80 or more for a premium stud finder. Professional-grade stud finders can cost well over $500.

Stud finder FAQ

How far apart are studs typically?

A. Studs spacing differs between the exterior and interior walls of your home. For interior walls, the usual distance between frame elements is about 16 inches. Exterior wall studs tend to be 24 inches apart.

What if what I’m hanging doesn’t line up with the studs in my wall?

A. Your best bet is to try and adjust and hang on the stud. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to use an anchor rated for the appropriate weight of the object you want to hang.

What’s the best stud finder to buy?

Top stud finder 

Zircon SuperScan M4 Stud Finder

Zircon SuperScan M4 Stud Finder

What you need to know: The M4 offers construction-site features at an affordable price.

What you’ll love: Made by the original manufacturer, Zircon M4 is a reliable, updated tool for the modern household. This stud finder reliably locates wood using five separate detection modes. It allows you to find stud centers and edges, wires, plastic and metals. 

What you should consider: You have to move this model slowly for it to operate well.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Top stud finder for the money

Zircon StudSensor HD55 Stud Finder

Zircon StudSensor HD55 Stud Finder

What you need to know: If you only need a reliable, straightforward stud finder, this is a great option.

What you’ll love: The HD55 is an edge-detecting stud finder that can scan for wood or metal studs and wires. This is more than enough functionality for basic DIY tasks around the house. It’s lightweight and fits in your pocket, and the grooved notch at the top helps you make precise wall marks. 

What you should consider: With a 3/4-inch stud-finding depth, you may risk hitting the occasional pipe.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Worth checking out

Franklin Sensors ProSensor M210 Center and Edge Professional Stud Finder

Franklin Sensors ProSensor M210 Center and Edge Professional Stud Finder

What you need to know: The Franklin M210 stud finder deviates from standard design to provide a professional-grade option that won’t break the bank.

What you’ll love: This model comes with plenty of features and doesn’t require calibration. The built-in level ensures you don’t have to juggle multiple tools at once, and the pencil caddy is a nice touch. Its 13 sensors detect edges and centers simultaneously and display measurements using an LED array. The live-wire meter will also help you avoid electrical components.

What you should consider: The only thing missing from this beloved model is a center notch for pencil marks.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot


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Karl Daum writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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