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Best Studfinder

7 Types of Studfinders Reviewed


What's the best studfinder? I've bought or been given numerous studfinders over the years and have developed a preference for a couple of them. This is not a brand-versus-brand comparison; rather, it's a comparison of different types of studfinders.

Rated in descending order, these studfinders represent the basic technologies available today: conventional electronic studfinders; UWB or radar finders; old-fashioned magnetic rod finders; rare earth magnets; and good old human intuition, a type of studfinder by itself.

7. Finding a Stud With Detective Work

© Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com
All studfinding methods incorporate a level of human intuition. 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 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's necessary to drive a finishing nail through drywall to determine if a stud is really below.

6. Magnetic Rod Studfinder

Magnet Rod Studfinder
Copyright Lee Wallender, licensed to About.com
Magnetic rod studfinders have been around for a long time, and I think it's time to retire them. They cost next-to-nothing. Unfortunately, that's also the value they return. This is 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, so it's impossible to discern if you've hit paydirt or not. Back in the old days, these studfinders had their place in toolboxes. Today, with more advanced and fairly inexpensive dielectric studfinders available, there is no need to purchase one. These rate among the worst tools I have ever used.

5. Dielectric Constant/Electronic Studfinder

Electronic Studfinder
Copyright Lee Wallender, licensed to About.com
These familiar electronic studfinders have brand names such as Zircon StudSensor e50, Black & Decker SF100, and Franklin Sensors ProSensor.

Slide the studfinder 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.

Electronic studfinders get high marks because of their low cost and relatively good accuracy. What I don't like are the antics involved with finding the right and left side of the stud. However, one sensor which we haven't reviewed, the ProSensor, appears to take into account the full width of the stud.

4. Ultra Wide Band Scanner/Studfinder (Bosch D-Tect Wallscanner)

Bosch D-Tect Wallscanner
© Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com
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. Oh and did I mention that they scan through concrete and other masonry? No other studfinder can do that.

So UWB scanners are clearly more than just studfinders. As a casual DIYer, you may not have an interest in UWB scanners' many delights. You'll also want to note that these do not come cheaply. They are priced more for the professional trades. The Bosch D-Tect Wallscanner costs over $800.

3. Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710

Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710
© Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com
The ProSensor 710's technology is the same as the dielectric constant studfinder, but the device is set up differently. 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. You can either slide the ProSensor or place it directly onto the wall. It's a nifty, smart device that I highly recommend, but the price--in the $50 to $55 range--does give me pause.

2. Studpop

© Studpop

A colorful, simple, nifty little device that finds studs without fuss.  The 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.  There's not much else to say, other than that it works.

I'd rate this #1, except that the price ($9.95) makes it difficult to justify buying a handful of Studpops.  It's nice--though not necessary--to populate a stud with a line of those round yellow magnets in the Magic Stud Finder kit.  It's a great way to visualize the stud.  Or you can put some on one stud 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.

1. Rare Earth Magnet Studfinder (Magic Stud Finder)

Magic Studfinder
© Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com
This rare earth magnet studfinder is one that I use most often. It's simple: 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've found a stud.

What really makes this a studfinder-on-steroids is the rare earth magnet. The brand I use is called Magic Studfinder. Rare earth magnets, if large enough, can mash fingers beyond recognition (don't worry, these magnets aren't that powerful). But they are powerful enough that they will practically 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, don't just locate one fastener and assume that this is the stud's on-center point. It's best to lay down four or more (the more, the better) magnets to get an average representation of where the center line lays.
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