The 8 Best Stud Finders of 2023 for Your DIY Projects, According to Lab Testing

The Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder is accurate and easy to use.

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The 8 Best Stud Finders of 2023, According to Testing

Better Homes & Gardens / Henry Wortock

Unless you actually like the look of crumbling drywall or plaster, you’ll want to find a stud before you hang anything from a wall so it can stay securely in place. And unless you have X-ray vision like a comic book superhero, you’ll need a stud finder to detect those studs hidden behind the wall—and preferably avoid anything you shouldn’t be hammering a nail or drilling a screw into and causing a DIY disaster. 

“Make sure you get a stud finder with a high degree of accuracy to ensure that you're able to locate the center of the stud,” says Zach Barnes-Corby, head of construction at Block Renovation. 

It’s also important to keep in mind the type of walls you’re working with, as some stud finders are more sensitive than others. “Consider the thickness of your walls and the material they are made of,” Barnes-Corby says. “Some stud finders work better on thicker walls or on certain materials such as drywall or plaster than others.” 

To find the best stud finders, we put 30 electronic and magnetic options to the test at our testing lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Each one was put to the task of locating wood and metal studs—as well as wiring and pipes, where applicable—behind walls covered in drywall, plaster, and paneling. Our testers evaluated the accuracy of the devices as well as their speediness in locating the studs. Each stud finder was also evaluated based on its overall performance, ease of use, design, and overall value.

Overall, the Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder is the best stud finder for its quick and accurate detection of studs. This electronic stud finder is easy to use, too, with no need to calibrate each time you search for a stud.

Best Overall

Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder

5
Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It’s accurate and easy to use.

Keep in Mind: It wasn’t able to detect PVC pipe under any of the tested surfaces.

Overall, the Franklin Sensors ProSensor is the best stud finder. During testing, it detected studs behind all three wall surfaces—plaster, drywall, and paneling—easily and accurately. In fact, it found the studs on the first pass. The metal studs were discovered the quickest, though it wasn’t able to detect any PVC pipes. 

You won't find various modes on this electrical stud finder, but that’s not a bad thing—in fact, it just makes it even easier to use, which is great for newbie DIYers. It doesn’t need any calibration; all you have to do is hold it horizontally up against the wall—we did find that this might be a bit awkward if you have small hands.

This stud finder features multiple LED lights and sensors that illuminate when you’re at the center of the stud, so slow and steady passes are recommended for better accuracy. We think this pick was a good value based on ease and accuracy in doing its primary purpose. The stud finder was lightweight and comfortable to hold, so it's a good tool to have at the ready if you are doing more extensive projects. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: 0.44 pounds | Additional Features: 9 sensors and 9 enhanced precision LEDs lights, simultaneous center, and edge detection

Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Best Heavy-Duty

Bosch GMS120 Digital Multi-Scanner

4.7
Bosch GMS120 Digital Multi-Scanner

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It has three detection modes and it is easy to switch between each. 

Keep in Mind: It’s more expensive than other options.

Overall, we found this stud finder easy to use and to be the best stud finder for heavy-duty projects. There are three different modes of detection—wood/PVC, metal, and electrical—and all it takes is a push of a button to switch between them. 

The electric stud finder has a display screen with bars to show when you’ve detected the center of a stud—the more bars that appear, the closer you are to the center of the stud. The ring light also helps determine what’s beneath the wall—it stays green when there’s nothing detected, then turns to yellow as you’re getting closer, and then finally it beeps, flashes red, and says “center” when it comes across its mark. 

Although it’s more expensive than other options, we found it was successful in detecting materials behind all three wall surfaces, so you’ll be able to use the stud finder around your home. For best accuracy, the trick is to pass it over the studs from right to left several times so that the sensors can recognize the edges of the stud and pinpoint its center.

Price at time of publish: $79 

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Additional features: Continuous self-calibration, center finder, 3 detection modes, LCD display

Bosch GMS120 Digital Multi-Scanner

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Best for Wood Studs

Vivreal 4-in-1 Wall Scanner

4.8
Vivreal 4-in-1 Wall Scanner

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It finds wood studs quickly and easily with one pass. 

Keep in Mind: It was less accurate with metal studs and couldn’t detect pipe.

Overall, we found the Vivreal electric stud finder quite easy to use and the best stud finder for wood studs—a helpful feature when framing an interior wall. You do need to calibrate it, but it takes just a few seconds and you’re good to go. It quickly detected wooden studs and electrical wires behind the wall—it typically took just a single pass.

For wood studs especially, we found it worked regardless of whether you dragged it along the wall slowly or quickly. Although the stud finder is accurate in determining the location and width of the wood studs, it is less sure when it comes to detecting metal studs. It’s also not able to detect copper pipes.

Overall, the stud finder is lightweight and fits comfortably in one hand. Plus, to change between different stud detection modes, all you have to do is just flip the switch.

Price at time of publish: $21

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: 0.34 pounds | Additional Features: Deep scanning mode, auto-calibration, LCD display, and sound warning

Vivreal 4-in-1 Wall Detector

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Best for Copper

Dewalt 1-1/2 in. Stud Finder

5
Dewalt 1-1/2 in. Stud Finder

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It doesn’t require calibration to find copper pipes. 

Keep in Mind: It also only identifies the stud’s center, not the edges.

Not all stud finders are made the same, so you need to choose one that is appropriate for detecting the materials you want to find (or avoid) in your wall. If you’d rather not set off a plumbing catastrophe by drilling into copper pipes, this electric stud finder from Dewalt is the one you want.

There’s no calibration necessary for this electronic stud finder—all you have to do is install the batteries and you’re set. The Dewalt was able to locate the center of each stud no matter what type of surface it was on. It only took a single pass, too, though we found that it will only find the center and not the edges of the stud.

It was able to easily and consistently detect copper piping, though it did not recognize PVC pipes. There’s no need to switch between different modes; the stud finder is able to identify metal or wood studs automatically, and the same goes for wires. For a more accurate reading, it does help to move the stud finder slowly as opposed to quickly across the surface; when you do, the device lights up and beeps. 

Price at time of publish: $31 

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: Not listed | Additional features: Center marking channel, detection arrows, continuous calibration, and audible alerts

Dewalt 1-1/2 in. Stud Finder

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Best for Wires

Mecurate Stud Finder Wall Scanner

4.9
Mecurate Wall Scanner

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It has a deep detection mode for thicker walls. 

Keep in Mind: With the exception of plaster, the scanner didn’t offer consistent readings during testing.

Drilling into a wall without concern for the electrical wiring behind it could turn a DIY project into a disaster. That’s why you need a wall scanner, like this one from Mecurate, that can scan for wires as well as studs. You will have to recalibrate the stud finder each time you use it, but it only takes a few seconds to do it. 

We found that while it was able to detect studs and wires on some walls—especially plaster—with fast passes of the stud detector, slow passes were better for other types of walls and detection modes, especially deep mode. We did find, however, that not all readings were consistent during testing. 

There are four modes of wall detection: wood stud, metal stud, deep mode (for thicker walls), and AC (wires). The tester found the edge and center detection feature to be very useful, especially when arrows on the display light up to point to the center of the stud. It beeps, too, so it’s quite easy to see what you’re detecting. 

The display also features a battery indicator, which turned out to be helpful as the tester did have to replace the battery during testing—keep that in mind if you plan to use this stud detector often. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: 0.57 pounds | Additional Features: 5 modes (stud, deep, AC, metal, and buzzer alarm mode) and backlit LCD display

Mecurate Stud Finder Wall Scanner

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Best Magnetic

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder

5
CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: The unit was able to detect both metal studs and screws within wood studs through every type of surface we tested. 

Keep in Mind: Though the compact option was easy to hold, it may be difficult for those with larger hands.

Sometimes basic is best for tools, which is indeed the case for this magnetic stud finder from CH Hanson. We found that it was able to detect metal studs within a few seconds. It was also adept at finding screws embedded in wooden studs, though take slower passes for greater accuracy if this is the case in your home. 

When it comes to this stud finder, it doesn’t matter what type of walls you have. During testing, we found this stud finder to be effective on drywall, paneling, and plaster. Where it failed was in detecting copper piping, wires, and PVC piping, but keep in mind it simply wasn’t designed for this purpose. 

There’s no calibration needed, so this stud finder will always be ready to do its job. It has a loop in the center so you can hang a plumb bob—a step that may or may not be necessary for your wall installation or project—plus a level for accurate and even hanging.

The compact option was easy to hold overall, though it may be difficult for those with larger hands. There aren’t any other features, but for a basic magnetic stud finder, we think it does its job quite well.

Price at time of publish: $18

Product Details: Type: Magnetic | Weight: Not listed | Additional features: N/A

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

Easiest to Use

Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710 Precision Stud Finder

4.7
Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710 Precision Stud Finder

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It was able to detect both metal and wood studs under all tested surfaces. 

Keep in Mind: It’s more expensive than other options.

Stud finders aren’t the hardest tool to use, but if you’re just getting the hang of hanging things in your home, it helps to have one that’s super simple. Overall, the Franklin Sensors 710 Professional Stud Finder is the best stud finder to consider for those who have never used one before. 

There’s no calibration needed for this electric stud finder, which easily detects both metal and wood studs regardless of the wall material. The display lights up to indicate both the center and the sides of the stud. It was accurate whether swiped quickly across the wall or slowly, though again, we recommend slow swipes for best accuracy. 

It did have some trouble detecting PVC piping—it had an easier time if the pipes were next to metal studs as opposed to wooden ones—and it did not detect the electric cords at all. Still, it’s good at finding actual studs, and its accuracy and ease of use make it deserving of a spot in your toolbox. 

Price at time of publish: $54 

Product Details: Type: Electronic | Weight: 0.52 pounds | Additional Features: 13 sensors for multiple studs, simultaneous detection of center and edge, and no calibration required

Best Budget Magnetic

The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder

4.2
The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It’s compact, lightweight, and easy to hold. 

Keep in Mind: It doesn’t have any additional features, unlike some similar styles.

Stud finders are useful, but you might not have to use them very often. That’s why we like this very basic yet very budget-friendly StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder. Overall, we found that it’s a simple and quite effective tool. 

It was able to find the studs easily, though we found that the device had to be directly over the screw for it to recognize it. While using, you’ll want to do slow passes across the wall for better accuracy. We also recommend moving the stud finder in a zig-zag formation since it’s only able to detect the screws or nails in the wall, not the studs themselves.

The StudBuddy is small, lightweight, and perfect to pop into your pocket when you’re working on a project. But at the end of the day, it’s really just a piece of plastic with two small magnets on it—no light-up displays or beeps here to help you find studs. 

This pick is the best stud finder if you’re going to occasionally hang a picture or wall decor. If you’re looking to find wiring and pipes or hang something expensive like a flat-screen TV, however, you might want to “splurge” on a stud finder that has broader detection ability and other additional features. 

Price at time of publish: $10

Product Details: Type: Magnetic | Weight: 0.1 pounds | Additional Features: N/A

The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

The Bottom Line

The Franklin Sensors ProSensor M90 Professional Stud Finder topped our list of best stud finders for its accuracy and ease of use. 

Our Testing Process 

To find the best stud finders, we put 30 electronic and magnetic options to the test at our testing lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Over the course of two days, we used a pre-determined methodology to score each pick based on four categories: performance, design, ease of use, and value. 

We tested each stud finder (calibrating devices first, as needed) on drywall, plaster, and paneled walls to see how well each could detect both wooden and metal studs, as well as electrical wiring, PVC pipes, and copper pipes. The walls were tested twice—once for wooden studs and another time for metal. 

The first pass of the stud finder was done in a slow and controlled manner. Then, we did a second pass more quickly to see which detection method was more effective in detecting what was behind the walls. 

An individual using a Dewalt stud finder

Better Homes and Gardens / Henry Wortock

What to Know About Stud Finders Before Shopping

Type

There are generally two types of stud finders: magnetic and electronic. Magnetic stud finders use a magnet to detect metal studs and other materials, including pipes, behind a wall. Electronic stud finders are able to sense a wider range of materials behind a wall, including wiring and PVC pipes.

DIYers will typically find it easy to use either; however, the best stud finder for your project really depends on what you need it to detect. If you are just looking to find metal studs, you can get away with using a basic magnetic stud finder, but if you want it to have more detecting capability, purchase an electronic one.

Ease of Use

While stud finders aren’t exactly hard to use, you’ll want to test it out and get the hang of it before you start drilling into your walls. Overall, we found that each stud finder was more accurate when dragged slowly across the wall as opposed to quicker passes.

Special Features

All stud finders live up to their names, but some can find other materials behind your walls, like electrical wires and PVC pipes. Let your project determine whether you can get away with a more basic stud finder or if you need an electronic one that has more modes of detection.

Your Questions, Answered

What wall types do stud finders work on?

Barnes-Corby says when purchasing a stud finder, it’s important to consider the thickness of the wall as well as the material it’s made from. For example, some of the electronic stud finders on our list feature a “deep” mode, which means they have the ability to detect studs and even wire or pipes behind thicker walls. If you’ve got plaster or drywall, you’ll likely be fine with a more basic magnetic stud finder.

What can stud finders detect? 

Yes, stud finders can and do indeed find studs, but some detect other materials, too, like wires and PVC pipes. 

“Decide if these features are relevant to your goals or might prove useful in the future,” says Barnes-Corby.

When do I need to use a stud finder? 

It's generally best to locate the studs whenever you're hanging anything heavy on the wall, such as shelves or large pictures,” says Barnes-Corby. “Hanging heavy items on drywall without hitting a stud can cause the drywall to crumble or even come away from the wall, which could result in damage.” 

If you are hanging something that is truly light, like a small picture, he says you can hang it on drywall regardless of whether you find the stud. “In these cases, you can use a hollow wall anchor, which is designed to support lighter items on drywall without hitting a stud,” he explains.

Who We Are

Barbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance writer from Staten Island, New York, covering all things home and lifestyle for Better Homes & Gardens. To compile this list of best stud finders, Barbara analyzed lab insights from our testing site in Des Moines, Iowa. She also consulted Zach Barnes-Corby, Head of Construction at Block Renovation for his expertise.

What Is BHG Recommends?

Next to all of the products on this list, you may have noticed our BHG Recommends seal of approval. Products that earn the seal have been put through rigorous testing to make sure they're worth a spot in your home. We buy most of the products we test ourselves, but occasionally we are provided samples by companies if buying isn't an option. In these cases, we use the same testing criteria we use to test the purchased products.

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