Stud Finders for Construction Work

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Black & Decker® Stud and Metal SensorBlack & Decker® Stud and Metal Sensor
Item #208040
Model #BDKSF100
  • Sensor lights and beeps when stud is detected
  • Detects wood studs up to 3/4" thick
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Stanley® Magnetic Stud Finder, 1 1/4 in (H) x 1 3/8 in (W) x 1 3/8 in (L)
Item #600008
Model #680-47-400
  • Length: 1 3/8-inch
  • Designated material: Metal
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Stanley Stud Sensor (STHT77-406)
Item #1596724
Model #STYSTHT77406
  • 1-pass center-find locates stud center
  • Detects wood & metal studs up to 3/4" deep
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AdirPro Red Target Plate w/Stand, 4"x3"
Item #2618389
Model #708-01
  • Stand (to set up on floor)
  • Metric and Imperial (English) Units
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Stud finders are handheld devices used to locate framing studs behind walls. Finding the exact locations of wall studs is necessary when hanging shelves, bookcases, oversized picture frames, and mirrors. Some models can also detect metals and wiring buried inside walls, ceilings, and floors. When shopping for one of these tools, find a model capable of detecting the fixtures you want to locate. Browse the varied selection of measuring and layout tools on Staples to find different types of stud detectors.

Choose from two types of wall stud finders
The two major types of these handheld tools are magnetic and electronic detectors. Magnetic ones use magnets to locate metal studs or pinpoint nails and screws embedded in wooden studs. They’re more affordable than electronic detectors. Since they use powerful magnets, these devices can also detect metal conduits and pipes. Walls built with wire mesh lath and plaster also reduce the accuracy of magnetic detectors. Look for uniform spacing and structural location to best identify studs.

An electronic finder relies on one or more sensors to detect changes in the dielectric constant of a wall. It locates studs by measuring changes in wall density. The unit records a lower reading when it finds a wall stud. Metal mesh buried inside a plaster wall can also confuse an electronic finder.

Features to look for when comparing stud finders
Magnetic detectors are simpler than electronic ones as they only identify metal. When shopping for one of these, consider its overall size and magnet power. Look for a compact unit that is small enough to fit in a pocket or keep on a keychain. This ensures you never forget it at home or at work sites. A unit with a powerful magnet that sticks firmly to walls is more convenient to use and makes marking stud positions easier.

When comparing electronic units, consider grip and design as well as display, alert system, and scanning capabilities. A comfortable grip allows the user to slide the detector across walls. Lifting the device off the wall while scanning may require recalibrating it. The display of an electronic finder can be as basic as an LED indicator light. High-end units have LCD displays that provide detailed information, such as distance to stud. Some models also offer audible warning tones when they locate wall studs.

What is a radar wall stud finder?
It’s a newer type of stud locator that uses radio waves to scan walls. Unlike magnetic and electronic models, this detector works well with walls made of metal mesh and plaster. It can also detect wires, pipes, leaks, and moving pests.

What are the different types of electronic stud finders?
There are three major types: edge, center, and instant. An edge finder uses a sensor to locate both edges of a stud. Users can only locate one edge at a time by moving the tool in either direction. A center finder uses two sensors to pinpoint the center of a stud. Instant detectors have multiple sensors and take multiple readings. Users need not move them across walls. These types are suitable for bumpy walls, and they can detect the edges and centers of multiple studs at the same time.  

Is sensor size important when choosing a wall stud finder?
Yes. The larger the sensor, the faster the device can detect studs. Besides sensor size, consider sensor power. More powerful sensors penetrate deeper to scan walls better.