How to Make a Homemade Stud Finder?

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Best Stud Finders Buying Guide

Before diving into features and function, you should determine what kind of stud finder you would need. In order to figure that out, you’ll need to assess your own needs. How often will you be using it and how important is accuracy for you? Are you an experienced DIY-er or just a beginner with an appliance to mount? Once you have your own prerequisites, navigating features, functions and types becomes a breeze.

What types of stud finders are there?

There are three main types of stud finders ranging from the low tech to the high tech and high price.

Magnetic stud finders

Magnetic stud finders work through a powerful neodymium magnet that is able to detect nails or screws in the stud. More powerful magnets have made this option more and more accurate while the price remains in the low tier. 

It’s an excellent choice if you’re just looking to use your stud finder once in a blue moon and don’t want to invest in an electronic one. If you have the patience, it might even be a good long-term solution. However, keep in mind that if you’re a complete beginner, a Youtube tutorial will go a long way when it comes to getting the most out of this tool.

Electronic stud finders

Electronic Stud finders are currently the most popular option as they’re very beginner-friendly and quite accurate. Powered by batteries, these stud finders usually do more than just find the stud and locate its center. Most have additional detection for AC wiring and piping as well as wood and metal detection. 

These work through detecting density changes in the wall and they run a bit pricier than their magnetic counterparts. However, you’ll definitely be able to find something in the $20 to $30 range that will serve you for years to come. If you find that ease of use and additional detection are good selling points, this is the stud finder for you.

Ultrasonic stud finders

This is the priciest option of the bunch and for good reason. They use sound waves to determine what’s in the wall and they’re usually used in a construction environment rather than for home projects. If you’re serious about your DIY projects or you work in the business – this might be the ideal gadget for you.

Calibration

Most stud finders (electronic ones included) will need to be calibrated before use. In fact, this is one of the reasons why so many people end up returning their stud finders, throwing their arms in the air and declaring that the gadget was inaccurate. 

Reading the instructions on how to properly calibrate your stud finder will make a huge difference. Also, it will likely be the determining factor in whether your experience is successful or not. Of course, there are many such tools that simply lack the accuracy needed even for home projects. But most of the time, reading the manual and the troubleshooting instructions will take little time but make a huge difference.

AC wires detection

This is one of those features that you don’t care about until you do. Most electronic models will have this feature and it’s something to consider if you think that there are any home improvement projects in your future where drilling or mounting appliances or cabinets risks hitting a live wire. 

Pipe detection

Another common feature for electrical stud finders is one that you’ll want to take into account the more projects you do. The device will usually have a different function or LED color to let you know if you’re in a pipe area.

Sensor depth capacity

The depth at which your finder is used to detect is important. A good one should be able to detect at least 1.5 inches into your drywall and probably a bit deeper if it can also spot copper wiring or pipes.

Center targeting

Another great feature to watch out for is center targeting. While finding a stud can be enough, the best finders will also let you know when you’ve identified the center of a stud which can save you a lot of time and calculations. Make sure to recalibrate and follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you plan on using this feature.

Stud Finder Buying Guide 

Taking the time to pick out a professional-grade stud finder can ensure that it’s versatile enough to take on small and large projects around your home or office. There are several brands available and several styles to sort through, and this can take a lot of time on your part if you’re not sure what to look for. However, this buyer’s guide will ensure that you find the best stud finder for your needs. 

Sensor Type 

Decide on which sensor type you want because there are two main categories available. You can get a magnetic sensor or an electronic sensor. A magnetic sensor doesn’t need a power source like batteries, and they use earth magnets to help find the studs by locating the nails that were put in when they built the walls. These are very affordable models with no electronic components. 

On the other hand, you have electronic sensors. They check the wall’s depth for density changes. This allows these stud finders to tell the difference between scanning over drywall or scanning over drywall with a stud underneath. They have more abilities like being able to find the stud’s edges, additional scanning modes, and digital displays. They can be expensive. 


Using a stud finder with a laser light in it can prevent you from hanging items in uneven lines or rows, and it makes it easier to create patterns that are aesthetically pleasing.

Centering Capabilities 

Electronic models have the ability to locate the center of the stud. If you’re going to set up a closed terrarium and hang it up, this can be very useful from the support perspective. It’ll scan over the wall and help you locate the stud’s edges and center, and this means you don’t have to do your own calculations to find the center. You can make several passes while the unit recalibrates to let you find all of the edges of the stud and calculate the size. It should have a visual indicator included on it. 

Display 

Visual display systems are popular with almost every stud finder you purchase. The display should be slightly larger because this makes it very easy to see. A lot of them use LCD screens because they’re bright and easy to see in all different lighting conditions. They can display the stud, depth, battery life, and they may light up or blink when you find a stud in your wall. Many of them will signal that you’re working in a different scanning mode as well. 

Alerts 

Even if you move slowly over your wall, it can be very easy to lose or miss a stud unless you have an alert system. If you recently built a garage or extension, it can be even more difficult to find studs because of the new materials and interference. Ideally, you’ll get both a visual and audible alert when you approach the edge of the stud. The LCD screen could light up or flash, and there is usually a small beeping noise that gets more insistent as you get closer to the stud. 


You can use this tool at your home or office to create an eye-catching area for your guests to see. It allows you to add height to your garden and draw the eye up from point A to point B. 

Video

Durable, affordable, and accurate

Equipped with with two magnets, the C.H. Hanson is a basic, durable model that scans twice as fast as the rest.

Step 1: Turn It On

Insert batteries into stud finder. Place the stud finder on one end of the wall you're checking for studs, then turn the tool on. Make sure the stud finder is calibrated per the manufacturer's directions. 

How to Build (and Hang) Floating Shelves

How Does a Stud Finder Work?

Whether you’re hanging pictures, installing new shelves, or preparing to begin an expansion, knowing the location of the studs in a wall can be incredibly useful! 

Prior to the invention of stud finders, you could either pound a small nail into the wall until you encountered a stud or use a small pivoting magnet. The magnet would assist you in locating nails driven into studs. The first technique is effective, although it causes damage to the wall. The magnet approach is time consuming.

All of that changed with the invention of electronic stud finders. They provide an astonishingly accurate vision through the wall and pinpoint the exact location of each stud. 

These stud finders function similarly to the touch switch of a touch-sensitive bulb. They are sensing the location of the stud by variations in capacitance.

When the plate within the stud finder is over the wall board, it senses a single dielectric constant (similar to an insulating value); but, when it is over a stud, it senses a different dielectric constant. It operates on the basis of a capacitance differential created by the density difference. 

7. Relaxoul Stud Finder Best For Outdoor Use

Relaxoul Stud Finder Check Price on Amazon

Tackling outside projects like building your greenhouse, fixing your patio, or adding a deck can require the use of a durable stud finder, and this makes a great pick. It comes with an intelligent microprocessor chip that has a very high sensitivity rating that allows you to rapidly and precisely detect pipes, wood, AC wires, and metal that is hidden in the floors, ceilings, or walls of  your house. You get five scanning modes on this product, including a ½-inch, 1-inch, and a 1 ½-inch scanning mode to help you find the center and edges of metal, joists, woods, beams, or embedded objects. The metal scanning mode will help you detect non-ferrous or ferrous metals up to 2.36-inches in the wall, and the AC scan will help you find unshielded 80 to 240-volt lines that are up to 2-inches deep. 

The chip will make the stud finder beep and flash when it locates one of these items in your walls, and it automatically calibrates each time you use it.  This makes it easy to detect most objects below the surface of your walls, floors, or ceiling. There is a bright LCD display on this stud finder with audible warnings to ensure you don’t miss anything, and it’ll let you know the direction and distance of anything you detect. There is also a low battery indicator light. 

Benefits:

  • Microprocessor chip included 
  • Detects wood, metal, and AC wires 
  • Five scanning modes 
  • Beeps and flashes for detection 
  • Has a low battery indicator light 
  • Bright LCD screen 

Drawbacks:

  • Battery can drain quickly 

Buyer’s Guide

In addition to choosing between magnetic and electronic stud finders, think about each product’s battery life and additional features.

Type of Stud Finder

Stud finders are either magnetic or electronic. The latter type can be further broken down into subcategories.

Magnetic

Magnetic stud finders use large magnets to find the nails that are holding the studs together. Some magnetic stud finders are molded into a plastic casing, while some are left loose. With molded ones, you can feel the magnetic attraction as you push it along the wall. With loose ones, you’ll hear a “thunk” noise when it finds something, or see a bright piece of plastic pop up. The downside to this type of stud finder is that you can’t guarantee that it found a stud and not some other magnetic piece behind the wall.

Electronic

All electronic stud finders use sensors to measure the change in density in the wall. You usually have to place the stud finder on a part of the wall without studs to ensure it gets calibrated before sliding it across the wall to find studs. Once the finder locates a stud, the results are displayed on an LCD screen.

There are three subcategories of electronic stud finders:

  • Edge: An edge stud finder finds the edge of a stud. After finding that edge, you have to approach the stud from the other side to find its other edge and determine its width.
  • Center: Center finders use multiple sensors to gauge the stud’s entire width and provide you with its center.
  • Multisensor/Instant:This is a relatively new type of stud finder that scans an entire wall at once to give you the location of all of the studs. Because this type of stud finder requires multiple readings, it tends to be more accurate than the other electronic types. It doesn’t require calibration before use either.

Battery

Most electronic stud finders use nine-volt or AA batteries to operate. However, manufacturers rarely supply these batteries, which means you’ll have to remember to purchase the initial ones and any backup ones as they die.

Extra Features

Some electronic stud finders can detect live electric cables and different types of metal in addition to finding studs. This ensures that you’re not drilling into any important pieces behind your wall.

Best For Metal Scanning: VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner

The VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner features four modes for stud, live cable, metal, and deep scanning. However, its most notable mode is the metal mode that can detect metal up to 2.25 inches deep.

Key Features

  • Stud mode can scan as deep as 0.75 inches
  • Metal mode can scan as deep as 2.25 inches
  • Live cable mode can scan as deep as two inches
  • Deep scan mode can scan as deep as 1.5 inches
  • Has an LCD screen
  • Available in two colors
  • Powered by a nine-volt battery

What Customers Are Saying

The VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner has over 8,000 global ratings with an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 stars. Of the more than 8,000 reviews for this product, 83% have 4 or 5 stars, and 9% have 1 or 2 stars.

Customers liked the VIVREAL Stud Finder Wall Scanner for its easy-to-read display, affordability, and durability. Dissatisfied customers said that this product provided inaccurate readings. They were also frustrated by how much of their time was dedicated to calibrating it before every use.

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Smaller scanning area, but still great

This finder gives a visible and audible signal when it locates a stud, but it scans a smaller area and is less durable than our main pick.

Buying Options

Buy from Amazon$12 from Home Depot

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $11.

FAQ – Best Stud Finders 2021

How Does a Stud Finder Work?

So if you’re ever wondering how much is a stud finder actually going to help you, this is important to know. There are two ways that they work, depending on what kind you get.

There are magnetic ones, that detect the metals in studs and once a magnetic bond has begun, it alerts you. You can actually feel these stick to the wall like it’s trying to rip their metal right out of the drywall.

Then you have electronic stud finders. These are used like big sonars in the wall that detect dielectric constants in the wall, or live AC voltage.

These come in edge finders, center finders, and instant stud finders as well. Honestly, with the way they’re built nowadays, you don’t really have to worry about what type, as long as it’s electronic.

How to Use a Stud Finder?

Place the best stud finder on the wall, and turn it on. I know that sounds too simple, but it really is that easy—hold it flat against the wall, and press the power button.

If you’re using a best stud finder with an LCD screen, you’ll see a visual indicator that says “Eureka, you’ve found it!” If you’re using an electric, non-LCD screen stud finder, there will be some lights indicating if you’ve found it or not.

Most electronic best stud finders will come with four modes to cycle through, which can be used to find shallow studs, deep studs, AC cables, and metal.

If you’re looking for AC cables specifically, for an addition to your home, renovation or demolition, then you’re going to want to take your time, but these will work to locate them just fine.

Stud Finders vs Mobile Stud Finding Apps

Your smartphone can do a lot of things. I know that it’s a great piece of gear, because you can trade stocks with it and create websites from a phone that make you money. I get all of that.

But there are just some things that it simply cannot do, and as you’ll come to find from independent research and the countless negative reviews online (on these app pages on Play/App store descriptions), they don’t really work all that well.

By that I mean you have a higher chance of this app failing and a lower chance of it actually finding a stud, unless it’s through extremely thin wallboard inside of a stationary mobile home.

Even then, it’s questionable. At every turn, it’s better to use an actual stud finder since it will not only be reliable, but cut down on the time you spend searching for studs in the first place.

?

It’s true: you don’t actually need one of these, but I dare you to go without one, because it’s annoying and has some guesswork involved.

If you’re confident in your math skills and measurement abilities, you can find a stud without a finder, it’s just going to be aggravating.

Even if you don’t want to grab a stud finder off this list of best stud finfers, we still want to help you locate them in your home so you can proceed with your current project. Here’s what to do.

Method #1: Magnets

Some of these non-LCD, manual stud finders use magnets, so why can’t you?

If you wanted to, you could position a magnet on the wall to detect studs: it really can work the same way. You have to take the next method, which is spacing, into consideration with this method.

I don’t know what magnet you have, or how powerful it is, so it’s difficult to say if this will work.

Go for a strong magnet. It’s possible that your magnet will attract nail heads and other metal in the wall, so move slowly and wait until you feel that serious, tight pull.

That’s how you know you found it. To know its width, you can try to move the magnet around a bit and see what it’s strong, and where it starts to disconnect.

Method #2: Spacing

As a general rule, most studs are 16” from the corner of a room because of the way framing works. This gives plenty of stability for your home, as well as enough space in between for insulation.

Measure exactly 16” from the corner of your room, and gently use a ball peen hammer to tap the wall and listen for sounds.

If it sounds hollow, you haven’t hit a stud, and your house is a bit abnormal (or it was an unauthorized DIY add-on to the home), if it’s solid, then you’re good to rock and roll.

Method #3: Flashlight (Unfinished Walls)

Maybe you’ve run into a situation where the walls are unfinished, like in a basement where there’s no paint, but they did spackle up the spaces in between layers of sheetrock/drywall. No matter: you can still find out where the studs are.

One clear indication is to look for long strips of putty, because many times, a stud will have half of its surface covered by one piece of drywall, which will be mounted to it, and the other half of its vertical surface covered by the other one. It’s used as an anchor to attach drywall to.

However, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, as we learned with method #2, studs aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and I wouldn’t exactly blame a carpenter for finding an alternative way to hang drywall instead of cutting sheets in awkward sizes just to accommodate awkward studs.

Take a flashlight, and position it at a 40-45° angle with the light shining up. Inspect your wall, moving slowly across it, until you find dimples in the wall where some putty might be.

You’re going to have plenty of spackle spots that don’t coincide with the studs, so pay attention. When you see some bumping in the wall, that usually indicates that something sturdy is behind it.

Tap on the wall and listen for either a hollow sound, or a solid sound.

Are All Studs Spaced 18” Apart?

If only it were that simple. I’m not an architect, so I can’t give you solid reasoning behind why some plans indicate wider spacing on studs, but I can tell you that I’ve never seen a home with any spaced less than 16” apart, or more than 24” apart.

Yes, there really can be an 8” disparity here. It’s rare, but it happens, especially in larger homes.

Just because one stud is 16” from the next doesn’t mean that your second stud will be 16” from the third. It should be, if the home was built properly, but every house is different and has its mysteries.

Bottom Line

We hope that this article was helpful and helped you find a stud finder that suits your needs. Whether you choose to go for a basic stud finder or one with more advanced features, it’s important that it’s able to detect the stud material that you need. The last thing you’d want is to purchase a stud finder that only detects wood when you need it to detect metal as well. 

If you’re not sure, it’s best to go with one that has more features just in case. These also usually come with an LCD screen that makes for easy visualization. Once you’ve gotten the stud finder that you need, you’ll be all set to continue with your DIY home projects. 

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