The Best Stud Finders & Wall Scanners


What is a Stud Finder?

If you’ve ever drilled several blind holes in a stud wall you’ll know that in most cases you won’t face any issues. However sometimes you’re not  so lucky and you might end up hitting an obstruction as you drill. In some cases this can be seriously bad news, if you drill into an electrical cable for instance. Equally if you’ve got a heavy item to mount you’ll want to fix into the wall studs rather than to the plasterboard, so you’ll need to be able to locate these in the same way as objects you wish to stay clear of.

A stud finder is a handheld device that’s designed to take the guess work out of drilling blind holes by letting you know the whereabouts of any obstructions or wall studs behind plasterboard so that you can position your holes and fixtures accordingly. If you intend to turn your walls into veritable Swiss cheeses, when putting up a lot of shelves throughout your house for example, then a stud finder is a must have tool to have to hand.

Types of Wall Scanner and Stud Finder

Magnetic Stud Finders

In many cases the obstructions that you wish to stay clear of are, in part at least, made of metal. In the case of ferrous metals, magnets will obviously be drawn or repelled by their presence, so it makes sense that a magnet can be used to detect the steel wires and other fittings. Magnetic scanners fulfil this purpose perfectly, and because the technology to make them work is so simple they’re also the cheapest type of stud finder, typically retailing for between £10 and £20. The other great bonus with this type of scanner is that in many cases they don’t require batteries, so you know they’ll be ready for use even after long periods of dormancy.

The Best Magnetic Stud Finder: CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder Review

It’s hard to find a home improvement tool that draws nearly universal praise, but the CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder comes as close as any power tool we have tested. This magnetic stud finder contains very powerful neodymium magnets and high endurance rare earth magnets that accurately detect nails, screws, and metal studs. Incredible magnetic power allows you to use this tool hands free. From locating a stud for mounting a high definition television to detecting nails deep within a plasterboard wall inside of your home, this stud finder gets the job done right the first time.

The convenience of using the CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder starts with the tool’s small, compact design. Instead of rummaging through a toolbox in search of the magnetic stud finder, you can simply store the tool in a shirt or coat pocket for quick access. The battery-free power source eliminates the hassle of replacing batteries, whilst all the while providing limitless juice to find studs for hours on end. CH Hanson have developed a rotating level for both vertical and horizontal levelling that ensures ease of marking for any stud finding task – effectively killing two birds with one stone as you locate and mark out all at the same time. The soft grip handle provides one of the most comfortable grips on any domestic grade tool we have used.

The only real downside to this stud finder is its below average durability. Although stud finders typically don’t experience the wear and tear experienced by other types of home improvement tools, they still undergo enough use to possess manufacturer suggested shelf lives. Indeed the CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder possesses a below average shelf life in the stud finder niche.

Pros

·        Powerful magnets allow for hands free use

·        Compact design for easy storage

·        No batteries necessary

·        Soft grip for supreme hand comfort

·        Dual use level for marking ease

Cons

·        Below average durability

Conclusion

The powerful magnets within the CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder do a great job of finding nails, screws, and metal studs located in the deepest plasterboard walls. After you quickly detect objects, you use the two-way spirit level to pinpoint the location of the objects. The accuracy of this stud finder receives almost universal praise. Users praise the soft grip handle that keeps your hands fresh for home improvement jobs. However, the 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder ranks below average for stud finders in terms of durability.

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Electronic Stud Finders

Magnetic stud finders have existed in some form or another since the turn of the 20th century, however in the 1970s a revolutionary new type of stud finder was developed that used the entirely different principle of relative permittivity  to detect any object, not simply those that were magnetic.

Electronic stud finders have pretty much become the defacto standard among amateurs and professional tradesman. For those working on building sites  they’re essential for locating stud work during first and second fix phases of construction when critical fixtures and services are installed, and for the casual DIYer they serve as a great piece of mind that you won’t end up shorting out your lighting circuits by accident.

In terms of cost, electronic stud finders vary from less than £20 to many hundreds of pounds, the explanation for this is that there are several types of electric wall scanner that vary in their level of complexity.

Edge Finders

This type of scanner is the most basic electrical stud finder, and as the name suggests it’s able to locate the edge of an object. What this means is that you must sweep the scanner from both sides in order to calculate the position of the centre of the object and to gauge its overall size. Whilst this type of scanner is certainly cost effective, it is also known to be inaccurate, with the position indicated sometimes being out by 20mm or more due to calibration error. Therefore you should only use this type of stud finder when the consequences for getting it wrong are not likely to be dangerous.

Edge Finder Review: Zircon StudSensor e50 Electronic Stud Finder

The Zircon StudSensor e50 Electronic Stud Finder quickly detects studs behind walls, floors, and ceilings. Zircon has dramatically improved its original stud finder by adding user-friendly features, such as an easy-to-read LCD display that alerts you of approaching studs. The stud finder can detect metal and wooden studs behind standard walls that run 19 millimetres thick. However, Zircon has developed a ‘DeepScan’ mode that doubles the scanning depth of the StudSensor e50 Electronic Stud Finder. ‘WireWarning’ detection of live, unshielded electrical wires runs 51 millimetres deep.

Zircon has also created a user-friendly body that includes a patent-pending pinch grip design. The moulded grip conforms to all hand sizes and shapes to ensure maximum comfort during extended stints locating studs. You secure the stud finder at any angle to gain access to narrow spaces. The easy to use stud finder comes with proprietary ‘SpotLite’ technology that shoots an arrow-shaped light to mark the presence of studs. Many reviews from customers and home improvement tool experts praise the stud finder for helping them save time and money on renovation projects.

Although the stud finder from Zircon performs accurately in the detection of both metal and wooden studs, it has difficulty detecting AC. The guide that comes with the StudSensor e50 Electronic Stud Finder states, “AC detection can spread as much as 305mm from each side of an electrical wire.” That’s more than a foot of possible detection error. Some reviewers question the accuracy of the stud finder for detecting deeply embedded wooden studs, although the home improvement tool performs well detecting deeply embedded metal studs.

Pros

·        Detects metal and wooden studs up to 19 millimetres behind walls

·        DeepScan doubles the stud scanning depth to 38 millimetres

·        WireWarning detection confirms the presence of live wires

·        LCD display displays approaching stud edges

Cons

·        Poor job of finding AC

·        Some question as to wooden stud detection success

Conclusion

Whether you’re a do it yourself homeowner or an accomplished tradesman, the Zircon StudSensor e50 Electronic Stud Finder detects studs embedded up to 19 millimetres within a wall. Zircon has improved on its original stud finder by adding features such as DeepScan, which doubles the distance you can find studs. WireWarning detects live wires that have no insulation. Although this stud finder performs poorly detecting the presence of AC, it does a decent job of detecting metal and wooden studs.

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Centre Finders

Utilising similar technology to edge finders, centre finders have a pair of sensors rather than a single sensor to calculate the position of studs more accurately. Besides the greater accuracy, both sides of a stud or obstruction can be detected at once using a centre finder, so they only need to be moved across the wall in one direction until a reading is picked up. To this end they are the best overall choice of wall scanner.

Best Budget Centre Finders: Bosch PMD 7 Digital Detector

Hit and miss best describes the Bosch PMD 7 Digital Detector. With a maximum detection depth that reaches seven centimetres, the digital detector finds copper, steel, and live wires. Automatic calibration kicks on only after you set the device against a wall. Whenever you remove the digital detector from a wall, the device deactivates, which ensures you don’t receive inaccurate readings. The highly durable body resists the damage caused by strong impacts and prolonged exposure to moisture. One switch turns on the digital detector, which makes the device very easy to use.

With an LED traffic light system and different acoustic signals, you never have to guess the location of steel, copper, and live wires. Whenever you see a red light, it means you shouldn’t drill at that spot on a wall. Different acoustic signals help you determine how close the material is to the device. The Bosch PMD 7 Digital Detector possesses a compact design of 144 by 60 by 30 millimetres. This makes the home improvement tool easy to transport between jobs. You simply slip the digital detector inside of a shirt or pants pocket. The lightweight design never wears you down and the easy to grab surface reduces stress on your fingers and hands.

It appears the Bosch PMD 7 Digital Detector is a hit among users. That is, until you read the myriad online reviews that blast the digital detector for failing to do its job: detect the presence of copper, steel, and live wires. The failure to detect live wires is especially dangerous and prompted most of the naysayers to return the digital detector to Bosch for refunds. Users complain about the inaccurate sensors that can miss the presence of material by more than 10 centimetres. The on and off switch also receives criticism for sticking within the device or jamming upon applying pressure

Pros

·        Automatic calibration

·        Traffic light LED and acoustic signals for presenting detection results

·        Compact, lightweight design for supreme portability

Cons

·        Fails to detect live wires

·        Stubborn on and off switch

·        Inaccurate sensors

Conclusion

You can take a chance on the purchase of some home improvement tools. A faulty screwdriver most likely doesn’t put you in harm’s way. However, you can’t to flip a coin on the purchase of a steel, copper, and live wire detector. Far too many consumers have complained about the inability of the Bosch PMD 7 Digital Detector to find live wires. This puts you at risk of receiving powerful electrical shocks. The fancy features included with the device don’t overcome the risk of serious injury. Put the coin away and consider another digital detector.

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Best Budget Centre Finders: Dr. Meter Backlight Stud Metal AC Wire Scanner Wall Stud Finder Review

When you’re on the hunt for studs within walls of your home, you can’t afford to use a tool that inaccurately detects metal and wood studs. The Dr. Meter Backlight Stud Metal AC Wire Scanner Wall Stud Finder includes a multi-mode detection feature that locates metal studs embedded as deep as 38 millimetres into a wall. The highly rated stud finder detects pipe or metal rebar up to 76 millimetres within a wall of your home. Most important, this wall stud finder protects you from live wires by detecting the physical threats at 76 millimetres into a wall constructed with any type of material.

The capability of the Dr. Meter Backlight Stud Metal AC Wire Scanner Wall Stud Finder to locate pipes, rebars, joists, and metal studs behind walls only scratches the surface of the high performance homeowners enjoy from this home improvement tool. You also benefit from changing operating modes to adapt for different wall thicknesses. Three scan modes ensure you find studs within any type of wall material, even the sometimes difficult to detect home of studs called plasterboard. The audio and LCD backlit display do a great job of letting you know when you approach an object embedded within a wall. Moreover, the ergonomically sound design of this home improvement tool includes an anti-slip feature that keep you in control of your stud finding mission.

It’s hard to find a glass is half-empty scenario with the Dr. Meter Backlight Stud Metal AC Wire Scanner Wall Stud Finder. However, if there is one, the half-empty glass contains complaints about the audio alert mechanism that sometimes beeps over every millimetre of space on a wall. The manufacturer of this device states the flaw has only occurred with a few models of the otherwise stellar home improvement tool.

Pros

·        Detects live wires embedded up to 76 millimetres into a wall

·        Ergonomically designed grip provides optimal comfort

·        Highly durable body

·        Accurate LCD backlit display

Cons

·        Inconsistent performance of audio alert feature

Conclusion

The Dr. Meter Backlight Stud Metal AC Wire Scanner Wall Stud Finder does a great job of finding metallic objects embedded deep within walls. Very few stud finders can detect metallic objects that sit more than 70 millimetres away from a wall surface. However, the greatest attribute of this home improvement tool is its capability to detect live wires that run deep within a wall. After all, you can find a metal stud with most stud finders, but only a handful of stud finders accurately alert you to the presence of live wires.

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Best Top End Centre Finder: Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector

Automatic calibration places the Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector at the top of the class for home improvement tools designed to detect objects embedded deep within walls. Homeowners that purchase this device avoid application errors that lead to frustrating hunts for studs that aren’t there. Bosch included the word Professional for a reason, as this highly reliable detection device is a must have tool for construction workers and home improvement professionals. Objects embedded as deep as 12 centimetres within plasterboard have no chance of escaping the detection powers of the Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector.

Three different detection modes provide you with a multi-purpose home improvement tool that protects you from coming in contact with live wires. One of the detection modes finds live wires that can turn a home improvement project into a visit to A&E. The tri-coloured LED ring dependably alerts you to the presence of objects within a wall. Whenever the bright light turns red, you can confidently reach for the right tool to extract an object embedded within a wall. A green light means the Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector has yet to find a metal stud or live cable wire.

Whenever the Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector locates an object, it immediately sends information to you that describes the physical properties of the material you have just detected. The automatic Centre Finder scale determines the center of every object you find, which makes removing the object from deep within a wall much easier. If you want to nitpick about the performance of this professional detector, the only negative we have found is the occasional false reading positive.

Pros

·        Highly accurate wall object detector

·        Automatic calibration

·        Luminous tri-coloured LED ring

·        Prevents injury from live wire contact

·        Perfect object detection too for home improvement professionals

Cons

·        An occasional false positive reading

Conclusion

Bosch hits a home run with virtually every home improvement tool in the company’s vast inventory. However, the Bosch GMS 120 Professional Detector takes Bosch superior quality to a higher level. This object detector not only locates the center of metal and wood studs, it also alerts you to the presence of dangerous live cable wires. The highly durable construction of the rubber body ensures you enjoy years of reliable use. You might receive a false positive occasionally, but as the saying goes, better safe than sorry.

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Instant Stud Finders

Negating the need to move the scanner across the wall in order to locate the obstruction, instant stud finders are the latest addition to this family of tools that are able to accurately detect studs, cables and pipes simply by placing the device on the wall.

One general point to keep in mind is as mentioned that centre and edge finders in particular are notorious for being quite hit and miss in many of cases. Don’t be surprised if you read a lot of reviews from customers declaring that the model they’ve bought has proven to be next to useless! For this reason it’s perhaps more important that you choose a tried and test wall scanner compared to other tools because the consequences of drilling into wires or pipework are more serious than owning a drill that is frustratingly under powered for example.

Best Instant Stud Finder: ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder Review

You have many stud finders to consider, before deciding on which one to choose for detecting studs deeply embedded with the walls of your home. Well, the stud finder-buying mission has just gotten much easier, when you consider the numerous positive attributes of the ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder. Thirteen sensors ensure you accurately locate every wood and metal stud, as well as every live wire, hidden within every wall of your home. The large sensor pad area ensures you perform deeper scans than the depth of the scans performed by other stud finders. All you have to do is press one button to start a stud finder that has no peer in its home improvement niche.

LED lights alert you to the nearby presence of studs, which allows you to hone in on the objects for extraction. Proprietary Triple Accuracy Technology analyzes every millimetre of wall surface and then triangulates the data for delivery to the sensors. The built-in ruler and bubble make this a three for one home improvement tool. In addition to providing unmatched stud sensing accuracy, the ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder includes a very durable body that resists impact and moisture damage. Many of your stud finding missions take you deep within damp locations of your home. The rugged body protects the sensitive detection sensors from moisture damage.

The compact, lightweight design of the ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder makes the home improvement tool easy to transport from job to job. You never have to rummage through your toolbox to find something that you need to find studs. Every home improvement tool review has at least one negative thing to say about a product. However, don’t expect to find anything wrong with this highly accurate stud finder.

Pros

·        Proprietary Triple Accuracy Technology

·        Thirteen stud finding sensors

·        Impact and moisture resistant

·        Easy to operate on/off button

·        LED lights display stud locations

·        Compact and lightweight

Cons

None!

Conclusion

If you need to perform a major overhaul of drywall or plasterboard within your home, you need to use an accurate stud finder to remove every object within wall and plasterboard surfaces. The ProSensor 710+ Professional Stud Finder delivers the most accurate stud finder readings of any home improvement tool in it niche. Flawless in design, this stud finder offers you the fastest way to complete a wall or plasterboard renovation project.

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How Were Studs Located Before These Clever Devices Were Invented?

There are several different ways of locating studs not involving clever gizmos that have existed for as long as anyone might have cared to employ them. You can still can use these methods if you feel that you can’t justify purchasing a wall scanner or stud finder. The most commonly used method is to tap on the wall with your knuckle and listen for a change in tone. You’ll soon notice the difference in sound between the solid areas where studs are located and the otherwise hollow areas of plasterboard. The alternative to knocking with your knuckle is to drag a blunt razor blade across the wall, again listening for a change in the tone produced.

Of course these methods probably won’t work for locating wires as they aren’t likely to produce any audible difference in sound, but if locating studs is all you need to do, then by all means tap and scrape away!

If you prefer to use your eyes over your ears then another trick is to shine a torch along the length of the wall, looking for any tell tale ridges that indicate the presence of wall studs behind the plasterboard. This is probably less effective than the tapping or scraping method, but it could be a useful double check in some cases.

 

 

 

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