The Best Stud Finders for Every Budget and Need

Protect your walls and wall art with these top-rated tools.

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October 10, 2022

Our Top Stud Finder Picks

Designing a gallery wall or hanging a new TV is hard enough, but it also comes with another challenge: finding studs hidden in the walls. Because if you don’t, that fresh new hanging could come crashing down and absolutely ruin your wall. The problem is drywall isn’t that sturdy. Simply nailing into a sheet of drywall isn’t enough to support most decor, but nailing directly into a stud is much more secure and can support the weight of wall hangings, electronics and more. But how do you find the studs? Unless you have clear walls, it’s hard to know just exactly where studs are located. Enter the stud finder. This magical, handy device locates studs so you know exactly where to nail or drill. Below, we’ve outlined the importance of a stud finder and which ones the pros trust. Check out our top picks, see which stud finder is best for your walls and set yourself up for success the next time you need to hang decor.

More Tips + Tricks

How to Find Studs in a Wall

Finding wall studs doesn't have to be a guessing game. If you're hanging something heavy on the wall, follow these best practices and pinpoint a stud with ease.

What Does a Stud Finder Do?

“A stud finder is a handheld tool created to scan drywall for wood studs,” said Andre Thompson, senior merchant of hand tools at The Home Depot. “Properly locating studs can help securely hang items ranging from artwork to electronics.” Most homes today have drywall for all interior walls, and it's best to find the studs when hanging items on drywall. Historic homes in the U.S. from the 1700s to early 1900s may still have thick, plaster walls. For example, The Crafty Lumberjacks live in a prewar building in Queens, New York and haven’t found a stud finder that's easy to use since, in addition to the vertical studs, plaster walls have narrow pieces of horizontal wood slats or sometimes metal mesh the plaster is applied to, making it difficult for a stud finder to distinguish where the studs are. “If you look closely, our walls really look like Swiss cheese,” they said. If you do have plaster walls, the good news is plaster is stronger than drywall, so lighter wall art or wall hangings weighing less than 20 pounds can hang on plaster securely even if you're not able to find the studs. For hanging heavier items like TVs or ceiling-mounted lights on plaster, you will need to find the studs. A tip for using stud finders on plaster walls is to scan the baseboards instead of the wall to find nail heads that connect to the studs, and once you've found a magnetic point on the baseboards, you've likely found the stud above. If you have trouble finding the studs on plaster walls, when in doubt, it's never a bad idea to hire a professional to hang heavier items.

Do I Really Have to Use a Stud Finder?

Yes, you do. HGTV Designer Brian Patrick Flynn hangs a lot of wall decor. He styles and designs HGTV giveaway homes as well as celebrity homes, remodels and more, and he always uses a stud finder. “Drywall can be deceptive, and it may seem like something is fastened to the wall,” he said. “But after a matter of hours or days, if the object hung is just pulling on a sheet of drywall, it can rip and fall off. When you drill into a stud, you’re drilling into something structural and solid, and it’s way safer!”

What’s the Best Stud Finder?

Choosing the right stud finder depends on your project and budget. There are two kinds of stud finders on the market: electronic and manual. A manual stud finder is magnetic and doesn’t require batteries. An electronic stud finder is typically more expensive, but these models usually come with bonus features such as measuring walls or detecting live wires within walls. But for the simple peace of mind of locating a stud in drywall for hanging framed artwork, a no-frills magnet stud finder is just fine. For more intricate wall hangings, heavy items or mounting a TV, you likely want as much information as possible. According to Thompson, more premium stud finders can detect “the edge of the stud board, measure the center, or detect studs up to one and a half inches deep in the wall.”

Depth is another important feature to consider when shopping for a stud finder. Most basic stud finders for wooden wall studs in drywall range from ¾ inch to one inch in depth. However, more premium stud finders and stud finders with live wire detection can monitor one and a half inches to two inches deep.

Best Electronic Stud Finder

Great price, great features and great reviews. This RYOBI stud finder checks all the boxes. It's under $30 but can detect both wood and metal studs, and it has LED lights that show the full width of a stud — not just a corner. Glowing five-star reviews from shoppers say this tool is the most accurate stud finder they've ever used, as it features a bright LED marker when the tool is on the stud center, and they were blown away by how easy it is to use. One shopper said, "I wish I had found this sooner!"

Best Magnetic Stud Finder

Don't want to bother with batteries just to hang some pictures? No worries. This CH Hanson model is all you need. The best thing about an old-school magnet stud finder is that as soon as it finds a nail or metal stud, it clings to the wall making it more hands-free than electric models. And this specific one features a bubble level, making it perfect for hanging new art or re-arranging a gallery art wall.

Best Budget Electronic Stud Finder

We're going to let you in on a little secret: The pros don't always splurge on the fancy stuff. Brian Patrick Flynn and his design team use this electronic stud finder for hanging art on their HGTV projects, and it's just under $11!

Best Budget Magnetic Stud Finder

For a budget magnetic stud finder, you can't go wrong with The StudBuddy. It's compact, lightweight and gets the job done. At under $10, it's our most affordable stud finder, but don't let the price fool you. This little gadget can detect both wood and metal studs up to one and a half inches thick. If you live in an apartment, condo or another rental, this is a great way to have peace of mind that you won't get in trouble with the landlord or have to do heavy patching when you leave. Because ripped drywall would definitely come out of your security deposit.

Best Splurge Stud Finder

While the StudBuddy is easy on your wallet, it's not the easiest to use. For a totally seamless, picture-perfect wall-hanging experience, splurge on the BLACK+DECKER Bullseye. This baby has lasers for everything. It pinpoints studs, but it also projects a super handy line from the stud across the wall in both directions. Genius. If you're hanging a headboard or a neon sign or something with a little more heft and width, this is a great way to ensure you're covered from side to side.

Best Stud Finder With Wire Detection

Hanging art pieces or wall decor typically only calls for teeny, tiny holes in the wall, but if you're trying to mount a TV, other electronics or other larger decor pieces by yourself, it's important to look for any live wires lurking behind the wall as well as studs. One nail for a framed picture is different than large TV brackets or mounting gear for antique mirrors, etc. To ensure you've found a stud that's also nowhere near live wires, go with Zircon. This brand is beloved by pros and DIYers alike, and the hundreds of reviews online speak for themselves. "Much more accurate than my previous one showing me exactly the center of the stud and warns me of potential cables running along the stud. Clear visual and audio signals. Very good buy!" One note for this bad boy: AA batteries won't cut it. You'll need a 9V.

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