If you are trying to identify joists, studs and different timbers, or pipes or links behind plasterboard dividers, or in drywall, then you will need a stud finder.
In this article you will discover how to use a stud to discover how to locate joists. We will also look at how to use a stud finder to make sure that you don't hit pipes or electrical cables which of course could be a bit of a disaster.
What Is a Stud Finder?
The name for this product can be slightly misleading. Most people will know what a stud is and the name might suggest that this particular tool is simply an aid to finding where the stud lies behind a covered wall.
That is its main purpose. If for example like in the image to the right, you want to hang a picture, then ideally you need to find the strongest part of the wall. Most walls are made from frames of wood with plasterboard or drywall nailed on top of these wooden frames.
You never want to drive a nail or a screw directly into drywall as it is not that secure and it may also cause the wall to crack. Ideally you want to hammer your nail into the wooden frame that sits behind the drywall. Trying to find these supporting studs is not that easy because they are only 1.5-2" wide and that is why stud finders were made.
Have a look at the video below to see one being used properly.
These can be used when fitting racks, pictures, TV sections, microwave or hanging shelves etc In effect they can be used to hang just about anything that you want, and to make sure that the fixing is secure
Different Types of Stud Finders
Most stud finders work on a comparative guideline. As you can see from the video, they either streak a light, make a sound, or both, when you have discovered the location of the stud. Some of the better ones will also help you locate pipes and wires by changing the setting on the indicator.
In modern houses most plumbing and electrical cabling will be done in a very uniform way. You would not expect a pipe or an electric cable to be running randomly along the back of a stud wall. In older homes, or where a previous owner liked to do things like home projects, then quite honestly you could find just about anything.
Never assume anything and always make the check yourself. It takes a few seconds and can save you from a flood which means a costly plumber's bill. More importantly it can save you from an electric chock, which could actually kill you. The last thing you ever want to do is drill into a wall, or nail into a wall and hit an electric cable.
Read The Instructions Carefully
All stud finders will come with their own set of instructions. Please take the time to read these as each finder has its own method of identification. Most of these instructions will advise you to practice on an area of divider or other surface where you know there to be timber, pipes or links.
The reason behind this is give you the hang of setting the machine and get you used to how it makes its indication. We appreciate that is not always possible to do, but if you can then it is worth the effort.
CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder
For us here at Tool And Go, this one is the best on the market right now. It costs under $10 and is small, compact, fits into your pocket and works like a treat. It also has a built-in spirit level which is a nice addition.
It also comes with two powerful magnets which allows you to remain hands free.
This one doesn't use lights but it finds the nails in the stud wall and in many ways that is even more accurate than using an electronic one. It also does not need any batteries to work and it will never need any type of adjustment or calibration.
Now there are many other higher technical ones out there, but this one is basic, simple and works like a treat.
92% buyer satisfaction based on 25,000+ online buyer reviews
We have no hesitation in recommending this one to you. Why spend $30-40 on a fancy electronic one, when for under $10, this will do the job for you every single time. Now this one will not work for pipes or wires as it is looking for metal. If you want one that does that, then you will have to pay more for that type.
Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710 Precision Stud Finder
This is a much higher quality and full purpose stud finder. It will however set you back around $75 so not a cheap option but a very good one. It is fast at finding studs, and also very accurate at finding anything that may be behind a wall.
As you can see, there are over 6,000 online buyer reviews for this stud finder, so it shows you just how popular this one really is. It does get an average 92% buyer satisfaction rating, so clearly highly rated by real life buyers.
This model uses LEDs lights to illuminate and indicate the position of any hidden objects such as the position of studs.
92% buyer satisfaction based on 6,000+ online buyer reviews
It also helps identify the width of hidden objects. That can be really useful so not only can you find the actual location, but you can also determine the size of them. It uses a deep scanning which is always active (up to 1.5").
There are plenty of these stud finders available on the market. The CH Hansen model is an affordable option. If you have some extra cash available, then we would recommend the Prosensor model which is one of the very best on the market. They are always a handy tool/gadget to have for using around your home, and do make your life a great deal easier.