Comparing Common Stud Finder Types

A stud finder helps you locate studs that are hidden behind wall surfaces on drywall, concrete and tiled walls. Studs provide a way for creating attachment points for shelves, hangings and other objects that need to be fastened on the wall. Once a wall has been constructed to completion, it becomes difficult to locate these studs, hence the need for a stud finder.

There are two main types of stud finders. These are magnetic and electronic finders.


This type utilizes neodymium, a type of magnet to detect the position of nails and screws. It may be stationary or movable, and does not use a battery. To use this type of finder, you need to move it back and forth on the surface of the wall until the finder beeps or is pulled towards the wall. Once you identify the fastener you will just get an idea of the place where the studs are located. One drawback of the magnetic stud finder is that it cannot detect what is fixed deep in the wall. It also does not detect wooden studs and framing areas. It can only work better on thin walls.


Electronic stud finders work better than magnetic finders. They utilize battery-powered electric sensors to detect the studs. They work using a capacitor plate which measures the energy produced by the material used to make the wall, and sounds an alarm whenever a different material is detected. Please head to Stud Locator to identify the tangible differences between electronic stud finders and their magnetic counterparts.

The three sub categories of electronic stud locators are the edge, center and instant stud finders:

  • The Edge Finder detects changes in the density within the wall. You need to calibrate the finder before putting it on a section of the wall and sliding back and forth until you detect the edges of the stud. The predetermined edges help you to locate the center of the stud and attach the fastener.
  • The Center Finder works using two sensors that detect the two stud edges at once. You also need to calibrate it before sliding it on the wall.
  • The Instant Stud Finder is the most advanced of the three as it detects studs that are deep inside the wall. It does not require sliding like the first two and can be used to map stud-free areas for installation of non-stud devices such as vents.

These stud finders help you accomplish even the most difficult DIY tasks at home. If you need one for performing simple tasks, like hanging an artwork then a magnetic stud is okay. If you need to cut into the wall or hang shelves and cupboards then an electronic stud finder will be great. Always think of what you want to accomplish using the finder.