What is an Electronic Stud Finder?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

When hanging heavy pictures or shelves, it’s important to be able to quickly locate the studs in your wall. The traditional method of finding studs has been to look for spots of wood filler where the baseboards have been nailed to studs or to lightly pound the wall until you notice a spot that isn’t hollow. Since it’s easy to make errors using this tactic, however, an electronic stud finder is a wise investment for any homeowner.

A stud finder helps locate wooden beams behind walls.
A stud finder helps locate wooden beams behind walls.

An electronic stud finder is a tool that is used to locate the studs inside your home’s walls by measuring changes in wall density. An electronic stud finder can be purchased wherever home improvement tools are sold. Most are made from lightweight plastic and many feature additional padding to help prevent accidental damage to your wall. Ideally, you’ll want to look for a stud finder with a scanning depth of at least 1 ½ inches. An auto recalibration feature is also useful in case you happen to accidentally move your tool away from the stud location before marking the spot.

Electronic stud finders are available in a variety of price ranges, with the more expensive models having advanced features that may be useful to those with a serious interest in carpentry or do-it-yourself projects. For example, while the least expensive electronic stud finders indicate the stud position with a row of flashing colored lights, higher quality models often use an audible tone to help you locate studs. More expensive stud finders also have a deeper scanning range that can be helpful when you’re working with thicker wall coverings.

Although electronic stud finders are useful tools, they do have a few drawbacks. An electronic stud finder is only designed to work with wooden studs, so the gadget is basically useless if your home uses metal studs inside the walls. Nails, wires, or metal pipes can also throw off the readers in some electronic stud finder models.

One helpful tip for working with an electronic stud finder is to remember that wooden studs are almost always located 16 inches apart. This means that you do not need to take the time to mark every stud in the wall when working on a large project. Simply find the first stud, then measure to mark additional studs as needed.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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