How Does a Stud Finder Work? Stanley, Zircon and more (ANSWERED!)

When building a wall or installing cabinets, you need to know where the studs, or support beams, are in your home. Unless you have schematics of the house, you’re better off using a stud finder.

This handy tool helps locate the position of studs in your walls so you can mark them correctly for your project. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and something most DIY enthusiasts can’t live without!


So, today, we’re going to answer a common question: how does a stud finder work? We’ll also tell you about the different types so you can pick the best one for your next DIY project.

Let’s take a look.

How Does a Stud Finder Work?

A stud finder is a device that helps people locate the studs or the vertical posts that support the walls. It can be used to find out whether there is any space between the walls and the ceiling, as well as where the plumbing pipes and electrical cables are located.

While there are several types of stud finders, they all work like small metal detectors. Most models are hand-held to allow for easy access and portability.

These handy devices work by scanning the walls, looking for any sign of wooden beams. Then, when they come in contact with a stud, they either beep or light up, depending on the model.

Types of Stud Finders

There are a handful of stud finders to choose from. Let’s take a look at each one and how they’re used.

Magnetic Stud Finders

Magnetic stud finders are versatile tools. Besides locating studs, they can help you find various items, including screws and nails.

Magnetic stud finders come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some feature a more basic design, while others are a bit more complex as well as less affordable. They’re typically small, handheld devices that feature either one or two magnets.

The models that consist of two magnets work by moving one magnet back and forth until it gets close enough to the surface to detect the wooden support structure. Then, once they find it, the second magnet works to pinpoint the exact location.

Tools that come with only one magnet will still do a good job detecting the studs. However, using two magnets will give more accurate results than just one.

Electronic Stud Finders

Electronic stud finders are excellent for finding buried objects such as old coins, jewelry, and even buried bones. The simplest models consist of a small transducer and a display screen. They send out bursts of ultrasonic energy that bounce off the object and show up on the screen.

Some models are designed to detect the edge of the stud, while others only tell you the location of the center of the stud.

Some models also have an additional receiver. The two receivers work simultaneously to detect changes in the density of the space behind the drywall, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

To use an electronic stud finder, place the device on the wall. Give it a few seconds for it to warm up. Then, move it in a straight line across the wall. When you reach the edge of a stud, a series of beeps and flashes will appear on the screen.

Keep in mind that most electronic stud finders need to be calibrated to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Instant Stud Finders

Thanks to modern technology, stud finders have advanced significantly in recent years. Instant stud finders are one example.

They differ from other models in that they utilize a variety of sensors to detect where the stud is located behind your wall. As a result, there’s no need to move the edge or center finder around the wall as other electronic stud finding devices require. Instead, this stud finder uses a complicated algorithm to interpret the data sent by the sensors.

Because they’re quick and easy to use, these handy tools eliminate guesswork. You know where the studs are in mere seconds. Plus, instant stud finders don’t require calibration, hence the name.

Manual Stud Finders

Manual stud finders are more convenient because they don’t need batteries to operate, unlike their electronic counterparts. As a result, many DIYers prefer using these over other models, especially when searching for ceiling joists.

To use a manual stud finder, simply press the fine needle tip of the device into the drywall. It’s only 0.027 inches in diameter, so you don’t have to worry about permanently damaging your walls.

Then, keep going in and out in a straight line until you feel the needle isn’t able to push through the wall. When this happens, it means you’ve found a stud.

This tool also comes with markings on the side. You can use them to determine the thickness of the drywall.

There are also ways to find a stud without a stud finder.

How Far Apart Are Studs?

Studs are separated by a minimum of 8 inches and a maximum of 16 inches. This distance is preset on all constructions site and is meant to prevent the studs from touching each other, which can result in several problems, such as:

Interference with Sound Transmission

If the wall is a double-stud construction, the sound that was intended to travel through one wall will bounce back into the other. This is why stud spacing should be kept at least 8 inches apart to absorb sound waves rather than reflect them.

Interference with Wiring

If your walls are single-stud construction, it may not be possible to run electrical wires underneath due to lack of space.

As a result, you may need to install an electrical junction box to keep the wires away from the studs. Make sure to consider the points above to avoid any false-positive results.


So how does a stud finder work? You’re now able to answer that!

Even though there are different types of stud finders on the market, not all are created equal. Some have limited functionality, while others are better at detecting various hidden treasures, not just studs.

That said, finding the best stud finder for your housework needs is easy. Just think about the kinds of DIY projects you usually do around the house and pick one with the right features to match. Also, factor in your budget and how much you’re willing to spend.