5 Best Stud Detectors for Plaster Walls

Author: Reece Thompson | Updated on February 25, 2021

We've installed hundreds of drywalls and know the most reliable tools. With a reliable stud finder, you can accurately locate timber framing behind a wall. We review five of the best ones.

builder drilling hole into a wall using ladder
In the refurbishments and renovations we've done over the last eight years, we've put up over 200 stud walls.

Most of these have gone to plan, and we've gotten good at it.

In the early days, we weren't good at drilling into walls, i.e., once they'd been plaster skim finished and painted over.

Whether it was stubbornness - or being too cheap - we were poor at drilling in wall furniture. We'd end up having to use filler to tidy up all the erroneous holes!

For example, the final touch in the bathroom is to install a toilet roll holder or a towel holder. It would be stress-free to use a stud detector to locate the timber frame position and drill into that. But no, we were too cheap to buy one!

These days, we always use a stud finder BEFORE drilling.

Without a good stud finder sensor, the whole process becomes disorderly and messy. This is why a high-performance stud detector is crucial for DIY projects.

How to Pick the Best Stud Finder?

If you've never used stud finders, choosing one can be tricky. There are so many types and plenty of knock-offs from China.

At first, you need to examine the surface beneath which you are trying to locate a stud. This will allow you to pick the type of stud sensor that will suit the task.

They come in two different types: Magnetic stud and Electric. The magnetic detectors do not locate the stud but the hardware that attaches itself to the wall. But, electric detectors use sensors to reveal the relative permittivity of the wall.

When you move the stud finder over a stud, it is indicated on the device's LED screen.

As you get through this article, you will be able to select the ideal one for your needs

What Are the Benefits of a Stud Detector?

Some DIY enthusiasts can find a stud behind a wall by tapping and listening to the sounds; it isn't easy for others.

A stud finder will help to detect studs by placing it against the wall.

Some detectors are versatile as they help to locate not only timber but also electric wires or pipes. I wish I knew that before I drilled a hole in the wall one time, cutting an electric wire!

How to Use a Stud Finder?

The correct way to use a stud sensor locator is based on the exact model and type.

But here's a rundown on general tips to use one.

At first, you must calibrate your stud finder and place it against the wall behind.
Turn on the device and press the side buttons.
Next, slide the stud detector across the plaster wall until the machine sends an alert.

Then, mark the stud's location with a pencil. You may choose to repeat the steps a few times to ensure accuracy.

You may want to watch the explanatory video if you'd like a better understanding of the process.

1. Bosch GMS 120

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The Bosch GMS 120 stud finder is one of the recent impressive tools out of the array of options that the brand offers.

What makes it stand out among other detectors is that it ensures a high-accuracy result. It features an LED-ring with a 3-colour indicator for object detection.

The device has the accuracy of a laser with the added advantage of Bluetooth for data transfer to all GLM Apps.

It offers a wide range of extra practical applications. This is one of these things that once you've got it, you realise you should have got one a long time ago.

The digital finder offers 3 detection settings to fit specific applications.

A metal setting to detect metal and live wires.
A live wire setting for safe and accurate detection of live wires.
A drywall setting that is ideal for finding wooden or metal materials.
  1. Informative LCD
  2. Highly accurate results even on thick walls
  3. Center finder of the object with the material indication
  4. The hardware takes a few seconds to turn on but once on, it works quickly and the interface is reasonably intuitive.
  1. Might have to maneuver it a few times to get used to it
  2. Bit expensive. I probably would not have paid full price but now I have used it the full price is worth the cost.

2. Tacklife Four-in-One

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Here's a multi-mode stud sensor that is ideal for people who need detection of not just studs but tubes, wires, and beams.

It features a large LCD backlight for a clear representation of the detection object.

This 4-in-1 gadget, Metal and AC live wire detector is a good helper when you decorate your home.

It comes in handy when you are hanging pictures, putting up a new set of shelves. It gives you an accurate view of the wall and shows where each stud is.

Also, the device has a high scanning depth up 3.5 inches for ferrous metals. With 2.36 inches for non-ferrous metals, 1.97 inches for live wires, and 0.79 inches for wooden beams.

A great gadget for DIY enthusiasts. It works great; big and clear led screen with audible beep.
  1. Visual feedback with 3-color indicator
  2. Soft pad on the back to prevent surface damage
  3. Both audible and visual indication
  4. Speed is OK. You will need to move the detector slowly across the wall to detect power cables.
  1. There are other detectors featured here that display more consistent results
  2. It's a low cost item and upon first usage, I was worried that it looked and felt cheap.

3. Meterk Wall Scanner 

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The Meterk Stud Finder has an advantage as it detects moisture in wood and building materials.

Also, it helps to detect metal studs, copper conductors, and wood.

The device has quick detection of the centre of the object to make your DIY maintenance work easy.

Also, are you one of those people who get irritated with alarm noises of stud detectors? In that case, the Meter will be right up your alley as it features a Mute setting.
  1. Highly accurate detection
  2. Moisture detector that assists water damage repair
  3. Affordable
  1. The user manual is difficult to understand

4. Zircon MultiScanner i700

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Here's a one that detects not only wall studs but lives AC wiring in many surfaces.

It features auto-correcting that eliminates possible errors while maneuvering the device.

The detector has four modes to pinpoint stud locations. All modes detect the centre, edges, and direction of metal or wooden battens.

The MetalScan locates both ferrous and non-ferrous metal objects. And the AC Scan detects unshielded electrical wires.

It’s an easy to use wall scanner with a variety of features. We've also done a review of the Zircon StudSensor e50 if you're interested.
  1. Features an integrated erasable marking
  2. WireWarning Detection that allows tracing unshielded wires
  3. Durable battery with 3-years expiration date from first use
  1. Does not come with a case

5. The StudBuddy Magnetic

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The StudBuddy is one of the simplest ones of its kind out there. It uses strong neodymium magnets to detect wood and metal. It works great with both drywalls and newer plaster walls. You could even use it for ceilings.

The device has built-in plumb and hangs on the wall hands-free when stud findings arise.

Besides, it has smooth pads on the back that prevents any damage using it as a wall scanner.

This one is ideal for people who are in search of simple tools to get their job done.
  1. Promotes visual reference while hanging objects
  2. No batteries required
  3. Very affordable
  1. Not functional for metal or electric wires
using a drill to core out plaster for a socket

How We Decided On Our Winner

From the reviews of the detectors above, you can understand how each one has an advantage towards a specific type of surface or material. Yet, we have concluded that Zircon MultiScanner i700 is the winner.

It's the solution to the detection of studs made of various materials, all that is not supported by the other finders.

When it comes to detection through the thickest walls, the Zircon ensures the most accurate results.

That being said, we reviewed a lot to come down to these 5 options. All of them are reliable tools for specific requirements.

Thus, you must select one based on its capabilities, accuracy, price, and preference.
old man drilling into stud frame with screws

FAQ and Buying Guide

When buying a new home, one of the ways to try and create added value is to create extra rooms. Yet, you can't start knocking down walls and building new ones back up.

You need to check stud behind drywalls to see if there are any plumbing or electrical concerns. You don't want to start drilling to hit a water pipe(!)

By using a stud wall detector, you can:

Locate material edges
Detect wood, metal, ac live wire and deep modes
timber frame between a communal space
You don't have to be a home buyer like us. These devices are perfect for plumbers, joiners, home renovators and so on.

How do we use it? We create more rooms! Using these tools, we assess this quickly in two ways:

Adding value to the property by installing a wall in large rooms
Determining which walls are stud so that we can take it down
a hole in the wall revealing timber behind
The first option is self-explanatory and doesn't need much discussion here.

The only electrical tool you'll need here is a digital measuring tape to get your sizing accurate. And yes, a standard old school measuring tape will suffice.

For the second way, you'll need to invest in stud finders for walls.

Before knocking down any walls, you'll need to know where the wooden battens are. This is important as you don't want to be smashing your sledgehammer into water pipes or AC wiring.

Advanced finders will be able to detect metal, electrical wiring, central heating pipes also to timber.

We have used all the ones above and feel like we're in a good position to state which ones hit the mark.

Click on the following link to read more tool reviews.
Our Winner...
Bosch GSM 120