How Does A Stud Finder Work?

Do you wish to hang picture frames? Is there a set of shelves for you to attach to the wall? While you can hang or put them on any wall, it is essential to know the location of studs in a wall. Just affixing them on sheetrock is likely to make them fall.

The fact is that sheetrock, as a crushed limestone held with a piece of cardboard, cannot hold heavy items. It does not aim to support any substantial weight. So, no matter what you want to affix to a wall, ranging right from a mirror to a chandelier, you need to know where studs in your walls are.

A stud finder works using magnets, electrical capacitance, or radiofrequency waves. The magnetic ones are simple, while the latter two are advanced versions.

This is where you need a stud finder. It is a handheld device that is useful for sensing areas where there is denser material behind the machine. The wooden shaft or stud is thicker than a weak sheetrock or plasterboard. This is how a stud finder detects studs.

Upon sensing a stud, the device flashes a light or makes some noise. This informs you about the stud’s location so that you mark it using a knife or a pencil for using it.

Different types of stud finders are available in the market today. Let’s check out how do they work.

Magnetic Stud Finders

A magnetic stud finder is the original stud finder. It was the first stud finder to help people doing wall work. A magnetic stud finder is a simple and a small plastic tool having a magnetized limb that moves when it comes near to a metal nail or screw attached to drywall or plasterboard.

The underlying notion here is that a screw or a nail apparently goes into a stud. Thus, locating them means locating studs. By skidding a magnet along the wall, a bit tug of resistance is felt where a metal stud is present.

Most of these finders have a small compass needle that moved when a nail was sensed. This means the seer could visually spot where the nail is, thereby ensuring accuracy. Later, modern devices came with electromagnetic metal detectors to provide more precision.

The magnetic stud finders are inexpensive as well as reliable. However, as their major limitation, they are incapable of detecting the stud’s edges. Further, when they find a screw or a nail, it is likely to be at least a foot away from where you intend to work.

Consider this type of stud finder if there is a plaster applied over the wood lathe. This is because the lathe boards are densely placed and are affixed with nails at every stud spot. When used on thick plaster walls along with a modern stud finder, you are seriously left with nothing to complain about its accuracy. Source.

Standard Electronic Stud Finders

The standard electronic stud finders are simple handheld devices known by their red and green lights. These lights flash where a solid body or stud behind the drywall is detected. So, how do these electric models work? It is straightforward!

Materials such as wood is a bad conductor of electricity. Indeed, they are insulators. However, they are capable of supporting an electrostatic field, a kind of electrical/static energy that an electrical stud finder senses with its built-in capacitor plate.

The plate senses changes in the electrostatic field, which is simply the difference in density between the thicker or denser wood (stud) and the plasterboard.

In simple words, electronic stud finders sense studs by gauging the electrical capacitance, which involves generating an electrical field to detect density and assessing how the wall reacts to it.

Although working on electricity, these devices are inexpensive. It is also easy to use. They inform you precisely where the stud starts and ends so that you can instantly locate its center. This center is the most recommended spot for driving an anchor.

On the flip side, they are less erudite than more advanced devices.

Stud Finder how to use

Multi-purpose Scanners

These are more advanced versions of electronic stud finders and are known to have more excellent proficiency to ensure more precision than the basic versions. As the name indicates, these stud finders do much more than locating studs.

By implementing the same measure of capacitance, these devices find stud edges apart from pipes and wires. Some scanners can even inform the difference between metallic and wooden studs and between non-ferrous and ferrous metals.

For instance, a metal stud is composed of iron and is thus ferrous, while a copper pipe is non-ferrous. Most scanners can also sense voltage in wiring and can alert you about the location of a live wire.

However, they cannot sense wires having low or no voltage, meaning those that are dead. A few examples are telephone cable and thermostat wire.

Radio Frequency (RF) Stud Finders

Although scanning structures with radiofrequency are common, it is relatively new for the world of stud finders. RF stud finders work with an Android phone to generate 3D visuals of objects, including studs behind concrete and drywalls. They do not flashlights or show digital scales.

However, they do not operate on concrete and plaster walls. The current models come with a base device that attaches itself to the rear of your phone and connects with a USB cable. The phone’s battery charges them.

Just like wall scanners, these devices are capable of finding metallic and wooden studs, wires, and water pipes. However, they also extend their wings by sensing movement in the wall. This informs you whether there are small critters inside.

The resulting 3D visual is likely to provide you an X-ray vision. However, it is only a computer-generated visual; the scanner cannot penetrate into the wall material.

Upcoming Stud Finders

At present, the technology of micropower impulse radar has given hope for designing handheld radar finders. These stud finders shall scan a wall to locate wooden studs, pipes, and wires present at much more depths than at what radio waves can reach. Right now, this technology is expensive, as well as a bit imprecise.


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