You probably know a guy that tests the limits of well-worn jokes by holding a stud finder to himself and saying, “beep!” Maybe you are that guy…or maybe I am that guy. The Ryobi Whole Stud Detector won’t cut down on the bad (Dad) jokes, but it could help you quickly locate studs behind drywall. Having used the Franklin Prosenser T6 and other similar products, we wanted to see how the Ryobi ESF5002 stud finder stacked up against the best stud finders.
Ryobi Whole Stud Detector First Impressions
The Ryobi Whole Stud Detector (or Ryobi Stud Finder as I’m sure some will call it) uses 7 green LED lights to indicate the entire width of a 2×4 stud. We find this much more accurate than stud finders offering a single LED. Those tools leave a lot of ambiguity regarding exactly where the stud begins and ends. When you want to drill and drive a 1/4-inch fastener to hold up a TV mount or wood storage rack, you don’t want to end up right on the edge of a 2×4.
Ryobi replaced their former wide-oriented stud finder with this new detector. Just as light, it now ergonomically fits your hand with an upright orientation. Where the last stud finder felt like a two-handed tool—the Ryobi ESF5002 definitely works one-handed.
Using the Ryobi Stud Finder
The side-mounted button both calibrates and activates the stud finder. Place the stud finder on the wall, press the button, and slide it left to right to find the nearest stud underneath drywall. The green LEDs both direct you to, and confirm, the center of a stud.
With this model, Ryobi did something really cool. While the top-mounted green LEDs direct you left or right to the stud, a center button lights up when you find the exact center. With this feature, you never have to worry about sliding too far to the left or right. The Ryobi whole stud sector removes all of the guesswork from the process.
Reviewer’s Note: Because these stud finders use capacitance, you want to keep your hands off the wall while detecting. Also try and keep your hand low on the tool to avoid interfering with the sensor.
Ryobi ESF5001 vs ESF5002 Stud Finders
The Ryobi ESF5002 whole stud detector marks the company’s second smart tool in this area. The first one, a horizontal model really took two hands to operate. It also included AC detection. While the new model lacks AC detection, the ergonomic improvements make it a better tool. We also have very little success with AC detection as false positives make the feature less than useful (or consistent).
Marking the Stud Once You Find It
We needed to hang our new Youtube award—given to use for passing 100,000 subscribers on the Pro Tool Reviews Youtube Channel. It was the perfect opportunity to test the Ryobi Whole Stud Detector. We could also easily gauge the accuracy of the tool since we had a pretty good knowledge of the exact stud locations (having recently drywalled the entire shop).
Once you roll the Ryobi whole stud finder across the wall you quickly begin to see the LEDs direct you to continue or retreat in a direction. It navigates you until the center LEDs light up and the side arrows do not. At that point, a ring of light around the center marking button lights up as well.
At this point, you simply press that button. This pushes a sharp plastic tip into the drywall, making a mark so that you can know where to drill and/or drive your fastener.
This Ryobi stud detector, along with just about any electronic stud finder, measures capacitance. Since it uses this method, it can have difficulty getting accurate results with wallpaper that has metal foil or fibers in it. Plaster backed with metal mesh also presents a problem.
You should also note that Ryobi only mentions the detector’s ability to find studs behind drywall. While they don’t specifically rule out other materials, it’s clearly been designed with drywall in mind.
The Bottom Line
The Ryobi Whole Stud Detector (or Ryobi Whole Stud Finder, if you prefer) has the helpful design of seven green LEDs that indicate both boundaries as well as the center of the stud. Many stud finders simply offer an audible alert or an ambiguous stud area. There’s no guesswork with this detector. It shows you both the left and right edges and lights up clearly upon locating the exact center of the stud.
It’s easy to mark the center of the stud on the wall by pressing the center button. The Ryobi ESF5002 stud finder works simply and quickly to locate studs behind drywall. Felt pads help it slide easily across the wall, though it gets bumpy on some rougher textures. It’s also light, compact, and runs on two AAA batteries. At $30, we think you get a truly accurate and reliable stud detector.
Ryobi Whole Stud Detector Features
- Detects whole studs behind your drywall
- Auto Depth Scan technology for accurate assessment of drywall thickness
- Built-in stud markers
- Multi LEDs for visibility of the entire stud
- Detects materials (metal, wood) behind your wall
- One-handed operation
- Center indicator LED ring lights up when finding stud center
- Includes: whole stud detector, 2 AAA batteries (installed), and owners manual
Ryobi Whole Stud Detector Specifications
- Model number: Ryobi ESF5002
- Battery type: 2 x AAA (included)
- Maximum wall thickness: 1.5-inch
- Wood and metal detection
- Dimensions: 3.5 x 7 x 1.25 in.
- Price: $29.97
- Warranty: 3 years