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, in which case it somehow doesn’t get any less funny. Well before you can’t fit your head through a door’s rough opening, let me introduce the Ryobi Whole Stud Detector. It won’t tell you if you’re handsome, but it is designed to locate framing elements behind walls and sound an alert if AC power is present. I took it along to a house remodel to see how it well it works.
The Ryobi Whole Stud Detector (or Ryobi Whole Stud Finder as I’m sure some will call it) has green LED lights to indicate the entire range of the stud. It’s a nice feature if it’s accurate since many stud sensors simply alert the user to the presence of a stud with a bit of ambiguity about its edges.
The stud finder is light and compact but has a curious design that requires two-handed operation. Two thumb buttons on either side of the bottom are used to calibrate and operate the unit as it detects the stud. Once the green LEDs confirm the center of a stud, the user presses an indicator button which makes a small mark on the wall with a plastic peg.
An AC power alert is both audible and visible with a red LED. The whole operation is powered by a single AA battery. There are also three felt pads on the wall side of the stud finder to allow it slide along a wall without marring the surface.
Putting it to the Test
The house remodel I’m working on serves as filler work between larger jobs. For that reason, the walls are in various states of completion, making it a perfect place to test the Ryobi Whole Stud Detector. I can easily see how accurate the tool is because some walls are half drywalled and half bare studs.
The first step in the process is calibration. Hold the detector against the wall on its three felt pads, press both operation buttons with your thumbs and wait for the LEDs to blink. Once they blink, slide the detector across the wall and you’ll soon see the LEDs light up in groups of three, indicating the presence of a stud. If you calibrate the stud finder on a stud, you won’t see these groups and instead will only see one LED light up, likely on one end or the other. In that case, you’ll need to recalibrate over empty space.
Once you calibrate the detector, the group of three LEDs moves toward the center of the device as it slides along the wall. When it detects the boundaries of the stud and the center of the stud aligns with the center of the detector, a circular green LED around the Center Indication button lights up. Simply press the button to mark the wall.
I could verify the accuracy by simply looking down the wall at the bare studs. The result? The Ryobi Whole Stud Detector is easy to calibrate, easy to use, and quite accurate.
Ryobi specifically points out in the manual that the stud finder will have issues over wallpaper that has metal foil or fiber it as well as against plaster with metal mesh in it. The metal detection ability of the unit means that anything with metal in its construction over the studs will lead to a disappointing experience.
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.
A Common Complaint
You’ll find some reviews that really knock it for requiring two hands for operation, and that’s an understandable complaint given that detectors that are just as accurate don’t require it. Here’s a little secret, though – it’s intentional. By designing the unit to require hand placement where it does, it keeps your hands and fingers from interfering with the signal to the stud.
I didn’t find it to be so overwhelmingly inconvenient that I wouldn’t use it. The most important point is that it’s reliable and I can trust it.
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 as well as the center of the stud.
It’s easy to mark the center of the stud on the wall by pressing the center indication button. The AC power detection is a helpful feature that will prevent you from damaging wires hidden in the wall. Of course, the breaker will have to be on for the indicator to work.
The stud finder is simple and quick to calibrate and easy to see if you accidentally calibrate over a stud. Felt pads allow it to move easily across the wall. It’s also light, compact, and runs on a single AA battery. You may find that the requisite two-hand operation is unacceptable, but I would still recommend it even with the inconvenience. After all, it’s been intentionally designed that way to keep your hands from interfering with the signal. At $30, you know you’ll have an accurate and reliable stud detector – assuming you understand its limitations.
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 LED’s for visibility of the entire stud
- Detects materials (metal, wood, AC wire) behind your wall
- 2 handed operation for optimized calibration
- Center indicator LED ring will light up when center of stud is found
- Includes: whole stud detector, 1 AA battery, and owners manual
Ryobi Whole Stud Detector Specifications
- Model number: Ryobi ESF5000
- Depth: 1.77-inch
- Width: 6.09-inch
- Height: 3.27-inch
- Audio alert: no
- Laser level included: no
- Batteries: yes
- Battery type: AA
- Batteries required: 1
- Maximum wall thickness: 1.5-inch
- Metal Detection: yes
- Voltage Detection: yes
- Digital display: no
- Price: $29.97
- Warranty: 3 years