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Do Stud Finders Work Through Metal? (Read This First!)

Studs are wooden or metal foundations installed when building a house. They’re built to give strength and spaces for wires, pipes, and insulation. 

Studs are important during the construction of the house because they provide additional strength and have future uses. Heavy objects that we hang on the wall with the help of fasteners, hangers, or brackets, are installed on the studs. 

This is because the sheetrock–which is the preliminary wall–isn’t strong enough to hold heavy hangings. Moreover, driving holes in sheetrock causes unnecessary damage to the walls and might cause damage to costly decorations and televisions which we tend to install on walls.

Most of the time, they’re covered by a layer of drywall or plaster wall for better finishing. There are also other kinds of outer layering, and one of them is layering with metal sheets. 

To detect studs, we tend to either assess the walls using standard construction codes or use standard stud finders, which are some handy devices. 

But the working principle of these stud finders is very simple and often they don’t work when the wall is made of a sturdier or different material than drywall or plaster walls.

Now, let us find out if stud finders work through metal and learn some interesting facts about the topic as well.

Stud finders work through metal

Stud finders don’t usually work through metal due to their density and non-insulating capability. While the magnetic stud finders find it challenging to locate metals while the final wall is metal itself, the electronic ones might give inaccurate readings due to the density of the metal wall.

The reasons for the standard stud finders, magnetic and electronic stud finders, giving inaccurate locations of the stud are as follows:

Characteristics of most walls:

The walls, they’re mostly built of insulators. Insulators are materials that don’t conduct electricity. 

As a result, they show no magnetic property since magnetic property arises from the polarization of electrons, and for that, electrons need free movement. 

In insulators, electrons are tightly packed and can hardly move, forming little to no polarization. Magnets use that characteristic to locate nails and screws in a stud, as a result, finding the location of the stud as well. 

And, if the studs are made of metal, magnetic stud finders will detect that as well.

But, metal walls have their own magnetic properties since they are metal and support the free movement of electrons. This makes it hard for stud finders to work through metal walls. 

Working Principle of standard Stud Finders:

Magnetic stud finders work with a magnet that detects the metals driven into the studs behind a wall.

They discard any insulators since they don’t conduct electricity and hence, show no magnetism. But, a metal wall shows magnetic properties itself, making the work of the stud finder hard.

Electronic stud finders aren’t dependent on the magnetism of the nails and screws but even they don’t work most of the time when it comes to locating studs through metal walls.


In the case of very thin metal sheets, the electronic stud finders sometimes work. But, we must make sure it’s charged. Other than those, there are some very powerful stud finders that have a ‘deep scan’ option that might work.

Apart from the standard ones, there are some stud finders that use radar technology. These stud finders work through the strongest walls and find pipes, studs, lines, and so on.

How does a stud finder work through metal?

A standard stud finder cannot work through metal. One needs a very strong scanner that is found in markets at a high price. 

Apart from those, one can assess the studs from the standard distance between studs. Studs are mostly present beside the windows, and outlets in a house. One can confirm the existence of the studs through metal using a strong stud finder. 

We can also confirm the locations of the studs by measuring them in a wall that isn’t metal and then transfer those measurements (from interior or exterior) to the opposite walls where we need measurements.

We can also use some scanners that are stronger than standard stud finders, but they tend to be expensive.

Can a stud finder work through aluminum siding?

No, like metal walls, standard stud finders cannot detect the location of studs through aluminum sidings. We have to get creative to find them or buy expensive scanners that use radar technology or strong electronic stud finders.

Many might think that it is quite easy to work through aluminum siding using stud finders. But it is not true at all. This is because the outer and inner wall significantly differs in thickness. 

As a result, instead of a stud finder, it is better to use advanced gadgets with high-technology to detect studs in aluminum sidings.

Do all stud finders detect metal studs?

Yes, almost all stud finders detect metal studs. Magnetic studs get attracted to materials that show magnetic properties. In this case, the metal studs show strong magnetic properties, and hence can be located using a magnetic finder. 

The electric stud finders detect the density changes while being swiped across a wall and beep when it does. That lets us find one edge of a stud and then the other. 

No matter the property of the stud, the density of a place in a wall that has no stud and the other which has a stud is different, as a result, it shows.

How to find studs through sheet metal or aluminum siding?

Sheet metal or aluminum sidings are primarily used on the exterior wall of a house and we will be providing below some ways through which we can find studs through metal walls.

Standard Construction Code:

Most houses follow the 16-inches stud spacing which is the standard stud spacing in almost all houses. Though it might be a bit different in the old houses the distance never strays too far from 12-inches to 24-inches. 

  • If there’s a fastener or nail installed on the wall already, we can easily use measurement tapes and find out the next stud.
  • If not, then, studs are present on either side of any window and can be measured from there. 
  • Then, there are electric outlets that are most of the time installed on either side of a stud and we can measure the studs using that.

Transferring Measurement from One Wall to the other:

Since standard stud finders don’t directly work on exterior walls due to their heavy layering of insulation, brick, mesh-work, metals. 

And on top of all those, a metal wall, we can work around the hurdle.

  • We can use the interior wall of that exact place where we want to locate the studs.
  • For that, we can use the windows, or the electrical outlets, and assess the stud positions.
  • Using a stud finder–which will work on interior walls since they’re usually either drywall or plaster, we can confirm the location of the stud.
  • After locating and marking the exact locations of the stud, we can do that by measuring the middle point of a window, then locating the studs from that distance. 

We have to transfer those exact positions to the exterior wall and work accordingly. 

Do stud finders detect pipes?

Yes, strong stud finders, which are costly, can detect electric lines, studs, and even pipes present behind the final wall.

Most of the walls are either made of drywall or plaster walls. Both these are thick and can be a problem when trying to locate studs behind these walls. 

Moreover, the interior of a wall contains pipes, electrical lines, studs, and so on and that wall is always covered by another layer of drywall or plaster wall. 

Which makes it hard for us to detect the locations of pipes, lines, and studs so that we don’t mistakenly drive a nail on something vital.

However, one of the stud finders in the market uses radar technology.  These stud finders can locate almost everything behind drywall, including pipes, electric lines, and studs.

Final thoughts

Most standard and cheap stud finders don’t work through metal since their working principle clashes with the material of the wall. Magnetic stud finders get attracted to metals. Since the wall itself is metal, they’re useless. Electronic stud finders are too weak to work through metal sheets.