Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Trying to determine the best use of your tool and not sure who or how to ask? After many decades of experience in working with pro users, I’ve consolidated some common FAQ’s that should help pros and DIYers alike get the most from their stud finder. These troubleshooting tips are designed to save you time, money, and headaches.

Top 5 Stud Finder Troubleshooting Tips

1) Check Your Battery. If your stud finder worked previously, but no longer seems to work, about 9 times out of 10, the problem is a weak battery. You may swear that the battery is still good, but it’s not.  Is the battery new from the store or new from the drawer?  Many people don’t realize batteries are no longer functional after their expiration date, even if they have never been used and that 9V batteries do not hold their charge as well as other battery types.

Each of these batteries has a printed expiration date, but they are all in different locations on the battery.

Each of these batteries has a printed expiration date, but they are all in different locations on the battery.

Many batteries have an expiration date printed on them; however, those dates are often an estimate, as batteries can often wear out earlier due to extreme hot or cold. One recent customer insisted his battery was good because the battery could still open his garage door, and “those garage doors are heavy!” Haha. Compared to garage doors and many other devices, stud finders require a very strong battery. When customers realize that the battery really is the problem, they are usually relieved that it was such a simple solution, and that their stud finder still works! You can find more battery tips by visiting the Zircon in the Real World blog, How is Your Battery?

2) Place First, then Scan. Put the tool up against the wall first, then press and hold the button to start scanning. Stud finders work by measuring the density behind the wall. The density over the stud is greater than the area away from the stud. Your stud finder automatically calibrates to your wall as soon as you turn it on.  If you mistakenly press the calibration button before the stud finder is placed on the wall, the stud finder will calibrate to the density of thin air instead of calibrating to your wall.

The Zircon® MultiScanner® i520 is an example of a center finding tool.

The Zircon® MultiScanner® i520 is an example of a center finding tool.

3) Are You on the Edge or on the Center? Determine if your stud finder is an ‘edge finder’ or a ‘center finder.’ A Zircon center finder will indicate both edges and the center of the stud. With an edge finder, the user must mark both edges of the stud to determine the center.  A common mistake is for a homeowner to mark only one edge of the stud which often leads to a screw placed at the stud edge and not at the center of the stud.

4)  Is it Drywall or Lath and Plaster? Your stud finder is designed to work with sheet materials like drywall or plywood.  If the wall is lath and plaster or some other material, you’ll need different solutions that you can find on my blog, The Secret to Finding Wood Studs in Lath and Plaster.

5) Mark it. Make sure to mark the stud edge on the wall with a pencil. Although DIYers often carefully locate the stud, they just eyeball where to place the screw. By doing so, they are only approximating where the stud edge actually is located -they miss the stud, and think the stud finder does not work effectively. I recommend using masking or painter’s tape on the wall, so the marks are not permanent. It’s also a good idea to use longer pieces of tape so you can ‘map out’ multiple stud locations in your work area (studs are normally spaced 16” or 24” apart on center).

We’re here to help!  In addition to these troubleshooting tips, Zircon has an online searchable knowledge base on many stud finding and scanning topics available 24/7. We also offer DIY personal end-user support Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm PST.  Call, email, or visit us online for the help that you may need. Help us help you.

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To Scan? Or Not to Scan? That is the Question.

I recently attended a large event for satellite dish installers who asked me for advice and tips on how to use Zircon® StudSensorTM or MultiScanner® stud finders on the roof to locate rafters. They were really surprised to hear that Zircon does not recommend these tools for outdoor use.  I hear the same reaction from solar panel installers.

At this new roof, we don’t see tar paper over the plywood yet because the construction workers are experimenting with a few different shingle patterns.

At this new roof, we don’t see tar paper over the plywood yet because the construction workers are experimenting with a few different shingle patterns.

The reason is that stud finders are designed to scan through sheet materials, such as drywall or plywood that have a fairly smooth surface and consistent thickness and density. A typical asphalt shingle roof has a layer of wood based sheet material, usually plywood or chipboard, and normally with a layer of tar paper.

Then, the asphalt shingles are  fastened to the roof with roofing nails. The difficulty with scanning for rafters is that the asphalt shingles now create an irregular scanning surface that can result in false positives (stud indication when a stud may not actually be present).

On many other irregular surfaces, I recommend switching to metal scan mode and locating screws, but that won’t work on the roof because you are unable to differentiate the screws that fasten the plywood to the rafters from the roofing nails.

Although our newest MultiScanner® x85 OneStep® wall scanner (capable of finding studs, detecting thermal changes, and locating live AC wiring) is also not recommended for outdoor use, it is more technologically advanced in scanning over inconsistent and irregular surfaces.

A MultiScanner® x85 scans through asphalt shingles and plywood and the tool indicates the center of a rafter at Zircon’s Research & Development department. Notice the LCD screen and the SpotLite® pointing system on the shingle.

A MultiScanner® x85 scans through asphalt shingles and plywood and the tool indicates the center of a rafter at Zircon’s Research & Development department. Notice the LCD screen and the SpotLite® pointing system on the shingle.

Hundreds of installers tested the x85 on a section of roofing with asphalt shingles that I had brought and compared it against some of our other stud finders. The response was tremendously positive! Although the x85 sometimes required recalibrating one or two times, the x85 definitely worked much better on irregular surfaces than the other models.

The x85 has advanced technology that improves its performance on irregular surfaces, but keep an eye on Zircon.com for new products actually designed for indoor and outdoor scanning.

The MultiScanner® x85 has advanced technology that improves its performance on irregular surfaces, but keep an eye on Zircon.com for new products actually designed for both indoor and outdoor scanning.

For this reason and despite our recommendation, many DIYers and professional contractors still use Zircon stud finders on exterior walls and roofs because they find that they still detect their target some of the time. While Zircon does not encourage these tools for exterior use, here are some tips that may increase the detection of rafters on asphalt shingle roofs (but not tile or wood shake roofs) if you plan to use it anyway.

1.  Place a piece of thin cardboard over the irregular surface and slowly scan over the cardboard.  Start in normal Stud Scan mode The cardboard will enable the tool to more smoothly scan over the area, but it also may work fine without cardboard.

2.  If your tool continuously blinks and beeps, it may be indicating calibration errors or a decrease in density. If this occurs, switch the scan mode to DeepScan® mode. The tool will still indicate increases in density, but it will disregard decreases. Note: you may need to recalibrate in a few different locations.

3.  Don’t assume the first indication of a rafter is correct. Scan the same surface area a few times and make sure the tool consistently indicates the same stud finding results in the same location each time AND also, scan for other rafters that are equally spaced such as the standard 16 in. spacing distance apart from the other rafters.

4.  Gently tap on the roof with your hammer and listen. Tapping over a rafter will often result in a more solid sound. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the rafter this way, it can help boost confidence in the location if the hammer results agree with your stud finder, However, remember stud finders are not recommended for outdoor use (although they are used anyway).

Because we understand the challenges and need for reliable and accurate tools for every environment, indoor or out, Zircon remains committed to this R&D endeavor and will have some exciting new tools to share in the coming months. Want to know more about what your stud finder is saying to you? View the Zircon in the Real World blog, “What is My StudSensor Telling Me?“. Also, please visit www.zircon.com for the latest information, follow us @zircontools or like us on Facebook.

CAUTION: Zircon® does not encourage or promote the use of Zircon’s tools to work on roofing or other exterior surfaces. The current Zircon® stud finders are made to work on interior surfaces. The blog herein suggests different methods that may or may not work. Always use caution when using tools. For Zircon’s complete instructions, please visit www.zircon.com.

Kurt_Stauss_photo updated

Sharpen your tools with Kurt as he shares his key insights of the hardware world and how to best improve construction safety and enhance job performance by using Zircon tools.

 

 

Famous for beautiful views, much of California’s Highway 1 runs along cliffs on the Pacific Coast, but mudslides from the steep terrain above Highway 1 often close sections of the road for months at a time, including here at Devil’s Slide.

Famous for beautiful views, much of California’s Highway 1 runs along cliffs on the Pacific Coast, but mudslides from the steep terrain above Highway 1 often close sections of the road for months at a time, including here at Devil’s Slide.

Zircon end-users really appreciate that they can call or email us with their questions and quickly get answers from someone who really knows the products very well. One day when I was covering a shift on Zircon’s end-user help desk, I got a call from the crew who were building the Devil’s Slide tunnel.

Entrance to Tunnel – The State of California decided to build 2 tunnels; 1 for northbound traffic, and 1 for southbound traffic.

Entrance to Tunnel – The State of California decided to build 2 tunnels; 1 for northbound traffic, and 1 for southbound traffic.

Each tunnel is approx. 4,200 feet long (about 4/5ths of a mile).  It is a much more challenging application for using the MT6 compared to a concrete and steel building or slab because of the massive amount of rebar. I told Zircon’s engineers that instead of a concrete wall with steel reinforcement, Devil’s Slide Tunnel is more like a steel wall with concrete filler.

Each tunnel is approx. 4,200 feet long (about 4/5ths of a mile). It is a much more challenging application for using the MT6 compared to a concrete and steel building or slab because of the massive amount of rebar. I told Zircon’s engineers that instead of a concrete wall with steel reinforcement, Devil’s Slide Tunnel is more like a steel wall with concrete filler.

They were having trouble using the Zircon MT6 to locate rebar in the ceilings of the mechanical room. They needed to miss the rebar to install ventilation. The problem was that the tool seemed to indicate metal everywhere.

Because Devil’s Slide is such a large infrastructure project, and in earthquake country, a massive amount of steel exists compared to a typical concrete wall or floor. I decided to go to the site to see if I could help them. Please see photos and captions for the solution we found.

The 2 tunnels are connected with 10 mechanical rooms, and this is the first location where they needed to use MT6. The California State contract requires that the workers must scan the concrete with a metal scanner such as the MT6 before penetrating it with a fastener to install this ventilation system.

The 2 tunnels are connected with 10 mechanical rooms, and this is the first location where they needed to use the MT6. The California State contract requires that the workers must scan the concrete with a metal scanner such as the MT6 before penetrating it with a fastener to install this ventilation system.

Before using any scanner the workers hit rebar about 1/3 of the times they drilled, so they would have to try a new location and patch the unneeded hole, as you can see in this first of ten mechanical rooms. But for mechanical rooms 2 – 10 (using a Zircon MT6) they were about 99% successful in missing the rebar.  Rather than focusing the MT6 to finding metal, instead we looked for the weakest signals, and that system worked.

Before using any scanner, the workers hit rebar about 1/3 of the times they drilled, so they would have to try a new location and patch the unneeded hole, as you can see in this first of ten mechanical rooms. But for mechanical rooms 2 – 10 (using a Zircon MT6) they were about 99% successful in missing the rebar. Rather than focusing the MT6 to finding metal, instead we looked for the weakest signals, and that system worked.

The next job for the MT6 was in the main tunnels.  Again the workers needed to scan before installing fasteners for Jet Fans, but now they would be high up in a bucket.  The light weight of the MT6 was perfect for performing multiple overhead scans, and they appreciated that it was very quick to scan and determine the weakest magnetic field where they could install a 4 ½ fastener and miss the rebar.

The next job for the MT6 was in the main tunnels. Again, the workers needed to scan before installing fasteners for Jet Fans, but now they would be high up in a bucket. The lightweight nature  of the MT6 was perfect for performing multiple overhead scans, and the workers appreciated that it was very quick to scan and determine the weakest magnetic field where they could install a 4 ½ inch fastener and miss the rebar.

When Zircon was doing research and development on the new x8 metal scanner we took a prototype unit to the crew at Devil’s Slide.  Although the MT6 had been an extremely useful tool that saved them a lot of time and money, they really liked the x8, and they completed the job of installing fasteners to support the jet fans in the tunnel using the x8.  Two features they especially liked on the x8 are 1) the lighted screen, and 2) the ability to select three sensitivity settings.  They suggested it needed a loop for a wrist strap to prevent dropping the x8, and we incorporated it into the final design.

When Zircon was doing research and development on the new MetalliScanner x8 metal scanner we took a prototype unit to the crew at Devil’s Slide. Although the MT6 had been an extremely useful tool that saved them a lot of time and money, they really liked the x8, and they completed the job of installing fasteners to support the jet fans in the tunnel using the x8. Two features they especially liked on the x8 are 1) the backlit screen, and 2) the ability to select three sensitivity settings. The workers suggested it needed a loop for a wrist strap to prevent dropping the x8, and we incorporated it into the final design.

The Devil’s Slide project is a great example of showcasing the ease of use, functionality, and performance of Zircon’s tools. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a professional tool user, we’re happy to answer your Zircon tool questions. Our Zircon in the Real World blog, “We Just Want it to Work” addresses this subject in more detail and I invite you to take a look. Please also follow us @zircontools, like us on Facebook, or visit http://www.zircon.com.