Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

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.

How to Find Studs through Stucco

I am often asked if it is possible to scan through stucco exterior walls. Contractors, remodelers, and DIYers are often surprised that Zircon does not recommend their tools for outdoor use on surfaces such as stucco. However, we have some tips that may still help you get the job done when you need to locate studs behind a stucco exterior wall.

Why Not Stucco?

Stud finders are designed to scan through sheet materials that have a consistent thickness and density and have a fairly smooth surface. Stucco walls typically have chicken wire, or some other metal mesh, embedded in the stucco and that metal barrier will prevent your stud finder from sensing the increased density necessary to locate the studs.

Real World Example

Al, a general contractor who has served as part of Zircon’s pro user focus groups for 15 years, recently encountered this problem. He had already built several redwood flower boxes and wanted to fasten the boxes to the exterior walls of the green stucco building.

The stucco exterior of this building contains metal mesh that prevents stud finders from working. (You can use a Zircon tool with metal scan mode to determine if there is metal mesh in the stucco).

The stucco exterior of this building contains metal mesh that prevents stud finders from working. (You can use a Zircon tool with metal scan mode to determine if there is metal mesh in the stucco).

While Al has been an expert user of Zircon products for many years, he was having difficulty finding the studs through the stucco due to the wire mesh.

Al explained that he wanted to fasten the flower boxes to the exterior walls of a commercial building, but he was having trouble finding the studs through the stucco. I proposed the tips outlined below, which can also work for people who need to install things like awnings, lighting, flag pole brackets, hand rails, or satellite dishes to stucco walls.

Work-Around Solution

The work-around solution is to locate the studs on the interior walls and then carefully measure the distance from the studs to a door or window, and transfer the exact same measurement to the outside of the building.

Locate the studs on an inside wall, and very carefully measure the distance from the studs to a window or door.  Tip: Don’t measure off the window trim.  Measure from the edge of the glass so you know the exact same reference point can be found outside.

Work-around Solution. Step 1. Locate the studs on an inside wall, and very carefully measure the distance from the studs to a window or door. Tip: Don’t measure off the window trim. Measure from the edge of the glass so you know the exact same reference point can be found outside.

Note, do not use the window trim as your reference point. Instead, measure from where you can actually see through the glass, so you know the reference point is the same on the inside as well as the outside of the building. And, of course, you must be very precise with your measurements! Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Measure twice, cut once!”

Work around Solution. Step 1. Next go outside and measure the distance from the edge of the glass to the studs behind the stucco exterior wall.  Although somewhat time consuming, many pro users have reported success with this method.  The key is being very careful with the measurements.

Work-around Solution. Step 2. Next go outside and measure the distance from the edge of the glass to the studs behind the stucco exterior wall. Although somewhat time consuming, many pro users have reported success with this method. The key is being very careful with the measurements.

This work-around solution can be time consuming, but well worth it and very necessary. Objects fastened to the exterior of the home are often heavy and exposed to wind force, so it is vital that the heavy objects are fastened securely. This method proved to be successful for Al and for many tradesmen that I have met with for several years.

Al needed to locate the studs to securely fasten the planter boxes he built to the stucco walls.  I advised him of the work around solution.

Project success. Al needed to locate the studs to securely fasten the planter boxes he built to the stucco walls. I advised him of the work-around solution.

Metal or No Metal?

To determine whether your stucco has metal or not, use a Zircon metal detector, such as the MetalliScanner® m40 or a MultiScanner® i520 in metal scan mode. Some newer construction buildings use a fiberglass product embedded in the stucco, so if there is no metal mesh, you can use the DeepScan® mode in your StudSensor™ or MultiScanner® stud finders. However, if the building has wire mesh in the stucco, then try these work around tips for locating studs behind stucco.

We’re Here to Help

Al’s situation, and those like his, is useful for Zircon to learn and use real-life settings to test, analyze, research, and engineer better tools. And by the way, you don’t need to have a friend at Zircon like Al does to call for help. Our customer service team of product experts are available to answer your questions at 1-800-245-9265 Mon – Fri, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. PST. You can also visit www.zircon.com.

For additional customer service insights, please view the popular Zircon in the Real World blog, “A Wall is a Wall is a Wall“.

Zircon continuously develops, designs, and manufactures a variety of new products that meet the needs of both professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. Be sure to follow them at Twitter, like them on Facebook, or visit www.zircon.com for the latest product news.

Kurt Stauss at Honeywell

Classroom training started with a video, followed by questions and answers, hands-on training on demonstration walls, and a written applications test.

Zircon has received requests for training at large industrial complexes around the country because the safety departments now require workers to fill out a form certifying that they have scanned the wall, floor or ceiling before workers penetrate these materials, whether they are concrete or drywall.

As these photos show, I conducted classroom and hands-on training for subcontractors who work at a Department of Energy (DOE) site managed by Honeywell, near Kansas City.  Each attendee was trained in the usage of the Zircon MetalliScanner MT6 and the Zircon MultiScanner i500. At the end of the training session, the attendees received a certificate after demonstrating basic proficiency in operating the MT6 and the MultiScanner i500.

The head of the safety department personally researched and tested various brands of metal detectors for concrete and multi-function wall scanners (stud finders) for drywall.  He could have selected different vendors for each category, but Zircon was selected to fulfill both goals based on the performance of the tools, and especially because of their ease of use.

Kurt Stauss at Honeywell near wall

First step in the training was to demonstrate that the MT6 worked in the environment, by locating high voltage lines in conduit in the wall behind me here

Before starting the classroom training, I was asked to demonstrate the MT6 onsite, as this would get the men excited about the capabilities of the MT6. At the onsite location, inside the wall behind me, there were high voltage electrical lines, but they didn’t tell me that.

I was easily able to locate and trace the power lines inside the steel conduit by using the MT6.  Of course, conduit offers some protection in many cases, but if a worker core drills through the wall in that location, it would cut through the conduit (and high voltage lines) like a hot knife through butter! The workers were thoroughly impressed with the performance of the MT6. (They want to get home safe every night)!

Kurt Stauss at Honeywell 3

The class laughed when one guy commented on how surprised he was that the MT6 works so well, considering how inexpensive it is.

I recently did a similar training at an Intel Chip Fab facility in Arizona and they selected the Zircon MetalliScanner MT6 and the MultiScanner i500.  One comment I hear repeatedly is that they knew about Zircon stud finders, but they had no idea Zircon also made such awesome concrete scanners!

(Note: Cameras are not allowed inside the high security DOE facility, but the photos were sent to me by a DOE staff photographer).

Zircon’s in the Real Blogs also provide a service and training perspective on popular subjects, such as the blog, “Does it Have X-Ray Vision?” For additional insights, please also visit us @zircontools, like us on Facebook or ivsit http://www.zircon.com.