Posts Tagged ‘lath’

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.

We often get asked, why does my stud finder have trouble with lath and plaster when it works perfectly through drywall? Or, what is the best tool or technique for finding studs in lath and plaster walls?

The front of this lath and plaster wall is smooth - no problem for your stud finder.

The front of this lath and plaster wall is smooth – no problem for your stud finder.

Your Zircon stud finder finds studs by looking for an increase in density compared to where it was first calibrated on the wall.  Drywall and other manufactured sheet materials have very consistent density, but lath and plaster walls have very inconsistent density on the backside of the wall. This is where the plaster is squeezed between the lath and ‘keys’ onto the back of the lath and holds the plaster in place.

So, even if the front of the wall has a very smooth texture, the back of the wall is what gives your stud finder trouble because there are changes in density everywhere as you scan.

Shown here is a peek behind the wall. Lath and plaster walls have an irregular surface that are a problem for stud finders.

Shown here is a peek behind the wall. Lath and plaster walls have an irregular surface that are a problem for stud finders.

As a result, your stud finder can show a false positive (a stud indication when it is actually not a stud) when it finds an increase in density, even if it is just a glob of plaster.

The best solution is to use a Zircon MultiScanner® wall scanner that has Metal Scan Mode or one of Zircon’s dedicated metal detectors, such as the MetalliScanner® m40 or MetalliScanner® MT 6, so you can find the little nails or tacks that are fastening every piece of wood lath to the studs.

Use a Zircon metal detector to locate the nails that fasten each piece of lath to the studs.

Use a Zircon metal detector to locate the nails that fasten each piece of lath to the studs.

Since you can detect the nail heads all the way up and down the entire height of the stud with the Metal Scan mode, this is a much more reliable way to find studs.

Please see the video demo of an m40 finding studs through lath and plaster on the Zircon web site.

Note:  All photos were taken in a test lab environment.

Working on hanging a flat screen television or want DIY help? Make sure to take a look at our Zircon in the Real World blog, “Think Outside Your Wall“. For more useful tips, please follow us @zircontools or like us on Facebook.

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