Posts Tagged ‘StudSensor’

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.

 

 

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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From time to time, major home improvement stores invite contractor customers to the store to enjoy complimentary coffee, juice, and a breakfast buffet. Select vendors also set up tables to display and demonstrate their latest tools. As I was performing Zircon demonstrations at one of these events, practically every contractor said he already owned at least one Zircon stud finder.  But then two twenty-something year old guys, and one 50ish year old guy who seemed like the boss, and his wife, walked up to the table.

“Missing the stud by just a hair can be a big problem when people hit plumbing or electrical on the side of the stud.”

“Missing the stud by just a hair can be a big problem when people hit plumbing or electrical on the side of the stud.”

One of the guys had just received a Zircon MultiScanner wall scanner for his birthday, but hadn’t used it yet. I took this opportunity to show him how it worked by using the scanner on our demo wall. I then handed him the tool so he could try for himself.  His friend was also interested in the tool and wanted to try it as well. However, when I asked the boss, he said he didn’t need a stud finder. He just knocks on the wall and listens.

Now, the boss seemed like the kind of guy who has more construction knowledge than I’ll ever have. I didn’t want to sound like I was telling him what he should do, so I explained why many people need stud finders.  I rationalized, “Yeah, knocking on the wall can work if you’re really good at it…But some walls are a lot harder than others if they’re thicker, and ceilings and floors are tough, right?

“But even with half-inch drywall, the reason so many people use stud finders is because a stud is only an inch and a half wide, so if they miss by just a little, they can end up putting a screw into plumbing or electrical that’s fastened to the side of the stud.”

The younger guys started laughing and chuckled,”How did you know? Dude! How did you know? That did happen to him (the boss) just last week!”

Wire bundle fastened to the side of a stud

Wire bundle fastened to the side of a stud

Looking a little embarrassed, but still proud and tough, the boss said, “Yes, Sir, I got zapped pretty good; knocked me on my butt, but by the grace of God, I was back to work the next day, and fishin’ the next evening.”

His wife, (who I guessed runs the business’s office, but didn’t seem to know anything about the minor electrical shock) said, ”Honey, I’m gonna get one of these stud finders, but we can keep it in your truck.”  And the boss smiled, and said, “Thanks babe, I love you, too.”  And they walked away with a top of the line Zircon MultiScanner Pro SL wall scanner.

That was many years ago, but even today when people talk to me about finding studs by knocking on the wall, I never imply they should stop doing this.  Using a stud finder should be done in addition to knocking, not instead of knocking! They should work together. Knocking on the wall is a very quick way to find the approximate location of the stud, but a stud sensor shows you the precise location, so you don’t miss by just a little… which could turn out to be a big problem.

Copper water line running along the side of a stud.

Copper water line running along the side of a stud.

It’s human nature for people to be much more receptive to trying something if they are not also being asked to stop something they have been doing for decades. Pros who swear by their Zircon tools on the job still tend to knock and listen.  It’s one more piece of information they can use to help map the wall, and they’ve been doing it for a long, long time.

So go ahead and knock. Use every tool you have to get the job done right: your mind, your knuckles, and your Zircon StudSensor.

Follow us @zircontools, visit Facebook or www.zircon.com for handy information on Zircon’s stud finders, including the MultiScanner Pro SL – This 4-in-1 wall scanner scans for studs, deep studs, metal, and live electrical wiring. The easy-to-read LCD display and SpotLite® Pointing System clearly indicates the edges of the stud.

For a Zircon in the Real World viewpoint, please visit our blog, “When a Wall is Not Just a Wall“.

Note: Photos were taken in a simulated lab environment used for testing and training purposes.