Studs are important parts in framing up the wall as explained here. They are slender pieces of wood sandwich in between the drywall and are spaced equally with each other. This means that they act as resistance that gives the drywall its durability as you make your renovations.
If you try to attach a TV frame, a small cabinet, or hooks, it is important that you attach those materials to parts of the wall where the stud is located. The stud finder is a very useful tool that can help you locate that. However, some practitioners and workers use stud finders on roofs to locate rafters.
Companies producing great stud finders like Zircon don’t recommend using them for outside use. There is a reason why it is not possible and there seems to be a way on how the said practitioners and workers are able to utilize them for roofing applications.
The reason why stud finders are not applicable to roofing applications is because of irregular surface. Stud finders can only work if the surface they are scanning is smooth.
They work best in an interior because the drywall has a plain surface. Studs can be detected since there is a designated thickness and wood density in which the stud finder can function well. There may be a difficulty if the plywood is thicker but still, a stud finder is able to scan through the smooth surface.
The problem, when used for roofs, is that the surface is irregular. For an analogy, drywall is to roof shingles and stud is to rafters. So, if you are using a stud finder on a roof, you are using it to detect a rafter.
However, roof shingles have irregular patterns that make the scanning difficult. Aside from that, the density may different than the one a stud finder is designed for. The scanning can result in false positives.
The workers who are able to use stud finders for roofing applications are the ones who install solar panels. It is important to locate the rafters in order to nail the frame of their systems and have stable positions. In order to use the stud finder, here are the things they did:
Placing a thin piece of cardboard above the roof shingle so that the stud finder can have a plain surface to scan on.
When the device is beeping and blinking, it is an indication that there are errors in calibration. Switch the scanning mode into ‘Deep Scan’ and repeat the scanning process. Note that occasional recalibration is needed as you proceed to scan for rafters on other locations.
The first scan is not enough. Try once or twice again and see to it the results remain consistent. If the detections remain positive through the repetitions, then the chance of detecting a rafter is very high. Since rafters are equally spaced, you can use that logic to predict their locations.
For confirmation, you can use the hammer test. You can gently tap with a hammer the roof location where there is a detected rafter and listen to its sound. If it sounds ‘solid’ enough, then it is a confirmation that a rafter is located beneath that spot.
Stud finder manufacturers have been improving their devices to be able to use on irregular surfaces. Better to invest in them if you want to achieve accurate results with minimal effort.
One mistake on detection might create a hole in the roof or damage on drywall with wallpaper on it. Stud finders are invented in order to avoid making such costly mistakes.
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