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August 2008
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Drywall Screwblocks

The hardest part of drywall finishing is getting smooth butt joints. The hardest butt joints are those on your ceilings.

Drywall screwblocks can save you a lot of time and sanding.
You have to make these yourself as nobody sells them, and it is a good use for scrap wood.

Here is the typical procedure.
Hang the drywall.

Apply the tape coat and spot the nails.

Apply the second coat to fill the seams, spot the nails and apply a wide coat over the butt joints. The butt coats have to be wider to hide the fact that they are not recessed. They are also more time consuming and tiring, especially upside down.

Apply a wider coat on the butt joints, blending it into the seams, and spot the nails.

Sand the mud being careful not to expose the tape on the butt joints.

Prime the drywall and spot any defects you may have missed or appear when you paint.

Paint the primer and call it a day hopefully.

The ceiling is not strictly flat, but if you do the preceding well, you will not notice.

Now using screwblocks we will eliminate most of the taping of butt joints. We cut our sheets of drywall to meet between the ceiling joists rather than on top of them.

Here is how they work. Cut your sheet to the middle of a space between two joists. Nail or screw off the rest of the sheet. Install the screwblock above the drywall with the tar paper facing down. Attach it to the sheet with 2 drywall screws, being careful not to screw into the tarpaper. Cut and butt your next sheet, nailing or screwing it off. Screw the other end of the screwblock with 2 screws. The tarpaper acts as a shim so the drywall will bend up creating a recess that requires a lot less work to tape and get smooth.

Here is a ceiling joint with the screwblocks in place.


Drywall Fun – Coffered Ceilings

Ceilings are one of the most overlooked elements in your houses. Flat, boring and in a lot of cases in newer houses, a gigantic space to toss your money away. In reality anything over 7' is heating and cooling space you will never use, unless you have a trampoline or a really really high and bouncy bed.

One way to add a bit of drama and keep your energy bills reasonable to build a coffered ceiling.
Here is a coffered ceiling I built in my old house. This has four levels. The ceiling where the lights are is 8' off the floor. The lowest level is 7' off the floor. This is constructed entirely out of steel studs and drywall.
The steps are 12'' wide and 4'' tall.

This can be added to an existing ceiling by constructing the steps in series. It is a lot of work, but the results justify the time. If you can hang and tape drywall, you can do this.

This is a view of the ceiling partially framed in. This ceiling looks a little unusual as I built it inside a vaulted ceilinged room. But you get the idea. I suggest steel studs as they are lightweight, straight and easy to work with. You can also get them in lengths up to 20'.

Having constructed your coffers or steps you want to tape the inside corners before install ing the corner bead. Which you will need a lot of.

After your inside corners, are taped and your corner bead is installed, tape one side of the outside corners at a time. This will give you the space and time to sand your work straight and smooth.

 A lot of work, but the results are worth it.

Artroom Expansion 8

The electric rough-in is done. The plumbing is done and the insulation is up. This is one of the two windows we recycled from the old wall. It has been blue taped as we will be wrapping it with drywall and using 'L' bead on the window side, and cornerbead on the wall side. Before we start hanging we will plastic over it. Digging taping mud out of sliding window channels is one of those experiences you can go your whole life without missing.


On the east wall is the commercial exhaust fan which will have a thermostat mounted below it to keep this room semi-cool. There will be two electric kilns in here running 15 hours at a time. This is the other window we recycled.  

The south wall has a small slider that will act as the intake vent for the fan.
Tomorrow my son and I will hang the sheet rock while the rest of you kick back for Labor Day.

Artroom Expansion 7

Major Sheathing Operations are Complete!
The roofing is done thanks to the lads from Collum Roofing. In addition to roofing the expansion, we had them tear off and re-roof the original building. Despite the fact that shingles have spiked in price,(lots of oil goes into roofing shingles) They tore it off, carted it off, laid new 30# paper, new drip edge, and roofed it in 2 1/2 days. An outstanding job.

Meanwhile, I finished the sheathing, the cutouts for the exterior outlets and lights, roof vents, and the exhaust fan for removing the excess heat buildup from running the kilns. The caulking is almost complete. This room will be airtight.

The electrician finished his rough in, so we have 2 50 amp circuits for the kilns, GFCI's for the exterior outlets and separate circuits for lighting and outlets.
Artroom30 Next up is the pumbing rough in for the cleaning sink, insulation and drywall.

The interior party wall is almost taped off.
Hopefully I can get this hung by this weekend.

Siding by One

In assembling the Artroom Expansion we are using  vertical 4×8′ siding panels.

The key to getting a good paneling job is having a fixed point where
you can measure from. In this case we want to have a horizontal line to
match the panel bottoms, and a consistent measuring point.

You want to work smarter not harder. There are any number of ways to apply it with a crew, but when you work alone, it can be difficult. The mission is to make the expansion blend into the original structure. Part of that is to have the siding match. Part of that is to match the bottom.
Here is a photo showing the paneling being applied.

One of the easiest ways to establish a horizontal line is to use steel studs and track. It is straight. lightweight, and can be applied simply and quickly. The photo below shows a piece of track installed onto the slab below the bottom plate of our wood frame.
Siding2Here is a closeup of the track attached to the foundation with a steel stud inside to stiffen it. You now have a fixed plane to measure from as well as a temporary ledge to rest the panel for nailing or screwing’


Just a note here: the blue stuff between the treated base plate and the
concrete slab is sill sealer, which forms a water barrier between the
slab and the wood frame above. It has been amazing how many different
folks from other trades have stopped by and have never seen sill
sealer. Always use sill sealer between concrete and wood.

The tools you will need are a hammer drill, a carbide tipped masonry bit, ‘blue screws’ and a 4′ magnetic level. In my case I am using a Tapcon Condrive tool. This is an 18V Dewalt hammer drill, which is probably one of the more versatile tools you can own.

Start on one end of your slab, and using a level and a clamp or two, drive a screw thru the track into the foundation 4-6” from the end of the track. Using the level, drill and install a screw about every two feet, with one more in the end of the track. Continue this for the length of your wall. Take some steel studs and tap them into place, to form a ledge to measure from and to rest your panel while you are attaching it. Friction will hold the stud into the track.

This makes attaching the panels a breeze as you are not trying to line up, hold and nail at the same time.

This is the Condrive kit with all the toys. If you are building a lot of stuff or attaching things into concrete this is a tool you want to have.

It is very good for attaching cabinet bases to concrete floors as well. Like here in the Walk In Closet Project.

Here is one wall done and and the track setup for the next wall. The paneling is straight, and goes up easy. The bottom edge looks a little ragged, but that is just the photograph. There are little bits of caulk that have squeezed out, as I ran a bead of caulk at the base of the wall before I attached the panels.


When you are done you have a few small holes to fill in, but the time you save in installing the panels makes it worth it. Plus you can reuse the track and studs on other projects. Alas, the blue screws will be a loss however.

Removing Silicone Caulk a 12 Step Guide.

Jen over at Dogs and Jen is trying to remove silicone caulk  from her kitchen counter.

There are few compounds that go into remodeling that work better than Silicone Caulk. It is also one of the hardest things to remove. It can be done. Here is a 12 Step Guide

Before starting to hack away, get some cardboard and sheet plastic
and blue painters tape and tape off the counter, to protect it and to
make clean up easier.

[1] First step is use a utility knife and cut into the caulk at 45
degrees, cutting through the caulk into the drywall below the top of
the counter and below the wall line.

[2] Second use a single edge razor blade across the top edge of the
backsplash of the granite. Buy a box of a 100, as they will not go very
far)The backsplash is too wide to use a utility knife blade without
bleeding all over your counter. Use these to cut the caulk loose from
the backsplash. You should end up with a ribbon of caulk, that will
come out in one piece.

[3] Third use a blade (either or) to score the drywall paper just above
the caulk line on the wall. As lightly as possible to keep as much
integrity of the drywall intact.

[4] Fourth use the razor blades left from step 2 to cut the caulk from
the wall edge to below the level of the backsplash. You want to try to
just cut the paper lightly, so the wall repair area is a small as
possible. Remove the wall caulk and see what you have left. Scrape whatever remains off with your blades.

[5] Fifth (Open The Window) use either denatured alcohol or Goof Off on
a small sponge or cotton ball to soften the remaining silicone from the
backsplash top. Try not to get the drywall wet. Nothing will dissolve
cured silicone that you can buy readily, unless you like working with
real toxic compounds. When you have the silicone off, let it dry for a

[6] Sixth use a sharp putty knife to remove any remaining blobs of silicone sticking to the wall.

[7] Seventh, remove the debris, dust and bits of stuff, remove the
cardboard and plastic you used to protect your counter and gently wipe
down the granite.

Take a break, stop swearing and calm down.

[8] Eighth, Put down some fresh plastic on the counter. take your blue
painters tape and tape the backsplash covering it just past the back
edge. Here you want to try to get the wall edge just below the surface
of the granite edge. Put a second layer of blue tape over the first
piece not quite to the wall.

[9] Ninth, we need to spackle the wall where we cut the silicone out. My
personal choices are ’speed set’ drywall compound, or DAP pink spackle.
Mix, apply, let dry. Using the fine side of a foam sanding block, sand
it flat. The second piece of blue tape protects your backsplash as you

[10] Tenth, prime and paint the wall. Let dry.

[11] Eleventh, take a utility knife blade and carefully cut the tape off
the backsplash as close to the wall as you can. Remove the tape
carefully by tugging it off at an angle so the wall edge is a point as
you remove it. Touch up any boo boo’s.

[12] Twelfth, It is silicone time. This is probably a job for one of those small tubes of silicone. Cut the tip on an angle and practice on the inside of a cardboard
box to get a feel for your coverage and flow rate. You do not want to
have to use your finger to wipe down the silicone.

Caulk it, clean up and treat yourself.

Interior Design Insanity

Interior Design is one of those grey areas in life. What I like and what you like are different critters. How we get there is a personal choice. Interior Designers and their support group, ASID would have believe that you are not capable of making personal design choices.
Marginal Revolution is a blog unrelated to remodeling, (yeah I am more than a guy with a hammer and a skilsaw) has this nugget:

In Alabama it is illegal to recommend shades of paint without a license. In Nevada it is illegal to move any large piece of furniture for purposes of design without a license. In fact, hundreds of people have been prosecuted in Alabama and Nevada for practicing "interior design" without a license.
Source:Marginal Revolution Designing Monopoly
Note: the comments are worth reading also

I personally have yet to meet a interior designer that figures out what you want without specifying some high margin item available only to the trade, which usually blows any rational budget out of the water. But that is me.

Here is the Money Shot from Designing Cartels Through Censorship

In more than 30 years of advocating for regulation,

ASID has yet to identify a single incident resulting in
harm to anyone from an unlicensed interior designer.

Here is a link to this article.

Designing Cartels Through Censorship (PDF)

Flue Tile Planters

Flue tile is not one of those items most home owners will encounter. But they make snazzy planters. They come in lots of sizes,


Installing pre hung doors.

Pre hung doors. Jambs, door, and casing in one convenient package. Pre mortised, for the hinges, pre drilled for knobs and locks, complete with trim, they can be a great time saver for anybody who needs doors.  They are also one of the more difficult things to install correctly.

Rough Opening Anatomy
A typical wood frame rough opening looks like this.


The header bears the weight of the walls and roof and transfers it
to the trimmer and  king stud. The trimmer holds the end of the header,
and the king stud holds the trimmer in place.

Tip: When building door and window openings, select the clearest lumber
you can. Not having to nail or screw through knots is worth a lot. Also
nail or screw the trimmers and king studs from both sides, into each
other. The same for the header.

When replacing a door in an existing wall, hope for the best.

Rough Opening Calculations
Typically a rough opening is sized 2'' wider than the door width and 2 3/4'' taller than the door height. Example: Door size: 3' 0" x 6'8" Rough Opening: 38" x 82 3/4"
This gives you room to move to cover variations in plumb, level and square. Mike Merisko has a concise guide here. These calculations are generous, and can be made smaller depending on how well the original framing was done. The less shimming you have to do the better.

Checking the opening.
You need to get your level out and check the frame for plumb, so when you install the door it is plumb and will work correctly. I wrote about this here. The header for level and the floor. The floor is important as you will probably need to either shorten or shim up one jamb or the other depending on how it runs. The height of the gap of the bottom of the door is important depending upon what you are doing for flooring.

Squaring the frame

Your door has come from the factory with a plastic widgit through the lock hole and the frame to keep the door from swinging out of the frame for shipping. There is also a strip of wood or a threshold attached to the bottom of the door. Before you remove them we want to add some strips to the door to keep it in place before we install it.

We need a couple of measurements. Check that the gap is equal between the door and the frame. On the hinge side of the door, we want the measurement across the outside of the frame. We will need a couple of pieces of 1/2'' plywood about 4'' wide, cut an 1/8'' smaller than the width of the frame. The 1/8'' allows you to leave a small reveal on both sides, so the door will slide into your opening. One goes on the top of the door frame, with two screws on either jamb and one into the head jamb. The other one goes below the bottom hinge but above the floor. Check your gaps before attaching them. The more care you take here the less swearing you may do later:)

On the other side we need the inside dimension between the jambs. What we will do is cut a couple of 2×4's to the inside number. Cut a couple of 1/2'' plywood strips to the outside dimension. Center and attach the 2×4's to the plywood strips. The 2×4's are acting as stretchers to keep the door square. Attach the plywood/2×4 stretcher to the door frame with 1 – 1 1/4'' inch screws.

Do Not screw through the frame sideways into the 2×4!! They are spacers and are attached to the plywood. Once you attach the door you will not get those screws out. You will end up buying another door and doing it all over. Your friends will laugh, and the noisy neighbor will call the police if you try to remove the body of the door wrapped in carpet. They will laugh too.

Inside Details

This door is going between an existing wall into the new space. The bit of plywood on the left is attached to guide the frame to be level with the drywall, minimizing caulking or  other trim work.

Prefit the door and check the top gap across the door and frame. This is where you check to see if you need to cut the bottom of the door frame because your floor is not level. 

Cut or shim the legs as required, reset the door and begin attachment. Center the door in the opening, Shim as necessary and begin.

Be careful that you are allowing enough room at the bottom of the door to allow it to open and close over what your floor covering will be.

Shims are small pieces of wood with a triangular cross section. You use them in pairs. the point is to have a flat surface to attach your fasteners through. They can be offset if your trimmers are twisted. Take care when doing this however.

Whenever I install pre hung doors, I like to attach them with screws rather than nails. You can make micro adjustments with a screwdriver.  I always attach the hinge side first. Drag out your level and check the door frame is plumb before attaching it to your framing. I attach it just above the hinge on the bottom, above the middle hinge or center depending on how many hinges, and just below the bottom hinge.

Next I attach the lock side, at the bottom, just above the lock plate, and below the upper inside corner. Now the door will not fall down or twist in the frame when you undo the plywood from the hinge side. 

Moving to the hinge side, remove the plywood, and open the door just a little bit, to check the swing. If you have shimmed properly the door will stop where you let it go and will not try to open or close. This is Plumb.  Check that your gaps on the  hinge and lock side are correct and equal. This is square.

You can now finish the attachment, make any final adjustments and move to the next project. 

The small holes will easily be puttied or covered by the trim depending on your attachment.

You now have a solid door assembly that is much easier to move into position and to square up.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't.

Artroom Expansion 6

Currently in Arizona it is the monsoon season, which gives us rain in frog strangling downpours, from what anywhere else appear to be clear skies. It happens about that fast.

The Artroom's roof is 10 years old, and is a miracle in staying power, as the shingles are really dry and brittle. So we are having roofers stop by to bid on replacing the shingles on the old roof and roofing the Expansion. This is a challenge as the storm last week has a lot of them repairing damage around the Valley.

Meanwhile, we have sheathed the roof, and installed the fascia, which we used a rough sawn siding plank ripped to size to match the existing fascia on the artroom. That being done, the roof is ready for roofing.

To avoid doing twice the work, we bagged the roof deck. Ran plastic sheeting across the whole thing.

Trust me, there is nothing less pleasant than your new roof decking
going from flat to something resembling dunes in the desert. It makes roofing a more of challenge than normal.

Because the expansion's doorway is through the existing wall, this area must be framed up before we can apply the exterior siding. We are framing in a smaller window over the wash sink in the artroom, covering the old A/C hole and reframing the wall for the new door.
Here is that process from the expansion side.

The drywall wraps from the artroom had to be removed to place the window, blocking installed for the drywall to attach.

 Tech Tip: When removing drywall wraps in window openings, work from the new side using a prybar to loosen the drywall and cornerbead. This allows you to remove the corner bead and drywall from the 'backside' leaving a relatively clean line for the repair of the existing drywall.

Framing for the doorway had its own challenges, as the counters and sink in the artroom are in place. Not to mention the 2 tons of stained glass in racks below them. So we started with the outside framing, measuring and cutting back the studs and header to accept the new door frame, keeping the repair to a minimum.

Here is the other side.


Next up is installing the door, and getting a tape coat on the patched areas.