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July 2010
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Around the neighborhood

Here are a few remodeling posts from around the net.

Hardwood Floor Installation at One Project Closer
An Excellent description of how to install hardwood flooring! Follow the links for the complete story.

The DIY Diva shows the Gas Station she is living in while she demos, remodels, and adds to her house.

A Concord Carpenter does a stunning cabinet installation

Over at Charles and Hudson is post about eliminating soffits in your kitchen.


Cabinet Caper

Had an old cabinet. Left side was a printer stand for tractor feed paper. Needed a file cabinet for the Closet Office.

Skilsaw action ensues.

Trim n Paint

Leftovers. No custom closet office is complete without a custom trash can.

Cut down old drawer front, made note and key board.

Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips: Pliers – Electricians Pliers

Just about every set of pliers I have mentioned previously Slip Joint, Vice Grips, have a ‘wire cutter’ at the base of the jaws. None of them work well.

The last set of pliers to consider for your remodeling toolkit is a pair of electricians/linesman’s pliers. I am going to show mine, My Klien’s. I am not bothering to show any other as it would just make them cry and in this category there is only one.

This is a Klein D200-9NE Linesmans Pliers.
These are the only set of electric pliers you will ever need. This is only my second pair. I had my first pair 15 years until somebody stole them. I have had these 10.

They cut wire, nails, screws and most hardened wire.(not that you will run into hardened wire in the typical house) The plastic handles are NOT an insulator, so make sure the electricity is off when using these around electricity!

Here is a closeup of the business end.

These are so well constructed you need to look close to see the rivet. The gap on the top is by design, and not a defect. In addition to being a superior wire cutter, (note the location of the rivet being closer to the cutting edge giving you more force applied for cutting) The ‘v’ opening on the left works to hold the end of the wire so you can bend it to fit around the screws as you install outlets and switches.

The slot on the bottom of the jaw works well as a wire stripper without nicking the wire. It takes a little practice to get used to, but one of the best electrician’s I ever met did all of his connections with only a set of Kliens and a screwdriver. He could cut, strip, twist and install a outlet or switch faster than you just read this sentence.

The milling on the jaw ends is crosshatched giving you more gripping power than a straight tooth.

They are so well machined that there is no side wobble even after 10 years. If I don’t lose these my kids will fight over them when I die.

Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips Pliers – Vice Grips

In my previous posting on slip joint pliers, I mentioned the versatility of them. One of the drawbacks to them is the ability of applying force to them while you are turning them. In the case of loosening a nut or bolt, you need to get a firm bite on it as you apply sideways pressure to turn it. The typical slip joint pliers is probably responsible for easily 50% of the profanity in remodeling projects, as well as keeping the band aid companies profitable.

For the most part, basic hand tools  have been invented and it is  details and quality which sets various tools apart. Occasionally something new does get invented that does one better. The Vice Grip Pliers is such a tool.

These are two  Vice Grip style pliers. The one on the left is a knock off that is so bad that the only identity mark on it is Taiwan. The one on the right is the real deal. Despite Vice Grip being bought by Irwin (another tool maker) the quality has not been compromised. I mentioned before that ‘branding’ is not necessarily any guarantee of quality. This is one of the few cases where the brand is the real deal.

Here is a detail of the various parts of it.

On the top in this photo is the ‘fixed ‘ handle containing the adjustment knob, spring(not visible) and the fixed jaw.

On the bottom is the movable  handle with quick release lever to release the tool after clamping it on your work, and the movable jaw. You use this by adjusting the jaws around your work and then clamping the handles together. The clamping action allows you to apply more force in turning than you get with ‘standard’ slip joint pliers. Here is a link for more info.

In addition to the positive locking feature, you also get a much broader range of sizes that you can clamp and turn, This 10” set will grip 3/4” galvanized pipe for example, without smashing your hands. (YMMV)

This is one of those cases where a tool can be improved.  You will not save money by buying a knock off. The no name on the left looks sorta close, but on examination you can see that the ends of the jaws do not meet, the teeth are junk, and the manufacturing quality is so poor they needed three rivets to hold the fixed jaw in place.

A vice grip is really the only adjustable pliers you will need in your remodeling kit. Highly recommended.

Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips: Pliers – Slip Joint

The most important thing in remodeling are your tools. For all you folks starting your first project to seasoned serial remodelers, what will set your work apart from the rest is your tools. Good Tools work better. Because they do their jobs well, your jobs will be easier and safer. Good tools last and perform better.

For those of you of a delicate persuasion who are offended by salty language, you should probably go somewhere else as it will be getting salty soon. The theory that some folks hold dear that profanity has no place in discourse and that folks who use it are somehow less intelligent, have limited vocabularies and or live in ‘those’ areas, have never remodeled.

But I am not here to cure Experience Deficit Disorder, I am talking Tools and Remodeling. Both of which require intelligence, specialized vocabularies, shopping in ‘those’ areas, and a desire to increase their knowledge and abilities. Moving on…

There are no magic brands out here or branding fairy dust that make shitty tools work better because they are a ‘brand name’ . Bullshit words like “Professional Grade, Industrial Grade” have become marketing slogans rather than qualitative distinctions in material, construction and fit and finish. Good tools are expensive. Shitty tools are cheap.

No finer examples of Branding Bullshit  can be demonstrated than by talking about the lowly pliers. You have at least one pair in your stuff, maybe two. The reason I have more is I hate giving up any tool. Either as something that I use every day, or as a painful reminder never ever to spend a dime on a particular ‘Brand’ ever again. That I post about it is gravy for you.

This is multi tool that everyone owns. These are what usually come to mind when somebody says, “Hand me a pair of Pliers” (No, I don’t know why pliers are referred to in the plural when in reality you are using a single tool)

These are standard slip joint pliers. On the left is a pair of “Stanley”, center is a “Fuller” right is a “Powermaster” When I was a child, learning carpentry and cabinetry from my grandfather, who was  a master cabinet maker from Sweden, there were Stanley tools all over. Not anymore. Since becoming a conglomorate, outsourcing their manufacturing, and slapping their name on any vaguely home related product, their quality has gone into the toilet. Here is an example of this.

As you can see the teeth are broken the chrome plating has worn and chipped. This plier was produced in Japan. Fuller has been building hand tools around 50 years and are a great  value where available. Also forged in Japan.  The tool on the right is a Powermaster I picked up in a box at a yard sale. Powermaster is a brand for a group of Korean foundry’s cranking out tools. Not a bad tool, but there are better choices.

All of these pliers have serrated jaws on the top for gripping material, The larger teeth are for gripping and twisting, small nuts, bolts and pipes. You can see the slip joint which allows the pliers to grip larger diameter material. The little slots below the larger teeth is allegedly a wire cutter, but trust me, none of them work well.

Things to look for in pliers.

Check that the biting surfaces are even and sharp. Uneven or dull teeth will not grip, will slip and hurt you.

Check that the outside ‘checkering’, knurling, outside surface is consistent in pattern,(not off center, disappearing) If it is not this not indicates how little they care about the outside, it also indicates that the tool is made out of trash material and will fail.

Check that the handles open and close smoothly, and there is no wobble at the slip joint. Here again, it is all about quality.

Check for a comfortable fit. Because unless you lose them they will be with you for a long time.

Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings 4

If you want to paint in Arizona near the outside, you need to start early. But it is done.

Here is where we started.

Here is a longer shot.

Here is the other side.

And here we are back at the Storage Project Wall.

Here is that start.

Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings 3

Got a late start on Wednesday, so we got the sanding done, the second coat of speed set done and the dust control mud up.

The seams have been spread out, and the nails and gouges have been filled.

Started early Thursday, did a quick sand and rolled the primer. Love Gripper Primer.

Could not put the finish color as by 9 am the ceiling was too hot. Early start in the morning.

Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings 2

In our last episode we had bagged the garage, and scraped the popcorn ceiling. So at the end of the day it basically looked like this.

You can see the straight lines that tell the tale of mechanical tools for taping. Tools work fine in the hands of an artisan. They are adjustable so that a really fine line can be set. Not the case here. On of the drawbacks to the homeowner/remodeler is repairing taping done with tools. Because the mud has extra water added to run though the ‘tools’ one of the unfortunate byproducts is the dust from sanding. Taping mud contains adhesives that help it to stick, and when you change the mix by adding water beyond the mfg. recommendations, it doesn’t work as well, and creates much more dust than normal.

The secret to living through sanding is getting someone else to do it:) In this case I enlisted the aid of my daughter, Amanda.

She is no stranger to remodeling having grown up around it, and working construction. Anyhow, after sanding and cleaning up the blizzard of dust, we spotted nails and taped seams with speed set. One of the other unfortunate aspects of using really soupy mud is shrinkage. So at the end of the day it is almost like redoing the taping completely as the paper  gouges, nail holes, and previous mud application was not feathered out.

Tomorrow, a quick sand, another coat of speed set in the morning, touch up, and a finish coat of Dust Control Mud, so that we can prime and paint on Thursday.  Hopefully, as the heat in this room is astonishing, having no insulation over the ceiling, having a cement blockwall with due west exposure, and outside temps over 100.

Removing Painted Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn Ceilings are really so over. They were another ‘innovation’ by builders to cut the cost of construction. Calling them Acoustic Ceilings was more of a marketing ploy rather than any serious sound deadening benefit.  Vermiculite and some sort of water based paint, they were fast and cheap. Tape, cover coat, and spray. No sanding No priming, just spray thick and move on to the next house.

Builders loved this shit, and real estate agents cried ‘elegance’.  A few years down the road, they turned gray from dust or an ivory yellow depending on how much you smoked.  Spiders loved them for all the anchor points for their webs. Sweeping them to get rid of the webs created more mess and loosened up what was left so you had a light snowfall over time. Painting them is an option, but is expensive. Since there is no primer, what ever paint you used, you would need twice as much, and the only useful color was white.

If you are ‘lucky’ enough to have popcorn that has been painted, removal is not as hard as you might think. Here is a ceiling that fits the bill.

Yes it is a garage ceiling.The ‘Elegance’ is just oozing out. Originally this garage was cinder block and firewall drywall. Behind the ladder is the storage unit I built from the recycled materials left over from the Storage Project.

Since this is an unfinished  garage we will not be covering the floors for the first part. Details on Red Rosin Paper are here.

The first order of business is to bag the walls. Cover them with poly. I am using.7 mil 12′ wide poly and  blue painters tape.

Blue Painters tape does not leave residue like regular masking tape and comes off cleanly. The 12′ length insures that the plastic will reach the floor around cabinets and other things next to the walls. If you bag the room there is a whole lot less cleanup. Bag the entire room.

Here I overlapped the plastic over the doorway into the house. This allows access for stuff in the garage while this project is happening.

Scraping the ceiling works best with a 6 or 8” drywall mud knife at around a 30 degree angle. Push the knife away from you in a steady motion to remove the maximum amount of material as you go. Less sanding later. You can use a wider knife but you will get tired real quick. Take your time as if there are any nail pops your knife will catch on them. Here is a partway shot.

This house was taped using ‘tools’. these are expensive mechanical tools usually reserved for large commercial projects. There are two indicators. One is the same width on the seam and butt joints. The other is the straight lines over the nail holes.

You will have small gouges in the drywall that will be fixed with mud after you clean up the mess.

Next up will be filling the gouges, sanding and taping the joints.