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September 2021
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Storage Project 4 Details - Long Post

At the beginning of the Storage Project I said, “What I am going to do is to open this side of this wall, remove the pocket door and frame in the opening, remove the short wall between the existing opening and the new wall creating a long storage room. I will wire it for cable, network and electricity for future uses.”
This is standard stuff and sounds easy. If you do this for a living it is. If you are just starting with a small project around your house, here are some of the drywall detail work to help you conquer your projects.

I have mentioned that I screw drywall. After you have bought the basic drill, circular saw, and hand tools, you very next purchase should be a screwgun. Screws work better for holding drywall. A screwgun has an adjustable nose so you can set depth of your screws just below the surface. This is important because of the design of drywall screws and the ability of them to hold the drywall to the walls without popping.
You cannot use a regular drill and get a consistent depth for maximum holding power by hand. You will be either not deep enough requiring you to use a screw driver to get them deep enough or you will go to deep past the paper making the screw useless in terms of holding power. Trust me on this one.

Here are a few of the details on this project.
Wall Fix.
This is the wall where we removed the small wall that formed part of the old storage closet.

The ceiling is how they hung the drywall just over the top plate. You can barely make out the mesh tape I have bridged the gap with. The wall was a little different. I cut a line into the inside of all the corners before removing the old drywall, to prevent the walls from running. After I removed the old drywall and studs, I used a 4” mud knife and slid it along the wall cutting into the leftover corner material before filling in the gap left by the old studs. I screwed the drywall to the blocking that was in the wall that they used to build this wall. I meshed taped both seams. This will be filled with speed set. I use speed set for pre fill as it dries quickly and shrinks very little requiring much less labor to blend. (That comes later when I skim coat) Also I can add less water to produce a stiffer mix to fill these gaps without runs or bulges.

Ceiling Outlet Repair

This is a typical ceiling outlet hole.  This is made by using a circle cutter and then bashing it open with a drywall hammer. When you are hanging footage, it takes 5 seconds to bash the hole, and up to 30 seconds to use a keyhole saw. Bashing the hole this way breaks the core of the back side of the drywall, which you remove by sweeping it with the hatchet side of your drywall hammer. You should take the time to cut these out with a keyhole saw.

I mention this because if you have small pot lights or retro fit ceiling cans, that keeping falling down or loosening up, this is the reason. There is not enough material around the sides to allow the clamps to hold it tight to the ceiling. You can loosen the clamps, rotate the light and hope you get lucky, or remove the light and build up the top of the sheet with compound. It doesn’t work very well in most cases.

Squaring the hole.

Just like it sounds. Cut a square scrap of drywall, cover the hole, trace around it, and cut it with keyhole saw.


Install blocking above your hole. This is a scrap lumber that is long enough to extend beyond the cut line and narrow enough so that you can hold it tight while you screw it in place. The point here is to repair the area and keep it flat. On walls you can use the “tapeless drywall patch technique” But on ceilings I recommend blocking.


Screw in the block that you used as a template for cutting the hole.

Mesh tape and you are ready for mud.

Here is a wall patch. This was an exploratory hole for a cable run into the dining room. Measurements get you only so far, Sometimes you just have to perform surgery. Here also I used blocking rather than a tapeless patch which is really much better on smooth walls.

Here is our hole covered before skim coating.

Here is another patch. This is actually a twofer. When I disconnected this outlet, it turned out not to stop here but was also connected to the porch light. So I had to cut it open both top and bottom to trace the wiring. I wire nutted the connections, pushed them in the box, and will be covering this with blank cover plate.

Never !Ever! bury  a box that contains live circuits. It is against code, and if there is ever any problem, you or your electrician will thank me.

Note that I covered the box opening with blue tape. This prevents filling the box with mud as you work. This saves time and aggravation when it comes time to  install outlets,switches,  and cover plates.

It makes taping easier not having to worry about crap in the box or loose wires sticking out, live or not.

Drywall over Concrete
This is the west end of the storage area. On the left and back is the concrete block that forms part of the veranda in front and the garage wall.

Here we use drywall with heavy adhesive(PowerGrab) on the back and use short spiral shank concrete nails to hold it in place while the glue sets. Here is the intrepid client lending a hand.

In the photo below on the right side, the brown area is where we did not cut the inside corner deep enough  so when we pulled the drywall down, the top ran, taking the paint and texture off. This will have to be pre-filled before skimcoating.

The walls are taped and covered coated prior to skim coating the walls smooth. Because there is so much patching, skim coating is the best wall treatment.

Skim Coating
Because of depth of texture multiple coats of mud will be needed. This is the first coat applied vertically. The second coat should be applied horizontally, and the final coat, with vertically. I used speed set for the fill coats and Dust Control mud for the final coat. Because you have to sand it smooth eventually:)

Second Coat.

Sanded and Primed

Not everything goes according to plan. In finishing up one last connection in the attic, which is another whole post. Suffice to say , in arizona the shortest distance for wiring is anywhere you want.

Attics are dark dusty, and slippery.

One small step for mankind, one more repair for the taper.

Here we installed blocking between the ceiling joists, and screwed through the joists into the blocks with 3” screws, because folks will step on any thing that looks solid. So screw up the drywall, tape over the cracks, and skim over it.

The repaired area is in the middle of the ceiling over the end light. Came out okay.

These are some of the most common challenges you may face in remodeling, but hopefully not all at the same time or in the same room.

Before You Remodel – Utilities

You have a house and you want to change it. I say go for it, but I remodel a lot.   A good idea before you begin remodeling is to figure out where stuff is. This serves two important functions.

First, it helps you to understand how stuff works in your house, helping you become familiar with things that you will contact once you start opening up walls or changing fixtures.

Second, if you have a professional helping you for work that you are not comfortable doing, knowing where stuff is helps them do their job better and faster saving you money.

This is a rough guide on how to find out where the primary utilities Electricity, Water and Natural Gas, are and what they do. You may want to get a (big) three ring binder with plastic pocket pages to hold various things you discover as well as manuals for your appliances. You can use this to track your progress as well as keeping your notes and things in one spot.


Find out where your main panel is and how big it is, how many breakers you have, whether or not you have any blank spaces for expansion, and most importantly where your circuits go, and what they feed. Get a piece of paper and draw a picture of your panel.  Ignore the writing on the panel around the 15 and 20 amp breakers especially if it is an older house. Take another piece of paper and make a drawing of the rooms of your house. As you test the outlets and lights make marks on it showing the locations. Your panel has numbers on it so you can mark down what circuit feeds what outlets and or lights.

Buy a simple plug in circuit tester with lights on it to test your outlets. They are only a few bucks and can save you lots. The lights will indicate that you have a properly wired outlet, or if there is a problem what it is like having reversed wiring. (the Black wire is the Hot and goes on the gold screw of your outlet, the White wire is the Neutral and goes on the silver screw of your outlet, the bare copper wire is the Ground and is attached to the Green screw-There are No Exceptions to this. ), an open neutral or open ground. Open meaning that there is a connection missing in the white path or the ground wire back to the panel. In either case this is something that must be corrected.

First start with the largest breakers 30, and 50 amps. Most 50 amp circuits are for electric stoves, electric heaters and a/c units. If you have a really large house with a 200 or 400 amp service you may see a 100 amp breaker, but it is uncommon in most houses. Confirm that they actually control what is marked on the panel. Turn off the breaker and try to run the appliances that they say they control. Mark it down on your paper.

Next start on the 20 amp breakers and turning them off one at a time. Plug in your tester into your wall receptacles until you have no lights on the tester. Once you find one, check the rest of the outlets in the room you are in. Also check the outlets in the next rooms on shared walls. There is no requirement for circuits to feed a single room. There is only a requirement on the maximum number of devices on a circuit. A single circuit can span multiple rooms. Normally 20amp breakers feed outlets, and 15 amp breakers feed your lights. Test the lights at the same time. They should be separate, but in tract homes, saving a few bucks on wire by feeding a light off a outlet circuit is much more common than folks admit.

Also is the devils spawn of the switched outlet. Some designer somewhere decided to eliminate overhead lights and use the switch to turn on and off an outlet, the theory being that it was more elegant or some such nonsense. If you don’t have a ceiling light, you probably have a switched outlet. And these can be on a totally separate circuit daisy chained with other rooms with switched outlets.

Yes the first few breakers will have you testing every outlet in the house, but as you go the number of choices will go down as you cross off rooms on your list. Mark these down on your paper. Continue until you have identified every breaker and circuit in your house.

While you are tracking down your circuits, also test  your GFCI outlets in the bathroom, kitchen and anywhere else they may be, most typically on exterior outlets.

Take new  paper and make a clean copies of what you have discovered and put them somewhere safe. So when you go to remodel you will know what to turn off.


Find your city main shutoff and note its location. Check all your plumbing fixtures to see that they do not leak and that the shutoffs work properly.Turn them off and check that water is not leaking past them. If they are jammed or do not work properly, make a note to replace them. To prevent this problem in the future, cycle them monthly.

Check to see if you have a shut off in your house from the city line so that you can turn off the water in your house without needing the weird wrench most cities use for their shut offs.

Kitchen: Check the shut offs by turning them off and turning on the faucets, one at a time. Check for manufacturer names and model numbers where applicable in case you need or want to repair vs replace.  Check the bottom of the sink cabinet for leaks. Check around your garbage disposal for leaks or looseness.  Check your dishwasher connections.

Bathroom: Check the shut offs, and test them including the toilet shut off.

Check your water heater. Find out if it is gas or electric and where the shut down and start up procedures are. Check it for corrosion and leaks. You will also find draining instructions. You should drain it on a regular schedule depending on the manufacturers recommendations or more frequently if you live in a high mineral area like Arizona.

Check your laundry room washer connections and shut offs and examine the supply hoses for age. Especially if your laundry room is in an unheated portion of your house. If you have a utility sink, check its shut offs. Your dryer should be checked to see that vent to the outside is clean. If it is electric, you should have discovered what breaker controls it already.

Also check your drains for leakage, loose couplings, and damage.

In Arizona and parts of the southwest an item of interest and irritation are swamp coolers. Basically a box that sprays water on aspen pads and a fan that circulates ‘cool’ moist air through your duct system. They require regular pad replacement. Checks for leaks not only at the shut off, but also with the pans rusting out, pumps failing, fans stopping and belts breaking.

Natural Gas

Find the meter and shut off and make a note. Check all your appliances that use gas, and use soapy water and a small brush to check for leaks at the couplings. Water heaters, Gas dryers, Furnaces, stoves and ovens. If you do not have instructions for shut off and start up, make a note of the name and model number, visit the manufacturers websites and download what you need.

Good hunting!

Storage Project 1

Storage, Storage, Storage!!! You have stuff, I have stuff, everybody has stuff. You need to store your stuff. Unless you live in a warehouse, you probably don’t have enough storage space. I am not talking about hoarding,  collecting burger shop glasses, or hobbies that involve large stationary power tools, but  just normal stuff.

Holiday stuff, camping stuff, sports stuff, and for those of you who live up north, your winter and summer stuff. (You know who you are and you know what I mean)

This is a photo of folks who have stuff. Look carefully at the photo as I explain how we will make storage. This is the back end of a garage.

Notice first the wire shelving on the left. It is a stainless steel rolling unit from Costco. About 90 bucks and worth every penny. It comes with 6 shelves that are 48” wide and 16” deep. It comes with serious 4”solid rubber casters and is 6 feet high when assembled. (I own 2 of them and recommend them highly) It is rated at 600 lbs, but in my own field testing have put more on them.  Moving on…

If you look about a foot to the left of the open door you will notice a 3-4” concrete curb. This curb is actually  part of the house slab.  The garage floor is at grade level.  The curb is going to support a wall that will run the width of the garage (23′) and be 44” deep inside.

This is the east side looking from the garage door area. It is 10 feet across from the door to the wall. Here I will frame a wall with a 36” steel door across this entire opening to meet the wall on the right.

This is the other side with the ‘storage’ originally designed. On the right is a storage unit that was added later. It is full too.

This unit has a pocket door, which is the only intelligent idea here. What I am going to do is to open this side of this wall,  remove the pocket door and frame in the opening, remove the short wall between the existing opening and the new wall creating a long storage room. I will wire it for cable, network and electricity for future uses. Stay tuned.

Nail Guide for DIY’ers – Other Nails

In remodeling now that we have looked at Framing Nails and Finish Nails, we come to the other nails that may end up on your projects. Up till now we have looked at steel nails used in construction in interior and dry locations. Exterior locations, drywall, paneling and wood to concrete use speciality nails. Here is a photo of probably the most used nails in these categories.


From left to right are Galvanized, ringshank and phosphate drywall nails, and concrete nails. These are the most common types of nails most DIY’ers will need. Below we take a closer look.

Galvanized Nails
From top to bottom we have Sinkers, Roofing, and Exterior siding nails.
Galvanized nails are coated with zinc to inhibit rust and are used in exterior locations. There are three current galvanizing methods, Hot dip, mechanical and electro-plating.
Most framing nails and some finish are available galvanized for locations that are exposed to moisture, like exterior trim, siding and roofing.
The top nail is a 16d hot dip sinker, the middle nail is an electroplated roofing nail, and the bottom is a 4d mechanically galvanized siding nail for siding and or wood shingles.
Quick rule of thumb: if it is outside it needs to be galvanized.

Ringshank and Drywall Nails
Ring shank nails increase the surface area that can be gripped, increasing the friction and resistance to pull out and removal.
From top is a 2” ring-shank paneling nail, a ringshank drywall nail and a southwestern phosphate coated drywall nail.
Ring shank panel nails are used most often in attaching plywood and or particle board sub flooring.
Drywall ring shank nails perform the same function on walls and ceilings. Phosphate drywall nails were developed to minimize rusting behind taping mud, and as far as I know are one of those weird southwestern nail deals. The coating may provide some friction benefit like coated nails, but I do not know.

Concrete Nails
Concrete nails are much harder than regular nails, and eye protection really needs to be worn. You should use eyeware protection in any case in remodeling and construction, but especially when using concrete nails.
The top nail is called a Cut nail. These nails are forged rather than drawn like wire nails. Subsequently they are harder and chip easier than wire nails. These are primarily used to fasten wood to masonry or concrete. Like furring strips to the interior of brick or block houses. Despite having around 4 times more holding power than a equally sized wire nail, they have been replaced by fluted nails, sleeve and wedge anchors for attaching bottom plates to concrete floors.
The bottom one is a fluted concrete nail, doing basically the same thing.

So there you have it. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about nails.

Nail Guide for DIY'ers - Finish Nails

Having explored Framing Nails, I am jumping ahead to Finish Nails. I will deal with the nails between the wood and trim (drywall, paneling,and specialty nails) next post.

Finish Nails are the ‘headless’ nails used primarily for trim work, hence finish. They come in a variety of sizes for fastening things that will be exposed or where  materials will be finished such as window and door frames in wood, where a big headed nail may look bad.

Here is a photo of  a selection of finish nails from 16d [3 1/2”] to 4d [1 1/2”]. (Note Nails smaller than 1 1/2” are called ‘brads’ and are sold by length.)


They are called headless, but they do have a small head. They also have a diamond point on the other end. I need to take a moment to talk about how nails work.

Nails are friction holding devices. The wood surrounding the nail provides the friction that allows things to stay together and not fall apart. That is it. The little bits of friction and a bit of gravity is the only thing keeping the big bad wolf or storms from sucking your house off its foundation and sending it to Oz or someone else’s house. (Or in my case, concrete anchors, construction adhesives, nails, deck screws, strong tie hangers and brackets…) Relax, they have been doing their job well for hundreds of years.

I mentioned in the framing nail posting how various coatings are used on framing nails to increase the holding power of the nail. Vinyl, Epoxy, Cement. Not so much with finish nails. The only notable exception are galvanized nails for exterior use.

Because nails work by friction, splitting your wood  removes the friction necessary to your nails doing their job and makes your work look bad. The closer you get to the edge or end of a piece of wood,(Composites don’t count.) the greater the chances of the nail splitting it, and causing problems. All nails have points, which is good news/bad news. Good news in knowing which direction to point them, bad news for edge nailing including toe nailing which is not used much anymore.

The point of the nail literally cuts the wood fibers as you drive it in. This is a bad thing for the friction game especially if you split the wood. You can minimize this. When getting ready to drive a nail into an edge or end, flip it over and tap the point with your hammer to blunt the point of the nail before driving it.


What this  does is push the wood fibers out of the way rather than cutting them maintaining the maximum friction and holding power. I learned this from my grandfather who was a master cabinet maker from Sweden, and it hasn’t let me down yet.

With every nailing operation except for duplex nails, your goal is to drive the nail just below the surface. Occasionally you will slip and damage the lumber with a hammer mark. In rough framing this is not a real issue, as it will be covered by something and have trim.

On trim however, this is an issue. There is a tool for that. It is called a nail set. A nail set is a small tool with a semi flat point to allow you do tap the head of finish nails below the surface of your trim.


You want to take care to just drive the nail far enough so that any filler you use to hide the nail hole will be easy to finish.

For the majority of your home remodeling projects you will only need 2 sizes 8d and 4d


The 8d will cover setting door and window frames, applying 1x-3/4” trims and other areas where appearance is an issue. The 4d will handle all of your case and base work. You will only need to buy these in pound quantities. The only other optional size would be a small box of 16d’s for temporary hangers like coat racks and interior jambs on exterior doors that have 1 1/2 ” or thicker jambs.

Happy Nailing.

Nail Guide for DIY'ers - Framing Nails

One of the most basic things in building and remodeling are nails. Your entire house, except for the brick and concrete bits is built and held together with nails.  When you walk into the hardware store looking for nails, there is a huge selection of types, sizes, coatings and finishes. One of the things that stops a lot of folks from doing remodeling projects is the wide selection of just the basic stuff like nails.

This is a guide to the most useful nails that you will need for your projects. First up are Framing Nails. Framing nails are used in building walls, roofs, applying sheathing, sub-flooring, and just about everywhere construction lumber is used.

Here are a selection of nails from my   nail carry around. From left to right are a 16d Duplex, a 16d sinker, a 10d common, a 10d box, a 8d sinker, a 6d common, and a 6d box nail.
These are the most common nails that are used in building and remodeling projects

Framing nails come in three basic styles.  Sinkers, Common and Box. Nail sizes  are designated by (d) (penny) which was how much a hundred nails cost, by size back in England. More info on this at Wikipedia. Yeah I know it is weird, but let’s move on.

Sinkers and Commons are the same physical size in both thickness and length.  Sinkers have a waffle pattern on the top of the head to help drive the nails by providing a non skid surface for the hammer face and come in a number of coating styles. Sinkers sre available with vinyl, epoxy and cement coatings. They are also available with a galvanized coating for locations that may be exposed to water. These coatings improve the holding power of the nails significantly. They also make you swear a lot when you are demoing things using these nails.


Commons have no waffling or coating generally. They should not be used in high moisture or exposed area as they will rust.  Box nails are the same length as their sinker and common sisters, but have thinner shafts.

Box nails are a holdover from boxes were made from wood and the materials were thinner,(think fruit crates) and a thinner shaft minimized splitting of the slats when nailing.

Before I announce the winners, the last entrant and the nail on the left is a duplex head nail. The duplex nail has two heads to make removable easier as it is used for applications that are temporary in nature. Most notably concrete forms and temporary scaffolding. Also known as scaffolding nails, from a time when scaffolding was made from wood, before the invention of steel tubular scaffolding. Now that you probably know way too much about nails…..

The Winners Are


The 8 and 16d coated sinkers provide 95% of your needs in framing and sheathing in remodeling projects. They combine the best in holding power, resistance to bending and utility from framing to sheathing. Buying them in bulk will save you money and time. You may think 25 pounds of nails is crazy, but trust me, if you are doing a substantial amount of remodeling you will be surprised.

Lightyear Sunken Bath Episode 7 – Doorways and Bonding

Most of my work is done as a solo act. I work better this way. However there are times where you need someone on the other end. This weekend my daughter gave me a hand moving and installing the doors on this project. She had recently gotten back into town after a few years elsewhere, and was up hanging out with the old man.

Here she is removing the trim  prior to moving it to its new location. This opening will framed in for a bifold door for the utility storage room


Here is that door in its new location looking out.


Here is the door from the flip side. Trim will be a challenge.


So you don’t think that the hinge lobby has gotten to me, no project of mine would be complete without ….. A pocket door! A lot of builders hate pocket doors. Most of them don’t have anybody on their crews who can read a level, or understand that a pocket door is not a shim and trim operation. It takes more time, but is worth it in space gained.


As I mentioned previously, I mostly work solo, which is why you see pictures of the work and none of me. It’s not about me. However this weekend my daughter managed to snap a couple of pics for those of you dying to see the man behind the camera. I am standing on a bucket and am not 7 feet tall.


Here is the flip side. Happy now?


We also ripped out one of those aluminum patio/arcadia doors and replaced it with this number.


And that’s how we spent some of the weekend. We spent the rest pigging out and watching movies.

Why Remodel?

Today my current client mentioned why she is remodeling.

"I want this to be the house that the other kids want to hang out at."

Can't argue with that.

The Drywall Buffer and ‘salty’ terminology

Cutting drywall is a simple operation in most cases. Sometime the cut edges are not clean, having bumps where the material is sticking beyond where your  cut line is.

In the trade these are known as ‘dogballs’.(no i have no clue either, it just is) It is important to clean them up for a clean tight drywall job. For that you need a Buffer.
This is a Stanley Pocket Plane, aka the mutherf*cker.

(another bit of salty trade terminology whose antecedents goes back to time is money. Drywall hangers for the most part are paid footage, which means that having to stop to buff off dogballs means taking time away from hanging, making the job less profitable, which is why they call this the mutherf*ucker. Professional drywall hanging is much more precise than it seems.)

Having a situation, and a buffer, a few quick strokes, and you are ready to hang your sheet.
Db2 The tighter your joints, the easier to tape, the cleaner and better job you will produce.

You can use the edge of your keyhole saw or the edge of a taping knife to do this, but it is more time consuming, messier and less elegant.

Posts of Note

One Project Closer has a great article on soldering copper plumbing fittings
How to Sweat (Solder) Copper Water Pipes for a Watertight Seal

Rehab or Die has a post on installing ceiling speakers with a cool way to minimize the mess of cutting ceiling holes.
Installing ceiling speakers