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September 2021
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Closet Office 2

In our last episode we had done the demo, run the electric, built a deck/ceiling frame, and done some taping.
The taping on the cornerbead is done the texture is matched, and it has been primed.
Upper Storage
I have also installed the plywood floor for the upper storage area.

Note that I taped the ceiling and wall to limit the mess as I finished the face of the closet office. I pre-drilled the plywood and screwed it down. It is a two piece installation as there is a wing on both sides. The plywood in front comes even with our drywall and is covered with a 1×6 MDF trim board.
Here is a longer shot.

I extended the trim to the wall on the right and an equal distance on the left. This allows the homeowner to attach curtains if that is their choice. The work top will not extend beyond the sides of the closet so the ability to install bi-fold doors is also open.

In addition to screwing the MDF to the header in front, I also screwed it to the plywood using a thinner screw known as a trim head to stiffen the deck and the corner.

I used quick clamps to align the trim and deck as I screwed it together.

Closet Office Ceiling
The first thing here is installing the electric box and blocking. This is the box recycled from the ceiling in the storage area project.

The placement of the box was decided by the fixture I am using, which in this case is an switched 18” flat florescent. Because of the mounting holes for this fixture I installed a 2×4 backing strip on the left. Because the back wall is next to the garage I caulked the hole where the romex came through, (despite the fact the wall is insulated, it gets moved and bunched up when you run wires through it) and stapled the romex in place which is just good technique. This will provide general lighting on the work surface. The box allows the client the ability to change the fixture in the future if desired.

In measuring the closet it turns out that it is not square. No surprise here. My first sheet goes from 22 1/2” on the left to 23 1/4” on the right.

Here is a trick for cutting small angles. I took my drywall square and lined it up with my measurement marks and used a couple of quick clamps to hole it down as I cut the sheet.

This works fine for small angles, larger ones require either a chalk line or a straight edge.
After cutting and buffing it, I trial fitted it to see that it would fit without breaking any corners or edges.

The light box is in this sheet so I made my measurements and used a circle cutter to make my outline. I used a keyhole saw to cut it out.

Here is a tip for cutting holes. When cutting close to the edge of a sheet, start your cut at the narrowest point to the edge and cut away from it. The chances of breaking the sheet go way down when done this way.

I taped the ceiling box with blue tape to avoid crap in it. Having hung the drywall, I masked the wall and mesh taped all of the seams.

Next up is taping.

Flat taping into corners like this is more art than science, as you have to cover the tape and yet not so hard into the corners that you telegraph the wall texture into your mud. It leaves ridges at right angles to the line of your mud. Sand or fill. If needed your second coat can run from the wall edge to the feather edge to fill in those ridges. Depending on how picky you are. As you can see taping the ceiling box closed was a good idea.
After sanding, I removed the masking paper, ran a small bead of caulk into the corners and primered.

Leave the tape on the box until your painting is done and you are installing your light.

Next up will be shelving and decking.

DIY Utilty Knife Blade Sharpener

One of the most useful tools for the remodeler is the Utility Knife. The blades are sharp as hell for a little while. When they get dull you replace them. To extend the life of the blade here is a little trick.

Find an old porcelain cup, like this.

You can tell it is porcelain because the unglazed bottom is white. It makes a great sharpener for your utility knife.
Take your utility knife and draw it across the unglazed portion at a slight angle on both sides for just a few strokes.

This will add quite a bit of life to your blades and is a cheap alternative to a sharpening stone.

Storage Project 5

Getting close to the end of the Storage Project. Here is an update. The base is in and the walls and baseboards are painted. The baseboards are 3” tall rather than the standard 2”, due to the walls being 97′ 1/2 ‘ tall rather than 96.  We had to rip a bunch of drywall down to an 1 1/4 ” to create a base for attaching the baseboard.  This also allows the wheels of the storage carts to hit the trim and not the walls. The lights are energy efficient fluorescent  giving a lot of light.

I am doing the doors separately, due to traffic issues.

Tech Tip: When painting raised panel doors like these, paint the panels and reveals first. This allows you to get in the corners and capture any drips along the way. After the paint dries, paint the flats. Touch up anything that may have gotten away, and you will have a beautiful door.

The new exterior door has a molded neoprene gasket. This should not be painted. If it can’t flex, It can’t seal. To paint around it, I use a drywall knife as a shield. On the one side(illustrated) the knife is held in place by friction. On the other side you will need to slip it undef the gasket and angle it up to paint underneath the gasket.

This allows you to paint right up to it without getting it painted. If you don’t have a big drywall knife any reasonably stiff thin cardboard can be used like the side of a cereal box. The longer the better, as you can paint more between moves.

On the other side the taping, filling and skim coating has made the patching almost invisible.

I also used some of the baseboard material to re frame the scuttle. Working overhead is a pita. But it can be made easier. After determining the scuttle is not square, (no surprise here) I took my measurement, so I have at least a 1/2” for the cover, and cut my pieces mitering the corners and placing the thin section to the outside.

I used quick clamps to hold my pieces in place while I positioned them. One at a time I took them down, Glued the back side and screwed them in place. Scuttles always get beat up. In Arizona construction is almost exclusively slab on grade, which puts all the utilities with the exception of water and gas in the attic.

Here is the scuttle finished.

After the alarm guy and the phone, TV and Internet guys are done, I will insulate this space including gluing insulation to the back of the scuttle cover.

Next up is the floor.In the foreground are the three craters left from the cut nails that were used to nail the stub wall to the floor.

Midway is a crack in the slab between a 1/16-1/18” in width. Too large to fill with paint. At the back in the corner is where somebody decided to put a hose bib outside after the walls were complete. This was complicated by this being the main water line to the building. They  hammered the crap out of the block and the floor, and just poured some concrete patch compound which was not floated to the surface, requiring repair. Half ass crap always bites somebody in the ass later.

We are using Quickcrete Epoxy Floor coating. We used it on the Artroom Expansion Project here.  This is a great product. It comes with floor cleaner, the coating in a lot of colors and chips to make it skid proof. After the floor sets, I will  silicone all the gaps between the baseboard and floor.  Scorpions are a problem in this neighborhood.

While this is going on, I will be working on the Closet Office, which was the original job.

Old House Web Blogger Contest Vote for Charles & Hudson

The folks at Charles & Hudson are finalists in the Old House Web Blogger Contest. Great folks and a great site.
Here is their entry. Click on the Stars to Vote!

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.

Marking your Measurements Pencils and Markers

Now that you have your tape measure decoded, you may want to look at some marking tools. These are my recommended marking tools.


First up: Fine Point Sharpie
I use this for marking steel studs, face marking studs for electric box
locations, plumbing stubs, and anywhere I need a durable marker.

Note: Do not use this to mark anything
that you might want to paint. Do not use this on drywall unless you
want to spend a lot of money on KILZ to try to cover it up. This is a Permanent Marker

Next up: Carpenter Pencil.

This is the preferred tool for marking materials, as it has a strong lead, its shape is unique meaning you can find it in your tool pouch, and won't roll around. p.s. if you do a lot of business with specialty yards, they usually will give you a few. Even if you have to buy them, they are a good deal. Sharpen them with your utility knife.

Last up #2 Pencil

Everybody has them and they work. They do break easy, roll a lot and get lost.

Pens are not recommended as they run out of ink, roll farther and faster than #2 pencils.

Tape Measure Secrets #2

In our previous episode I explained some basic details about tape measures. There is more.
Two Scales
Here is our tape measure tape. We will pick on 16''. The top scale measures by the foot. This gives a measurement of 1 foot 4 inches.

The bottom scale measures by the inch. Here we have 16 inches. So you will be able to translate between feet and inches quickly. This is helpful when you need a quick calculation of how many feet you need for a series of cabinets, or how much space you need for 6 rows of 7 inch tiles. 

Tape Measure Symbols


On the left is the foot guide, with a black arrow and reversed lettering to see at a glance how many feet  you are at.

In the center is the standard 16'' O.C. (on center layout/framing guide) On
this tape it is red with two little arrows to distinguish it from the
foot guide. The majority of wood and light gauge steel framing for residential construction
is still based on 16'' centers, this is a very handy guide. 

Almost  everything written, designed and built uses 16'' on center
for structure to finish calculations, and the vast majority of panel
products from are based on a 4 foot design. Most of the panel products
are 4×8', from plywood to drywall. There are exceptions, but the majority of you will never need them.

On the right is one of the weirdest things found on tape measures.

On the right is a little diamond at 19 1/4'' which is a little used measuring system called Optimum Value Engineering. 

OVE was a framing system developed by the Forest Products Laboratory about 20 years ago. The theory was that you could  design on a 2 foot module scheme, using studs at 24'' and floor joists and roofing at 19 1/4''. This does save on structure materials like studs, joists and rafters, but because of spacing and other engineering issues, sheathing materials and drywall needed to be thicker resulting in higher sheathing material costs. 

It was pretty much a wash, and in the two projects that I worked on years ago, it didn't seem to be all that optimum. 

Even with today's drive toward a greener building style, OVE is not ready for prime time, and the average houseblogger and remodeler, will not find it useful.

Here are some resources if you want to know more.

Sustainable Building Sourcebook

Advanced Framing Techniques: Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)

Google Search

Tape Measure Secrets #1

The tape measure is the most important tool in remodeling. With the big box stores you can buy and use the same tools the pros use. They come in various lengths and blade widths.
The  most useful size is either a 25' or a 30'. Buy 2 at a time.

The dumb end


This is the dumb end. All tape measures have a hook on the end. This one has three rivets holding the hook in place.  All of the hooks move. Your tape is not broken! This is deliberate. The hook has thickness and the movement is to allow you  to measure  inside or outside with the same tool.

You want to check that the tapes you buy have the same movement. While you are at the store making your choices pull out 4 or 5 feet and put two tapes side by side to insure that they read the same.

Early in my drywall days, my partner and I were dry walling an apartment building. He was measuring, I was cutting. I kept missing the boxes and my lengths were off. I had just bought my new tape the day before. It started getting heated between us, until we put our tapes side by side and checked them.
Mine turned out to be around 1/4'' short over 4'.  So I was consistently missing the cutouts for the electric boxes and the plumbing. On 12' sheets with a lot of cutouts, there was a lot of extra work for the tapers.

Buy buying 2 at a time, your partner can be marking while you are measuring, and you don't have to fight over who has the dumb end:)

First Look at the Blade

Tapemeasure2Here is a standard blade that is marked in inches, with 1/16'' precision. For remodeling or rough carpentry this is as precise as you will need. 

What the marks mean

Tapemeasure3 The graduations on this tape have consistent spacing but different heights. The shortest lines denote a 1/16''. the next taller set are 1/8'' marks, next are the 1/4'' and finally the 1/2''marks. You will pick this up quickly and be measuring with confidence in no time at all.

Talking Numbers

Now that you can read the tape, let's get comfortable talking numbers. Your partner is  in front of a wall measuring for the sheetrock/plywood/paneling that you are standing in front of, waiting for her  to call out measurements. For example you have a 13' wall and there is a 36'' doorway centered 8 feet from the corner. Approx. 10'' (65 3/8 – 65 5/8'') from the left side of the door opening is a plastic romex outlet box for a light switch. The box is 2 1/4'' wide x 3 3/4'' deep centered at 48''.

1/8'' Shorthand – Strong and Even

When measuring using an 1/8'' shorthand is quicker and easier, resulting in fewer mistakes.

Here is a quick example. You are hanging your drywall horizontally, and measuring from the left. First you do your horizontal measurements, then you do your verticals.

Measuring from the left your partner calls out 65 and 2, 67 and 5 strong, 77 even. You mark your sheet, from the left as she calls out the numbers.

65 and 2, is the left side of the outlet box, 67 and 5 strong, is the right side of the box and 77 even is the left side of the door opening. When you add the outlet numbers it comes out to 2 11/16'' which is 3/16'' larger giving you a bit of room in case the box isn't square or the corner is not plumb. If everything works, you will not need a drywall repair guide.

65 and 2 is actually 65 and 1/4'' or 65 and 2 eighths. Why would you say that? You only need 7 numbers to call instead of 16. Less confusion. 

65 and 5 strong is actually 65 and 11/16'' which is 65 and 5 eighth and 1/16th. the 1/16th inch being the strong. Using Strong indicates that you need a 1/16th more than the 5/8ths.

77 even means 77'' and no bits.

Then your partner starts from the right measuring down from the ceiling. 13 and 6, 46 even. You mark you sheet from the right as she reads her numbers.

13 and 6, is the depth of the top of your door frame.

46 even is the top of the electric box.

You now have 1/16'' precision with 7 numbers and 2 words that do not sound even close reducing confusion and speeding up production.

Demo Tools – The Wonder Bar

A lot of folks are just starting to remodel and need tools. Here is one of the most important tools the home remodeler can have in their tool box.

The 21” Wonder Bar

This is one of those tools that is indispensable for demolition. It is a re-imaging of the crowbar. Basically it is a bent tempered steel bar for prying things apart and removing nails using leverage. Using a lever to move things is not new, and it still works!

The Safety Note:

Wear Safety glasses when using this. More than 50% of the time you will be using a hammer to start. This is a tempered steel tool and the hammer face is a hardened steel tool. (Yes they tell you not to strike hard surfaces with your hammer, but are you really gonna use a 2×4 to hammer? Just Be Careful!)

Inevitably some piece of steel will chip off and go flying. It will be hot, moving fast and like the bread falling peanut butter side down, will try for your soft tissue. Wearing Safety glasses will help protect your eyes. Your face will be the second closest thing to this impact surface and has a lot of soft tissue. You will jump and cry like a baby, but will be able to see where it landed.

End Note.

This is the Stanley 21” Wonderbar. Leverage grasshopper, leverage. Don’t bother buying a smaller one. There are a number of reasons.

First, is the principle of leverage. The longer the lever, the easier it is to use and the more force you can bring to bear. Most housebloggers and especially the fearless women who are remodeling are not built like linebackers. I am 5′ 8” and thin. Plus I am lazy.

Second, this tool is designed for carpentry demolition. It is lighter than a crowbar of the same size, and has slots for gripping nails as well as tapered edges to get underneath as well as between framing members.

Third, it is useful when you need to move things around or get underneath things like holding a door in place when you are trying to put the hinges back.

Fourth, Do not attempt to save money by buying a off brand cheap unit. You can tell the difference as a well made unit will ring rather than thud like oone that is just twisted and not treated.

The image above shows a front and side view of the wonder bar. Note that it is curved at the top and has a crook at the bottom.Both ends of the bar have slots for engaging nails to lever the out. The top has an additional tear drop shaped opening for nails.

The desire to overuse this for trimming concrete, chipping stucco and other non-wood related activities should be swallowed.

The crook on the bottom can be used to tap (as opposed to slamming it like trying to ring the bell at the fair) the bar between trim and walls, studs nailed together, plates nailed to the floor, and so on.

Unless you do demo daily, one should be enough to pass onto your children.

Wonder Bar

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.