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September 2020
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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.

The Circular Saw - Making it Square

As I mentioned in Plumb Square and Level, our goal is to produce the best projects we can. Cutting things square in the beginning is the best way of getting your projects to turn out well.

It’s great watching shows like Extreme Makeover, where they bang up a 6000 square foot house in only 7 days. Makes for great television, but what you don’t see is the months of planning, that goes into getting the plans, permits,  site, materials and appliances and furniture  ready for 400 workers to descend on a jobsite, and get it done in that sort of time frame.

Doing home improvement  projects are made a lot simpler and easier with a few techniques.

If you are going to do it yourself, the Circular Saw is a must have tool. They key to successful projects is to take your time. Take Your time. Take Your Time.

Making a 90 degree or square cut would seem to be as simple as setting your saw at the zero mark. Like Dirty Harry says “Do you feel Lucky?” You might, but in my experience of owning dozens of saws over the years, (production framing and cutting wears them out. dropping them off roofs hurts too), there has always been room for improvement.

This is my corded Skilsaw  I have only had this one about six months. I cut a lot more than you probably ever will.  Most saws come with a cut guide stamped into the front of the ‘shoe’ or baseplate. Your saw probably has similar markings. The bottom of the photo shows the front edge of the saw with a series of stamped marks. The shoe is a piece of steel that is stamped and rolled.  Mass production at work. The 0 mark has a notch, which in a perfect world would allow you to cut perfectly. It is not and you won’t. We will fix that.


The width of the notch indicates the cut line for 90 deg. (degrees) and may have some other use such as being the other side of the saw kerf. Behind the notch on this saw, is a cutout with a couple of teeth which should provide you with good cuts. Don’t count on it. The variety of blades and the thicknesses from various manfacturers make this a vague guide better suited to letting you know which way is the cutline.

Setting your saw up to cut square is easy.

Step 1. UNPLUG IT! Make sure that you can see the end of the plug or the business end of the battery. There are no exceptions to this rule! Unless being called STUMPY is your idea of a good time


To check your saw, turn it upside down. Clamp the blade guard out of the way, adjust the factory guide to 0 degrees which is a 90 deg. cut.

This is my skilsaw set at 0 using the factory guide. The wingnut is the lock for the bevel adjustment.


Using the speed square, with the thick part flat on the shoe, we check our blade along the face between the teeth on the edge.

This is the real set of the blade using that guide. It is off 1-2 deg. Anything that you cut like this will have a bevel. One side will fit tight the other will have a gap. It is not square.

You can fix this.

Step 2.

See Step 1. First

Adjust the saw so the blade is at its maximum extension. This is where the body of the saw is closest to the shoe, or base plate. Turn the saw over. Clamp the saw behind the blade guard so that it is out of your way.

Note: This is the only time you should ever mess with the blade guard.

Clamp the saw behind the blade guard. You do not want to bend it, or break it.

Step 3. Loosen the bevel adjustment. (the knob at the front of your saw) Using your square, gently tap the shoe until the square is flat against the blade. If you cannot adjust the saw like this, Return It!

Tighten the wingnut. You are almost ready to cut. Here is my guide after tuning the saw. Almost the thickness of the stamped line.

Step 5.Release the clamp, letting the blade guard cover the blade, and turn your saw over. You are now ready to cut material. Every so often recheck the blade.

Happy Cutting.

The Circular Saw and the Secrets of the Kerf

Last post I described Square and the Swanson Speed Square. There are other brands made from other materials and you can buy what you want, but the Speed Square is the best bang for your buck. Now that you have your speed square and are familiar with  its operation, how do we cut our  material?

The Circular Saw

For this discussion I am going out on a limb here and believe that you have an electric circular saw, also known as a skill saw, It is also called sidewinder by production carpenters and framers, who use worm drive saws.  No brand recommendations other than ask around and spend wisely.
Here is my latest  saw. Standard size weight and features. I had to replace my old saw I bought 10 years ago, after using it with a masonry blade for saw cutting some concrete. Just flat burned it out.

Saws get priced by Horse Power and Amperage. The more of each you have the better.  For more money, there are
some upgrades to the shoe and case, but these are not as important. This is a right handers saw. They do make left hand saws, but they are hard to find and usually more expensive. You do not need to go
crazy and buy the most expensive saw in the store. The vast majority of
you are remodeling your houses, not making a living as a framing

NOTE: Unplug your saw anytime you adjust the saw, or change blades.

This goes for any
electric tool. The pain in the butt this may represent is a gut
wrenching orgasm compared to the pain, suffering and cost of cutting
one of your fingers off.

If you are lucky
and I use lucky advisedly, you may have made a clean cut, can find the
missing finger, gotten to the hospital, have an Orthopedic surgeon able
to reattach your finger, hopefully reconnecting the nerves and tendons,
which may give you some feeling and movement back. Or you may be known
as ‘stumpy’.

What with costs,
therapy, you will be out around $60,000.00 bucks,(per) No this is not a
deal where you get to bargain a discount for multiple fingers.
You can buy a whole lot of remodeling for that money,

Unplug any electric tool anytime you adjust, or change tools.

When you buy your saw, buy new blades. The blade that comes with the
saw is like the starter cartridges you get when you buy a new printer.
For this discussion, we will focus on carbide blades for cutting wood. 2x
material and various panels like particle board and plywood.

Sawblades come in a  wide variety. For the purpose of  this  discussion  I will focus on  carbide blades for wood. They cut better, last longer, are quieter, and will give you the most value.

Secrets of the Kerf

This is the side view of a typical carbide blade. It has a number of teeth made out of carbide that act a chippers as the blade rotates. The more teeth, the smoother the cut. This is more important for cutting plywood, than cutting 2x material.

Looking at the business edge, note that the teeth are beveled and the bevels are angled. This is a double bevel blade. Every other tooth has the same bevel. This allows the blade to cut the material smoothly. Also notice that the teeth are wider than the body of the blade.

This is the kerf. This dictates how much material gets removed when you make your cuts.

This also creates a gap between the teeth and the body of the blade.
This is important because the blade heats up, and so does  the wood as
it cuts, causing the wood to expand. The kerf allows the blade to cut
without binding, Binding causes the saw to work harder, shortening its
life, and causing kickbacks, where the blade will kick the saw out of
your cuts, and may destroy your material and hurt you.

The Walk In Closet Project Episode 10

The Walk In Closet Project is racing toward paint.

Here is our first look at the closet entrance

Here is the closet entrance today. The cabinets are in, the hollow core door dividers and shelves are in, the brackets for the clothes rods are in and spackled using DAP Pink Stuff. The shoe shelf has been placed on the left.

The shoe shelf verticals are manufactured 12” shelf material with 1” on center holes, and edge banded on one side. The shelves are  manufactured poly particle board shelves cut to length. The uprights are glued to the wall with Powergrab. I built the walls square and plumb, the tapers laid a consistent texture, we did a very good job of painting, and you will literally have to destroy the wall to get these things off the walls.

This is a cost effective solution, especially if you factor in the labor for designing, cutting, assembling, and finishing a custom unit with a back and finished sides.

We also completed the door and base trims, as this room will be carpeted. We also eliminated the toe kicks under the oak cabinets on the other side of the opening so we have an easy to clean area without weird jogs and small places for dirt and dust to hide.

There are a few details left, like patching the holes in the floor from the old walls and the holes from the tackless carpet strips.

Yes this is one of those little annoying details that you never see described on the home and garden shows.

The photo above shows some of these. You could forget this step, but I wouldn’t advise it. You may get by with 60 dollar a yard carpet, with a real good backing, but just as sure as you walk on the bottoms of your feet, you will walk on the holes, and over time destroy your carpet.

If you use economy grade carpet, it will almost happen in front of your eyes.

You can spend a few minutes doing this yourself, or you will end up paying the carpet guys a lot of money to do this, as they will not install carpet on a ‘holy’ floor, nor will your warranty be any good.

The end game

( I have mentioned on various occasions that remodeling is almost biblical in nature with one thing begatting another. For those of you less comfortable with the spiritual, think of it like a virus, spreading from one area to another)

The photo below looks amazing like the 2nd photo above. It is, but if you look closely into the doorway, you will see another doorway. Behind that doorway lurks……….

the master bathroom! Oh yes, that is where the current end game is. The Walk In Closet Project is merely the prelude to remodeling the master bath. Hidden in the master bath is a closet full of clothes that must move to remodel that room.

The Master Bath Project will have some surprises, which in remodeling are a mixed bag, but it is where the endorphins come from.

Tools of Our Lives - The Screwgun

One of the most valuable and adaptable single purpose tools in the home remodeler’s arsenal is the Screwgun.
A Screwgun is a fixed/variable screwdriver with a depth adjustment and a clutch. Primarily developed for drywall hangers, because of the adjustablility and clutch to stop the screw when the correct depth is achieved, it has moved into the mainstream and is one of the most valuable tools you can own.

This is a photo of a Variable Speed Reversible Screwgun. This is a Dewalt DW255. I have had this one for a couple of years and it works great. Below I will list the features.

At the front end or nose is the magnetic bit holder. It uses ‘standard’ bits that you pick up at the tool store you buy the gun from. (Standard is a misnomer in that bits for driving Drywall Screws need to be harder, because Drywall Screws are make from much harder material than standard wood screws)Check the package! They cost a little more, but they will last longer, reduce cam out, and do the job better, which at the end of the day is the point.

Most come standard with a #2 Phillips bit. You can get a variety of different bits for screwing applications, from Phillips, Hex, Spline, Torx, and even flat.

The Depth Adjustment is the next thing in line and is extremely important especially in screwing drywall. What the depth adjustment does is act in concert with the clutch in the body of the gun to stop the screwgun spinning when you reach the proper depth, giving you a secure tight screw attachment.

Drywall is a softer material than you think despite how well it makes walls. The paper on the face of the sheet performs a large part of the attachment duty. You need to be able to drive the screws below the face of the sheet, so taping and mudding makes the screws invisible, yet not so deep that you tear the paper. Here is the USG Drywall Guide PDF Pg. 12, is where they talk about screwing off.

It is a fine adjustment. Practice on scrap and once you have it you are ready to rock. That is what the reverse setting on the gun is for:)

Commercial guns come in fixed speeds, 2500 for wood 4000 for steel. This is a variable speed gun with a very good trigger. You can get real good at screwing things after just a bit of practice. Besides Drywall, you can screw down sheathing, decking, screw stuff together, and unscrew stuff,(yah like you never make misteaks)

The trigger lock allows you to have the gun running while you screw off a lot of things.
You can get one here: DeWalt DW255 6 Amp Drywall ScrewdriverThis is a professional grade tool. Less than a hundred bucks, and worth every cent!

Taping Inside Corners

Taping inside corners is not hard if you follow a few simple proceedures. This short tutorial should help you tackle taping projects at your house. This is part of the Bathroom Pocket Door Project, being the wall over the pocket door, to the corner.

Taping is as much art as mechanics. A lot of it has to do with feel, and technique. As you develop the technique, you will be able to feel the mud doing what you want. Don’t worry about speed.

I am using a 6″ drywall knife for this project. This first photo shows my knife with a glob of mud. Notice that I have ‘cut’ the side of the glob. This is to minimize splatters and ‘mud sharks’ from forming as I start my mud lines. I have ‘cut’ the right side of the mud as I will be running the right hand side of the inside corner first. Also note that our mud glob is about 2” wide.

In this photo you see that I am starting at the top of the inside corner, and the cut portion of my mud is facing down. Note that we are using the knife sideways. The wide portion of the knife is parallel with the direction of our run. This is so we apply just enough mud to embed the tape.

This photo shows the knife in action as we do the mud run along the one side of the edge. My forefinger being used as a guide for my application. Hold the knife firmly, (not a death grip, cause your arm will get tired real quick and you will create a mess)
Notice that we are trying to apply a consistent amont of mud for the tape.

This photo shows two mistakes that you want to avoid. First is the narrow mud line. This line is not wide enough to allow you to embed the tape completely. This means that if you wipe down the tape without getting complete coverage between the tape and the mud, creating a void, you will get a bubble, which are harder than hell to fix. Secondly, see the real light area next to the narrow line? This is where the knife side was pressed too hard against the wall as you ran the mud. This will bubble for sure.

Now that you have mudded your corner on both sides, measure and prepare your tape. Drywall tape is pre creased which will allow you to create a smooth sharp corner. The crease is on the inside as you unroll the tape.

It only takes light pressure with thumb and forefinger to crease the tape/

Once you have your tape creased, you gently place it on your mud.

You then use your knife normally to wipe down the tape and mud, one side at a time. Here is where the feel comes in to your project. You need to apply enough pressure to embed the tape,and feather the edge of the mud. It takes a bit of practice, but you can do this.

Here is your corner after wiping down both sides. A quick swipe with your knife will get rid of the little bits of mud you see at the top.

The only adhesive you will ever need for your remodeling projects.

This is my gorilla snot box. Gorilla Snot is my term for compounds that have a mucus/pus/snot type texture, usually coming out of a caulk gun requiring you to use your finger to smooth them down resulting in the stuff sticking to your hands and clothing like snot. It contains various compounds for putting stuff together.
My box contains Latex caulk for filling voids and cracks that is paintable, plumbers putty for setting sinks, powered wood putty for covering nail holes and filling defects prior to painting, and Liquid Nails, a brand of caulk gun appliable glue.

Also in this picture is a cheap 3” paint roller (you usually find them in the paint roller and tray kits at the home improvement stores) with a cover that I deliberately filled with paint, rolled most of the paint out, and let dry. It makes a great roller for rolling things to squeeze adhesives smooth, like vinyl base, trim and rubber matting. Yes, you can buy commercial brayers made of solid rubber, from art or printing supply stores, but the sticker shock will rock your world. This is a simple solution to needing a roller for smoothing projects around your house.

I will probably end up tossing out every one of the tubes of stuff. My new best friend and yours is Loctite Powergrab.
Loctite is not a johnny come lately to the adhesive business. They make Thread Lock, which is a compound that comes in a number of grades to lock screw threads tight. It has been used for years to lock bolts and screws in place in conditions where vibration, and heat can cause failures from bolts vibrating loose.They have been cursed and praised in the mechanical, automotive and aerospace industry for years. Taking apart things that have been ‘loctited’ causes the cursing, and putting things together with Loctite is cause for praise and sleeping well at night. Ask your auto mechanic. He has it in his tool box. Your new cars are put together with it, planes, trains and space shuttles are held together with it. Loctite knows things about adhesives.

This is why Powergrab is your new best remodeling friend. I first mentioned it during this post on Soffit Construction. Since then I have used it to fasten wood trim to plywood, plaster walls, glue down rubber matting, use it in place of vinyl base adhesive, as a third hand for holding trim in place for screw and nail attachment, and other purposes. Really this stuff replaces every one of the dozens of grades of Liquid Nails, most other adhesives, and is the only caulk type adhesive you will ever need.

It may even improve your sex life! Consider that after using it for your projects, you will not have to worry about them falling apart, leaving you more time to have sex and concentrate on it. I’m just saying…

Orphan Tools - Basin Wrench

When you are confronted with the prospect of replacing a faucet, you need a basin wrench.

Basin Wrench
It has a spring loaded jaw, a swivel head and a sliding ‘T’ handle. All which are necessary to get this tool to do it’s job.

In the world of remodeling and home repair there are a lot of tools you need, tools you want, and tools that have a single purpose in life that you hope that you never have to add to your tool set.

The basin wrench is one of these. It has only one purpose. It tightens or loosens the nuts that attach the top of your water supply lines to the bottom of your faucets.
As you can see, the space you have to work with is very small, and no amount of cursing, or any other tool will fit into this space.

basin wrench at work
There is an alternative. In the case of drop in sinks or small vanity tops, you disconnect the supply lines just north of the shutoff valves, and the drain line at both sides of the ‘P’ trap, and remove the sink entirely from the cabinet or countertop. You can turn it over and reach everything to replace your faucets.

This has it’s perils, if you have a cast iron sink, or a one piece counter and sink arrangement. The bathroom sinks are not too bad to do this way. The kitchen sink with a garbage disposal adds another level of complexity to the mix.

You will probably need a basin wrench.

Soffit Construction

To be clear most soffits are just badly built boxes to make your kitchen cabinets look good. Usually the only thing you find in them is the duct for the fan over your stove.
They can become useful members of society.

In remodeling casa lemurzone, enclosing the carport to create an office, I needed to extend the HVAC to the new space. The closest place to get it was on the far wall in my living room, 15 feet away. So I built a soffit!
I built it out of steel studs, because I can and I love working with them, and to be able to fake flat, which is neccessary because of the age of my house.
Here is the soffit with the flex duct in place.
I purposely cut the face drywall the same size so that I could see the problem that I knew was there.
As you can see it rises quite a bit to the corner.
Faking Flat.

My solution to this is to fool the eye. I am going to racetrack the ceiling (racetracking is method of applying multiple narrow strips of drywall in layers, to create the illusion of additional space). It is a lost art as, it is labor intensive, and new home construction thinks that bullnose cornerbead is the cat’s ass.

I am only going to go one level as it is a lot of additional work.
Here is how we fool your eye. I glued thin strips of drywall in various thicknesses from the low spot of the soffit to the corners. I continued by gluing 2″ strips of drywall to the to the ceiling next to the wall to change the elevation of the wall ceiling intersection.
I then glued my 6″ racetrack strips to the ceiling with two beads of glue, one at the outside ceiling edge of the strip, and one two inches in from the wall to catch the corner of the backing I glued previously.
Which brings us to the field tested testimonial for PowerGrab construction adhesive from Loctite
Gun it press it to the ceiling and walk away. It sticks. Liquid Nails will drop, Gorilla Glue will drop, and the other adhesives that I have rejected over the years do not bear mentioning. Highly Recommended!

Which brings us to this point.
See? Looks flat! When it is finished it will fool the eye for 99% of the world. You will know, but you can keep a secret!

Once I get this finished I will create a step by step photo album of the process, so If you want to, you can.

There are other ways to add drama to a room.

Coffering is a deeper method of adding drama to a room. This was my old office, in my old house. The steps are 12″ wide and 4″ tall. The ceiling where the lights is 8′ off the floor and the ceiling at the walls is 7′.
Here is a step by step illustration

The Home Impediment Store Problem – Cocoa and Marshamallows

Home Improvement Stores exist to take normal rational folks and lead them down the dark path to Remodeling.
In a lot of cases they are Home Impediment Stores. I shop at Home Depot and Lowes, when I have to.
Their web sites suck. Here is a posting on my adventures looking for fibreglass insulation. Read the comments, I am not the lone ranger here.
So you end up driving across town, to pickup tools, supplies and other enablers for your remodeling problem. Which breeds other problems.
The Cocoa and Marshallow Problem
Cocoa and Marshallows go together like peanut butter and jelly, washer and dryer, Rogers and Hammerstein, with one important difference. They are never found next to each other.
Next time you are in the grocery store, going down the aisle of drygoods like flour, starch, sugar, baking powder, you will find cocoa. No, the powdered mixes with freezed dried marshallows do not count. You are a remodeler, not a convienence junky. You wouldn’t be remodeling if you were.

The Marshallows, on the other hand are usually hiding on the bottom shelf on another aisle under the jello mixes. Weird but true. This is simular to the 10 hotdog, 8 bun problem. I’ve asked lots of store managers why, and have never received any sort of answer than it’s just the way it’s done.

Now that you understand this subtle but important distinction, we can move on to Home Impediment.
A lot of tools have parts that need replacements and or accessories, that are needed to make them useful over time. One such tool is the Straight Line Laser Level 30. 20 bucks, shoots a beam of light so you can make things level or plumb, over long distances.

It has a couple of spirit level vials to help you do this. You can do angles if you have a known starting point and a protractor. They are next to the Levels, Squares, both framing and angle. This is the Cocoa.

On the left side is a little foam tab. See it?

This is the Marshmallow. This unit works with these little foam pads that are double stick tape. They are made by 3M. These are useful twice, maybe three times. So you need more. You would think that replacement parts and accessories would be next to these so that you could just buzz in and get more. But NOOOOOO!!!!

I involved the woman who was working the tool department, and the stocker for the department, who for whatever reason are different people. It was my lucky day as they were both there.

A hunt was mounted as they were able with their own eyes to confirm that the tape strips were not next to the lasers. It ranged along the laser Isle, across the store to tape measures, and finally to the end of the nuts and bolts hardware aisle, at the bottom of the ‘velcro’ display.
Cocoa and Marshallow and Home Impediment.