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Self adjusting shims

Self adjusting shims

I needed to replace a vanity in a bathroom with 3/8" tile over 1/4" Hardibacker board.  That meant dropping the vanity into a deep hole.  How do you shim something like this?  It was especially...

Annabelle the jobsite dog.

Annabelle the jobsite dog.

Annabelle is our 11 pound Rat Terrier / Italian Greyhound. She is a sun worshipper and has been very envious when I go off to work on sunny days. So I thought I'd show her how hard and miserable it...

Recent comments

Re: Not on the "Shot List"

Great photo but the architect should have his tongue cut out for those first two sentences.

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

Nice article and spot on about absorbent insulation. But not the part about spraying foam directly onto wood. Kind of negates the excellent concept in the last line; that durability is a huge part of green building. No matter how green your structure, it still took a lot of energy and resources to build and will take that many more to replace if it doesn't last very long.

Re: How to Reinforce 2x6 Ceiling Joists to Handle Heavy Loads

JLNels talks sense - if you can provide adequate support for the ends of the upset beam. I've got two of these in my house and they tuck right up into the ceiling, supporting floor loads above. Yours will be long, and so taller than a 2x6. It will hang down below the bottom of the 2x6 joists, but just a few inches. Much better than having a 4x12 or something resting against the bottom of the rafters.

Re: Sweating Copper Pipe

C'mon guys. I think the real problem is the whole concept of "mastered in a minute". If the folks at Fine Homebuilding don't have a longer attention span than that, maybe they should move to Twitter.

Re: Deck Building Don'ts

I tore off a huge 2nd story deck a couple of years ago. It was connected to a 4' cantilever. The ledger was nailed every 12" with 16d common galvanized nails. It was very hard to get them out. The inner rim joist of the cantilever was nailed to the end grain of the joists and the outer rim joist was nailed to that. It was all still very tight (old growth Doug fir framing) but still made my hair stand up when I saw no bolts or anything to ensure that the deck would remain attached. (Well, it would have stood up if I had any.)

Since I was replacing the deck, I still had to attach it to the cantilever. I added very strong inner angle brackets (Simpson something-or-other) between the inner rim joist and the floor joists to take the vertical load, and I used tension ties (Simpson HD3B or something like that, I don't remember) with bolts through both rim joists and the ledger to keep it from pulling out. I then bolted all three together with a 1/2" bolt every 12" (my joist spacing was 12"o/c) with double bolts at the ends of the ledgers. (It was 26' long so there was a butt joint in the middle.)

That made a very strong assembly to which I then gave a little additional support on each end to ground. I think it was 2x8 framing, so the three together would never make a real "beam" just being supported on each end, but that wasn't really required. It just fitted in with the rest of the project.

I and the engineer are very confident in this connection. I just wish the original builder had read your article.

Re: How to Cut Tile with a Wet Saw

"Mastered" in a minute? Pretty funny title. Barely touches the most basic cut. No angles, bevels, notches, shaving cuts. And that's just on tile. These saws can cut everything from 1-1/2" roundish pebbles to 20+ pound basalt or granite "boulders". Though I'd recommend the more robust MK-101 rather than these grinder-motor saws. I'd probably still be using my first one (after 20 years) if it hadn't been stolen.

Re: What's Wrong With This Picture?

So what was the outcome of this problem?

Re: How to Install an Electrical Outlet Box

I should have added: those adjustable depth boxes are also easier to squeeze in between close spaced studs. If you have room for a short screw and an impact screwdriver, you have enough room to install one. No need for space to swing a hammer.

Re: How to Install an Electrical Outlet Box

Yes, and the phone guys, sound guys, etc., probably all use different hammers, too. In fact, if more than one guy is installing the boxes, they probably all have different hammers.

That stud in the video is old, so maybe this is a remodel. In that case, you need to match the height in other parts of the house. Measuring will be more accurate than calling the original electrician, finding out what kind of hammer he used 20 years ago, finding one on eBay and using it. Yeah, that's exaggerated, but so is the video. :)

If you are remodeling and only putting in a few boxes, measure them to match others in the house. If you are wiring a whole new house, make a story pole for outlets, switches, and counter outlets all on one measuring stick. Or do it the way the boss tells you to.

Mounting depth is another whole different thing. If you haven't tried those adjustable depth boxes, do it. They cost more, but the labor they save in fussing with the box position and the ease of finish wiring probably makes them more economical in the big picture and they certainly are nicer to work with.

Re: Build your firewood storage shed to stand the test of time

I had one like this once. The wind-driven rain kept the wood wet, the chimney creosoted up from burning wet wood and a flue-fire ensued. All of this ventilation is great for drying the wood, but you must be able to keep it dry, too. I would urge anyone building something like this to consider covering the sides with lap siding with a spacer between each plank where they cross the studs. Your spacers can just be cut out of some scrap 1/2" plywood. That will create a wall that sheds water, but with very good cross-ventilation.

Re: Time Lapse of an Amish Barn Raising

Pah! Some people just gotta complain. I was expecting a dinky little backyard barn, so I found this amazing to watch.

Re: Wooden Pallets as Building Materials

As a business owner let me explain: some pallets come with a refundable deposit. You pay for them and then get repaid when you return them. If you take these you are stealing. Other pallets are non-returnable. They are usually crappy, but most people will be happy for you to take them so they don't have to pay to have them hauled off.

You should always ask before you take. Just because they are ugly doesn't mean they don't have a deposit on them. But as a general rule, the free ones are usually pretty crappy.

Since most pallets are not 8' wide it will take two of them to build a wall. Sheathing the outside only strengthens half of the joint between the two pallets. If you aren't planning on sheathing the inside, the using full-height 2x4s might actually make more economic sense. Though I suppose you could nail some metal strips up the center of the walls or plywood strips along the joint or something patchy like that.

Re: Whatever Happened to the Radial-Arm Saw?

The people who think radial saws are dangerous probably have either never used one or used one until it jumped at them and then rather than learn from their experience just fled. Those same people should probably not be using hand-held circular saws, either.

I have used my 10" saw both for my own pleasure and in a former business since 1978. I've had to replace a few parts but it's been a great saw. Too many people think they need cabinet grade table saws to cut kindling. They don't stop to think how much space it takes to use one. I've got mine on an RTI (I think that's the brand) cart with built-in infeed/outfeed tables. With the rollers down it is barely 4" wider than the basic saw and the wheels allow me to move or turn it so that it can cut material in very confined spaces.

Oh, and as for the jumping blade problem: get one with a negative hook angle and you shouldn't have any trouble.
An RAS combined with two sawhorses, a shooter board, and a circular saw can accurately cut plywood for cabinet carcasses. You can spring clamp a piece of scrap to the fence for making repetitive cross cuts. Etc. It's not the only tool one should ever hope to have in the shop, but it is definitely a good one to have in a small shop.

Re: Cut Drywall Without a T-Square

Out of those hundreds of thousands of hits with cats and poor production quality you forgot to mention the overproduced ones with fancy lead-ins, sophisticated graphics, and way too much annoying music. This excellent tip could easily have been demonstrated in much less than the 50 seconds used.

Re: Building the Best Affordable House: 10 tips for Getting the Most House for Your Money

Interesting house, the one with the sliding barn door. (I wonder how they seal that when it's shut?) But I don't think all those corner windows would ever be approved in earthquake country.

Item number one only almost holds true with a larger house - which is not going to be as affordable as a smaller house with similar fit and finish. The stairway takes space from both floors. And it can be a substantial percentage of the space in a small house.

Going two stories does save in energy costs, though, in case you were including that in affordability.

I used every one of those suggestions in my first house except for #3 and I think this is an excellent list. I owned that house for ten years and was able to do a number of upgrades over the years without any major rework.

The house

Re: What's the Difference: Joint Sealing with Teflon Tape and Pipe Dope

I have used teflon tape for probably 35 years or more, but almost always on plastic, copper, brass, or bronze joints. And rarely with a leak. Today I spent hours assembling a complex manifold for a sprinkler system using galvanized steel pipe and fittings and bronze valves and hose bibs. I used Teflon tape, three layers, applied in the correct direction, and tightened the fittings very tight, but not so tight as to crack them. Fortunately I had the sense to pressure test it before I set it in concrete. It leaked all over the place.

Now I am going to have to take it all apart and redo it. If I use dope will I be happy, or will I just feel like a dope?

Re: What Makes the 'Best' Air Barrier?

Of course tape is not going to last. Only a young person would expect it to. :-)

Re: Hidden Giant Medicine Cabinet

Good article. I have actually been thinking about doing the same thing in my own bathroom. This and the comments will be very helpful.

As far as the wide swinging doors are concerned, you step back every time you open a door that swings towards you. Most people do that without a thought and will quickly adapt to doing it with these mirrors, too. And you are already standing back because of the counter so you don't really have to step back that much farther. In fact you'll probably just take a half step to the side and not go back at all. (I used to be a manufacturing engineer, so time and motion studies are in my background.)

I think the bigger issue is that you have to move the mirror every time you open the cabinet. That would not be a problem for me, but might get annoying for someone who keeps their make-up behind the mirror. That could lead to a lot of opening and closing. We currently have a gigantic mirror behind both sinks and one of those small, metal, mirrored built-in medicine cabinets on the side walls at each end of the counter. The operative word is "small". The older you get, the larger a medicine cabinet you need!

Re: When's the Right Time to Go Out on Your Own?

I don't think you want to go out on your own until you are confident in your own abilities, because running a business is a whole nuther layer on top of the actual construction work and you will get paid based on your ability in both. You don't want to be learning both at the same time.

Experience is key to learning skills. Every time you do something, you get better at it. So get as much experience as you can on someone else's dime before you go out on your own.

Remodeling is basically custom building with the added joy of demolition. If you have not been working for a remodel or custom homebuilding contractor, you should find work with one of them now. You need a variety of experience, not just the same standard tract house construction to current codes over and over. In remodeling you are going to have to work with different construction methods on nearly every house you touch. In some instances, you need to meld with them, in others you need to bring them up to code, but you will always be seeing something new - and frequently something that the original builder screwed up because they were in too big a hurry to get the job done. (You'd better not be prone to anxiety over other people's screw-ups or you will go nuts.)

Re: Annabelle the jobsite dog.

Hehe. Actually, two of her favorite things are hanging with her big guys and laying in the sun. Here she gets to do both. We're just not in the picture.

Re: What Happens if your Framing Gets Rained on? (Learn to use a Moisture Meter)

You frame with KD? Must be in some rich, dry state like Texas or CA. In Oregon you drive a nail and water splashes out of the wood.

Re: How To Save a Miscut Board From the Scrap Bin

Do they make a formulation for granite?

Re: Feds Consider Unprecedented Safety Rules for Tablesaws

cnckeith: I can't make a website about saw safety, but I can give you one suggestion to prevent injury around table saws - or any other kinds of tools. Don't ever put any of your body weight onto the workpiece. Keep as much of your weight as possible on your own two feet (or knees as sometimes happens on construction sites) and if you need to lean on something lean on something solid, not the workpiece, not even just a little bit for balance. Because if something goes wrong and the piece moves in a way you do not expect it to, you will find yourself off-balance. You could then fall into the tool or you could move your hand into the tool while intuitively trying to support yourself.

I would add that the same holds true for hand-held tools. Don't use them to support your weight.

Re: Feds Consider Unprecedented Safety Rules for Tablesaws

I don't like regulations like this, but I like my monthly health insurance bill even less. There is a technology which can prevent most table saw injuries. If a saw company chooses not to use it and the consumer chooses not to buy it then cuts his fingers off on a table saw, then either they or the table saw manufacturer should pay the bill, not me. Accidents will happen to all of us and that's what insurance is for, but a stupid choice is not an accident. We can't force rational thought, but we can remove the alternatives.

Re: Bosch's 360-Degree Dual-Plane Laser Level is Affordable and Versatile

What the heck? I made my comment on the video about the markers. Computers are weird.

Re: Bosch's 360-Degree Dual-Plane Laser Level is Affordable and Versatile

You can keep all those markers in one place and whole by putting a cap on both ends of an 8 to 10 inch piece of 2" PVC or ABS drain pipe. Glue one cap and put the markers inside.

Re: Lead Paint: The Fines Are Real

You can get fined for not handing out a federal pamphlet? I've renovated two houses that old without giving my wife a pamphlet. Am I in trouble?

Re: Scrap Your Nail Set and Make Your Hammer Work Harder

Uh oh! Now I bet you'll see one of these in a large orange or blue "building supply" store soon...

Re: Paint Your House and Live Mortgage Free

Yeah, ugly. And I see a lot of lawsuits in their future. Even without CCRs you can still sue to have an eyesore corrected. But most likely their requirements include facing a busy street, in which case it's all probably pretty ugly, anyway.

Re: Is Hitachi a fading brand?

After using Makita cordless drills (and one Ryobi) for 21 years, and hating NiCad batteries every day of those 21 years, I decided to invest in the lithium ion technology. I had been watching it and it seemed that they had finally become practical. So I trotted down to the hardware store, looked at the price tag, picked myself up off the floor and went home. I agonized over all the options until I finally said "screw it" and bought an 18V Hitachi set with a drill and an impact screwdriver. Wow! What an improvement. These tools can do what only corded tools could do before. If they were designed by some weird kid to look like a ridiculous green ray gun, so what? Pretty soon they were beat up enough for that not to be noticeable. I have been very happy with my decision but they do have one problem that seems to be shared by many brands: the forward/reverse buttons are very poorly positioned. I am forever bumping them and putting the thing into "neutral".

Re: Build This Sliding Truck-Bed Drawer, and Get Easy Access to All Your Tools

I should add another note on truck bed storage. If you Google for "pack saddle liner" and you'll find some narrow, tall white boxes with handles. They hold a lot, are incredibly strong, and are easy to lift in and out (unless you fill them with tire chains, towing equipment, and bungees as I have). You can bungee them to the side of your truck near the tailgate and they are handy for tossing that bag of hardware into, or those one or two cans of paint that you don't want rolling around the back of the truck.

Re: Build This Sliding Truck-Bed Drawer, and Get Easy Access to All Your Tools

That looks like a great idea. But if you don't have the time, or need to have more flexibility in the back of your truck, go to a marine supply store and buy an extendable boat hook. I keep mine set at 8' and resting on the side rails. The canopy clamps keep it in place unless you go over some really rough bumps and it is both out of the way and within easy reach when needed even if the bed is full of stuff.

Re: Can McMansions Help Solve Our Housing Crisis?

I've lived in single family dwellings from 800 sf to 3000 sf. My pleasure in living decreased as the size increased. If you are programmed by watching TV shows where the incomes of the characters are ridiculously mis-matched to their expensive houses, then you probably just cannot understand it, but big houses suck. They are chronic maintenance problems, require constant cleaning, and so take comfort and pleasure rather than give.

As my mom used to say when six of us were very happily living in a 960 sf house: GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY.

We currently live in that 3000 sf monstrosity. I am practically rebuilding it (it was built in the '80s, need I say more?) We have built an efficiency apartment in it and are currently renting it to an unemployed friend who is helping with the work. When the house is completed, we will probably move into the efficiency apartment, rent out the rest of the house, and retire with a modest income from that and our IRAs. Smaller is liberating.