Rosie on the House: Professional handyman tricks to help you work smarter
Question: I am starting a project in my kitchen. What tips do you have regarding the demolition process?
Answer: Demolition work sounds like fun, and it can be. But there is a difference between tearing something down and removing it.
Taking things apart carefully, such as a nonbearing wall, and removing cabinets, counters, and backsplashes, can help avoid unnecessary damage to adjoining surfaces you don’t intend to replace or repair.
Rosie on the House Certified handyman, Fred Willsher of The WILLSH Corporation, refers to this process as “surgical’ removal.” Here are some of Fred’s pro tips to follow before and during the demolition process:
Cover up and protect. If your home was built before 1980, test for asbestos and lead before the demo begins. Call a professional to do the demolition work if either of these are present. Protect all the surrounding surfaces that are not intended to be replaced before you start the demo. This means removing or covering furniture, flooring, walls, and rooms. Rosen paper, blue tape, and plastic covers for openings to other spaces are for protection. If you anticipate a lot of dust, you should cover the supply and return vents in the work area to prevent dust from spreading throughout the rest of the house or damaging your air handler. Tape down the corners.
Start the demolition with a razor knife, not a hammer. To remove drywall from one wall but not an adjacent wall or a backsplash from an existing wall, start by cutting through the drywall tape and compound to avoid tearing the drywall paper from an adjoining surface.
Controlled descent. Have a plan to safely lower and remove heavy items like drywall, studs, and cabinets.
When done correctly, proper demolition will make the installation of new products go smoothly.
Q: How do I mix concrete for a small project?
A: Fred developed a unique process for mixing small batches of concrete. He mixes one 60 or 90-lb. bag of concrete at a time for jobs requiring less than two or three cubic yards, the minimum order from most ready-mix companies (one cubic yard equals 80 square feet, four-feet deep.)
Begin with a 10’ x 12’ tarp and place the sack of concrete in the center. Slice open the bag and remove the paper. As one person grips and lifts the tarp corners, the second pours water on the upside of the concrete pile. The second person grabs the other side of the tarp and lifts it, moving the dry mix into the water. Repeat these steps, back and forth, until the concrete consistency is what you want. You may have to play with the water-to-mix ratio a bit. The process takes a few minutes and is easier than mixing with a shovel or hoe in a wheelbarrow.
Q: What tips do you have for hanging and fixing doors?
A: Installing a new door in an existing opening has been made easier with the advent of the pre-hung door. These doors are already in a frame with the hinges in place. This allows for a simple installation where all you need are shims, a six-foot level, and a finish nail gun or finish nails to attach the door jamb to the existing framing. Unless you have journeyman-level carpentry skills, I don’t recommend you try installing a door from scratch.
Sometimes the door frames will come with the molding or trim attached to one side. Installation is completed by leveling the door, tacking the trim to the existing framing, and securing the door jamb to the frame.
Fred is often called to fix a sagging door that closes improperly or not at all. To fix it, he removes the existing screw from the center of the hinge (about a ¾” screw), replaces it with a three-inch deck screw, and installs it through the jamb and into the framing to clinch the door sufficiently to open and close properly. NOTE: an impact drill, or powerful variable speed drill, is the best tool for getting a three-inch screw to sink in as deeply as needed.
Q: What tricks do you have for a DIY drywall repair?
A: Fred offers these tricks to work with drywall:
Always stack drywall in an open space with the 4’ – 0’ edge vertical and the 8’ – 0’ horizontal.
When cutting drywall, start with a four-inch T-square or four-inch level. Score the drywall with a new blade in your utility knife. Cut the finish side (white side), snap the drywall, and score the backside to finish.
To hang drywall, use one-and-five-eighths coarse-thread screws. Don’t go through the paper, as it will break the gypsum.
Use self-adhesive mesh tape to tape the joints.
Now you are ready to repair the damaged drywall.
Clean dirt or dust from the area and place the sticky side of the tape (sometimes both sides are sticky) on the wall to cover the patch.
Use drywall compound (drywall mud) to cover the tape and hole, smoothing it out as much as possible with a drywall blade to complete the first coat.
When dry, lightly sand or use a wet sponge to enhance the smoothness and prepare the surface if another coat is needed.
Matching and blending your repair with the surrounding texture can be challenging. It will help to determine which drywall texture is on your wall. Common finishes are orange peel, knock-down, or smooth.
Use an extra piece of sheetrock to match the drywall texture on your wall. Copy what is there, then stand back and look at your work. If you are not happy with the results, you may need a professional to touch it up.
Sometimes Fred will use “hot mud.” This compound dries very quickly and is used by skilled pros. We don’t recommend trying it your first time.
When you cut a piece of framing, be it a stud, plate, or joist, you will make a line with your framing square as you measure for a cut. Always leave the line on the part you want to keep, as it is easier to make a board smaller than larger.
When painting an area, use a five-gallon bucket with a mesh grate attached to the inside of the bucket to remove excess paint from your roller instead of a roller pan. Even if you only use a gallon of paint, this tip keeps the area cleaner. You don’t have to stop and refill a pan. When working on a ladder, the bucket is easier to hang than a pan, plus you won’t need to bend over so much!
Use a three-inch angled Purdy Brush for professional results when cutting in.
Keep the cardboard sleeve. When finished with painting for the day, clean the brush thoroughly. Always store the brush in the sleeve to hold its shape.
Follow these handy tips, and your work will look like a pro did it!
An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for more than 40 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio broadcast, heard locally from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.
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