Same guy- new name - new website!

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and update your bookmarks. Thanks! -Peter

Friday, July 31, 2009

Laying a Tight Subfloor

In preparation for laying the Travertine tiles at my Eastwood kitchen project, it became obvious that I would need a more substantial surface to support the stone tiles. The framing was fine, however, there was only 3/4" decking + 1/4" sheathing for a total of 1" of subfloor. So, to strengthen things up I installed another layer of 5/8" plywood.

It's unusually satisfying to put down a new subfloor. (A little weird, I know... :) You can feel the change immediately because the floor is so solid now. It also gives me a clean surface to tile over.

I thought I'd share a couple tips on how to get it to fit well. The first thing is to pick the most square wall and start there. With older homes, like this one, finding something square may be a challenge, but it's good to get a good start with your first piece.

Taking accurate measurements is the most important part to getting a good fit, especially in smaller spaces where there are lots of notches to make. Thankfully, I got today's kitchen finished with no 'do-overs'! Here's how:

1. Pick a reference point and make all your measurements from the same point. For example if you have a notch to cut around a cabinet, measure both sides of the notch from the end of the piece that it will butt up to. All the measurements must be 'relative' to the same end of the board. This is a great tip when measuring drywall as well.

2. Keep the square, factory-cut edges for butting up to adjacent pieces. Cut the other end. This way, all the joints will be crisp and won't have gaps. Once you allow a gap, the rest of the following joints will suffer as well...

Remember to use some good construction adhesive to help the new plywood to bond well to the old floor. I used PL400 construction adhesive which is great stuff. Also, don't forget to sweep often. Even a little chip of wood or drywall will make a hump in your new floor and be quite a headache to deal with. This will also help the adhesive to make a good connection.

Stay tuned for travertine!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Finishing the Glass Tile Backsplash

The kitchen is starting to come together. The butcher block countertops have had 4 coats of Waterlox sealer and are looking great. I also just finished grouting the glass mini-brick backsplash after installing it a couple days ago (see this post).

It's always such a dramatic effect to see a tile project with new grout. I used a white unsanded grout with the green glass tiles. The colors look great and really show off the tiles.

Before grouting, I made sure to take the time to clean out any thinset that had filled in between the tiles. It's best for the grout to fully fill those grout lines, and it will look better as well without chunks of thinset in there.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Make A Hidden Butcher Block Cutting Board

We had a nice chunk of butcher block left when I cut out the hole for the sink. (More about the Ikea counters at this post.) The homeowner had the idea of making it a cutting board that would extend from the cabinets to add a little more counter space.

At first, I thought there wouldn't be enough space above the top drawer on this cabinet. There was about 1 3/4" available, but the butcher block was 1 1/2". That would only leave 1/8" margin above and below. In the end, it was perfect, but it was a tight fit.

The cutting board would be attached using 20" heavy duty drawer slides. They are supposed to hold 100 lbs which might be nice if someone decided to lean on the cutting board when it was extended.

I started the installation by cutting out the top cross piece so the opening would match the drawer below. Next, I built out the sides to match this opening so that the drawer slides would have a place to attach. After attaching the rails I was ready to cut the butcher block to fit.

The homeowner also had the idea of making the face of the cutting board wider so that it would cover the end of the drawer slides and match the drawers below. This was a great idea, but required some extra thinking before I made any cuts. The board would set back into the cabinet 20", but would need an extra 1/2" for the lip on the front.

I made some careful cuts trying to keep everything square so that it would slide right once installed. It took some adjustments, but it did fit and looked great. There's about 1/8" clearance between the cutting board and the countertop above. That's plenty to make sure there's no interference. These counters overhang quite a bit, so even with the lip on the cutting board it will be hidden until someone needs it.

We'll have to find some kind of drawer pull to put on the end after I've sanded and sealed it so that you have an easy way to pull it out.

It's fun to work with clients to see their ideas become reality, especially something that will be so functional- as long as you remember it's there!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laying Glass Mini-Brick Backsplash

If subway tiles are cool, then glass mini-bricks are super-cool! Today, I was installing them on a backsplash in an older home in Eastwood Neighbors.

After prepping the drywall a little, I marked my layout. I was trying to stretch the tile as far as possible, because the homeowner only had a limited amount and we weren't sure where to get more to match. That's fine, I had just enough to do it all.

Prepwork is very important to laying tile. For a backspash, drywall is typically a suitable surface because of the limited exposure to water, unlike a shower surround where you'd want some kind of cement board under the tile because it's less affected by the moisture.

Working with the glass tiles is not that different from other smaller mosaics. A wet saw works well, just cut slowly to try not to chip the tiles and leave a straight edge. My trick for cutting a sheet of tiles worked with glass too. (Read this post for that technique.)

The countertops haven't been installed yet, so I marked a level line on the wall where the tile should start. I attached a support along this line to hold the first rows of tile, a ripped 2x4 worked great. This ensures that I start off level as well, very important if I want this to look good!

I removed the tiles from the sheet where outlets would interfere and then put cut pieces in afterward. I like to hold them in place with blue painters tape as you see in the pictures.

The effect of having several sheets of these small 1" x 2" tiles is stunning. I might have to find some of these for my kitchen...


Monday, July 27, 2009

Upgrade with Ikea Butcher Block Countertops

I started a new kitchen project today. By the time I'm finished there will be a glass mini-block backsplash and travertine floors throughout this character-filled East Nashville home. In addition, I'm installing butcher block counters from Ikea.

I tackled the counters first because they'll take a couple days to seal. The stock comes from IKEA in several different lengths. They are solid birch and come unfinished.

Working with the butcher block was fairly easy. This kitchen is divided into three sections with no 90 degree turns so that was helpful. To cut, I bought a Diablo finishing blade for my circular saw. (A finishing blade has more teeth so that it makes a cleaner cut.) I made the cuts so that the factory edges would be the only ones seen.

After making the measurements, I fastened a straight edge to the butcher block using clamps so that I'd have a solid edge to run the circular saw against. This extra precaution ensures that the ends will be square and straight- as long as I measured it right!

Cutting out the sink was the same as with a laminate top. I marked the sink and removed the piece with my jigsaw. You want to have a couple long boards under the butcher block while you're cutting it so that parts don't break off while you're cutting.

(Remember, today was the first day of this project. The pictures will get better as things progress! :)

Once the cuts were made I lightly sanded with 150 grit sandpaper and got ready to finish them. (Remember to sand with the grain.) Thankfully the block was fairly smooth and didn't need major sanding.

I did quite a bit of reading to see what was recommended to finish the butcher block. Of course, Ikea has their own sealer, but, by far, most people seem to recommend using a product called Waterlox.

Waterlox is a tung-oil based sealer that is non-toxic and food safe according to the manufacturer, as long as it's applied correctly. It should be allowed to dry overnight between coats and these counters will probably get 4 coats with at least 2 coats on the bottoms. Waterlox can be a little tricky to locate. I found it at the Woodcraft store in Franklin.

All the butcher block in this kitchen cost around $200. Not much more than stock laminate from the home stores. If you don't live near an Ikea the shipping costs will eat you alive. This homeowner was able to pick up the counters on a trip through Atlanta so it made sense for him.

So far, I'm impressed, but the real test will be after a few years of use.

BTW- If you want more info about installing Ikea butcher block check out:


Friday, July 24, 2009

Laminate Flooring Goes Down Fast

Today I was helping a new friend install some laminate flooring as he gets his house ready for twins. I'm not sure the flooring will help with dirty diapers, but it will be one less thing for the "honey-do" list, right?

Anyway, laminate is a popular upgrade from carpet that is considerably less expensive and easier to install than real hardwoods. Of course, there's nothing like the real thing, but for the price, laminates look great and come in lots of varieties.

Like laying hardwoods, it seemed to work best to start with the 'groove' side toward the wall and work out from there. It's good to come up with a pattern so that all the seams don't line up. I alternated from small/medium/large every three rows. This worked well with the cuts so that we didn't have lots of waste.

The installation procedure goes like this:

1. Take the piece and raise the opposite edge while sliding the 'groove' side under the tongue of the piece you are joining. Don't worry about matching the ends up yet.

2. Once the pieces are hugging tightly, lower it slowly and tap it with a block until they 'click' together. Don't tap on the tongue. Instead, put your block just above the tongue against the top portion of the flooring, being careful not to chip the laminate.

3. With the length joined, use your block to tap from one end until the other end 'clicks' as well.

That's basically it. Repeat for every piece. Some will need to be cut or notched depending on the room's layout. Be careful to make sure you are running square to the walls. You may want to put blocks against the wall because the entire floor will tend to shift as you're working, because this is a floating floor.

Laminate or engineered wood flooring is said to be a floating floor because it is not fastened down to the subfloor in any way- no glue or nails, etc. A slight gap around the edges, covered by baseboard and shoe moulding, allows for expansion and contraction with changes in humidity.
Keep a small pry bar on hand for applying pressure to the pieces when you get close to walls. Make sure you put a wide block under the bar before prying against the drywall or you may add a drywall repair to your project!

Many people find that installing laminate flooring is an easy do-it-yourself project. Today's room took me about 1 day to fully complete. Some tools like a table saw will come in very handy for the last row that is likely going to be a partial width and need to be trimmed.

With this floor down, that grand piano will sound even better.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rebuilt Porch- Before and After

If you'll remember from earlier in the week, when I was first introduced to this lovely porch it was sagging considerably. Further inspection showed that it was built without an all-important ridge beam and now the decorative brackets were supporting the weight, for now...

The cure for this was to completely remove the porch and rebuild a new one, trying to match the old one as much as possible. Here are the steps I took:

Dismantle the old porch (this post)
Reframe a new porch with a ridge beam (this post)
Install roofing to match up to the house (this post)
Trim the porch with beadboard, drip cap & wood siding (this post)

That brings us to the end where I prepped and painted the porch an army-green color to match the upper dormers. It got a coat of primer and 2 coats of paint. It was looking pretty sharp and, best of all, level! The porch is now well-supported and the brackets are once again just for looks.

It was a fun project. Now on to the next...


Friday, July 17, 2009

Beadboard Porch Ceiling and Drip Cap

Having the roof done means it's time to finally add some trim to this porch I've been working on.

The old porch had a beadboard ceiling. To get the look without the expense, my clients opted for the beadboard plywood. This went up first after I cut out a hole for the light.

The rest of the porch trim is mostly 1x6 boards inside and out. With the sides finished, I put one on the bottom and mitered the corners at 45 degree angles.

The face of the porch will match the street starting with a drip cap above the bottom 1x6. When I did my first renovation, I thought this was just a 1x2, but have since discovered that most of the home stores actually sell a specialty trim called 'drip cap'. Sometimes it's made out of PVC for weather resistance, but I'm using wood for this project.

The drip cap is supposed to guide the water away from the trim below, and it just looks great. It also has a small lip on the top that the first row of wood siding will overlap. It's very common in older homes from the early 1900's and can add distinctive character, especially when it's used around the base of an entire home like it was at my Eastside Bungalow project.

Anyway, the trim is finished and the porch looks like a porch. It's a good feeling.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Roofing the New Porch With a Closed-Cut Valley

The rain held off today and I was able to finish the porch roof on my latest project (see this post). There wasn't a lot of area to cover, but there was a valley on either side of the porch that would need special attention.

Because of the additional amount of water that valleys get they are more susceptible to leaks. Debris or snow can pile up there as well and slow down the water flow off of the roof. For these reasons we have to make sure that the valleys have extra protection.

For my project, I started by putting a strip of metal flashing along the valley right on top of the sheathing. This will also give additional support if someone happens to be on the roof and steps in the valley. We don't want anything to pucture the layers of water protection there.

Next, I installed a layer of 36" wide roll roofing along with some roofing cement to seal it down good. The idea is to make a wide area around the valley that will keep the water from getting to the sheathing.

After the roll roofing, I put 15 pound roofing paper on the entire area as usual and started laying shingles with the porch side (to the left in the photo). I started at the gable end and continued with shingles until I was well past the valley, making sure to not nail in the valley and penetrate my flashing below.

As you can see in the picture, after the porch side is done, I did the house side and overlapped the valley again. The only difference here is that I won't put any nails past the valley. Instead, once the shingles are all down, I'll make a chalk line straight down the valley and then cut the top layer of shingles along this line. I believe that this technique is called a closed-cut valley.
Note: Cutting shingles on a valley or even along the rim of the roof is easier with a roofing blade for your utility knife. This is a razor-sharpe blade just like the others except that it's in the shape of a small hook. Very handy when cutting shingles from their face side.
Whatever you call it, when I was finished it matched the upper gables and the rest of the roof. That's a good thing when you're just renovating a portion of the house.

Trim is next!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tool Review- Porter Cable Roofing Nailer

Every time I'm doing some type of roof repair, I think about how grateful I am for my roofing gun. Of course, nearly any gun would be better than hammering, but I think I made a good choice with the Porter Cable RN175A.

One of the best things about having a roofing nailer is that you can put nails in with just one hand. Your other hand is free to hold the shingle, or the ladder. This could make some very precarious positions a lot safer.

I don't do large scale roofing, mainly smaller repairs, etc. Today, for example, I was installing roofing on a porch I rebuilt because the old one was sagging so much. (See these posts: day1, day2) Having the nailer made the job go so much faster!

As far as features, the Porter Cable seems to compete very well with the other top brands. I haven't had problems with misfiring or nails not going in far enough. This happens once in a while, probably because I've hit another nail below, but it's definitely not a widespread problem.

It does seem to spit out the last nail every time, so you'll waste one nail per coil. And it doesn't have a lockout feature to keep you from firing blanks. (Something that should be a standard feature on any gun.)

One cool feature is that you can change from bump fire to single fire. With bump fire the gun shoots when you depress the tip with the trigger pulled. This is great when you're laying lots of shingles and you get in a groove. Single fire will shoot one nail each time you pull the trigger with the nose depressed. This is better when you need to be more accurate or working in tight quarters.

It feels very solidly built, too. Parts of it are plastic, but overall it doesn't feel cheap. It gets a lot of wear laying on the roof and it seems to take it well.

As far as price, this gun was $50-75 cheaper than other top brands like the Millwaukee or Bostich ones. I bought mine refurbished and saved even more. Today was my third major roofing job using it, and it also comes in handy for securing cementboard underlayment for tile floors. For the type of work I do, this gun is a great fit.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Framing the New Gable Porch

With the old sagging porch out of the way, (see this post) it was time to frame a new one. The goal was to better support the structure, but also match the old porch style as much as possible.

I started by finding my center lines and cutting back a little more roof decking so that I could make a place to tie in my ridge beam. The old porch didn't have one which was one of the main problems with it. I sistered a couple 2x6's to one of the rafters where I would attach the ridge beam. This will secure it and support the weight of the porch.

You can see in the pictures where I also added some braces to add more strength to this structure. It's a little unusual to think that the ridge is holding up the porch- usually there are posts or walls holding up a roof. There will be brackets attached below for some support, but I want those to be mostly decorative.

I was able to save and reuse the old rafters which were bulky, old-fashioned, 2x6s. This means that they measure 1 5/8 instead of the modern 1 1/2. This will match the upstairs gables and stay with the look of the home, especially since the homeowners wanted to leave the vinyl off the porch and expose the eaves.

I made the ceiling with doubled-up 2x6s on front and back. I attached one to the house first above the door, making sure it was completely level and solidly nailed to the house framing. Then I added the rest of the ceiling framing to that.

Having two 2x6's around the perimeter of the porch will do the job structurally, but to match the old porch it needs to end up around 5 inches thick. To achieve this I put a piece of 3/4" plywood on the sides which will be covered with 3/4" trim inside and out. That should do the trick.

Next will be roofing...


Monday, July 13, 2009

Recipe for a Sagging Porch

This week's exciting project is to replace a porch before it falls down! Seriously, when I began today it was sagging by a few inches, though it had been that way for a while. The homeowners thought they should be proactive and take care of it before it lands on their front door.

As I removed some of the beadboard ceiling, I noticed a couple immediate reasons for the sag. First, there was no ridge beam. A ridge beam is a large piece of lumber that runs perpendicular to the rafters at the very top. It's so important because it would join the rafters to the main house and prevent movement of the porch.

Secondly, where the 3/4" roof decking had been nailed into the main house roof's decking, there was now a large gap. This means that there had been a couple inches of movement and these important connections were no longer providing any support.

The entire weight of the porch was now being supported by the two 4x4 brackets that were angled back to the house.

The fix for this involves totally removing the porch and building a new one, matching the old one and the upper dormers of the house as closely as possible.

I dismantled the porch, starting with some of the trim and then removing the shingles. I made a simple 2x6 post to support the front of the porch so it wouldn't move on me while I was working. With the shingles off I removed the decking, rafters and the rest of the trim.

As I went along, there were a couple more reasons I discovered for the weakness of the structure. For one, the sides of the porch didn't have any supporting members. They were just made out of a box of 3/4" material with blocks in the corners. I also found that the brackets (that were now supporting all the weight) were only nailed with 2 finishing nails in each end!

With the porch off and all the debris cleaned up, I'm ready to frame a new one tomorrow.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Replace the Cracked Garbage Disposal

I had a client complain this week that there was a leak under her sink. I started to investigate and look for any drips from supply lines or the drains. I traced the drip back to the garbage disposal.

It was an old disposal and it had some corrosion around the seam in the middle of it, so I thought that it may have developed a leak there. Anyway, we decided to replace it with a new one.

Once I got the old one off I could see it clearly, it had a crack in the side of it! I guess it died of natural causes. Whenever there was water running through it, it would just drip out the side into the sink cabinet.

It was fairly easy to replace and I was glad to be free of the drips when I got done.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Set A Post For A Birdhouse

This must be 'odd jobs' week... After doing some siding repairs on their sunroom, a homeowner wanted me to put a birdhouse in her backyard on a post. They have quite a bit of wildlife back there and the birds had been kicked out of the house... (remember this post?)

So I bought a 10' pressure treated 4x4 and dug a 2' hole that was probably 10" across or so. I leveled the post and braced it using some spare lumber and a couple 2x4 stakes that I made. This would hold it in place while the cement set up.

I used Quickrete's fast-setting concrete mix that you can use for posts without even mixing! You just pour the mix into the hole and add 1/2 gallon of water for each bag you use. My hole took 2 bags.

Next, I built a couple brackets to hold the birdhouses out of pressure treated 2x4 and attached them using some 3" and 2 1/2" deck screws. By the time I had these brackets cut and assembled the concrete was solid and ready to go! The bag said 20-40 minutes to set up and it was right.

I attached the brackets and the birdie's new home. Now it's ready for it's first residents...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Camera Platform for PBS Special

An unusual job came along this week. Some clients of mine, who are incredible musicians and performers, are preparing to record a live concert to be broadcast on PBS later this year. There's a lot that goes into production of such an event.

My job was to build a large platform that would hold the 'jib' camera. That's the camera that has a 30' boom arm on it to get those sweeping-long-angle shots. The platform would be 9' x 9' and need to support 1000 lbs. It would need to be extremely stable so that as the operator moved it would not bounce around. It would also need to span 3 rows of theater seats and be level even though the floor is sloped.

Whew! What an order, eh?

The basic plan was to build two 4.5' x 9' platforms that bolted together in the middle. I would make it using 2x6 lumber with 16" spacing covered with 3/4" plywood. The legs would be bolted as well to make it easier to take apart and move.

I started by building the basic platforms. I added some braces across the middle where I knew the plywood seams would be. Because of the large size, a single piece of plywood would not span the entire frame.

I built legs for each corner as well as two at either end of the middle joint where the two platforms were bolted together with 1/2" carriage bolts. These center legs would hold the majority of the weight.

This morning I painted it black and moved it to the venue. At this point, all the legs were the same length. However, once it was set up in the auditorium I had a couple of guys lift up the low edge and hold it level, while I 'sistered' each leg with another 2x6, making them the right length to level the top.

I added an extra brace under the middle to reduce the 'wiggle', but now it's ready for action.

If you're in the area, I hope you'll check out Annie Moses Band on July 9th at Lipscomb University's Collin's Auditorium (more info on their website). If you miss that, you can catch them on PBS this winter.

All brought to you by a special camera platform made with love...


Monday, July 6, 2009

Carpentry Basics- Make Accurate Cuts

One of the basics of any type of construction work is to make accurate measurements. Many people can get by with "close enough" but sometimes, the cut needs to be perfect in order to fit.

To get accurate measurements, you have pay attention and think a little more as you measure and cut.

First, measure the length to be cut exactly. For instance, I was cutting several pieces today that needed to be 51 inches long. They all needed to be the same in order to fit snugly. So, I marked the lumber at 51 inches... -WAIT!

This is the important part- How do you mark it??

To get accurate cuts you have to watch where you put the mark. Is it right on 51"? Is it just above/below? This is very important.

I've developed the habit of always marking just above the measurement. This way, you will cut "on the mark" leaving no pencil line on the finished piece. So, for a 51" cut, my pencil mark is to the right of the 51" line.

When I make the cut on the miter saw, I line up the left edge of the blade with the left edge of my pencil mark, assuming I measured from my left. This way, the remaining piece is exactly 51".

Once you start paying attention to this it will become habit. You'll probably be surprised at how your cuts will get better and you won't have to "re-do" as often.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Get a Ladder Stabilizer Before Climbing

I thought I'd highlight a tool that is super-helpful when I'm working from my ladder in any precarious positions- a ladder stabilizer.

The stabilizer is just a horizontal cross piece that attaches to the top of my extension ladder using brackets and wing bolts. It's fairly easy to take on or off.

There are couple huge benefits to using one of these. First, of course, is that it 'stabilizes' the ladder making it less likely to move on you. It really does help the ladder feel more solid and increases my confidence so I can work faster from it.

Secondly, it allows the weight of the ladder to rest on the shingles where the stabilizer is, rather than on the gutters, where leaning the ladder on the gutter might damage them.

Finally, I'd say that with the stabilizer I can reach a wider area around the ladder, meaning I have to move it less. This was certainly true at my recent roof repair (see this post) where I was working along an eave from the ladder. I can be more certain that the ladder won't spin on me if I'm leaning more to one side to get a nail out or paint some trim.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Install a Garbage Disposal from Scratch

Replacing a garbage disposal is a pretty simple process, however it can get more complicated if you're installing a garbage disposal where there was none as was this case for this project.

There are two main parts to this project: First, getting power to the disposal with a switch so that the homeowner has a way to control it, and then reconfiguring the trap to hook it up.

It's best if the disposal can be on it's own dedicated circuit. This was not practical for this project, so the next best thing is to add it to the dishwasher circuit. This circuit should be 20 amps with 12/2 wire with only the dishwasher and disposal on it.

This worked well for this project because I would have to pull the dishwasher out anyway to have access to the wall and run the wires to a switch above the countertop. I used a junction box below in the basement to make all the connections and ran new wiring from there.

To put in the switch, I enlarged the opening next to a single switch box and replaced it with a new 'remodeling' double switch box. The 'remodeling' boxes have little flaps that go out when you screw them down and secure the box to the drywall. Fishing the wires through the wall went well once the dishwasher was out of the way and I could make a couple small holes in the wall behind it.

Under the sink I ran the disposal's wire into a small plastic junction box with a cover. From here I was able to hardwire the disposal into the junction box.

NOTE: Many garbage disposals come with a 'power cord' connector with a plug on the end. In this case, I would install a 20 amp plug in the junction box and just plug the disposal into it.
Now for the plumbing part... I started by removing all the trap fittings under the sink because they needed to be replaced anyway. The tube that comes out of the disposal joins up with the pipe from the other sink and then goes down into the P-trap and out. It's always a puzzle to find the right combination of pieces, but it helped to get the disposal in place first and then see how it would lay out.

It took an afternoon, but now this homeowner has a monster under the sink waiting for leftovers.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Spruce Up Those Windows!

I spent much of last week working on a sunroom that needed some repair. After fixing the cedar siding (read this post), I went to work on the windows.

The wood casement windows mainly just needed to be scraped and painted, however there were a couple small trim pieces that had rotted and come loose.

I would have to make the replacement pieces using my tablesaw to rip a small board down to a 3/8" x 1/2" moulding that would replace the one around the window. After replacing the trim, I caulked the gaps which were mainly around the sill at the bottom.

Then, I scraped all the loose paint off, trying to catch as many of the paint chips on a drop cloth below and gave the windows a coat of paint.

This homeowner was wise to attend to these windows now before they deteriorated more. If they had waited much longer, it's likely that more the wood would have been damaged and needing to be replaced. Now their sunroom is all spruced up and ready to go!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Repair for Stinky Cracked Cast Iron Drain

Some friends of mine just bought a new house full of old cast iron. During the home inspection, the inspector warned them that it was getting older and should be closely watched and possibly replaced.

Wouldn't you know that within a week of them moving in one of the 4" cast iron drain pipes in the basement developed a huge crack in one of the sections coming from the master bath. Unfortunately they didn't notice until the next day and their basement was wet.

I was asked to repair the pipe while they consider just replacing it all.

The basic idea of this repair was to remove the busted pipe and replace it with PVC. Here's the process:

1. Before cutting out the damaged section, make sure that there are supports in the appropriate places so that no pieces of cast iron come crashing down on you. Also, make sure to have a bucket ready in case some of the stinky stuff leaks out.

2. I used my reciprocal saw with a carbide-tipped blade to cut through a 2" drain and the 4" drain. Because of the cracks location I would have to replace a T and part of the intersecting lines.

3. I took one end of the damaged pipe apart at the hub. I first used a sledgehammer to break apart the already cracked pipe back to the hub. Then, with a few careful blows I was able to get the hub to crack and I knocked it off. The lead joint compound came off with my cold chisel.

4. Dry fit the PVC parts together to make sure it will fit. Where the PVC joins the cast iron I used the appropriate rubber coupling. Then, once I knew the pieces fit, I glued it all together on the floor.

5. Slide the PVC into place and join to the cast iron using rubber couplings.

6. Check for leaks and clean up.

The hardest part of it is probably cutting out the damaged section. PVC is generally easy to work with, especially when you're just replacing a a section like I was.

Oh yeah, #7. Go take a shower to get the stink off...