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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Open Up The Kitchen Wall

After seeing the results of one of my recent projects where I opened up the wall in one of their neighbor's kitchens (this project), these homeowners decided to have me do the same to their home. It's always a rewarding project when you get to be part of such a dramatic transformation in such a short amount of time.

This a newer neighborhood so the homes, although somewhat different, are built with nearly the same layout, making this job very similar to the other one that I did. This was NOT a load-bearing wall, which helps speed things up and saves a little money as well.

The countertop was made by my friend Chris Barber over at Barber Woodworking. It's made out of red oak and stained with an "Early American" stain color to nearly perfectly match the cabinets throughout the kitchen. As always, Chris does great work and created a wonderful centerpiece for this entertaining space.

In this picture you can see where Chris was scribing the end that would butt up to the wall so that he could cut it to fit perfectly. He used the same bolting system as last time to secure the countertop to the framing. (See this post.)

I also installed three art-glass pendant lights that not only provide a lot of light to show off the new countertop, but also bring out some of the homeowner's character in the project.

With a Thanksgiving gathering coming up, I'm sure these clients will enjoy sharing their transformed kitchen with friends and family who will gather there.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Office that Was A Garage

We passed our final inspections and I wanted to show off some pictures of a recent project that involved changing an old garage into new finished space that's slated to be an office.

When I started the uninsulated walls were covered with 3/4" boards and the floor was very rough concrete that was far from level. After gutting the walls to the studs it was time to pour a new slab to level the floor and add a back patio.

The room also held all the laundry facilities and service panel, so the idea was enclose all of this in closets to hide the mess while still keeping it easily accessible. I framed in the walls and had John Dorn Electric come out and do all the updated wiring. I also insulated all the exterior walls and the attic.

In addition to moving the door over to make room for the utility closet, I added a large front window that I found at a salvage yard. It was quite a find because it fits in naturally with the other older windows in the house. It even had the old counter-weights intact. The Jeld-Wen casement window on the end of the home and the fantastic solid-wood back door were also treasures from the salvage yard.

After a week of drywall work it was time to add trim from top to bottom. The small shelf that runs along the lower part of the wall covers the old concrete block that was at the base of the garage walls. I also added crown moulding and baseboard to match the interior of the home.

Before I was done I also added some tile around the back door where the floors will get the most wear and tear.

It was an fun project because of the variety of parts that came together to create this new space for the homeowner. She also had the house painted while I was there, so the changes were that much more dramatic, inside and out.

With an additional 200+ square feet, finishing this space added around 25% more living space to this cozy little home in East Nashville. It was my pleasure to play a part in the changes that will be enjoyed for decades to come...


Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Fix A Wobbly Half Wall on A Slab

In opening up the wall between the dining room and kitchen at my current project, I've found that the remaining half wall is very wobbly and tends to lean back and forth. This is a problem because we'll be putting a bar top on this wall and it's likely that someone will lean on it from time to time.
This particular wall is resting on a cement slab. Here's how I successfully stiffened up the wall...

1. Remove enough drywall to access the floor plate (the flat 2x4 that runs along the bottom of the wall.)

2. I'm using something called a "hex sleeve anchor" to secure the bottom plate to the floor. The idea is to drill a hole in the cement then drive these down. As you tighten the nut it draws the bolt upward and spreads the anchor out which makes a very tight fit in the concrete. I'm using 3/8" diameter bolts that are 3" long.

3. Drill a 3/8" hole through the floor plate with a standard wood bit, then, switch to a hammer drill with a 3/8" masonry bit to drill at least a couple inches into the concrete. You want the hole to be deeper than the bolt by at least 1/2" or more. This gives some space for the debris that accumulates at the bottom.

4. Carefully tap the anchor into the hole you just drilled. Make sure you strike it squarely so you don't bend the bolt and make it impossible to tighten the nut. (Trust me on this one... :) Drive it down until the washer is resting on the 2x4.

5. Use a socket wrench to tightened the nut until the floor plate is snug against the floor.

I used this process to insert four bolts and it did the trick. I found this to hold better than other methods such as using Tapcon screws.

The anchors hold the bottom plate very securely and greatly reduced the movement of the wall, but I also needed some extra bracing to keep the studs from moving back and forth on the bottom plate. For this I used a couple scrap 2x6's with 45 degree angles on each end. I nailed it in place and even drove some heavy duty Spax screws into it as well.

In the end the half-wall felt much more solid and is ready for the countertop which will also strengthen it up even more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Supersize That Header!

I've started a new project where I'll be opening up the wall between a client's kitchen and dining room. I started removing drywall and found this enormous header above the doorway...

And it's a NON load-bearing wall!

The header is a double 2x10 with a flat 2x4 on the bottom. In a non-bearing wall like this the flat 2x4 is all that you need so this is overkill. Most likely, the builders had some 2x10 scraps laying around and decided to use it. However, I also did some renovations at the neighbors home and it had the exact same header. Hmmm...

Even if it was load bearing, this is grossly oversized. I guess it doesn't hurt anything, but it's always best to use the appropriate materials for the job, and that includes the right size of materials...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Counters and A Dishwasher

When these clients were looking to buy a home they were hoping for one with a dishwasher. The home they ended up buying fit their family well, but... no dishwasher. That's when they called me...

Installing a dishwasher from scratch takes a variety of skills. There's electrical work, plumbing, and perhaps some carpentry as well in this case. The dishwasher would be installed in a spot where the fridge used to live. Since I'd need to some sort of counter above the dishwasher, the homeowners decided to go ahead and replace all the countertops with new laminate ones.

I installed a new 20 amp circuit and ran 12-2 wire to the location through the basement. I was also adding a garbage disposal under the sink, so I ran an additional circuit for that as well.

The dishwasher is only 24" wide (standard size), but the space where the fridge used to be was nearly 36". To finish it off, I installed an end panel next to the dishwasher consisting of stained 1/2" hardwood plywood capped with a thin strip of stained poplar. This left a space that was around 10" wide that the homeowner could use for storage shelves.

As best that I could, I tried to use a stain on the end panel that would match the older cabinets. I've had pretty good results using a Minwax stain color called "Ipswich Pine". It's has a little orange tinge to it which matches the older woodwork fairly well.

Not only did they add a dishwasher which will save them time, but they got another three feet of counter space out of the project as well as a new garbage disposal. Isn't it amazing how these sorts of 'luxuries' are missed once you've gotten used to using them!

Let's hear it for indoor plumbing! :)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How To Add Valves Under The Sink

When it comes to plumbing repairs, valves are your friend. If you have a valve under the toilet, for instance, you don't have to find the main shut-off, which is often in the deep recesses of a crawlspace. Instead, you can turn off the water supply to the toilet, swap out the fixture, and turn it back on.
If you don't have a valve, by all means, add one when you're working on it!!

I'm working on a short kitchen project right now where I'll be adding a dishwasher and garbage disposal to an older kitchen. There are no valves in the kitchen, so adding some was the first step of my project. It's fairly basic, but that doesn't make it easy.

Often older homes have galvanized lines that corrode enough to make it hard to work with, but not quite enough to replace all of it. Here are some hints:

1. Turn off the water somewhere, usually the home's main water shut-off valve. If it's in the back of a crawlspace, it may be easier to shut if off at the street if it's easily accessible. Once the water is off, turn on a fixture in the lowest part of the home to drain as much of the water out of the system as possible. No use making any more mess than needed, right?

2. Disconnect the current supply lines- under the sink, in my case. If they are stuck, you might try using a little WD-40 to loosen them up.

3. Connect your valve. That's sometimes easier said than done. The valve section at Home Depot must have at least two dozen different types of valves. Which one do you need? Here's a starting point for you- most of the time, the hot/cold supply lines under the sink are 1/2" galvanized. The means you want a valve with one end labeled 1/2" FIP. This stands for "Female Iron Pipe because the valve will be threaded inside to receive the male end of the pipe that's under the sink.

The faucet connector after the valve can be tricky. If it's newer, it's most likely a 3/8" compression fitting. These are, by far, the most common for new fixtures. However if you're adding a valve you've probably got the original supply lines which could be any number of things. If you're unsure what it is, just take all the parts to the home store with you and get whatever fittings are needed to put it back together.

The iron pipe side is usually connected with Teflon tape or pipe dope, which is a gooey form of pipe thread sealant that you can 'paint' on the threads. Compression fittings don't need Teflon sealant.

4. Test and fix any drips. Drips happen. Usually it's a matter of tightening up your connections or redoing it with more sealant.

You'll see that I chose a dual outlet valve for this project. That allows me to connect the water line as well as the dishwasher to this one valve. Quite handy, eh? I've put a cap on it for now because I haven't got the dishwasher installed quite yet.

When in doubt, call a plumber... :)


Saturday, November 14, 2009

New 18" Tile Floors for Two Bathrooms

I spent the last few days working in Mt. Juliet at a beautiful new home. Most of the time, new homes are marketed with lots of space, but not necessarily many upgrades inside. These clients have been working hard to make their newer home a showplace with lots of custom trim, tile and paint colors. They called me to lay tile in their two upstairs bathrooms.

Both the upstairs master bath and guest bath came with vinyl floors and white walls. The homeowners wanted the floors to seem as much like one large piece of tile as possible. We did this by using huge 18" tiles and very small 1/8" grout lines.

The tiles are glazed porcelain, which is a ceramic tile that has a coating of porcelain making it nearly impervious to stains or mildew as well as easy to clean.

I started by laying 1/4" Hardibacker cement board throughout both bathrooms over a layer of modified thinset. The purpose of the thinset is to give a solid supporting layer underneath the cement board and fill any small holes or cracks. The cementboard is very resistant to moisture and won't expand or contract like a wood subfloor does.

One of the other tricks to this project was that it was upstairs in a home full of white carpet! A scary thought when you consider carrying around a bucket of tabacco-colored grout. Nonetheless, with ample preparations like lots of plastic anywhere that I might decide to walk and dropcloths in the work areas the carpets were still white when I left!

Working with 18" tile isn't that different than other tiles. I have a small tablesaw-like wet saw which cuts these tiles without a problem despite it's small size and 4 1/4" blade. Some of the sliding-table wet saws will not work with 18" tile because the arm that holds the motor will be in the way of the large tile.

At the end of an intense four days, the floor was looking great but will be even better when accompanied by some color on those walls, which, I'm sure, is coming soon...


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tile A Doorway in ONE Day!

My garage conversion project is winding down to the final details. The room has a cement floor (remember this post?). All along, the plan was to carpet the entire room, however, as we got close to finishing, the homeowner asked me if I'd lay some tile at the backdoor.

Tile at doorways is a great idea because this area will get the most wear and tear from wet and dirty feet that come through the door. A ceramic tile will endure the torment for years to come and still look great. For this project, I would only be tiling a 4' x 4' area connecting the backdoor with the utility closet where the mud sink is.

I did it in one day.

How you ask? With a nifty product called SpeedSet. I'm sure there are other brands out there, but it's a quick-setting thinset mortar that allows you to grout the tile 2 hours after laying it. It's great for small applications like this or time sensitive projects when you don't have the luxury of time to wait on thinset to cure.

I laid the tile after lunch and grouted it before I left for the day. Check that project off of the punch list!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Fix for Rotted Sill Plate

I got to spend the morning in a crawlspace repairing a small amount of rotted sill plate. A sill plate is the piece of lumber than runs horizontally along the top of a foundation that the floor joists rest on.

In this case a bathroom leak years ago had caused the wood to rot in this one particular part of the house. It was discovered during a home inspection and I was brought in to fix the issue.

There are a couple different issues to address with this. First, I focused on removing the rotted portion. Other than being difficult to access, it was fairly easy to chip out with a wood chisel. There were still pieces on either side of the damage that were solid and doing their job holding up the floor.

Modern codes require that lumber that comes in contact with masonry like this is pressure treated to resist rot. This wasn't the case when this home was built or perhaps I wouldn't have a sill to replace. Anyway, I replaced about 5 feet of the sill with a piece of treated lumber.

The floor had sagged about 1/2" because of the deterioration, however, because there was a tile floor in the bathroom above, my goal was not to raise the floor back up, but rather to stabilize it so it doesn't move any more. If I try to correct the sag I'll likely crack all the tile above and have more issues to deal with.

This brings us to the second phase of this project which was to add additional support. The sill plate was rotted all the way through in this area, but some of the rot extended into the very ends of the floor joists where they made contact with the sill plate. To add support to the joists, I installed a couple steel jacks under a 6' treated 4x4 that would extend across all the affected joists. A couple of the joists were sagging more than others so I shimmed the high ones so they were all supported by the new beam.

Adding a beam like this is a very common method for adding additional support to an area affected by rot or termite damage, or possibly just undersized framing, etc. It's important to install a beam so that you are spreading the load from several joists, rather than simply jacking up just one joist. If you do this, you'll most likely have a distinctive 'hump' in the floor because the jack is only raising the one point instead of a wider area.

I finished the repair and crawled out of the hole that was my worksite for the day, thankful to stretch my legs and see some sunlight again.