Gilles' Outlet

May 24, 2010

Building a Raised Vegetable Bed

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:31 am

Two cedar vegetable raised bed are built by section and installed. Metal brackets are installed to provide additional strength.


Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic~Moderate)

Time Taken: About 8 hours

There are countless designs for vegetable raised beds. In this article, we built two raised bed using techniques borrowed from fine furniture construction: beds are divided in four sections which are built in the shop and then assembled on site.

Since we were concerned about the possibility of chemicals used for pressure treated lumber seeping out, we decided to build the beds with 5/4’’ non treated cedar decking.

Left: The starting point of the project. Several days before, I located a suitable spot for the raised bed: a nice nook exposed to the sun for the longest possible time.

I used scrap lumber to precisely mark the position of the two raised beds.


Right: The lumber for this project: 5/4’’ cedar decking (left) and 2×4 cedar (right). It is exactly the right amount of lumber and there will be only minimal waste.

Cedar is sold green and it is typically not a good idea to store it in direct sunlight for long periods of time: this cause it to dry prematurely and create bad checks.

Left: I cut three pieces of 5/4’’ cedar decking to length and held them side by side with two clamps. I chose the best looking side and made sure it will face outwards. Clamps allowed the boards to be tightly  pressed against each other, leaving no gap in between boards.

This will become a side of the raised bed.

Right: I cut one 2ft long piece of 2×4 cedar and clamped it on the right side of the previous assembly. This piece of lumber will eventually be buried underground.

Left: I marked an “x” at the center of the 2×4 and the side board. Since these will be visible, I made sure these marks where perfectly aligned.


Right: I drilled a 3/8’’ hole at each mark.

Left: A 3/8’’ galvanized carriage bolt, with flat washer and hex nut. This is the fastener I will use to attach the sides to the 2×4. There will be two fasteners per board which accounts for a total of six fastener per side.


Right: The carriage bolt gets inserted into the previously drilled hole, then the washer and the nut.

Left: I used an impact driver equipped with a socket to tighten all carriage bolts.


Right: After repeating the previous steps on the other side, I easily completed one section of the two raised beds.

Left: The design called for a raised bed to be rectangular with one side almost 1ft bigger than the other. The picture shows the “larger" side at the top and the “smaller” side below.


Right: Top view of one of the raised bed’s corner when assembled: the two 2×4 were located so that they would fit snuggly …

Left: … giving a clean outside edge. This design was preferred over a mitered corner because it gives a more rustic appearance. Also, mitered corners on wood exposed to weather eventually always open, leaving unsightly gaps.


Right: View of the same corner from the inside: because the 2×4 are snug, corners can be reinforced with metal brackets for added strength.

Left: I dug four holes which will act as the foundations for the project. These are almost 18’’ deep. In this area, the frost line is at 1ft so any foundation must be at least 12’’ in the ground to avoid frost jacking.


Right: Detail of one of the holes: the bottom is flat, lays on undisturbed soil and any organic matter was removed.

Left: I installed the fist section in the foundations and leveled it.


Right: Be Level. I made sure the side stood level.

Left: Be Plumb. Each side was tweaked to be perfectly plumb. This is harder than it looks. I had to use several pieces of scrap lumber to hold the side in place as I was leveling.


Right: When I reached the desired position, I dropped crushed rock at the bottom of the foundation. This will help stabilize the side as a well as provide extra drainage.

Left: I used a scrap 2×4 to compact the crushed rock. It is important to compact often when backfilling to avoid settling.


Right: Other sides can be installed by repeating the previous steps. As I installed more sides, I also made sure they were square.

When everything was plumb, level and square, I completely backfilled foundation holes with soil, making sure I compacted often.

Left: I installed three galvanized metal brackets per corner to make sure they would stay plumb and true. These bracket are manufactured Simpson Strong Tie.


Right: I secured them with four 2 1/2’’ exterior screws.

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw.
  • Clamps.
  • Power Drill + 3/8’’ Wood Drill Bit.
  • Impact Driver + Socket
  • Various Spirit Levels
  • Speed Square / Framing Square.
  • Spade Shovel.

Materials Used:

  • 2×4 Cedar.
  • 5/4 Cedar Decking.
  • 3/8’’ Carriage Bolt + Washer + Hex Nut.
  • Simpson Strong Tie Galvanized Brackets.
  • 2 1/2’’ Exterior Screws.
  • 3/4’’ Crushed Rock.


April 11, 2010

Stripping Paint from Wood

Filed under: Wood Restoration and Finishing — Gilles @ 6:01 pm

Several layers of latex paint are stripped from a wood board. The boards is then washed with mineral spirits and sanded smooth.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes (with 4 hours wait)

When wood has been painted, there are at least three ways to remove the paint: sand / scrape it, apply heat to the paint to loosen its bond to the substrate or use a chemical to soften the paint.

Paint used to contain lead and scraping / sanding paint may release fine lead dust which is harmful to humans, specifically children. Also, heating lead based paint with a heat gun can release dangerous lead based fumes of the gun is set to operate at too high of a temperature. For these reasons, I always prefer chemical stripping.

There are two kinds of chemical strippers: the “methylene chloride” based ones and the “natural” based ones. Methylene Chloride is a harsh chemical,so when possible, I always prefer more environment friendly products like Citristrip, made out of orange peels.

In this article, we give a new life to a board which would otherwise have gone straight to the landfill.

Left: The board to remove paint from. Just by looking at it, I counted at least 10 coats of paint plus some drywall texture.


Right: A quart of Citristrip. This product is all natural, made form orange peels and while the manufacturer demands gloves to be worn when using this product, it is certainly less toxic than methylene chloride.

Left: Using an old paint brush, I liberally applied Citristrip to the board. I performed this operation indoors, out of direct sunlight which could dry the product prematurely. This is important.


Right: The board covered with Citristrip. Now, we wait. The goal of paint stripping is to let the product do the work and this takes time, specifically when the coat of paint is thick.

I decided to let the product act for 4 hours.

Left: After four hours, I used a small putty knife to test the progress. The paint went right off. It is important to round off the edges of the putty knife with a file to avoid gouging the wood.


Right: Details of the paint being removed. It makes some sort of viscous goop which can be scraped easily. I use newspaper to collect the goop and I disposed them in the garbage.

The paint was hiding what seems to be vertical grain fir. Someone thought this board was only junk but I knew better and saved it from going to the landfill.

Left: After scraping all the paint, I cleaned the board with a paper towel soaked in mineral spirits. This removed residues of dissolved paint from the wood.

I then went outdoors and washed the board with clear cold water to remove all traces of Citristrip. I let the board dry for several hours.


Right: I sanded the board with 60 grit sand paper first and then 120 grit. This removed all traces of paint goop which seeped into wood pores.

This board (as well as similar others) will be used to build a new coffee table.

Tools Used:

  • Putty knife with edges rounded over.
  • Old paint brush.
  • Power Sander.

Materials Used:

  • Citristrip.
  • Mineral spirits.
  • Sand paper: 60grit and 120 grit.

Patching Holes in Drywall

Filed under: Drywall — Gilles @ 4:19 am

Holes in drywall are patched with joint compound.


Skill Level: 1~2 (Very Basic ~ Basic)

Time Taken: About 1 hour

Most people like to hang items on walls. This typically requires to drill holes in drywall. When items are removed, those holes need to be patched. This article describes how such holes can be concealed using only basic tools and inexpensive joint compound. This article also shows how a good repair looks like from the inside of the wall.

While the actual repair time did not exceed an hour, it was spread over a few days because the joint compound needs to be perfectly dry between coats.

Left: The starting point of this project: there used to be a magazine holder at this location. When the previous owner removed it, he/she could not be bothered patching the hole or removing anchors.


Right: One of the anchors seen from the back of the wall. This wall had to be opened during a remodel. We will be able to see the repair from the inside of the wall.

Left: I used a pair of pliers to remove the anchors. I pulled slowly and to tried not to make more damage than necessary. I made sure to remove the entire anchor.


Right: Anchors are gone, but they left two fairly large holes. These are the holes we will be patching.

Left: One of the holes, seen from inside of the wall. It is fairly deep.


Right: I removed all loose material and cut the drywall paper flush with a putty knife.

It is very important that all loose material be removed and that the repair is flush with the wall. Otherwise, the repair will appear obvious.

Left: Using a stiff 2’’ putty knife, I applied all purpose joint compound. I made sure to press the compound into both holes.


Right: A view of the area after joint compound was applied. I overfilled on purpose: joint compound has a tendency to shrink as it dries. The excess can be removed after it has dried.

Left: From the inside of the wall, we can see that the compound has been forced into the hole and filled it completely. This is required for a long lasting repair.


Right: I let the compound dry for about 8 hours. Using a slightly wet sponge, I sponge sanded the area in order to remove the overfill. This allowed me to remove most of the excess compound without making any dust. Also, since the wall is textured, the sponge will not damage the surrounding area.

It is also possible to use sand paper to remove the excess. In this case, be sure to use a dust mask: joint compound dust is bad for lungs.

Left: Large holes require multiple coats of joint compound. After another sponge sanding, I applied another coat, still overfilling.


Right: The compound was allowed to dry, and was sponge sanded one more time.

Left: Details of the repair after two coats: the hole is mostly filled and flush with the surrounding area but there is still a little dimple at the center of the hole.


Right: I applied one last coat of joint compound, again, overfilling the area.

Left: The compound was allowed to dry, and was sponge sanded one last time. At this point, the hole was entirely filled and the repair flush with the wall.

The wall is textured so I used texture spray can to touch up the area. See “Repairing Orange Peel Wall texture”. 

Right: The finished repair, after a coat of paint. It is almost impossible to know that repairs were made.

Tools Used:

  • 2’’ stiff putty knife.
  • Pliers.
  • Sponge
  • Water Bucket (4 qts).

Materials Used:

  • All purpose joint compound.
  • Water.

December 13, 2009

Sealing Grout on a Countertop

Filed under: Tiles — Gilles @ 1:30 am

Grout lines on a tiled countertop are sealed to prevent staining.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes

Grout is a porous material: it will absorb most liquids. This makes grout extremely prone to staining, specifically in damp, high traffic areas like kitchen or bath countertops.

Once grout has been stained it is sometimes possible to clean it with a powerful acid based tile cleaner. Often, even these harsh chemicals cannot get rid of stains soaked in grout and the only solution is to remove the grout and replace it. This can be avoided by treating grout with a grout sealer.

Grout sealers are chemicals designed to cause surfaces to repel liquids like water or oil. This prevents grout staining because contaminants can no longer sip into the grout. For this reason, it is wise to seal grout in damp areas like showers: this makes it significantly more difficult for mildew to grow on grout lines.

There are various grout sealers on the market. They differ by:

  • The type of solvent used: water or mineral spirits (this is similar to paint),
  • The mode of operation: some sealers form protective coating on the grout while others penetrate the grout. Penetrating sealers resist surface abrasion significantly better than sealers which form a protective coating,
  • Location of use: interior, exterior, damp areas like showers …,
  • The kind of stains the sealer protects against: sealers typically protect against water based stains but there are sealers formulated for enhanced protection against oil / grease stains. These sealers are typically used in food preparation areas like kitchen countertops,
  • The expected length of the protection. This can be as low as 6 months and as high as 15 years, depending on the traffic, the kind of cleaning agent used to clean surrounding tiles…,
  • The appearance left: some sealers do not leave any visible finish, others make grout lines look shiny.

Tools and Materials for this project:

  • A pint of “Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold”,
  • A grout sealer applicator bottle.

This specific sealer is a water based, penetrating, no sheen finish with an expected protection of up to 15 years. It is recommended for use in damp areas like showers or bathrooms.

At about $30 a pint, this grout sealer is not exactly cheap so I am trying to waste as little as possible. The sealer applicator allows me to apply just the right amount of sealer with great control. This reduces drips and ultimately saves money.

Left: The applicator is essentially a bottle with a little brush at the top, cut at an angle. The sealant is placed in the bottle and soaks the brush.

This applicator features a “flow control” cap: the more the cap is turned to the right, the more liquid flows to the brush. This is useful when sealing vertical grout lines, where the sealer tends to flow faster, drawn by gravity.


Right: After filling the bottle, I adjusted the flow and started to “paint” grout lines with the brush. I applied with long strokes, starting on one side of the grout line and finishing at the other side.

There was a very small amount of sealer applied on the tiles surrounding the grout lines. This will need to be wiped later.

On the picture, it is easy to see where the sealant was applied: the surface looks wet.

The manufacturer of this sealant recommend to wait at least two hours before doing a “water test” and seeing if another coat needs to be applied.


As indicated by the label on the sealer, I wiped  all excess after about 5 minutes using a clean paper towel. There were a few spots where the sealer did puddle so I made sure to clean those too.


Once the sealer dries, I will apply a bead of caulk around the sink and the faucet. This will complete the countertop in this bathroom.

Tools Used:

  • Grout Sealant Applicator 

Materials Used:

  • Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold
  • Paper Towels

December 6, 2009

Installing a Storage Rack in a Bathroom Vanity

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:23 am

A rolling storage rack is installed in a bathroom vanity. Faucet supply lines are tied up to the underside of the counter top.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes

The sliding rack to install. This “ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out” was purchased from the discontinued section of Lowes for about $25 (Reg. $60). From top to bottom:

  • The rack,
  • Two heavy duty, full extension sliders,
  • Paper template and hardware for installation.

This rack is designed for kitchen cabinets and not for bathroom vanities but in our house, we have kitchen cabinets as vanities in bathrooms so there was a chance this would work.

Left: The vanity of interest. Doors have been temporarily removed to facilitate access. I have also setup a fluorescent light. Vanities have to account for plumbing and rarely offer sufficient storage. My task is to add storage space using the rack.

I started by reading installation instructions and taking some measurements. It first looked that the rack would best fit on the left of the vanity.

Right: The kit comes with a cardboard template for easy installation. I marked determined the centerline of the template and marked it with a pencil.

Left: The cabinet has a face frame so I measured the opening and calculated the centerline of the opening.



Right: I marked the centerline on the bottom of the cabinet with a pencil. This can later be removed using an all purpose household cleaner like “Simple Green”.

Left: I aligned the centerline of the template onto the centerline of the cabinet. After precisely locating the template, I held it in place with masking tape.

Right: I positioned sliders as indicated on the installation instructions. I did not fasten or drill anything.

I want to perform a dry run and see if the rack will fit and operate properly before I commit to installing here.

Left: I installed the rack over the sliders, still without fastening anything. It seemed to fit fine BUT …


Right: … the rack hit the hot water supply stop valve. Clearly this is not going to work. Not drilling or fastening anything has paid off.

I decided to try to install in the right side of the vanity.

Left: I repeated all the previous steps in the right bay of the vanity. This time, the rack had enough clearance to function properly or …

Right: … does it? Flexible water supply lines somewhat conflicted with the rack. I decided to move them out of the way.

Left: I rolled of plastic plumber’s perforated tape. Plumbers sometimes use this to hold pipes securely. Since it is made out of plastic, it does not damage pipes when thy rub on it.


Right: I cut a piece of the tape and secured it to the underside of the counter tiled top with a 1/2’’ wood screw.

The counter top is tiled by someone who decided to use 1/2’’ OSB as a substrate for 1/4’’ hardibacker and tiles.


Left: I secured the other side of the plumber’s tape.


Right: Flexible hoses are now held close to the countertop. Note how I was careful to avoid kinking hoses. I also ensured that the bend radius of those hoses was very large, to avoid damaging them.



Left: With hoses out of the way, I marked where sliders would be screwed to the bottom of the cabinet and pre-drilled all holes with a 1/8’’ diameter drill bit, as requested by installation instructions.


Right: I secured sliders to the bottom of the cabinet using the provider screws and my impact driver.

I removed the template and cleaned up the saw dust.


The tray was installed on sliders. There are four metal tabs (one at each corner) which need to be bent to secure the tray to the sliders. The manufacturer request those to be bent for a permanent installation.

I did not immediately bend those because I plan to add shelving to the other side of the vanity and in doing so, I may need to remove the tray temporarily.

Tools Used:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square 
  • Drill & 1/8’’ drill bit
  • Impact Driver

Materials Used:

  • ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out 
  • 1/2’’ Wood Screws 
  • Plumber’s Perforated Plastic Tape 
  • Masking Tape

Installing a Toilet

Filed under: Plumbing — Gilles @ 4:19 am

A closet flange is cleaned. A new wax ring is installed. A toilet bowl is set in place, leveled and fastened securely. The tank is hooked up to the water line and the fill valve is adjusted for optimal water level.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 45 minutes

In addition to the toilet, tank and seat cover, this project requires the following materials. From left to right:

  • A flexible water hose:input 3/8 O.D.,
  • A wax ring, with hornet and hardware,
  • A box of toilet plastic shims


For a professional, finished look, we will also need a decorative cap. This device covers bolts holding the toilet to the flange. There are two parts:

  • A spherical cap (left) to provide a finished look, 
  • A snap ring (right) onto which the cap attaches to.

The snap ring typically has an “up” side. Installing the ring upside down will prevent the cap from snapping to the ring.

Left: The starting point of the project: a toilet flange.

Before tiling the floor, the toilet bowl was removed. A rag was stuffed in the flange to prevent sewer gases from entering the house. I also added masking tape to keep grout and other debris away.


Right: I peeled the masking tape and removed the rag.

Left: I scrapped the flange with a putty knife to remove any leftover material like old wax. This took about a minute. It is difficult to see on this picture but the flange is flush with the finished floor. This is important to ensure a good seal.

Too often floors are tiled with little consideration for the height of the finished floor. The flange ends up being lower than the surface of surrounding tiles. This condition causes the toilet to leak with all the consequences that this has.


Right: I inserted the bolts on each side of the flange. It is required to use new bolts each and every time a toilet is installed. For this reason, they typically come in the same package as the wax ring.

Left: Securing a toilet to the flange requires a few pieces of hardware and it is important to install all parts in the correct order. From left to right:

  1. Thin plastic ring designed to hold the bolt vertically during installation,
  2. Plastic ring to hold the decorative cap,
  3. Washer,
  4. Bolt.


Right: I snapped the thin plastic ring on each bolt. They hold bolts vertically to facilitate installation.

Left: Bolts installed and held by the plastic rings. Those bolts need to be as vertical as possible to thread properly in the bottom of the toilet bowl.


Right: A wax right with a hornet (the black plastic piece visible on the left). The hornet guides waste down the pipe and reduces the possibility of leak. The manufacturer produces this “deluxe” model with almost twice as much wax as regular models. It costs a little more but this is well worth it.

For optimal results, the manufacturer of this ring recommends the ring to be at 70F at the time of installation. This ensures the wax has the right consistency and will create an optimal seal.

Left: I installed the ring on the flange, hornet down. Some people prefer to put the ring on the toilet. Personally, I find it difficult to move the toilet around with the ring without loosing the ring or damaging it.

Right: I took the bowl and sat it in place, making sure the bolts threaded in the holes manufactured for that purpose. Toilets are heavy awkward shaped objects. I like to pick up the bowl right behind it, where the seat cover typically attaches.

It is important to drop the toilet in place and press it in the wax only when it is perfectly placed. If the toilet is pressed in the wax in a wrong position, the wax ring will most likely have to be replaced before a good seal can be achieved.

I checked alignments and when everything was proper, I sat on the throne to press it in the wax.

Never re-use a wax ring, they are single use items.

Left: I checked for level left to right …


Right: … and back to front. The toilet was level on both directions BUT it was slightly rocking. This is typical for toilets to rock on tile floors.

When a toilet rocks, the seal produced by the wax ring can get broken and cause leaks.


Left: I threaded the flat part onto the bolt being careful to place the side marked “up” pointing up.


Right: I then placed the washer and threaded the bolt. The bolt is threaded by hand, just enough to be in contact with the washer. It will be tightened later. I repeated this operation on the other side.



Left: I used an adjustable wrench to tighten bolts. It is important to tighten just enough to avoid breaking the toilet, or worse, breaking the flange. These bolts are not set very tight: just a few lb/ft.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Tighten about 1/4 of a turn on a side at at time
  2. Tighten about 1/4 of a turn on the other side
  3. Verify that the toilet does not rock
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 until the toilet does not rock

Tightening a side faster than the other side should be avoided. It cal lead to the toilet being off level and worse, cause the porcelain to break.


Right: After a few iterations of the procedure above, I realized that the floor was uneven at the toilet would always rock no matter how much I tighten the bolts.

I determined the low point: on the right side of the bowl, close to the front. I inserted a plastic shim, pushing it in gently until the toilet was no longer rocking. I checked for level on both directions and made the necessary adjustments.


Left: I turned bolts 1/2 of a turn more to squeeze the shim slightly. This will hold it in place.

The toilet stopped rocking so the shim was cut flush with a utility knife. I then pushed the shim slightly in to allow the caulk to hide it.



Right: I snapped the decorative sphere on.

Left: Sometimes bolts are too long and the decorative cap won’t snap onto its base. When this happens, I trim bolts with a hack saw. It is imperative to be careful not to slip and ding the porcelain. This can be tedious.

Right: Now that the toilet is fastened properly, I turned my attention to the water supply. I removed the compression fitting on the stop valve.

Left: I connected the hose to the tank. This connection gets tightened by hand. Do not use a wrench.


Right: I tightened the other end of the hose on the stop valve by hand and then made about two turns with an adjustable wrench.

Left: I turned the water on at the stop valve and checked for leaks. The tank filled.


Right: The inside of the tank, seen from above. There are a few important parts:

  • The fill valve (on the left with a purple cap) lets water enter the tank and stops it when the tank is fills up to a predefined level,
  • The flush valve located in the middle drains the water from the tank to the bowl when the flush lever is triggered.

Now, I need to adjust the fill valve to make sure that the tank contains only the amount of water it needs. Allowing more water in the tank wastes water. Regulations currently require a toilet to discharge a maximum of about 2.6 gallons of water per flush.

Another view of the inside of the tank from a different angle. On the flush valve (the white pipe in the center of the picture) a sticker indicates the right water level in the tank.

The black part on the background is a float. As water rises in the tank, it floats on water and slides vertically on the grey column. The trick to adjust the water level is to slide the float up or down to make sure it cuts water exactly when the desired level is reached.

This is actually more difficult to explain than it is to do. Installation instructions of toilets typically describes the procedure so be sure to adjust according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the level was adjusted, I installed the tank’s cover. The chrome flush level at the top of the tank got hooked up to the flush valve chain. When the flush level is pulled, the flapper (blue part at the bottom of the flush valve – see previous pictures) gets pulled up and releases water from the tank.

I later applied a bead of 100% pure silicone caulk around the base of the toilet.

Tools Used:

  • Putty Knife
  • Level
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Utility Knife
  • Hack Saw

Materials Used:

  • Toilet Bowl, Tank, Seat Cover
  • Flexible water hose
  • Wax ring (typically contains hardware)
  • Plastic shims
  • Decorative cap
  • 100% Silicone caulk

November 29, 2009

Installing a compression stop valve

Filed under: Plumbing — Gilles @ 5:35 am

A stubbed out copper pipe is cut and a compression stop valve is installed.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 15 minutes

Earlier, a cold water supply line for a toilet was roughed in and capped. It is now time to connect the toilet so the copper cap needs to be removed and replaced by a stop valve.

Stop valves make it possible to shut off water at a specific fixture (sinks, toilets …) without having to shut off the water for the whole house. This ability is currently required by plumbing codes, specifically for sinks and toilets.

Before getting too involved with this project and went and shut the water off at the main house shutoff valve. I opened a faucet at the highest point and a faucet at the lowest point, to let the water currently in pipes to drain. It is important to open a faucet at the highest point to let air enter the fresh water piping.

Left: Materials for this project. From left to right:

  • a compression stop valve (1/2 input – 3/8 O.D. output),
  • a silver cover plate to give the project a more finished look

Stop valves can be attached to water piping using two different methods: soldering (the valve gets soldered to the pipe with a torch) or compression (the valve uses a brass mechanism which grabs the copper pipe to achieve a tight seal).

Compression stop valves can be installed and removed easily without soldering. This has made them the preferred stop valve choice for most pros and home owners.

Right: Tools for this project. From left to right:

  • a copper pipe cutter,
  • two adjustable wrenches

Left: I measured about 2’’ from the wall and marked that location with a pen.

Right: I positioned the pipe cutter on the line previously marked and turned the wheel so it was tight around the pipe. The whole cutter is then turned one full turn around the pipe. The scoring wheel makes a small mark in the pipe.

The screw is then tightened slightly and the cutter is turned around the pipe one more time, making the dent deeper. The process is repeated until the pipe is cut.

During the operation, I placed a shallow bucket under the pipe to catch residual water.

Left: the pipe has just been cut. There was still a fair amount of water waiting to drain from the system. I decided to proceed immediately instead of waiting for the whole system to drain.


Right: The pipe cutter leaves burrs inside the pipe so used the reamer on the back of the pipe cutter to remove all copper burrs inside the pipe.

Leaving burrs inside the pipe can cause noise when water is flowing so it is always strongly recommended to ream freshly cut pipes.

Left: I slipped a decorative plate over the pipe. This gives the project a finished look.


Right: The compression stop valve with its business end unassembled. From left to right: the compression nut, the brass ferrule, the valve body. The ferrule gets compressed onto the copper pipe. This causes a water tight seal to be produced.

The ferrule can only be used once: every time the stop valve is removed and re-installed,the ferrule must be replaced.

Left: First, I slipped the nut over the pipe then …

Right: … I slipped the ferrule. It is a tight fit.

Left: I inserted the valve body over the pipe until it bottomed out.


Right: I threaded and tightened the nut by hand, still making sure the valve body remained pushed against the pipe. This is necessary to achieve a long lasting, leak free installation.

Left: When I could no longer tighten the nut by hand, I used two adjustable wrenches to tighten the valve further. One wrench is set on the nut, the other is set on the valve body. I like to use the longer wrench on the nut – this gives me more leverage.

As I tightened, I made sure the output of the valve stayed perfectly vertical.

Unfortunately, I could not take the picture and hold both wrenches at the same time.


Right: Detail of the valve which both wrenches engaged. The valve body acts as a nut.


It is possible to over-tighten a compression fitting. I use the following procedure:

  1. Tighten by hand until no longer possible
  2. Use the wrenches to make at most two additional turns
  3. Turn the water back on and if the fitting leaks, progressively tighten more until the leak stops.

Tools Used:

  • Pipe cutter 
  • Adjustable wrench (2)
  • Pen
  • Measuring tape
  • Bucket
  • Rag

Materials Used:

  • Compression multi-turn angle valve (1/2’’ I.D. – 3/8’’ O.D.)
  • Escutcheon plate (1/2’’ I.D> – 5/8’’ O.D.)

November 15, 2009

Tiling a baseboard

Filed under: Tiles — Gilles @ 4:55 am

A section of tile baseboard is installed. Special care is taken to match the new baseboard to the existing work. Usage of a tile cutter is demonstrated.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 1 hour

This bathroom features a tiled baseboard. During a remodel, it became necessary to replace a section of the drywall. That meant removing and later reinstalling the tile baseboard.

I usually prefer to install baseboards last, after painting walls but in this case, I decided to install them before, as an experiment.

The project starts after the drywall was hung and fully taped. The pipe at the center of the picture is a toilet supply line.

Left: I used an 8’’ stiff putty knife to scrape loose any contaminant like drywall joint compound.


Right: I used a shop vacuum cleaner to clean the area. I scraped and vacuum cleaned until all surfaces were clean. I also cleaned the area with a damp sponge. This took only a few minutes.

Left: I marked the height of the existing baseboard on a new tile. The tile rests on a few tile wedges (about 1/16’’ thick). This creates a grout line at the bottom of the tile, between the floor and the baseboard.

I was able to purchase new tiles matching existing ones. If this was not possible I could have saved existing tiles, cleaned them up, removed the thin-set on the back with a belt sander and re-installed them.


Right: I marked a level line on the area to tile. This will allow me to remain at the same height as I tile. For maximum accuracy, I used the longest level fitting in the space.

Left: Detail of the top layout line. This is essential for the baseboard to seamlessly blend in with the existing baseboard.


Right: I positioned new full tiles along the wall to get a feeling of the layout. I precisely spaced them to simulate grout lines.

Left: On the left side, there was a small gap, about 1’’. It is typically not desirable to install small tiles (less than 1/2 full tile). However, in my case, this area will be hidden by a toilet bowl so I decided to ignore this and install a very small tile anyway.

If this was a problem, I would balance the layout by shifting tiles on one side or the other and / or installing half tiles on both sides.


Right: A snap tile cutter. With this tool, I can cut a tile within about 45 seconds and I consider myself very slow.

The first few tiles you cut with this tool will break, but once you get the routine down, it is easy, fast and safe.

Left: The tile is positioned in the tool so the line on where to cut is immediately under the scoring wheel.

Right: Score the tile by moving the handle slowly, pressing gently but firmly. The wheel scores the surface of the tile. It is important the score depth has a score a consistent depth.

I typically score the tile two or three times, making sure I do not deviate from marked line. This would create several score lines close together and increase the likelihood of breaking the tile.

Left: The wheel is then swapped for the breaking tab. This piece of steel presses the tile against a bead built-in the body of the tile cutter. This causes the tile to break clean along the scored line.

Before pressing the handle, I usually make sure the scored line lies directly above the bead of the tile cutter. This maximizes my changes to cut the tile without breaking it.


Right: The tile snapped clean exactly on the scored line.

Unfortunately, the snap tile cutter cannot make small cuts (aka less than 2 or 3 inches) because in those small cuts, the breaking tab does not fully rest on the tile.

Left: The cut edge is sometimes sharp so I usually smooth it up with a tile rubbing stone. A few passes is enough to give the cut edge a factory look.


Right: I placed the cut tiles along the wall, respecting grout lines, to verify the layout one more time. As expected, there was still about 1’’ empty on the left.

Left: I mixed some thin-set and let it slack for about 10 minutes, as indicated by the manufacturer. Letting the thin-set slack is important to proper mixing and therefore, best adhesion. I also located an assortment of tile spacers and tile wedges.

Right: I used a notched trowel to apply thin-set on the back of the tile. This is called “back buttering”.

I could have applied the thin-set directly to the wall and then pressed tiles in place. I decided not to because I found it difficult to use a notched trowel on the wall so close to the floor.

Left: After pressing the tile in the thin-set, I made sure that the top of the tile was aligned with the top layout line. I also used a speed square to set the tile square with the floor.


Right: It took about 10 minutes to tile the baseboard and I did not work fast. A grout line between the floor and the baseboard was maintained by using tile wedges. I also used masking tape to hold tiles in position until the thin-set dries.

Left: The baseboard immediately after finishing tiling. There is still thin-set on the tiles and it needs to be wiped off before it dries.


Right: The next day, thin-set had dried so I removed the masking tape. Some grout joints had thin-set in them. This interfere with grouting and needs to be removed.

After a few days, the thin-set hardens and it becomes difficult to clean grout joints.

Left: I used a small screwdriver to remove the thin-set on every single grout joint.


Right: I used a damp wet sponge to remove all traces of thin-set.

The next step is grouting. The manufacturer of the grout recommends waiting for at least 48 hours after tiling, so I waited.

Left: I mixed grout according to manufacturer’s instructions. This involved letting the grout slack for a few minutes.

I used sanded grout because joints were bigger than 1/8’’.


Right: The grout, ready to use.

Left: The grout is then scooped using a grout float and applied to the tiles. The float is used to pack the grout in the joints.

When all joints have been filled, I waited for the grout to start to harden.

Right: Grout joints are full of grout and there is grout left on the tiles themselves. This haze will be removed during the next step. It is important to let the grout harden before proceeding to the next step.

When the grout has harden enough BUT before it is totally hard, I used a grout sponge to remove excess grout and shape grout joints.

You absolutely need to watch how fast the grout hardens: if you wait for too long, the grout will harden on tiles and the only way to remove it would be to use an acid tile cleaner. This chemical is harsh and could ruin tiles.

Tools Used:

  • Putty Knife
  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Level
  • Snap Tile Cutter 
  • Speed Square
  • Notched Trowel
  • Tile Spacers and Wedges
  • Grout Float
  • Sponge
  • 1 Gal bucket

Materials Used:

  • Ceramic tiles 
  • Thin-set 
  • Sanded grout
  • Masking tape

September 29, 2009

Repairing Orange Peel Wall Texture

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 6:38 am

Orange Peel texture is repaired on a wall.


Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic~Moderate)

Time Taken: About 2 hours

During a repair, it became necessary to open the drywall under a bathroom vanity. The drywall was later patched but the smooth surface did not match the orange peel section of the wall (in dark green on the picture).

It is under the cupboard so I could have left it as is but I chose to repair it. This article explains how to patch orange peel texture after drywall repair.

When patching texture, it is necessary to choose the means by which the texture will be sprayed: using a texture repair can sold at most home centers or using a hopper connected to an air compressor (the tools used by pros when spraying texture).

In my experience, cans are expensive ($15 per can) and lead to a result which is not as nice as the traditional hopper. I typically use cans if I have to patch less than 16 sq. ft. and use an air compressor / hopper for larger patches.

In this article, I will be using a can. Before starting the texture, the surface of the patch must be smooth and sanded flush with the surface of the existing wall or the repair will show.

As this article will show, repairing a small section of orange peel texture is fairly simple and well within reach of a moderately handy homeowner.

Left: I disconnected all the plumbing. In order to spray, I need unobstructed access to the wall.

Right: the manufacturer of the texture can I will use recommends to prime new wallboard before applying texture so I used a small foam roller to apply a coat of “Killz primer and stain blocker”. This primer dries in about 1h.

Left: I used painter’s paper and masking tape to protect everything I do not want to be textured. When texturing, keep in mind that there will be overspray.

Right: A can of “Homax orange peel spray texture – water based”. It features an adjustable nozzle allowing to dial in the density of the texture.

I prefer the water based formula because if I mess up, I can easily wipe the texture off the wall with a wet sponge and do it again.

I went outside and used a piece of cardboard to practice spraying. I also turned the dial to get splatters similar in size to the ones on the wall to repair.

Left: When everything was dialed in, I shook the can one more time, held the can upright about 12~16 inches from the wall and pressed the trigger. I sprayed the area moving the can in a circular motion. I made sure to fill only up to 80% of the surface.

I also feathered-in the new texture by spraying slightly over the old texture where new wallboard meets old wallboard.

Right: Close-up of the texture immediately after it was sprayed. The typical orange peel splatters are well visible You cal also see how they cover about 80% of the surface (aka the flat surface of the wall is visible on some spots).

Left: Another view of the repaired area, immediately after spraying the patch.

Right: It took about 2h for the texture to be completely dry (the can said about 30 minutes but it took longer for me). After the texture was dry, I applied another coat of primer and then several coats of paints.

By looking at the finish result at the top of the article, it is almost impossible to see the patch.

Tools Used:

  • 4’’ foam roller.
  • Utility Knife.
  • Chemical resistant gloves.

Materials Used:

  • Homax – Orange Peel Texture can. 
  • Painter’s masking tape.
  • Painter’s masking paper.
  • KillZ stain blocker primer.

Removing Hardened Latex Caulk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 5:45 am

Very hard pure latex caulk is removed from a bath tub surround without damaging the tub finish.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 1 hour

The starting point of this article: a tub with a very poorly applied bead of caulk. While not visible on the picture, the caulk has cracked at several places. Not only it no longer seals around the tub, but it is downright ugly: this bead needs to be removed so a brand new one can be applied. Caulking over existing caulk never works.

Before I remove caulk, I always take a second to identify the type of caulk by simply touching it with the tip of my fingernail. If it is soft, it is pure silicone caulk. If it is very hard, it is pure latex caulk. If is it somewhat soft, it is siliconized latex caulk.

In this case, it turned out to be pure latex caulk. A very bad choice for tub surrounds because it dries hard and cracks at the smallest movement of either the tile or the tub. Tub surrounds are typically caulked with pure silicone caulk. It is flexible and will not crack as the tub moves. Most manufacturers also offer mildew resistant pure silicone caulk: well worth the price in damp areas like a bath tub.

BUT … removing very hard latex caulk without damaging he tub finish is tricky. In this article, I explain how I did it.

Left: A tube of DAP “Caulk Be Gone” specifically formulated for latex caulk. There is also a version for pure silicone caulk. I purchased this item at a Lowes store.

I first read the label entirely before proceeding. It called for lots of ventilation and  chemical resistant gloves. I respected those.

Right: I cut the tip at a 45 degree angle and applied a generous bead of product over the existing bead of caulk. I made sure that the whole bead of caulk was completely covered. The product starts liquid like water and very quickly because a jello like substance.

Left: View of the bead applied. Now, instructions demand to wait for at least 2 hours. My experience tells me that rushing the process just won’t work so I performed other tasks….

Right: … and returned two hours and half after application. Using a 1 1/2’’ putty knife, I scraped the first few inches of caulk from the tiles. It came very easily. I could just gently slide the knife under the bead and separate it from the tub without damaging the finish.

Left: After freeing a rope of about 5’’ of caulk, I was able to pick up the caulk and pull gently on it. It then came very easily. At some point, it broke. No big deal: I scraped a little more and repeated the process.

Old caulk and used green gel are placed in a plastic garbage bag and disposed in the trash.

Right: After removing the whole caulk, I cleaned the area thoroughly with lots of fresh water. If the product can soften caulk, I may prevent new caulk from sticking so I made sure I remove as much of the product as possible.

Tools Used:

  • Sponge.
  • 1 1/2’’ putty knife.
  • Chemical resistant gloves.

Materials Used:

  • DAP “Caulk Be Gone” Latex Caulk remover. 
  • Lots of fresh water.

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