Gilles' Outlet

August 30, 2006

Busy fixing drains

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:57 am

I gave a few examples of "poorly executed" drains in my house. I am almost done fixing one of them (one down, two to go!). These two pictures show the before (left) and "after" (right):


Observe how the drain is now closer to the main water lines (it used to be significantly lower). We will have more space for storage under the P-Trap! The drain is obviously not completely finsished yet (I am letting the ABS cement cure overnight). I still have a slip joint P-Trap to assemble. I have ordered a closing popup drain with overflow which should arrive in the next few days.

MarshallTown Drywall Vacuum Sander arrived!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 5:44 am

After thinking about how to best sand drywall, I decided to purchase a "Marshalltown DuraSoft® Dustless Drywall Vacuum Sander" from It arrived today. I’ll eventually write a review.

By the way, also sells some pretty serious tools for drywall taping. I did not suspect automatic drywall taping tools even existed!

August 24, 2006

Leaking drains

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 9:26 pm

My house has several leaky drains. In fact, all drain assemblies under all sinks do leak! Here are a few interesting examples.
For instance, it does not take a professional plumber to figure out that the drain below has "room for improvement" ! Observe the less than professional duct taping work at the top of the picture.

On the following picture, you can clearly see leak marks (the rust like traces on the grey pipe just under the sink). These are leaks that were let to dry and were never cleaned up. Yikes… Also observe the piece of teflon tape at the transition between the ABS pipe (black) and the PVC flexible pipe (white) just above the P-Trap (teflow is not a way to prevent leaks – it is a way to lubricate threads).


I have been investigating how to properly fix these, respecting code. I am running these ideas by plumbers and I’ll will soon share them with you so stay tuned!

August 22, 2006

Sanding drywall

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:33 pm

As I skim coat the ceiling, I have been sanding a lot of drywall with a hand sander. The white dust it produces is nasty and since it is a hand sander, I am relatively close to the dust production area. I wear a dust mask but it feels like it does not protect very well.
I am investigating several techniques to cut down my drywall dust "intake":
  1. Wet sanding: sounds good but I am concerned about the look of the finish,
  2. Pole sanding: a study by NIOSH shows that pole sanding dramatically reduces lungs exposure compared to hand sanding,
  3. Sanding block with vacuum cleaner connection: as you sand, dust is sucked in by a shop vacuum equipped with a special filter (possibly HEPA rated).
Any suggestions?

Skim Coating a ceiling

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:23 pm

In a previous entry, I explained how I removed the popcorn ceiling. A more detailled inspection revealed that it was not as flat as I first thought. Not too bad, but not as flat. Well, since I am detail oriented, I decided to bite the bullet and skim coat my ceiling before painting it.
I started by washing the ceiling with a slightly wet sponge. The goal is to remove dust and other material which can prevent the coat to stick to the wallboard, not to saturate the board with water. It should be wet anough so it captures dust and it should dry almost immediately after you remove the sponge. I thinned some all purpose joint compound so it had the consistency of mayonaise and can eb easily levelled with a knife for a great finish. Using a 10” taping knife, I spread the "mud" on the ceiling.

I made sure to always apply the mud in the same direction (for me, it was parallel to the window), avoid coming back to an area after levelling it with the knife. As the mud dries, touching it with a tool makes it look worse than it was and increases the sanding time. Also, keep in mind that tool marks are inevitable: do not try to hard to remove them. They’ll go away during sanding. The picture below clearly shows the uncoated region (yellowish) and the coated region (greyish):

Once you have finished coating the ceiling, let it dry for at least 24 hours. Take a pole sander and erase all tool marks. Inspect the whole area and patch things you did not quite nail in the first place then sand again the repaired areas.

When you are all done and the ceiling is flat, you can go ahead and apply two coats of sealer / primer and then paint. Two coats of primer greatly reduce the porosity of the surface and allow for a clean paint finish.

Alert readers have certainly noticed that I applied only one layer of mud on the ceiling. My ceiling needed coating but it was not hat bad so I got away with one layer applied with care. Usually, skim coating is done in two layers: one "vertical" layer, one day to dry, one "horizontal" layer to fill in low areas left during the first pass and one sanding pass.

 I have a few spots to fix and some sanding to do. Hopefully I’ll be able to paint in the next weeks.

August 16, 2006

Staining furnitures

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 11:19 pm

We purchased a raw wood table and we are in the process of staining it, along with six chairs. The lady at the store advised us to use oil based stain because apparently water based stain dries very quickly. So we started to sand the wood with 120 sand paper and then finished everything with 200 sand paper. Before staining, it looks like that:

After the application of stain, it looks like this:

Not bad at all! Now, on to the caoting layer(s).

August 14, 2006

Removing a “Popcorn” ceiling

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 11:16 pm

Most of the ceiling in my house are so called "acoustic" ceilings or "popcorn" ceilings. Builders love this kind of ceiling because it dramatically cut constructions costs: they do not have to do a perfect drywall taping / skin coating since the surface will be covered with an irregular texture.

Unfortunately, popcorn ceilings (also called "cottage cheese" ceilings) have numerous drawbacks for homeowners. First, they have a tendency to capture and retain dust, smoke (cigarette or even smoke produced when cooking) … Most of the time, this will be most visible in room’s corners. Second, they are difficult to clean: putting moisture on them will damage them (more on this later). Third, and this is a matter of taste, they are ugly because they make the house look old. In other word, I hate them!

I knew way before moving in the house that these ceilings would have to go. Removing a popcorn ceiling can be done by homeowners. There are a few basic things you need to know to make this experience a success.

WARNING: Some textured ceilings installed before the mid 80’s contain asbestos. Asbestos was banned in 73 for insulation and 74 for textured ceilings. This means that in theory, no new construction material could be produced with asbestos in it after those dates. However, builders and contractors were allowed to use existing stocks of product even if they contained asbestos. If you plan on removing a popcorn ceiling and it was installed before the mid 80’s you must test it for asbestos.

I tested mine (built in 76 in King County, WA) and it turns out that it did not contain any asbestos. I was cleared for takeoff.

Before you remove the popcorn texture, you need to remove all furnitures and cover everything that could be damaged with plastic sheets (I used painter’s plastic). This is a very messy task. I also recommend wearing clothes which cover all your body, including a baseball cap and wear a dust mask. Those wallboard particles are nasty.

When everything is protected, turn the power off at the main panel. You will be working with water close to ceiling fixtures so better be cautious. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray a region of 1 sq ft but make sure you do not saturate the underlying wallboard. That would essentially destroy it and you’d have to re-drywall the ceiling.

After spraying the water on the texture, let the water be absorbed for 30 seconds or more depending on your ceiling. Use the putty knife to scrape the texture. It should come off easily and it should not make any dust (or very little). You might need to adjust the amount of water / time you wait for a smooth removal. Be careful not to damage the wallboard as you scrape because it will become your new ceiling. Some people like to dull corners of the putty knife with a file to make it less likely to damage the board.

On the picture below you can see me scraping the texture. The dark brown spots on the bare wallboard indicate where I put water and the water went through the texture into the wallboard. The wet texture can be seen at the left of the picture (slightly darker texture). In this very case, the texture would come off without adding water and without any dust.

Make sure you remove all the texture especially whe the ceiling meets the wall. Removing all the material is key to ensure a great looking ceiling after re-finishing.

At this time, you will want to clean the whole room: this will help contain the mess. It is amazingly easy to carry pieces of texture ceiling everywhere in the house. Clean as soon as you are done.

Once you have removed all the texture, let the ceiling dry. Because textured ceilings cover many sins, builders usually do not bother making perfect joints between wallboards. Now that the texture is removed, all these imperfections are exposed and you will have to do the work they did not do before: fix any popped nails, fill in any cracks…

Inspect joints: you may have removed the draywall compound that used to hold the tape in place. If so, you’ll have to redo the joins (add another piece of tape, add some compound, feather the join so it looks smooth …). It may take several tries and a lot of sanding between small applications of drywall "mud" to achieve good results. This phase is critical because it dictates how good looking your ceiling will be.

I have seen ceilings so damaged after removal that it was necessary to skim coat them completely instead of doing spot repairs. Skim coating can be tricky for a homeowner. Do not hesitate to call a professional for that.

So far, my ceiling has been in great condition. I damaged a few spots and I only need to re-tape a joint because it was old. I’ll do taping / repair somtimes this week so stay tuned for the follow-up.

August 11, 2006

Fixing those squeaky floors

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 10:43 pm

I removed the carpet and padding to clean some cat urine smell so it was really the perfect time to fix all these squeaks. The house was built in 1976 and I can’t think of a room without a squeak, small or large. With good quality constructions, builders nail and glue subfloors on joist to help prevent squeaks. This was not done this way in my house.
Squeaks are caused by movement in wood seams between sheets of subflooring. It is basically wood rubbing on wood. Stop the movement and you stop squeak. Most of the time, it is easy to silence these squeaks if you know a few tricks.
First of all, some will advise lubricating the squeaky area with talc or graphite powder. Well, this will silence the squeak for some time and it will come back like a bad rash. I prefer to go for a more definitive solution: prevent the rubbing.
My squeaky floor is over a finished basement so I’ll attack from above. It is easier when you can access the floor from below. The first thing we need to do is find a squeak. I like to have a systematic approach to make sure I fix all squeaks. After all, it is not every day that you remove the carpet and get to work directly on the underlayment and it would be really annoying to do all the work to stretch the carpet back in place only to notice that you forgot to silence another squeak!
I usually walk where the floor is nailed to the joist, following the joists. I use the tip of my fott to put some pressure around existing nails. It takes a little experimentation at the beginning but I have found this technique very effective once you get used to it. I suggest you start looking for squeaks in areas where people usually walk a lot. Boards located immediately under walls are much less likely to squeaks beacuse they have not been exposed to repeated walking as much as boards in the middle of the room. For instance you can probably find a squeak by walking the closest path from the entrance of the bedroom to the window.
When a squeak is found, you can silence it by nailing the board on the joist with an 6d or 8d rign haul nail or driving a 1 1/4 drywal screw. I prefer using screws because I beleive they do not pop as easily as nails. Do not forget to drill a pilot hole.

After you have fixed all squeaks or movements, I suggest you do not put the carpet immediately and wait for a few days. If you live in a climate where humidity can dramatically change, it is a good diea to test the floor a second time on a very humid day (or very dry depending on when you did the first fix), just to be sure you did not miss anything.

Cat “deposit”: How to clean cat’s urine on carpet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 9:53 pm

It turns out the previous owner had two cats and they have made one or more "deposits" in one of the bedrooms and perhaps at other locations. Apparently, the smell was "woken up" when we professionally cleaned carpets.
The smelly area is not stained at the carpet level so the previous owner most likely attempted to clean the mess, at least partially. Unfortunately, improperly cleaning cat urine makes further cleaning harder and I do not know what was done so I can only test cleaning techniques and hope they’ll work.
I started by dropping a whole bottle of Nature’s Miracle directly on the carpet, soaking the affected area. I did wait for it to dry completely but the smell persisted (you must wait for it to dry completely because it contains enzymes which break down the smelly agent).
Yesterday, I removed the carpet and padding. I planned on replacing the carpet anyway. This revealed that while not stained, the underlayment smells so it was most likely in contact with the urine for some time. It smells but much less than the carpet / padding though! I took the carpet / padding far away from any nose. The smell is not as strong as it used to be. Ah, some progress made.
I am going to use more Nature’s Miracle directly on the wood. I hope I will not have to replace the underlayment. If the treatment is sucessfull, I will use Zinsser B-I-N Primer / Sealer to further block odors, just to be sure. Improperly cleaned cat urine often resumes smelling on humid / warm days and I want to avoid this!

Here is the underlayment board in question. Two stains are clearly visible: 

We purchased a house!

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 8:32 pm

We purchased a house and we already moved in! We plan on doing several improvements and we will post "before & after" pictures.

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