Gilles' Outlet

September 20, 2006

Popcorn ceilings should never be paint over

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

I am continuing the popcorn ceiling removal (read the previous episodes here and here to learn all about popcorn ceilings, including risks of asbestos which mine does not contain).
This time, I took care of the ceiling of a small staircase. It was a good opportunity to test the "stairs" configuration of my 1A Little Giant Ladder. Here are the "before removal" (left) and "after first coat of skim coating" (right) :


It is the first coat so there are still some visible defects but I’ll take care of the tomorow. It is drying overnight. It was overall easy, if we exclude the little angle piece at the center of the pictures.

That piece was paint with latex paint and too much paint was put. Due to the nature of popcorn, it is difficult to paint over it and get a clean finish. Typically, homeowners without much knowledge will be tempted to put more paint just to try to cover all sins. This is most likely what happened on my ceiling, probably a few years ago.

The popcorn texture absorbs a lot of water and paint and soaking it with paint makes it very hard to remove. I had to litterally scratch an area of 1 sq in, put water on borders of the square, wait for the moisture to make its way in the wallboard’s paper first then back to the popcorn (from the wallboard) and then scratch the wet parts. What a nightmare. The following picture was taken as I was doing this:

So if you are reading this and are thinking about painting over your popcorn ceiling, I have one piece of advice: do not! Remove it instead.


September 17, 2006

Leaky toilet tank: That was a crack in the tank!

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

I have been bothered for a while by a leak somewhere in the water tank of the upstairs toilet. It is one of those leaks which causes the toilet to top of the tank once a day when it has no reason to. The noise of the water topping off the tank woke me at night a few times so I decided to act.
I shutted down the water supply, flushed the toilet and sponged the remaining water at the bottom of the tank. I suspected a worn flapper but boy, I was wrong! Here is a picture of the tank seen from above:

 There are obvious signs of rust at bolts which attach the tank to the toilet and the head of the right bolt is almost completely gone, eaten by rust. It turns out that the installation was not done with brass bolts as it should have to reduce corrosion.
As with most plumbing projects, the most difficult is to remove the old. And that one was no exception. The left nut was relatively easy to remove (a few drops of WD-40 were enough to crack the nut). The head was not too damaged by rust so I could use a screwdriver (in the tank) and an adjustable wrench outside.
The right side was so rusty that the nut melted with the bolt. With the bolt’s head badly damaged by rust, my only possible option was to remove both rubber gaskets (inside and outside the tank) and then cut the bolt with a mini hacksaw equipped with a metal blade. That is when it became obvious it was not a brass bolt.
I inspected the hardware in the tank as well as the tank itself. I found a worn flapper and a large crack in the tank. The left picture shows the crack seen from the outside of the tank and the right picture shows the crack seen from the inside.


So I’ll be off to a few home centers to choose a new tank. Since the bowl itself is a little old as well, I might replace them both at the same time.

September 10, 2006

Fixing a damaged corner bead

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 9:45 pm

Corner beads wil get damaged over time. It is easy to hit them with furnitures when moving in or out. Today, I’ll show a step by step technique to fix damaged corner beads. This procedure is well within reach of a typical homeowner.

Step1: Assess the situation. There are multiple kind of corner beads: metal or plastic are the two most common. We will concentrate on metal corner beads. Is the bead bend or torn or cut? Is the bead still firmly anchored to the wall or not? It is possible to repair all these but in this post, I’ll concentrate on bent beads still firmly attached to the wall. This is the vast majority of cases.
For instance, on the picture below, you can see a bent metal bead. It is well attached to walls:

Step 2: Using a light hammer, gently tap the bent section of the corner bead to align it with undamanged parts of the bead. Be gentle with the hammer. Tap gently to avoid separating the bead from the walls. After all, you do not want to reinstall the whole bead. Only fix a small section. The following picture shows the now straight corner bead. I have also removed all loose pieces of compound.

Step 3: Using a small putty knife, fill in the damaged area with spackling paste or all purpose joint compound. Don’t try to get a perfect job, you are just trying to fill in most of the crack. Remove excess paste with a damp sponge and wait for the paste to dry completely. Since you need to fill in cracks by layers, repeat this step until the crack is completely filled in. Remember that layers must dry completely before you add more paste. The following picture shows the first layer: I have filled most of the holes but the result is not yet perfect:

Step 4: Lightly sand the repaired area (220 mesh or 220 sand paper). Some prefer to use a damp sponge: it leaves less dust and works almost as well. If your wall is textured like the one on my picture, you might need to add texture to the repaired area so it is less noticeable (a flat area on a textured wall catches eyes).
Step 5: Prime and paint to finish the repair. 

[Drain Marathon] Downstairs bathroom drain: entirely redone!

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 9:14 pm

This is the third of the three drains I had to fix. I could not do it on labor day because I had to finish drywall and that requires drying time (I did not use "hot mud" for this one — more on this later). Here are the before (left) and after (right) pictures:


The flexible PVC fitting is gone. The purple primed and solvent welded ABS fittings are gone, replaced by a HUB x SLIP fitting and a SLIP joint P-Trap assembly. The ABS HUB x SLIP and the 1-1/2 1-1/2 2 sanitary tee were properly welded with ABS cement. The HIB x SLIP fitting allows to transition from ABS to PVC and facilitates cleaning the P-Trap if necessary. The duct tape is gone as well as the plumber’s putty it used to conceal (not visible on the picture). This was probably an attempt of the previous owner to try to prevent leaks. Well, if so, he did fail. I also have replaced the simple non closing drain with a closing drain. I have also fixed the overflow. You can see the shiny new tailpiece of the drain at the top of the "after" picture.

Also, while not obvious on pictures, the drain is now a little higher (perhaps 2 inches) so there will be more storage space under the vanity.

This was by far the most challenging drain I have ever done not because it ws technically difficult but because it was under a small vanity and very little clearance in the bathroom itself. Here is a larger view from another angle showing the bottom of the vanity and parts of the existing untouched drywall (on the left):

You can see that I have also closed the wall. Obliously, the previous owner did not care about this so he left it open (see the "before" picture). Also, this bathroom is located in a basement so closing walls helps keep bugs out of the house. Taping the drywall patch took a long time because it was just difficult to access joints with taping knifes.

I even had to use regular joint compound which takes forever to dry instead of the faster drying 20 minutes "hot mud". I could not get the mud pan and myself under the vanity so I had to crawl out, get some mud on the knife, crawl back in and apply. Needless to say that hot mud would have dried in the pan!

Alert readers have noticed that there are two final touches missing: the patched area needs to be primed and paint. There is also a missing estucheon plate around the drain. What is not immediately obvious is that I will have to match the existing wall’s "sand" texture on the repaired drywall. That is going to be fun …

September 4, 2006

[Drain Marathon] Upstairs bathroom drain: no leak anymore!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 1:00 am

This is the second of the three drains I have decided to fix this Labor Day’s weekend. The first one (kitchen) will be stress tested for leaks when I run the dishwasher tonight. Here are the before (left) and after (right) pictures:


The flexible PVC fitting (which was leaking) is gone, replaced by a regular PVC tailpiece. All the less than professional pieces of teflon were also removed. Again, that was a hack job done by a poorly informed homeowner: teflon tape lubricate threads, it is not a mean by which one can plug a leak.

The popup drain (which was leaking – see the redish, rust like traces on the grey tailpiece) was unassembled, cleaned and re-installed with new gaskets. The popup drain screw was tightened by hand ; just enough to prevent leaks. This is another mistake made by too many: you should only hand tighten SLIP Joints first and slowly tighten them 1/4 of turn at a time to plug leaks.

The 90 degrees ABS P-Trap adapter solvent welded on the drain was replaced with a solvent welded ABS HUB x SLIP fitting which allows transition from ABS to PVC.

This project was easy but took a long time because there was not much space under the vanity. It was not possible to take the vanity out so I had to unassemble the drawers rails to get some space to work!

[Drain Marathon] Kitchen drain: no leak anymore!

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 12:40 am

I have redone the kichen drain completely. You can see the before (left) and after (right) pictures below:


The garbage disposer drain is now connected through one straight pipe (no more SLIP Joint extension which was leaking). This eliminated the need for the garbage diposer elbow.

I have also removed all solvent welded 1 1/2 ABS fittings connecting the drain to the P-Trap. The ABS pipes were primed with purple primer and then solvent welded, perhaps with PVC cement. This is a major no-no. This makes the connections prone to breaking. It was obviously a hack job done by a poorly informed homeowner. How did I figure out it was purple primed? Easy: light joins with a powerful flashlight. If it is purple primed, you’ll see the distinctive purple color shine.

I have installed a solvent welded ABS HUB x SLIP fitting to transition between ABS and PVC (in this case, by code, one cannot solvent weld ABS directly to PVC). The new PVC line from the P-Trap to the wall’s SLIP Joint adapter has been installed with a slight slope to facilitate evacuation.

This project was easy and is definitely within reach of most homeowners who know how to uses a hacksaw and a sharpie pen!

I encountered one speed bump: the sink basket strainer. First, I thought that I could get by without touching it. Well, it turns out that it was leaking too (just like all other pieces of this drain) so I had to unassemble it, clean it all and re-assemble it. Here are the before (left) and after (right) pictures:


I cleaned all traces of plumber’s putty (the brownish paste near the black gasket on the right of the drain) and re-sealed the drain with fresh plumber’s putty. I could have used silicone caulk but I did not have any transparent caulk handy. Moreover, since I may replace the sink in the next year or so and perhaps re-use the strainer, it will be so much easier to get the putty out compared to the silicone caulk!

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