Gilles' Outlet

December 31, 2006

DOW “Great Stuff” expanding insulating foam not so great

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 6:46 pm

During recent remodeling projects, I used DOW’s Great Stuff insulating expanding foam. Well, it turns out that it is not so great stuff, at least the consumer version of it.
First of all, the can will become unusable after the first use. I noticed this when doig some work with Le Triporteur du Pacififique Nord Ouest and more recently, this morning when insulating around a door frame. The can was almost full of product but the foam could not be dispensed. That was very annoying and I did some more research on this. Apparently, the sticker on the can says "One time use should be expected".
DOW’s web site has a FAQ on this topic reproduced below. The sticker also has the same language.

Can I store GREAT STUFF if I don’t use the whole can?

GREAT STUFF straw foam will seal itself shut if left to sit for more than 2 hours after its last use. Insert a pipe cleaner sprayed with oil lubricant may prolong the life of the product. Plan ahead, identify and list all possible applications before opening can.

 Now that’s not so great. Only one use?

Second, none of the Great Stuff Do It Yourself products can be used on the house’s firewall. According to DOW’s website, only Great Stuff Pro Gaps & Cracks is recognized as fire retardant. Strange, because on the same DOW’s web site (forward to slide 25), a slide show explicitely indicates that Both Great Sutff and Great Stuff Pro are materials of choice for filling in cracks and gaps for the purpose of fireblocking.

Apparently, the PRO line seems much better. First, it has fire retardant capabilities (at least the "Pro Gaps & Cracks") and second, it can be dispensed with a gun. The FAQ for PRO products says:

How can I store GREAT STUFF Pro if I don’t use the whole can?

GREAT STUFF Pro straw foam will seal itself shut if left to sit for more than two hours after its last use. If using GREAT STUFF Pro products with the gun applicator, the valve can be closed allowing you to re-use the can up to 30 days or longer.

There is is!! The Pro line of products apparently gives you 30 days to use your full product. So here is a piece of advice: if you buy the consumer version, expect only ONE use so plan to empty the can in 2 hours after opening it. Otherwise, the Pro version is a must.


Tool Review: Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Recipro Saw

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 6:07 pm

I own one of these Makita Lithium-Ion Cordless Reciprocating Saw and believe it or not, it has always been there to get me out of very tricky situations.
A few weeks ago, a storm in WA knocked four large branches from a high pine tree in my backyard. I do not own a chain saw or any logging equipment and I did not want to acquire one for a one time use. Without much trust, I picked up my Makita recipro saw, attached a worn Milwaukee wood blade I found in one of the walls of a house I renovated a month ago, plugged a freshly charged battery and started logging (I thought I could power my fireplace with the wood, after it has dried throughly).
After the first few strokes of the blade, I knew I was out of the wood (so to speak ;-). The saw cut right throught the 3” fresh pine wood without a hitch. After three full branches, I had to put another battery. Well, not bad at all considering the dull blade I was cutting with and the fact that I did cut everything with the saw, including baby needles spouts!
More recently, the same saw was there when I most needed it. A leak in the plumbing of a house we were renovating called for wall opening and notching in the shower riser to access a cracked sweated fitting. The saw notched the 2 x 4 in a few seconds (okay, we had to finish the notch with a chisel because of limited accessibility, but that is not the saw’s fault).
Months before, the saw went through a plastic shower enclosure, 10 ft of plaster and lath and a few 100 years old hardened 2 x 4 studs without difficulty.
Is there anything I dislike about the saw? Well, yes. Its blade guide is sometimes difficult to remove. The release mecanism tends to jam and I have to gently tap it with a hammer to unlock it. Not a big problem.

December 6, 2006

Changing a receptacle: you never know what you’ll find behind a face plate!

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 8:27 am

A few days ago, I decided to replace a broken receptacle. It is located outside, close to a deck. I thought this would be a boring task: I have changed so many receptacles I can do it in my sleep and I can’t remember the last time this task challenged me or took an unexpected twist. Well, I was about to find something interesting this time 😉
From the outside, the broken receptable looked like that:

 After removing the face plate and the gasket, I found something I did not expect at all:

It is not immediately obvious on this picture so let me describe. The box is too deep for the receptacle to be assembled on it as code requires. So someone had the bright idea to cut a piece of wood and glue it at the top, inside the opening so the receptacle can be screwed 1 inch away from the box using wood screws! At least they used exterior wood screws…
They really should have arranged for the receptacle to be secured to the box instead of this hack job. I did not have much time to address this right away but I will in the future. Here is how the new receptacle looks like (with the unique assembly hidden behind the face plate and the gasket):

Finishing a garage window

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 8:01 am

My garage has an unfinished window. After replacing the window, the previous owner did not bother re-doing the window casing (see left picture below). Unfortunately, he also did not do a great job sealing around the window. There is a minuscule bead of caulk outside through which I can see the sun light. It snowed here in washington so last weekend, I decided to stop this cold air entry point. I also decided to finish around the window.
I considered these two options:
  1. Use stock pieces of wood to build a complete window casing, sill and trims.
  2. Drywall around the window, install corner bead.
As you can see on the right picture (after drywall taping 2nd coat), I went with option 2. It is in the garage so I need a sturdy solution: items stored in the garage may fall, I might hit the sill while manipulating long pieces of wood… Also, for a garage, a more "industrial" look is adequate so solution 2 was a clear winner.
The following picture shows a detail of the bottom left corner of the window opening:

First, I hung pieces of drywall around the window. I filled all empty spaces with expanding insulating foam (the kind which cures soft so it will not bow the window). You can see the yellow foam oozing on the picture below.

I then installed metal corner beads all around outside edges. I secured them to the framing with 1 1/2 roofing nails. Screws make it harder to align the corner bead and therefore are not recommended so I used nails:

I then taped in corners and coated corne beads. Here is how it looks like after the first coat (notice that the picture was not take immediately after taping – the mud has set at some places and is still setting on others):

I still need to do the final coating, sand, prime and paint so stay tuned – I will post pictures of the finished product.

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