Gilles' Outlet

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.

June 22, 2008

Building a Cedar Planter, Raised Panel Style

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 4:24 am


A Raised Panel Cedar Planter is built.

Cedar panels are glued and raised on a router table. Posts are cut to length and decorated on a router table. All parts are sealed and assembled.

Skill Level: 3~4 (Intermediate ~ Advanced)

Time Taken: About 6 hours

There are many designs for cedar planters and I have already showcased a simpler version in a previous article. It was meant to hold the soil directly and has served me well. Today, I am going to show a more sophisticated design.

Unlike its older brother, this planter is designed to hold a pot. It is entirely made out of solid clear cedar and features an adjustable shelf. This allows the planter to host various kind of pots.

Pieces of the planter before of the assembly:

  • Four raised panels: these are the sides,
  • Four posts: these act as corners (only 3 visible on the picture)
  • Eight supporting strips: panels rest in groves machined in those (only 7 are visible)

All pieces received a coat of Thompson Water Seal before assembly. This picture was taken immediately after application which explains why the wood looks darker. Thompson Water Seal is a clear product and I decided not to apply any other finish: cedar is beautiful as is.

This is the first time I used that product and while I have been satisfied with it, it did not always goo smoothly.  Suffice it to say that it is critical to read and respect all instructions exactly. More specifically, be sure to respect the temperature, drying time and maintain the wood dry as the product dries or you will ruin your pieces.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Left: The construction starts by cutting four 18 1/2” long pieces out of 2×2 clear cedar stock. This wood is already surfaced on four sides and is designed to build deck ballusters, among other things. These will ultimately become the posts installed at the four corners of the planter.

Right: I cut eight 14” long segments out of 1×6 clear cedar stock and glued them together to make a wider panels (14” x 11”). You already saw me gluing panels before.

After the panels dried, I sanded all panels smooth and raised them on the router table. You already saw me build raised panels before.

Left: The top of each post gets decorated with a narrow and shallow groove made at the table saw. I have installed a stop block (the piece of scrap wood clamped to the fence on the bottom right). This ensures a consistent location of the groove on all posts.

It is also critical to safety: to prevent kickback when crosscutting on a table saw, the wood must never be in contact with the fence.

Right: The blade was raised about 1/2” above the table and each post was ran through using the miter gauge. It is necessary to groove each post on for faces.

I decided to leave the blade guard for safety. It was mildly awkward to run pieces through.

Left: I moved to the router table and installed a chamfer bit. A chamfer will be cut at the top and bottom of every four posts …

Right: … like that (example at the top of a post). The chamfer is a little less than 1/2”. I just kept moving the fence away from the bit until I was satisfied with the depth of the chamfer.

You can also see the result of the previous grooving operation on the table saw.

Left: A decorative stopped chamfer was added on the external edge of all four posts.

There is a special procedure to make a stopped chamfer. First write marks on the work piece to indicate where the chamfer will star and end.

Right: With the router running, make sure the left side of the post rests on the table and hold the left side above the bit, without touching it. Position the mark on the work piece on the center of the bit.

Now, slowly plunge the work piece into the bit.

Left: When the piece is flat on the table, push it through as you normally would until the center of the bit reaches the end mark.

Pull the right end of the work piece up, making sure the left side is in contact with the table.

It is critical to make sure that at least one side of the work piece is on the table otherwise, the bit could catch  the wood and send it flying in the shop.

Stopped operations on the router are dangerous and you can get hurt badly. Always consult a professional.

Right: I cut eight supporting strips out of 1×2 cedar. One side will require two pieces: one to support the panel at the bottom and one top hold the panel at the top.

Left: Each piece was chamfered on three edges using the same chamfer bit. The last edge is left square because it will not show.

Right: I cut a grove on every single supporting strip. This groove will receive the panel and hold it in place. The groove was cut using a straight 1/4” bit. 1/4” bits are usually more fragile because they are thin so it took three passes to machine the groove.

It needs to be deep enough for the panel to be held and allow for wood movement. I decided that 5/8 was deep enough in this case.

Left: Using the same 1/4” straight bit, I machined two grooves on each post. These will receive the raised panels.


Right: Pocket screws slots were cut on all eight supporting strips. You have already seen me cutting pocket screws before.

Left: All pieces were sanded smooth and paired together so the grain of the wood would match top and bottom supporting strips.

At this point, the wood has not yet received any finish or sealant. However, assembly steps can already be outlined.

Right: A panel slides into two supporting strips: one at the top and one at the bottom.

Left: The right and left sides of the panel slide into a grove on the right and left posts. The supporting strips rest on posts and will be later fastened to them ….


Right: … like that. Each side is completed after driving the four pockets screws home.

Left: After assembling each panel, I drilled a set of holes to hold shelf pins. This allows the mobile shelve to be moved up and down to accommodate various pot sizes.

I drilled free hand and some holes were not exactly at 45 degrees. This is clearly not ideal.

The best tool for this job is a drill press: the work piece can be maintained tight on the table and drilled precisely. Unfortunately, I do not own one.

Right: A shelf pin installed in one of the holes.

The imperfection in the drilling did not have any consequence. I guess I was off but not off enough to have a noticeable impact on the stability of the shelf.

Left: I turned my attention to the shelf itself. It is essentially a few strips of rough saw cedar fencing stock cut to length and screwed onto two pieces of 1×2 cedar. I did not put any glue but it would not hurt.

If you glue this, make you you use a waterproof glue: watering plants will definitely pour water on the shelf.

This design is rather primitive but the shelf is not going to be visible so I can save some labor and materials here.

Right:  I drove a couple of screws to hold the shelf together. I used the same pan head screws (aka screws suitable for pocket screws) because I had them handy and they were of the adequate size.

Left: The shelf face up. It looks reasonable and it is fairly sturdy.


Right: A view of the planter after assembly, looking down at the shelf. The shelf rests on four shelf pins.

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw 
  • Table Saw 
  • Router & Router Table
  • Router Bits: Raised Panel, Chamfer, 1/4” Straight
  • Cordless Drill
  • Pocket Screw Jig
  • Clamps
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Clear Cedar 2×2 S4S (posts)
  • Clear Cedar 1×2 S2SS2E (supporting strips)
  • Clear Cedar 1×6 S2SS2E (panels)
  • Rough sawn cedar fencing (shelve)
  • Pocket Screws
  • Outdoor Oil Based Water Sealer
  • Shelf ins (4)

June 12, 2008

Removing ceramic tiles without breaking them

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 4:19 am

Two ceramic tiles are carefully removed.

Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 20 minutes

It is often necessary to remove ceramic tiles without breaking them. For instance:

  • You want to match an existing tile job and need to bring a sample to the store,
  • You need to gain access to a shower faucet concealed behind a tiled wall.

Removing tiles without breaking them is only part of the job. If you plan on re-using them, you will also have to clean up the back of the tile. That means removing old mortar or adhesive. Finally, removing tiles usually damages the substrate and you’ll have to patch it up before you can tile over it again.

I have about 70% success with the following technique (for 100 tiles removed, I’ll break at most 30). The key is to progress slowly and refrain from using brute force.

In this article, I’ll show how to remove two tiles, both set with mortar directly over drywall.

This blog sometimes illustrates dangerous tasks and removing tiles is one of them. Be sure to wear the necessary safety gear. That includes but is not limited to: gloves, safety glasses … I cannot be held responsible for anything which may or may not happens to you or anyone as a result of reading and / or applying procedures described in this blog . Be safe. Always consult a professional.

Left: The first tile to remove. It is a ceramic tile which was ripped in half to serve as a baseboard. This is a common practice.

With a utility knife, I cut through the paint, caulk,  mortar and grout all around the tile. I used a dull blade: no need to waste brand new, sharp blades here. They get dull in seconds.


Right: There was a thin line of grout at the bottom so I cut through it. I wanted to remove most of the grout / mortar (about 1/4” deep in this case).

It is important to remove as much grout as possible before attempting to remove a tile. Failure to do so will greatly increase your chance of breaking the tile. Do not rush.

Left: After freeing the tile from all around it sides, I gently inserted a stiff putty knife between the tile and the substrate. I gently tapped the blue handle with a hammer to help the blade go in further.

I repeated that operation on the other side of the tile (right on the picture). Again, it is critical to be gentle with the hammer.


Right: I inserted the flat side of a mini pry bar at the top of the tile and gently pushed it in. The tile came without a fight.

The tile separated from it substrate. As you can see, part of the drywall came off. There is even a screw visible.

The substrate will have to be patched before tiles can be re-applied. In this case, I’ll just fill the void with drywall joint compound.

If the tile is to be reused, its back needs to be cleaned. I usually take tiles outside, lay them on a piece of carpet face to clean up. I then spray them with water to control dust and use a belt sander with a 40 grit belt to grind the mortar off. It usually takes a minute per tile and it can get a little messy.

Now, let’s remove a small tile set on the wall. It is part of a decorative border around a corner shower unit.

A critical tool for this task: a grout saw. This is essentially a small piece of steel onto which diamond powder was deposited. It makes removing grout between tiles much easier, especially when grout lines are at least 1/8” wide.

This saw was purchased at my local Harbor Freight store for about $5. So far, I have used it to remove about 4 linear ft of group and it is still working fine. I can feel it is not as durable as more expensive saws but it has served me well for a very reasonable price.

Left: I used the saw to cut the grout on the left and bottom side of the tile. the saw is pressed against the grout and a back and forth movement performs the cutting, like a regular wood saw.


Right: The tile after the grout was cut. I went as deep as I could. In this case, this was the substrate (drywall).

Cutting the grout will reduce the risks to break adjacent tiles during the removal.

Left: Using a dull utility knife, I cut through the caulk and paint on the left side of the tile. The tile is no only held by mortar under it.


Right: I inserted the flat side of a mini pry bar under the left side of the tile and gently pushed it in.

The tip of the pry bar dug a little bit into the drywall. This is OK.

Left: With the help of a hammer, I gently tapped the pry bar under the tile. Again, it must be gentle or the tile will break.

Under normal circumstances, I would hold the pry bar with my left hand but I was taking the picture.


Right: The tile popped off. It is difficult to see on this picture but the drywall will slightly damaged: the pry bar created a low spot as I was prying.

Again, the substrate will have to be fixed and the back of the tile cleaned before reuse.

Tools Used:

  • Stiff Putty Knife
  • 20oz. Brick Hammer (any hammer will do)
  • Mini pry bar with flat side 
  • Utility Knife + Dull Blades
  • Diamond Tipped Grout Saw

Materials Used:

  • None

June 6, 2008

Installing door casing when drywall is not flush

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 6:29 am

While preparing a door frame for casing, we notice the drywall is not flush with the door frame.

The drywall is shaved to allow the casing to sit flat on the wall and on the frame.

Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 20 minutes

You have already seen me installing door casing here. It is usually an easy task when the drywall is flush to the frame. Sometimes, this is not the case. This short article describes one common technique used to correct the problem.

The starting point is pictures above: a piece of scrap casing is held on the drywall and a gap of about 1/4” appears between the casing and the window frame.

The tool for this project: a single blade tool


  • Painters use this tool to scrape paint of glass windows, or from ceramic tiles, among other things.


This tool can be purchased at home centers for around $3. I once purchased a box of 100 blades on sale at my local Harbor Freight for about $3.

I am usually not a big fan of HF tools but I figured that $0.03 a blade was a bargain even if they last 5 times less than more expensive blades. I must admit that so far, those blades have met and exceeded my expectations: they worked at least as well as more expensive, brand name blades.

Left: It is easy to see that the drywall is sticking out w.r.t. the door frame.

Using the single blade tool, I shaved a little bit of drywall at a time … 


Right: … like this. It is important to remove only enough drywall for the casing to rest flush with the wall and ensure the shaved region is still concealed under the casing.

I find it is best to cut a little bit at a time and use a piece of scrap casing to test. If the casing still does not rest flat, it is easy to see where material needs to be removed. It is a iterative process.

Left: A section of the wall where drywall was cut. It looks bad but everything will be concealed behind the casing.


Right: A piece of scrap casing now sits flat on the drywall / frame.

I continued all around the door, on both side. The door is now ready for casing. You can see this article here.

As you shave drywall, it is not uncommon to uncover finish nails, drywall nails or drywall screws.


  • Finish nails: I like to remove them with a pair of carpenter pliers. Finish nails are leftover from a previous casing installation and if you pound them in, they will eventually make their way out, possibly pushing the casing out.
  • Drywall nails / Drywall Screws: I pound them / drive them in. Drywall nails hold the drywall to the framing. It is best to pound them in because removing them would weaken the bond to studs.

Tools Used:

  • Single blade Tool
  • Hammer
  • Carpenter’s Pliers

Materials Used:

  • Scrap piece of casing

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!

August 30, 2006

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 11, 2006

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: 

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