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24 April 2007

How to Build a Coat Closet - Framing the Door

The first step in framing the door is attaching the door frame to the studs already in place. Cut (2) 2"x4"s to the length of the door rough-in height. Nail these to the side studs that were already in place. The distance between this rough door frame should equal the rough-in width of the pre-hung door. Next, nail the header plate to these framing studs. Cut 2"x4"s to fit between the header plate and the top header. These are called cripple studs. Toenail three of them between the header plate and door header plate, one on each side, and one in the middle.
Below you can see where I am framing out the new coat closet. I have the door frames in but have not yet put in the cripple studs. This is a test fit of the door to make sure the rough in dimensions were correct.

20 April 2007

Houseblogger Rides For Charity

Welcome to everyone from the houseblogs community along with anyone new reaching my site. I have decided to ride in a bike tour for the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes affects 7% of the US population and costs $132 billion/year, and that was in 2002. In 2005, Diabetes was the no. 6 killer in the US, and it is rapidly on the rise.

Because of these reasons, I will be riding in the Tour de Cure on June 10th in Connecticut to raise money for Diabetes research. I will be doing 50K, and I am asking that anyone who has learned something or been entertained by this site drop by the URL below or hit the Tour de Cure logo on the right and consider making a small donation for this cause.

Every little bit helps, thanks in Advance,


My Tour de Cure Site

18 April 2007

How to Build a Coat Closet - Framing

The next step to building a closet is the framing. Prior to this step you will want to buy a pre-hung door so that you know what the rough in dimensions are.

You are then going to cut a frame to fit in between the header and the footer every 16 inches on center. Remember, frames closer than 16" are ok, but frames further apart than 16" are not. I have used my extensive solid modeling skills to build the mock-up that you see below (glad to see that that almost $300,000 engineering education is not going to waste). Notice how the corners are double framed. Also notice, that the header to footer frames that the door will fit in-between are 3" wider than the rough in measurement. This is for good reason and I will show you why in the next post about framing the door.

Below: With footers

17 April 2007

How to Build a Closet - Header and Footer

After you have marked out the closet on the ceiling and transferred the measurements to the floor using a plumb bob, it is time to start the framing.

You will want to lay out the framing on your ceiling and floor first. Screw the 2x4 frames into the ceiling and flooring joists and into each other. Above I have illustrated how to frame the top of the closet, this is called the header. The bottom of the closet will be framed in the same way except for the opening left for the door. This is called the footer. Below is a picture of my header installed. Since I am using an existing alcove to build my closet my framing is a little easier. My project is more of a how to build a coat closet.

Narrowly Avoiding Disaster

The Nor'easter that has blown through here over the last few days has caused quite a bit of flooding damage. Living on the water makes you really pay attention to the tides and storm surges. As of yesterday our high tides were about 4-5 feet over normal. This lead the normally peaceful cove that we live on to overflow its banks, washing all sort of debris up on the road. Luckily the water did not get anywhere near our home, the last time that happened was during a hurricane back in the '30s. Here are a few pictures I snapped as my wife and son and I took a walk last night to survey the damage.

The cove as it normally looks, nice and peaceful.

Check out the knocked down trees straight ahead and the fence to the left.

16 April 2007

My Favorite Tools - Arrow ET200 Electric Nail Gun

Another one of my favorite tools is the Arrow Nail Master ET200. This is an electric nail gun and I think it is one of the most powerful and readily available electric nail guns on the market. I have put up 1000s of feet of trim with this baby and it still works like the day I bought it. I was looking for a cost-effective alternative to buying a compressor and pneumatic gun for light duty. I found this at Lowes for $60 and decided that since it could handle brads up to 1 1/4" I would give it a try. When I went to look at all of the electric nail guns I found that at Lowes, this one was the most powerful that didn't cost close to $300. That was almost a year ago. Since then I have used it to hang crown molding in every room, install wainscoting in the nursery and trim out a wine bar in the cellar. It has a nice rubber guard on the nose that keeps it from marring the trim and two safety switches. I was surprised with the amount of power that this little electric nailer has. I have had no problem using it to join pieces of maple and oak along with standard pine molding. The specs are below.


14 April 2007

Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot

A study just out by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that somewhere around 37,000 people went to the hospital this past year due to shooting themselves with a nail gun....not cool.

Non-professionals (aka DIYers) accounted for approximately 14,000 of those visits. Now even though that is only 40 percent the number of injuries stood at 4000 a year a little over a decade ago.

75% of the injuries were to the hands, fingers, and arms.

This leads me to plead with everyone to be careful. I worked as a furniture maker for about a year so I have seen some nasty accidents, (think 5/8" drill bit through the hand), and those are professionals.

Remember, nail guns are guns, they shoot things, they are usually loaded, and they also have trigger guards, use them. If you need to buy a nail gun, learn how to use it. I have an electric nail gun that I purchases at Lowes about a year ago. Mine has two safety switches. It has a switch on the nose and also a thumb safety at the top of the grip. I never put it down without both safeties on.

One last thing, if you really need to use a nail gun, have your wife or girlfriend do it. 95% of the injuries were suffered by men.


13 April 2007

How to Build a Closet

When it comes time to sell your house one of the first things that buyers look at and sort by when searching is the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms the home has. A room cannot be listed as a bedroom unless it has a built in closet. Because of this you may want to add a closet to increase the value and marketability of your home along with having more storage for your clothes.

Measuring for the Closet

You will need a minimum of 24” of depth for hanging clothes. If coats will be hung in the closet you will want to plan for 28” of depth. You will also need 48” of length for each person using the closet. These are the inside dimensions, you will need to add 4.5” for each wall you will be building, this will allow 3.5” for the stud and another 1/2” on each side for the drywall.
I had a small niche in my master bathroom wo I will not be framing the walls. I will be framing just the opening for a door.

Marking out the Closet

If you have the space it is time to start marking out the closet area. Start laying out the space on the ceiling. First mark the ceiling where the sidewalls will be by measuring 48 inches along the back wall. Use a square to draw these marks out perpendicular to the wall 24”. Connect the end points of these two lines creating a line parallel to the back wall for the front of the closet. Use a plumb bob to transfer the ceiling lines to the floor. This will ensure that your walls will be plumb when you drywall.

Next time I will discuss framing the closet.

12 April 2007

Welcome Wikihow Users

Wow! I have seen an incredible spike in traffic over the past 24 hours. Thank you to everyone coming over from Wikihow. As I write this over 22,000 people have read my featured article on how to tile a shower. Of course, it is a brief article explaining how I completed it. You will want to do a little more research before you attempt a project like this yourself.

I read and learned as much as possible before my shower renovation. Below is a list of a couple resources that I found extremely helpful:

John Bridge's Ceramic Tile Forum
Do it Yourself Tile Page
Home Improvement Tips

If you are like me and you are more of a visual learner than I suggest purchasing the "Tiling Made Easy" videos. They are the best instructional DVDs I have found on the subject. Not only are they concise, well put together, and 0.6% of the cost of having a professional tile your bathroom, but they have a money back guarantee. There is nothing to lose. You can check out a sample of the videos at the folowing URL:

Tile Made Easy Videos

As you can see I do my best to respond to all visitors' questions and comments posted and encourage active participation.

Don't forget to hit the big orange subscribe button on the right there as I will be posting about many more projects in the near future.

Thanks once again for your support,

Clint Miller

Next Up: How to Build a Closet

11 April 2007

Artistic Tiling With Natural Slate

Artistic Tiling with Natural Slate
By Joey Lewitin

Every slate tile in the world is unique, due to the naturally occurring chaos which creeps into its appearance during formation. This gives the material a certain amount of power, and makes every installation a one of a kind experience.

When putting natural slate into a floor, countertop, or backsplash, it is important to lay the tiles out first, to get a sense of the overall picture that will be formed in the final installation. Each tile is a unique portrait that will have to be coordinated with all of the others, to develop a montage which is complimentary and fits the overall ambience you are trying to achieve.

Like laying out a giant puzzle, where you determine what the outcome will be, you should rearrange the tiles several times to get a feel for your different options. If you are lucky, your contractor will have had the foresight to order a couple of extra tiles. This will allow you to choose the absolute best, discarding any which you don’t like, or which don’t fit in with the overall scheme the rest of them create.

Often slate tiles which come from the same box will have come from the same quarry, and may have even been cut from the same original slab. If this occurs, you can lay them out sequentially, and try to recreate the original appearance of the stone as it lay within the mountain.

Other times the tiles within a box will be erratic, each one having different colors and patterns. In this case, it is important to balance the various stones, light against dark, subdued against wild, to create an effect which has a strong center.

When laying out slate it is also important to dampen the tiles. This will give you an idea of what they will look like once the stone has been sealed. The moisture from the water seeps into the stones pores, much like a sealer eventually will, bringing out a variety of colors and contrasts which were invisible before.

Once you have decided on the layout of your tiles, it is often helpful to label them with small numbers on the back or sides, to help with laying them out. Markings should be done in pencil, so that any stray markings or exposed edges can easily be washed clean. You should also be certain to make a note of how the sequence is supposed to be laid out, whether vertically, horizontally, backward, or forward.

It is helpful to have a contractor or installer that has an artistic eye when dealing with natural stone. When choosing to hire someone, you should try and get a look at their portfolio to see some of the work they have created. Since stone is such a unique medium, it is also often helpful to give your own feedback on installations, and to try and incorporate your own vision into the project.

For natural slate tile and slab materials for your next project, just visit http://pebblez.com/stone/index.html

10 April 2007

Price Analysis for New Shower

There are two reasons that I like to do things myself. The first reason is that I am cheap. The second reason is that to be quite honest, I don't like paying what contractors charge, which translates into I am cheap. I also like to get my supplies at the lowest prices possible. Below is a spreadsheet detailing what I spent in the remodeling of my shower. I came in under $700 which I think is pretty commendable.

The shower pan along with most of the other supplies came from Lowes. Things are a little more expensive there but I am paying for convenience. The whole body jet set I got from Ebay through a company called Senry. I am an engineer involved in the distribution of solenoid valves so I have a little insight into the quality of these types of products. I can honestly tell you the casting and parts used in these Senry faucets are extremely high quality. They use better materials than your standard Moen or Kohler faucets. Hey I like to save money, but I don't cut corners. You can find their products at http://www.senry.com.

The rainfall shower head came from Overstock.com. Trust me when I say that it also is heavy duty, works well, and for $20 you can't go wrong.

The tile was from home depot. I caught a pallet of wall tile being taken out of inventory and liquidated at $0.88/ea. It matched the tone I was going for so I grabbed them right there on the spot. You can be flexible and still come out with what you want, so hunt for the deals. I had a mosaic picked out that cost $14.00/ft. I ended up going cheaper with another one that was $4.00/ft. It saved me $90. Again I got the same look, but knocked almost $100 off my budget.

I will review some of these products again periodically just to give you a good idea of how they are holding up but for now, on to the next project.

09 April 2007

Master Bath Shower Project Summary

There is nothing more satisfying than completing a project, except for maybe having a record of what you did. Thanks to the world of digital cameras and blogging it is easier than ever to relive a project and to see how far you have come. My shower took a lot longer than I expected but it was completely worth it. Nothing is more relaxing than having all the sprayers going. I look forward to waking up in the morning just so I can shower.

Here is a summary of the work I did:

1. Ripped the old shower out along with the walls, ceiling, old pan, and subfloor.

2. Put in a new GFCI outlet and switch to run the fan/light combo.

3. Installed the fan/light combo and replaced the ceiling.

4. Took out the old plumbing and replaced it with a new mixer, body jets, and rainfall shower head.

5. Installed a new subfloor.

6. Installed the new swanstone shower pan.

7. Put up hardibacker.

8. Tiled the walls.

Here are some before and after shots:

In the next post I will outline the total cost of the remodel along with the sources of most of the products used.

05 April 2007

How to Grout a Tile Shower

Welcome to the next section in our series on tiling a shower. If you have not read it already, please go HERE to get an idea of where we are in the project.

The first step in grouting the tile is to choose which type of grout you want to use. They all have their advantages.

Sanded grout is good for spaces greater than 1/8” and for high traffic areas such as floors.

Unsanded grout works well in spaces less than 1/8”. It also provides a smooth surface that does not take as many coats to seal. I recommend this for backsplashes, showers, and countertops.

Another option is epoxy grout such as Latipoxy. I have used this before to grout floor tile underneath a stove. It is expensive but very strong and durable. Plus, epoxy has a 100% solids content so it is impermeable when set. This means it does not need sealed and will not stain. However, it is not the easiest thing to work with. It must be cleaned with a vinegar and water combination and special sponges. There is no room for error once it sets up.

The next step is to make sure you buy enough grout. On the back of the bag or box will be a table that tells you how many square feet it will cover according to your tile and spacing size. If you must buy more than one container mix them prior to making up the grout so that the color will be consistent throughout the entire grouting job.

1. Mix the grout with water or additive according to the package instructions. For my shower I mixed with an additive like Microban that inhibits the growth of bacteria and mold.
2. With a trowel slap a glob of grout on your rubber float.
3. Float the grout onto the tile pressing it into the spaces. Push the grout in diagonally to get good compacting.
4. Go back over the tile with the sponge float to try to get as much excess grout off the tile as possible.
5. Follow the directions on the bag for your particular grout but generally you will wait 30-40 minutes before the first cleaning. You want a haze to form over the tile. Get a bucket of clean water and a sponge. You want to ring as much water out of the sponge as possible before wiping the excess grout off the tile with a circular motion.
6. Repeat step 5 until most of the excess grout is removed. Let sit for 24 hours and then go back with a dry paper towel and buff the tiles clean. You can then let it sit another 24 hours and seal it.

03 April 2007

How to Tile Shower Walls

Once the Hardibacker was up it was finally time to get to the tiling. This is the fun part and my wife (8 months pregnant) decided to join me.

A few things to note before getting started:

1. Do not use Mastic, use a thinset and stay away from the premixed stuff.
2. You want to dampen the cement board prior to troweling thinset on. If you do not, the cement board will draw the moisture out of the thinset too quickly, making for a brittle set that is susceptible to cracking.
3. Pick out the right trowel for your thinset and tile size, also pay attention to spacing recommendations and use the right spacers. I recommend 1/8” or less spacing so that you can use unsanded grout (easier to seal).
4. Remember you are not going to grout at the corners, you are going to caulk so try to maintain an even spacing.

5. GET THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB. I suggest you spend a little money to rent or buy the correct tools as they will make it that much easier. I have put together a few must haves here:

  • Tile Saw or Tile Cutter

  • Notched Trowel

  • Grout Float

    I used 9x12 ceramic wall tiles. According to the directions on the thinset a ¼” V-notch is called for. The first thing I did was to measure up 11 ½” from the bottom of the cement backer board. This gave me a ½” overlap over the shower pan’s tile lip. I then used a level and a sharpie marker to draw a horizontal line all the way around the shower stall. I used this line as a guide for the top of the first row so that all tiles will be level.

The first night I mixed up enough thinset to do the bottom row. I moistened the Hardibacker with a sponge and then troweled on a glob of thinset. I used my v-notched trowel to spread the thinset and then set the tile into it. You want to push the tile into the thinset while giving it a little twist back and forth to get it well set. Then pull it off and make sure 95% of the tile is covered with thinset. This shows that you will get good tile coverage and therefore strong adhesion.

I used spacers in between the tiles and shims under the tile to make sure they stayed in place while they were setting up. I left the first row to set over night since this would be the support for the rest of the tiles.

Over the next few nights my wife and I, along with some help from our dog (chihuahuas love home improvement), laid tile on the rest of the shower following the same procedure as we did for the first row. Simplified, here it is below:

1. Measure up 12 inches from top of the last row. Mark line with a level as guide for next row.
2. Spread thinset between last row of tile and marked line with v-notched trowel.
3. Set tile into thinset using spacers all around.
4. Repeat for next row up.

After finishing the tile, we let it set for 48 hours before grouting. In the next post I will discuss grouting.

I know it is hard to get a feel for how exactly to tile by reading the procedure and looking at pictures. I did quite a bit of reading before I began. Again, if you ar not comfortable with the process I would do a little more reading.