All posts tagged flooring

Let’s Talk About Lumber

Let’s Talk About Lumber

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For Westchester homeowners looking to get more into the DIY lifestyle, lumber is a material that provides a myriad of uses and can offer a major gateway into understanding how one can build on one’s own terms. Knowing what you want to build and what you want to do with your lumber, however, is only the beginning, as there are several types of popular lumber that can be used for many different projects. One type of lumber is good for small Westchester home jobs, while others are better for big jobs, and it’s important to know the difference.

Western lumber is perhaps the most well known, used for most general building projects and framing, and there are some 15-20 commercially important species of Western softwood. Douglas fir and Hem fir tend to be the most popular and can be classified in three terms: high-quality appearance, general-purpose board or radius-edged patio decking. When looking for western lumber, make sure the brand you purchase has the logo of the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA), which has excellent quality standards and a thorough, check process. Lumber with “WWPA Rules” stamped on it, however, merely indicates the lumber has been graded according to the WWPA rules, but not inspected.

Redwood has two major grades: heartwood and sapwood. Either comes in a variety of grades including a fine finish or a rougher, less attractive finish. Heartwood fends off termites and decay naturally, making it an obvious choice for projects involved in nature or underground. Sapwood, on the other hand, should not be used in contact with the ground, but is good for many Westchester home projects. Architectural redwood is, of course, the strongest redwood, often kiln-dried and used for structural and finish applications. Lastly, garden redwood comprises lower grades and is used commonly for decks, fences, and, you guessed it, gardens.

Less prominent but highly valuable is southern pine. It boasts high strength, resistance to wear and is perfect for projects that require fasteners be used with wood. Southern pine is graded 1-4: 1 has the highest quality and best appearance, 2 has tight knots but usually has no holes, 3 is serviceable sheathing, and more popular than other grades, and 4 contains usable portions of 24 inches long. Then there’s treated lumber, which is resistant to weather, termites and fungus. ACQ and copper azole are the current popular chemicals used to treat lumber, which is used in outdoor consumer projects (decks, etc.). Treated wood isn’t waterproof, but is decay-proof, and comes largely from ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, Hem-fir and southern yellow pine. Be certain to wear respiratory protection when cutting it.

Finally, there is pine shelving, Pieces of pine shelving measure about 1-inch thick and at varying widths and lengths. Shelving is a favorite for those doing touch ups in garages or basements; it’s sometimes referred to as simply “garage shelving.” Consumer-grade pieces measure up to 12 feet long but most consumer sales will come in at 4 and 6-foot lengths. It’s the most economical wood, which is where a beginner would most likely want to start, but now that you have some idea about lumber, you can start anywhere you like, really.


Fixing Tiles on a Fixed Budget

Fixing Tiles on a Fixed Budget

Installing tiles is something that needs to be planned out carefully on various levels. One has to pick out color and design, consider how it will look in the designated area, make decisions as to what the rest of the kitchen will look like and then, inevitably, there is the task of actually putting down the base, the mesh, the tiles and the grout. Nothing can really be left to chance or ignored.

In contrast, damaging tiles is often done with the most minor and ignorable of actions: Erosion from constant wear, scrapes from furniture and other harsh edges, dirt rubbed and ground in, dropped items both weighty and sharp, and certain chemical cleaners. Naturally, replacing damaged tiles is something that comes up frequently, especially in kitchen floors and bathrooms. You’ll need the following items:

  •       Colored Masking Tape
  •       Replacement Tiles
  •       Nails & Hammer
  •       Chisel
  •       Trowel
  •       Grout & Grout Float
  •       Sponge
  •       Set Mortar
  •       Gloves (optional)

Begin by taping off the surrounding area of the tiles with the masking tape, being sure to cut the tape before the grout, as that will be getting replaced as well. So, the damaged tile(s) and the grout directly surrounding it should be taped off. Take a nail and hit it into the center of the damaged tile(s) to shatter the tile and make it easier to pick up in pieces. Use a chisel to clear out every last trace of the old tile, so that you can lay the new tile on an even surface. (You might want to use gloves while picking up the small shards to make sure you don’t get cut.)

Once the space is clear, take your replacement tile(s) and put a very thin layer of thin set mortar on the bottom of the tile with a trowel. Make sure it is just enough to set the tile in place, as you don’t want to have any mortar squeeze up around the sides of the tile. Let it dry (six to eight hours, to be safe) and then lay down some grout using a grout float to make sure it gets deep into the surrounding area.  When you’re done, use a sponge to clean up any unwanted grout on the tile(s). Let the grout dry and pull up the tape to take a look at your brand new tile(s). It’s just one more thing to ensure you don’t have to call in an armada of contractors to fix a minor problem in your home.


Make Those Squeaky Floorboards Silent

Make Those Squeaky Floorboards Silent

Squeaky floorboards are one of those things that most people consider a necessary evil of homeownership. Some people think it’s a sign that the entire floor is about to give way, or that a poltergeist is secretly creeping around, or that they really need to hit the gym. In reality, this is a natural deterioration of the floorboards that have dried out after awhile and are now sliding and grinding against each other; there’s also the factor of unstable subflooring. Bare hardwood floors tend to be the main culprits but the squeaks are still perceivable in carpeted areas and tiled areas.

Fixing these common annoyances is an easy enough project for an active home improvement weekender. In any situation, the first thing to do is locating the squeak and mark it with some electrical tape. Now, the toughest situation is when you have no way of getting under a bear hardwood floor and must fix it from above. This will require a drill, breakaway screws, matching screwdriver bit and a depth-control fixture. (O’Berry’s makes a handy counter-snap kit for this sort of job.) Drill a pilot hole (approximately 3/32 in.-dia) and use the depth-control fixture provided in the kit to drill one of the provided screws into the hole until it snaps off. To conceal the work, fill the hole with wood putty.

Carpeted floors that need to be looked at from above can be similarly fixed. In this case, I highly suggest a squeak-no-more kit, which contain everything you’d need for this job, including breakaway screws and a pilot screw for locating joists. If you have a joist locator, it’s a bit easier and quicker. Using either, locate the joist that is in closest proximity to your squeak and mark it. To ensure your carpet doesn’t get damaged, wrap the special breakaway screw with scotch tape when you drive the screw through the fixture. Screw it in and then use the fixture’s side to break off the top of the breakaway screw. All of the work you’ve should be concealed by the carpeting.

The more common and easier task is fixing squeaks from underneath, through a basement. Have a member of your family or a friend walk over the squeaky area while you’re below. Take a thin wooden shim, cover it with carpenter’s glue and tap it into the area between the closest joist and the subfloor. Follow this up with a drywall screw driven through the joist, the shim and into the subfloor at an angle. This is an easy enough fix, but for a more secure fix, get your hands on a hold-down bracket – the most popular one is the Squeak-Ender. This usually consists of a steel mounting plate being held next to the trouble spot’s closest joist, screwed into the subfloor and then tightened via attached nuts so that the joist and the floor are brought closer together.

Floorboards make noise, so don’t get out your kits and tool belt every time you hear the faintest utterance of sound. Be reasonable, but there’s no denying the sound of a floorboard that needs attention. Now, at the very least, you’ll be able to walk across your home without wanting to run for the scale or checking the notches on your belt.