Early User of ZipWall Has a Few Things to Say About ZipWall

Zip Wall Clamping Foam

Early in my career writing about home remodeling, I received an e-mail from a marketing person at ZipWall or hired by them, asking if I wanted to have a free ZipWall system. I had just begun writing about home improvement and the idea that I could get products for free with the implied expectation that I would write about them was both novel and exhilarating.

It was 2006. ZipWall sent me a long cardboard box. Inside were two telescoping aluminum poles with red plastic spring-loaded ends. I used ZipWall for some projects, then wrote up a review in The Spruce (at that time called About.com), and I spoke favorably about ZipWall. In fact, I still write for The Spruce, and in looking at ZipWall literature I see that comments about ZipWall poles being aluminum is incorrect; they are stainless steel. I have changed that review accordingly.

I also see that ZipWall came out in 1999, a time so long ago that ZipWall was barely getting into that Internet thing (see first print clipping below). They had their first media blitz in 1999, with a second, much smaller media blitz-ette in 2003, and then the 2006 mini blitz-ette, which included me.

ZipWall Chicago Tribune, March 19 1999
Chicago Tribune, March 19 1999

First the Obligatory Accolades

From the standpoint of easy renovation, ZipWall is king. If not king, it’s somewhere in the royal circle. I don’t even know what to say other than check out the Amazon review, filter out those pissy two- and one-star reviews, and read the top reviews. It’s all true.

If you can afford ZipWall (and it isn’t cheap) and you have just bought a home and want to remodel, buy the damn things. Price has actually gone down since 1999, beginning at $140 for a two-pole set and now going for about $90. A whole $1,285 ZipWall Tool Kit would be a wet dream, but really the two-pole set is all a DIYer needs.

And Obligatory Improvement Recommendations

  • Add arrows to the poles, indicating which direction to turn to release or secure.
  • Add an attachment system so that the plastic sheet will stay on the end of the pole as you raise it.
  • There is no place to grab the plastic plate. You have to either pry the plate off by inserting a thin object under the plate (not a good idea) or searching for some grab point on the bottom of that plate. ZipWall will say that the way to release the pole is to push up on the pole itself (ignoring the plate) and this is true in 95% of the applications. But there are the rare times you need to grab that plate and you just can’t.

But Here’s Where It Gets Interesting

Zip Wall Clamping Foam

ZipWall has really missed the boat on promoting this one. Like many ZipWall users, I use my poles for far more applications that have nothing to do with dust barriers.

  • Above, I am using ZipWall as a push-clamp system to glue together two sheets of insulation foam.
  • I have used ZipWall to hold drywall against ceiling joists.
  • When building wire chases for rope lighting in my home movie theater, ZipWall poles were a friend I depended on for holding them up while I screwed them into place.

And those are only the first three that I can think of, on a brain that is ravaged by a poor sleep last night. With a clearer head, I’m sure I could come up with tons more.

Basically, I see a company that appears to not be taking advantage of the good thing they’ve got going. Promote it more. Clean up your dated website. Show how buyers use it for things other than holding up plastic. Do that Ryobi Nation type of thing, where users send in photos.

Yes, you’re pushing 20 years old. Congrats. But that’s no reason to keep your company running on fumes.

And as the saying goes, I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t love you, man.

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Use Wood Glue to Bond Foam to Foam?

Foam is a finicky substance that does not respond to all types of glue. And your all-purpose adhesive solution, the hot glue gun, will melt foam. Will wood glue work?

Answer

Yes, wood glue can be used as an adhesive for extruded polystyrene foam. But the jury is out as to whether it can be used to glue foam edge-to-edge.

Results

Wood Glue and Foam

Wood glue might be the last type of glue you would use on insulation foam. Wood, foam–they don’t really seem to go together. Yet Elmer’s White Glue is used by hobbyists to glue styrofoam. How different can this be?

For the test, I used Owens-Corning Foamular. It is a “closed cell, moisture-resistant rigid foam board,” according to the Foamular site. Nowhere in the Foamular literature does it say or even imply that Foamular has fiberglass in it. Yet I had such a strong mental association with the Owens-Corning trademarked pink color, along with the Pink Panther mascot, that I assumed there had to be fiberglass.

Face to Face Is Successful

I bonded Owens-Corning Foamular 150 to itself when constructing a bulkhead around some pipes.

That first test worked fantastically well, holding securely. The glue did not damage the foam.

I do not know how long it took to dry, because I used my Zip-Wall Dust Barrier poles as a form of clamp to push the foam piece together, and kept them in place close to 24 hours. I did check out one of my bonds after about 1.5 hours, and the bond appeared to be tight. But that also could have been the vacuum effect of having two flats pieces of material with a liquid substance between them.

Edge to Edge: Jury Is Out

Zip Wall Clamping Foam

Will Foamular’s smooth facing bond better, worse, or the same as the porous edges of two pieces that have been snapped apart?

Foamular has partial incisions that allow it to snap apart without using cutting tools. The edges are fairly ragged, but they will fit tightly together, much like puzzle pieces.

After 4 hours, I released the Zip Wall poles and the Foamular sections came apart. My conclusion isn’t so much that the wood glue failed; it’s that my test didn’t run long enough.

In the first test, the glue was spread out ultra thinly by the pressure of the two flat pieces. But in the second test, the glue was thicker and (I assume) needed more time to dry.

I will try this test again.

 

 

 

Can You Paint Trim in Flat Sheen Paint?

Matte Paint on Trim

Trim–doors, windows, baseboards, and the like–is usually painted with semi-gloss or glossy paint. Can you paint trim in flat (also known as matte) paint and what would happen if you did?

Best Answer

Yes, you can use flat or matte paint for your trim. It would be vastly more difficult to clean than glossier paints and touch-ups would be frequent.

Details

Close on the heels of that brief answer is this: understand that flat paint will be more difficult to maintain on impact trim surfaces than paint with a gloss.  Most trim is a functional thing. It’s there for two reasons: to cover up unfinished edges and to provide a surface that can withstand impact better than drywall can.

The only trim that does not do this is crown molding. Riding high above your head, this regal strip of wood (or PVC) never gets touched. In fact, since it is angled downward, it barely even gets dusty. But crown is a rarity in the world of trim.

Ease of Cleaning: Flat-painted surfaces are hard to clean. Whether you are using a cloth rag, terrycloth towel, sponge, or paper towel, all of them drag on flat-painted surfaces. The stain itself tends to “grab” tighter to flat surface more than to glossier surfaces.

Frequent Touching Up

I often say that the best way to clean flat paint is with a can of flat paint. Having a spare can of matching paint is required when you have flat walls and certainly when you have flat trim. Touch-ups will be frequent.

But you can ease the burden of touch ups by:

  • Keeping the paint can half-full. This makes it ease to shake up the can. Full cans are impossible to manually shake.
  • Having a trim brush and brush comb nearby. Keep the implements under a counter, in a closet, or some other available place.

Impact Resistance:

Qualifiers

Can You Paint Trim with Flat Palint

Using flat/matte paint for trim should never be your first choice. Your go-to will always be a paint with some type of gloss. The more gloss, the better–at least from the standpoint of impact resistance and ease of cleaning. If you can stand it and the design conditions call for it, high gloss paint would be the best.

You need to have a reason for using flat for trim. I painted the trim in a section of my basement home movie theater in flat paint because I wanted to reduce light bounce with my video projector. Projectors, ranging from 1,500 to 6,000 lumens, cast brilliant light on the screen. Not all of the light stays on the screen. Because it ricochets off, all immediately surrounding surfaces–ceiling, walls, floor, and even trim–need to be as dark and flat as possible. That is the reason behind black draperies in some movie theaters.

How It Looks

Trim painted flat has an unusual appearance, if only because our eyes are accustomed to seeing shiny trim. It adopts a look similar to that of the adjoining wall. It does not completely disappear because of the shadows created by its offset from the wall and offset within itself, as seen below, where door casing, door stop, and trim all come together to form one unit. Also, if your walls are textured, your trim will not be textured. This is another way the two surfaces will differ in appearance.


Matte Paint on Trim

Sources

A continuing education supplement from the American Institute of Architects called “The Ingredients of Paint and Their Impact on Pant Properties” has a good, in-depth discussion of how the various elements of paint work together to form a single protective surface.

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based Clear Satin: What It Is, How It Is

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based Clear Satin

What It Is

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based (Clear, Satin) is a coating that you apply to wood. In simple terms, it’s the smelly stuff that applies as a liquid but turns hard after a few hours and which requires clean up with a petroleum product, not water.

Easy or Not?

By definition, any oil-based coating, whether it is a paint or wood coating, will not be easy. From the moment you open the lid and the pungent odor hits you to the last brush stroke on the wood and clean up, you are fighting the product.

This is the nature of oil-based coatings. In return, they give you hard shell protection. Oil-based trim paint, in particular, is famous for producing a smoother, flatter finish.

But if you want easy, Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based is not for you.

How It Is

Clear Has a Color

No matter what this product says on the label–or many coatings that claim to be “clear”–it does have a color and it will tone down your surface a shade.

Satin Is Semi-Glossy

Jeld-Wen Interior Hardwood Door - What It Is

If you are accustomed to the satin sheen of paint, you will find that this satin is glossier than that.

 

 

Jeld-Wen Interior Hardwood Door: What It Is, How It Is

Jeld-Wen interior hardwood doors, in both slab and pre-hung versions, are found at Home Depot and independent retailers. What is this door, where can you use it, and what’s the difference between the two?

What It Is

Jeld-Wen Interior Hardwood Door - What It Is

It is a door intended only for interior installations (closets, bathrooms, etc.). It is made of either an MDF or finger-jointed pine base, with hardwood veneer for appearance. It comes in either slab version (door only) or pre-hung (frame and other features), with the slab costing roughly half the price of the pre-hung version.

Objective Details

Home Depot and other retailers sell Jeld-Wen interior hardwood doors, yet not much information is available in the store about what this is exactly and how it is constructed.  Here are details:

They Call it a “Flush All Panel” Door

Jeld-Wen uses the term “flush” to mean that the two large facing surfaces are completely flat. It also uses the unusual term “all panel,” which really just means that it has one panel instead of several panels (as found with a classic six panel door).

Slab vs. Pre-Hung

In general, a slab door is just the door and a pre-hung door is the door that is already attached to an outer frame with hinges. Specifically for these Jeld-Wen doors, you receive (and do not receive):

Slab:

  • Door
  • Doorknob hole already cut out for you
  • No:  mortises for hinges, doorknob, hinges, staining, or sealing

Pre-hung:

  • Door
  • Doorknob hole already cut out for you
  • Door mortised for hinges, plus the hinges, plus the hinges already attached to the door
  • Outer frame to which the door is already attached by hinges
  • Cut-out in the door frame to accept a strike plate
  • No:  Strike plate, doorknob, staining, or sealing

How It Is

I have purchased a few of these Jeld-Wen doors, both slab and pre-hung. My experience has been mainly good. I find that it is an attractively priced but delicate product due to a poorly applied veneer that was nearly a deal breaker. Quality is inconsistent from door to door.

Appearance

Attractive but not overly beautiful inexpensive hardwood veneered on top of either an MDF or a pine core. As with all other cheap hardwoods, you can stain it to give it a richer appearance. For me, a smooth mid-century modern appearance was important, but I had no need for an expensive door.

Cost

Because these doors are so inexpensive, you can afford to change out all the doors in your house, if desired. The pre-hung doors are in the $65 to $80 range, and similarly-sized slab doors are about half the price.

Material Types Not Labeled

Not all Jeld-Wen interior hardwood doors use the same base and veneer materials. Even the Jeld-Wen site does not clearly state which kind of base you are getting, but it seems to me that the slab doors have a finger-jointed pine base and the slab door have an MDF base. Jeld-Wen offers veneers in red oak, birch, and tropical hardwood (which I believe would mean luan), but again, this is not listed on the packing materials.

MDF Edges Difficult to Finish

The MDF edges vie with the poor veneering (below) as one of the worst aspects of this door. I will admit to being clueless as to how the MDF edges of this door should be finished, short of painting them. Stain does not apply evenly to MDF. Clear coating raises the nap on this already fuzzy surface.

Poor Veneering

Veneer around the edges is not always well bonded. Areas where a power tool  in the factory worked on the door (namely the door knob circle cut) are especially gnawed up. Even after the door is carefully removed from the protective cardboard, corners were slowly pulling up. The veneer is delicate around the edges and extreme care must be taken not to flake it away. When setting the door on edge, always set it on something soft, like a towel or carpet remnant.

Sources

The Jeld-Wen company site has some information in their Flush Wood Composite door section.

25 Los Angeles Area Home Movie Theater Designs Rated, Best to Worst

Dark and Nearly Perfect Home Movie Theater

Home movie theaters designs are all over the map. And this is a good thing. It’s your house, your theater, your baby–make it the way you want it.

Still, I would rather have a good home movie theater than a bad one, and to that end, I chose 25 home theaters from Los Angeles real estate listings to get a sense of what’s really out there.  The idea is to remove the emotions from this discussion and be constructive about what we see, keeping in mind these tenets:  1.)  Does the design live in service of the viewing experience? 2.)  Does the design do a good job of balancing movie viewing needs with other room uses? Keep in mind that these rooms are overlit because the pictures are about selling the property, not about creating a mood. The stagers or real estate agents did certain weird things to enhance the photos, like positioning popcorn makers next to screens, and I have ignored those oddities.  Theaters that induce yawns:  mere rooms that get turned into movie theaters, with few special attention taken towards the needs of movie watching.  Sublime:  multiple tiers, darker colors, coffered ceilings and recessed lights, projectors not flat screens.

If you own an image and don’t want it here, send me a polite e-mail and I’ll take it down.

Great Theater Designs

Two views of the same theater, above.  Dark and tasteful, with real theater seats.

Dark, with real theater seats and under seat lighting.  Tiered seating.

 

Above, one of the few home theaters that use curtains on the walls.    

The home movie theater, above, is going for the classic 1920s Deco look.             

Medium Quality–Not Great, Not Bad

Home movie theater designs that fall in the mid-range tend to overdo it with the white upholstery.

Above is a good example of a mid-quality home movie theater that barely misses the mark. The black ceiling and walls are fantastic, but the carpeting is too light-colored and the seating is oddly arranged.

Bad Theater Designs

Bad designs are marked by light colors, bright colors, and busy patterns.

Construction Adhesive’s Official and Unofficial Uses for Remodeling

Construction Adhesive

When you begin your DIY remodeling career, you have the misguided notion that everything has to be done according to the book. Then you begin to see that there are many shortcuts that make your life easier. Construction adhesive is one such shortcut. Once you learn about it, it’s like the genie in the bottle. There’s no going back. See how construction adhesive can be both a blessing and a curse for the DIY home remodeler.

Construction Adhesive – In Brief

Construction adhesive is meant to be used as a bonding supplement for materials that are already bonded, not as the sole means of adhesion. Liquid Nails, that consumer-friendly construction adhesive, diplomatically says that its product’s use is “to create a more durable bond with fewer fasteners.”

Official Uses of Construction Adhesive

Construction Adhesive

Construction adhesive manufacturers say things like “bonds plywood to drywall” but are silent on the matter of actual, real-world applications. They leave that up to you. In the official sense, construction adhesive is used for bonding:

Unofficial and Less-Than-Kosher Ways to Use Construction Adhesive

  • Sticking a towel rack on a bathroom wall
  • Random manufactured stone veneer brick/stone units that fall off (easier than mixing up a batch of MSV mortar)
  • Sticking foam insulation sheets in place between studs
  • The occasional piece of millwork (baseboard, door trim/casing, crown molding) that just will not stick with conventional methods, either the entire piece or part of a piece that is already stuck in place
  • The occasional ceramic tile that comes loose

Accountability in Home Remodeling:  Pro vs. Self

As noted above, pretty much any use where construction adhesive is the only means of bonding the materials is a bad thing. Home remodeling is not supposed to work like that. If you hire a handyman to install towel racks in your bathroom and the handyman used construction adhesive to stick the racks on the wall–no screws–you would have him redo it.

But you’re doing this for yourself and you have only yourself to be accountable to. You have only two areas of accountability to be concerned about:

Will the Material Stay Stuck?

Yes, it probably will. If not, make sure that it’s not material you care about or that there are no major safety concerns. Trim or a towel rack falling down is no big deal. You would want to avoid sticking a bookcase laden with books above the baby’s crib with construction adhesive.

How Much Damage Will I Cause When Removing It?

This really is your biggest concern:  can you undo what you did? Screws are great in that way because they inflict little damage when you reverse-remodel. Construction glue is forever. Anything stuck to drywall with construction adhesive will pull off drywall paper and a thin layer of gypsum when you pull it off. If the materials are wood + wood, you may end up ripping off pieces of wood to undo your work.

 

 

 

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Build Easy Rope Light / Wiring Channels from Cheap Trim

Cross Section of Rope Light / Wire Channel

Rope lights hidden in a ceiling-high channel and casting a glow against the ceiling is a fantastic way to create mood lighting. For home movie theater builders, rope lighting is almost a necessity. What’s the easiest way to build channels or chases for rope lights?

Answer

Build chases out of 8-foot long finger-jointed pine trim. Each length of chase consists of three boards:  two 1 x 4 boards and one 1 x 3 board. Use one 1 x 4 as the base, then nail the other two boards on top to form the walls.

Details

Agonizing over how to build your rope light channels? Tear your hair out no longer. While all light channels do need to be adapted to each user’s particular needs, I found one that works perfectly for me.

First, determine how much space you need. The older style thick, plastic-encased rope lights are great for outside uses, but indoors you do not need that heavy casing. Using thin, tape-like LED “rope” lights is vital because this frees up a vast amount of space. Greater space means that the lights can lay flat, without the problem of them accidentally sticking up or being seen by tall people. It also allows you to add other wires, like speaker wires or movie screen controllers.

My wire chases use cheap pine trim boards and are easy to build with a power brad nailer and wood glue. Because my room is fairly small, I wanted them to hug as tight to the wall and ceiling as possible. At the same time, I wanted them far enough away from the ceiling to allow the lights to cast a glow on the ceiling. There also has to be enough space between the top edge of the outer “wall” of the chase and the ceiling, so that you can get your drill in there to attach the chase to the wall. Finally, you need enough space to get your fingers in the chase to arrange the wires.

The Materials

  • Two 1 x 4s (Actual width: 3.5 inches)
  • One 1 x 3 (Actual width: 2.5 inches)

The brand of trim that I used, and which I like using for other parts of my house, is a primed pine board called Sum Guard EX by Composite Technology International. I wish I could give you a Home Depot equivalent but they have nothing like this.

The Sum Guard EX has a prime coat that is far thicker than the usual primed board. It really is more priming than I need for an interior application, but I like the board so much because it is smooth, straight and true, and it has more-or-less square edges. No, the boards are not defective. Rather, CTI adds some kind of very slight camber to the boards that probably has a use when it comes to trimming doors and windows. Either way, the camber can either matter to you or not, as you will see below.

Along with the trim, you really should have an electric or pneumatic nailer. Your job will go so much faster (since you’re producing many of these chases). Mostly, though, you’ll be able to hold the boards in place with one hand, while the other hand does the nailing. You cannot do that when hand-nailing finish nails.

Above photo:  This is me pretending to nail one board to another.

Variations and Making the Thing Better

As with most home remodeling projects, this one is a compromise between ease and quality.  Here are variations you might consider:

Front Wall Overhang

One variation I considered but eventually decided not to go with was the one pictured directly above. The front “wall,” instead of being a 1 x 3 board would have been yet another 1 x 4 board. It would have been tacked to the front of the base 1 x 4 board with an overhang that had the benefit of obscuring seams between the boards. It also would have given me flexibility in raising or lowering the height of that front wall, rather than having to go with the 2.5 inches mandated by the 1 x 3 board.

Longer Trim Boards Mean Less Seams

One benefit of using trim is that trim comes in longer versions than 8 foot. I chose 8 foot because it was easier to handle and because I would have only saved one or two seams by using longer boards.

Wood Filling Horizontal Seams

This is a variation I vacillated on but ended up doing: filling in the horizontal seams with wood filler.  I’m always suspicious of wood filler’s long-term prospects. But I figured that this was an interior application and the filler would get primed over, giving it more strength.

 

Home Renovation vs. Home Remodeling

Home Renovation Week Ad, The Daily Review, Decatur, IL, 1915

When the did the terms “home renovation” and “home remodeling” begin?  Which started first?

Best Answer

The term “home remodeling” began in the late 1800s, with “home renovation” beginning to be used (in the sense that we know it today) in the 1920s and 1930s.

Details

“Home renovation” began to be used in the late 1800s in terms of house sprucing-up and cleaning, particularly spring cleaning.  These activities revolved around drapes, floor covering, and wallpaper.  It did not include the rather heavier activities like painting, building, flooring, replacing windows, and such that we associate with home renovation today.  In fact, most newspaper articles that contain the term “home renovation” are in that January through April period.

An April 5, 1896 advertisement in the Chicago Tribune is typical, saying

CURTAINS & DRAPERIES. S & M’s Spring Importations now on display and sale–a really extraordinary showing right at the time when home renovation is uppermost in the mind of the materfamilias…

In the 1920s, the term “home renovation” gradually came to include electrical work, painting, building, roofing repairs, etc.

“Home remodeling” is the older of the two terms, having been used since at least the late 1800s to include those more extensive types of home improvements listed above.

Home Remodel Ad, Middletown, NY, 1894

Sources

Middletown Daily Argus, Middletown, New York, June 27, 1894

Drywall or Flooring: Which to Install First?

When you are remodeling a room and have everything stripped out, it can be difficult to decide which surface to re-install first:  drywall or flooring.  Which should go in first?

Best Answer

Install drywall on the walls before installing floor covering.

Because

Protecting Flooring

Both drywall work and floor installation create a mess, but drywall’s mess far exceeds that of flooring.  By putting in the drywall first, you separate drywall and its dust from the flooring later on.

Easier to Change Flooring Later

If you were to install flooring first, pushing it against or close to the wall studs, the drywall would then extend over the flooring.  This effectively traps that edge of the flooring under the drywall, making it more difficult to remove the flooring.

Qualifiers

When the drywall is being installed in the ceiling, it matters less because that issue of drywall trapping floor covering is eliminated.  Still, you have the issue of mess to deal with, which can be significant when hanging drywall on a ceiling.

If you have the following conditions happening all at once, you may want to consider installing flooring first:  1.) you are hanging a significant amount of drywall; 2.)  the flooring is unfinished wood.  This point was brought up by a commenter at the Fine Homebuilding forum, stating that the humidity spike caused by drywall finishing and the painting can cause the flooring to “swell and buckle.”

Sources

Tier 1 – Trade Forum

Fine Homebuilding’s forum has a good discussion of whether drywall or flooring should go in first, along with that point about drywall finishing’s humidity having the potential to affect raw wood flooring.