Drywall Screws vs. Drywall Nails: Which One to Use?

When fastening drywall to studs, you have a choice of using either drywall screws or drywall nails.  Which should you use to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to install the drywall.  Importantly, which one will keep the drywall most secure for the longest time?


Use drywall screws rather than drywall nails.


Screws are more secure because they cannot pull straight out.  When enough lateral pressure is applied to drywall nails, they will pull out.  In fact, older homes often have circular bumps in the drywall, caused by nail pops.


If you had asked me this question at any time in the last 20 years, the “drywall screws” answer would have been unequivocal and unqualified.  In fact, the conventional wisdom today is that a person is expected to use drywall screws, and that nails are considered archaic.

Recently, though, I used drywall nails to tack up small pieces of board to cover door headers, and it was a joy.  I realized that there is a limited place for drywall nails in your easy renovation repertoire.

Small Pieces:  It feels almost overkill to screw small sections of drywall in place.  Large sections (4 ft. by 8 ft. sheets) really do benefit from an all-screw or partial screw installation.

Tiny Pieces:  Sections of drywall that are downright tiny really do benefit from drywall nails over screws.  Screws can mangle up tiny pieces.

Extreme Edges:  In those instances where you have to drive a fastener closer to the edge than you would like (say, within 1/4 inch), drywall nails will drive cleaner into the board than screws.  Screws are larger, and because of the rotation effect, they will rip away gypsum on the open edges.

Field vs. Perimeter:  Professional drywall installers often like to use nails for perimeters.  It’s physically easier to get a board initially tacked up with a hammer and nail than by wrestling with a drill and screw.

Metal Corners:  Metal corner beam is nailed into drywall, not screwed.



Should I Choose Site-Finished or Pre-Finished Flooring?

When shopping for solid hardwood and sometimes for engineered wood flooring, you may have the option of site-finished flooring (unfinished flooring that requires finishing on site) or pre-finished flooring (stained and sealed in the factory).  Which to choose?


Choose pre-finished flooring over site-finished flooring.


While I hate jumping on the corporate shilling bandwagon, I do have to admit that–all factors considered–pre-finished flooring will be better for most homeowners than site-finished flooring.

Can you sense all of the qualifiers in that previous statement?  We’ll get to that in a minute.

Pre-finished flooring makes for a faster installation.  As soon as the flooring is down, you can walk on it.  The reason is because someone else (a manufacturer) has already laid down the finish elsewhere (a factory) so you don’t have to do it at your house.

With site-finished flooring, there is a gap between the end of installation and the day you can begin walking on it.

Also, the finish on pre-finished flooring is a tough multi-layer urethane that is difficult to duplicate at home.


  • Site-finished flooring gives you an enormously wide range of style options that pre-finished can never hope to match.
  • Factory finished flooring tends to have a plastic appearance.
  • One benefit of site-finished flooring is that the finish can fill in the seams between the floor boards, making the flooring more water-tight.


Bob Vila

“…when it comes to installing solid or engineered wood flooring, prefinished is my choice.”


Is GarageSkins Garage Overlay System a Scam?

Rick Medlen of Creswell, Oregon has a unique idea.  Instead of paying upwards of $10,000 for a real wood garage door, how about facing your existing door with wood panels that stick by means of rare earth magnets?  It’s an idea in the works and he calls it Garageskins.

On so many levels, it’s an idea that sits well with me.  I love the idea of USA-made products, especially those made in Oregon (he plans to manufacture them in Redmond, OR).  I love the idea of paying far less for something that looks roughly the same as the expensive thing.  More than anything, I like easy home remodels.  And this one–according to the video showing the person sticking the panels to the door–is super easy.

Whenever I see more pleas for funding than about the product itself, I get suspicious.  On the other hand, how else is Medlen supposed to pull together money if he doesn’t go the venture capital route?


I do not believe that GarageSkins is a scam.

Supporting Ideas

While I cannot predict the future, I have looked at Medlen’s online documents, stock offering ideas, and patents and I believe that this is completely on the up-and-up.

However, I do think it is a quite ambitious project that is short on lots of details.  Only one video exists now, and it’s that slick teaser with a woman putting the panels on the door.  If I were going to invest in a company, I’d want hard-and-fast facts about the nature of the product.  Concerns are:


Garage door opener motors are not exactly the strongest things in the world.  So, adding any kind of weight to it is a dicey proposition.

Laminate flooring is a corollary and it was the first thing that I thought of.  Yet laminate flooring is very (just try hauling home a kitchen’s worth of laminate), so I knew that GarageSkins has to be significantly lighter.

Consider that a double bay garage door is about 16 feet wide by 8 feet high.  That’s 128 square feet.  Medlen says that the total weight of Garageskins will be 28 pounds.  That comes out to about a quarter pound per square foot. (0.22 pounds per square foot, exactly).

If laminate flooring isn’t GarageSkins’ closest cousin, what is?  Weight is what first led me to the answer.  Fomecore board weights about 0.19 pounds per square foot, just under GarageSkins’ weight.

Indeed, foam board plus a wood veneer would be–I estimate–about 0.22 pounds per square foot.  The patent filing backs this up, saying that these are “extruded polystyrene members.”


Attached to an object that goes up and down an average of four times a day, will GarageSkins shift?

Documents state that one way to prevent GarageSkins from moving is to add a spot of caulk to each corner of each panel.  Documents also say that they tested them in 80 mph wind and found that they did not come off.

Exterior Veneer Stability

Veneers are notoriously unstable.  They tend to like to stay indoors, away from UV rays, rain, snow, and physical damage.  So the idea of putting a wood veneer outdoors on an object that moves at least four times a day gives me pause.

All we know is that on November 2016 “veneer stabilization solved,” according to the StartEngine site.

I would want to know more about this.  It would seem to me that the only way to prevent members from delaminating would be to wrap the edges.  Even sealing the edges with a liquid sealer wouldn’t last for every long




DIY Bar Carts That Require Little More Than Spray Paint

Devil may care.  Insouciant.  Heedless of convention.  Your friends may describe you this way when they learn that you own a bar cart.  Yes, a generously stocked bar cart does have a certain way of making an ordinary space feel like an exotic den of luxury.

Even if drinking is not your main passion in life, bar carts can be used as coffee services, mobile outdoor snack stations, bookshelves, potting tables, and curio holders.

Bronzed Beauty

Eden Passante over at Sugar and Charm began with a sturdy $60 utility cart purchased from Sam’s Club and spray-painted it a lush bronze color.  But the real finishing touch is the leather handle–a dead-ringer for that softly burnished brass $600 Libations Antique Brass Bar Cart? If low-key is more your look, Anthropologie will be happy to accommodate you with its $500 leather-handled Mercury Bar Cart.cart mentioned above.  Eden simply cut off a length of leather and hot-glued it to the handle.

Office Libations

Cosco indoor office carts are reliable but too plain to work as bar carts, reasoned Ryan Foy over at Manmadedly.

So he gave it the spray paint treatment, but that was only the beginning.  The true designer touches came from the addition of three IKEA silverware canisters connected with zip-ties, a wine glass rack stuck to the bottom with magnets, and a couple of cabinet pulls.

Blast Back To the Past

It was a rare find, but Elsie and Emma at A Beautiful Mess were one of the lucky few in these ranks who managed to find an actual bar cart to begin the process of building…a bar cart.  Problem:  it looked nothing like a bar cart.

So after disassembling the cart, they painted the red surfaces black with Krylon and silver into gold (also Krylon), managing to turn this vintage cart back into one that actually looked vintage mid-century modern.

Not a Hack

IKEA hacks are everywhere.  But this transformation of an IKEA Raskog kitchen cart (less than $30!) might just be so incredibly simple that it cannot even be called a hack.

Rachel Shippy knew that Raskog was quality stuff, and it had just that post-industrial look she liked.  But the color?  The “colors wouldn’t mesh with my room’s black-and-white look,” says Shippy.

So with the help of dark-colored spray paint, she was able to turn a mild-mannered kitchen cart into a sexy bar cart.

Game On

No doubt about it, the Sears Craftsman 31″ 2-Tray Service Cart is just about as exciting as the name sounds.

Clued into this fact, Sears asked Amy Allen Clark to work a little magic for its Kenmore Blog.  With a few cans of spray paint, Amy turned it into a fun bar cart perfect for entertaining friends on game day.

Along with painter’s tape and gloves, Amy used two cans of Krylon Colormaster (Metallic Gold) and 1 can of Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Spray Paint.

Green Machine

Carmen and Sarah at The Flair Exchange attached PVC panels from My Overlays as sidewalls in order to dress up an ordinary utility cart.


Forget Flooring Warranties Because They Are Basically Worthless

The flooring retailer keeps touting a life-time warranty on the laminate, engineered wood, or carpeting you intend to buy.  This sounds great.  Does this mean you can get a new floor if the one you buy goes bad on you?




Flooring warranties largely exist for the benefit of the manufacturer, not the consumer.  Warranties shift liability off manufacturers’ shoulders to avoid or limit potential class action lawsuits.

Terms of Most Flooring Warranties

Warranties are styled by manufacturers as a way to provide the consumer with comfort upon purchase of solid or engineered wood, laminate, resilient (vinyl tile, plank, or sheet) and carpet floor coverings.  Common features:

  • Time Period:  Because floors are long-term investments, the warranties usually cover a long stretch of time:  15 to 20 years at a minimum; lifetime, maximum.
  • Conditions:  Warranties commonly address “wear-through,” fading, water damage, staining, and manufacturing defects.
  • Pro-Rated:  Like tire warranties, floor warranties are pro-rated.  So, to use an extreme example, if you are in the 99th year of a 100 year warranty, the manufacturer will pro-rate your reimbursement by a factor of 1%.
  • Reimbursement:  They provide reimbursement, should any of the above occur, usually in the form of store credit or replacement, but rarely monetarily.

Restrictions Make For a Toothless Warranty

If the warranty covers wearing, fading, water damage, staining, and defects, then it excludes everything else that might happen with the flooring.  These exclusions are both specific (things like pebbles underfoot, golf spikes, moving furniture) as well as general (“misuse” is a favorite term).

Insanely Long Warranties Are Great Marketing Tools

Lumber Liquidators is famous for this (and genius, as well).  Consider this:  Armstrong offers a lifetime, original owner warranty for its Premium Lustre Collection.  That’s about as good as it gets, right?  It’s impossible for you to live past your lifetime.  However, Lumber Liquidators offers something that sounds a whole lot better when it rolls off your tongue:  a 100 Year Warranty.

The “Improper Care and Maintenance” Clause

If floor manufacturers need one blanket “way out” of honoring their warranties, it’s called the “failure to properly maintain flooring” loophole.  John Mapes of My Flooring Warranty, which provides enhanced flooring warranties, says that most warranties are a “way out” for retailers and manufacturers.

Is There Any Way to Give Them Value?

  1. Get a Transferable Warranty:   Make sure that the warranty can be transferred from owner to owner.  While admittedly a minor item, a lifetime flooring warranty looks good when written up in a house sales sheet.  Typically after sale, you hand over a binder or envelope of warranties to the new owner; it’s great to be able to hand over one for flooring, as well as for dishwasher, a/c, furnace, etc.
  2. Get That Certificate of Ownership:  Some claims cannot be called in unless they are accompanied with a Certificate of Ownership.  Having a sales receipt may not be good enough.  Lumber Liquidators is not alone in requiring the original purchaser to register the purchase within 90 days in order to receive an ownership certificate.  After that, the certificate–yes, the physical piece of paper–is needed in order to make a warranty claim.  For Bruce Hardwood, though, a sales receipt and date and proof or purchase are all that are needed to file a claim.
  3. Get a Lifetime or Long-Time Warranty:  What is the length of the warranty?  While the difference between 100 years and lifetime is meaningless, there is an appreciable difference between 15 years and lifetime.  However, the type of floor you purchase generally determines warranty length.  For example, solid hardwood floors will be warranted for longer periods (35 years, 50 years, lifetime) than for engineered flooring, which runs the risk of delamination (5 years, 15 years, etc.).
  4. Get the Best Reimbursement Policy:  If your warranty covers installation, so much the better–many warranties expressly exclude installation.


My Flooring Warranty

John Mapes of My Flooring Warranty:  “[M]ost claims filed on behalf of consumers against carpeting retailers and manufacturers are found to be maintenance-related, not product- or installation-related. Flooring manufacturers are looking for a “way out,” thus, the routine maintenance cleanings are becoming a vital part of their warranty requirements and are becoming more specific over time.”

 Flooring Covering News

Neil Poland of Mullican Flooring says that nearly every single warranty claim comes within the first six months.  He goes on to say that few claims are made after several years–which is exactly the kind of time period that might result in those wear conditions.


What Are Some Common Wood Flooring Terms?

All fields and industries have a language that is particular to their own field; wood flooring is no exception.  What are some common terms which may not be immediately familiar?


The most common unfamiliar terms that apply to both solid wood and engineered wood flooring are site-finished (unfinished floor that must be stained and sealed on-site); pre-finished (wood flooring that comes with a thick, factory applied finish); and random bundle flooring (floor boards that range in length from several inches to several feet).


In alphabetical order, this is a partial list of terms:


The highest appearance and grade of wood. Clear means that the wood may have some minor characteristics, but only very minor. These characteristics might include tiny knots. Largely, the wood is considered to be as perfect as possible.

Close Grain (or Closed Grain)

Finely and closely arranged wood grain fibers.


The lowest grade and appearance; lower than clear or select. This type of wood has the most amount of knots, wormholes, flags, and other characteristics.


The quality of the wood: i.e., clear, select, or common.


The arrangement of the fibers of the wood.

Janka Hardness Test

A unit that indicates the force needed to embed a .444 inch steel ball halfway into the piece of wood being tested. The harder the wood, teh higher the number. For example, Brazilian Cherry is very strong, at a 2350 Janka; Douglas Fir is very soft at 660 Janka.

Nested Bundles

Nested bundles of wood flooring still have random lengths of floorboards, but they do not differ so wildly as the previous category.  Lengths here range from about six to eight feet.

Open Grain

Large pores and widely spaced fibers in the wood’s grain.


Wood flooring in widths of 4 inches or greater.


Fast becoming the norm, pre-finished wood floors are already sealed (usually with polyurethane) and in some cases, stained.

Random Bundles or Average Length Bundles

When you buy something called a random bundle, this refers to the length of the boards not the quality (though that may accidentally be the case, too).  With random bundles, the length may range from 8 or 9 inches…all the way up to 8 feet long.  Predictably, the lengths are more on the lower end of the range.


A lower grade and appearance than clear. Select may have some characteristics such as knots or wormholes. Note that, with the right type of wood, select characteristics can be considered a desirable mark of distinction rather than a defect.


Another word for unfinished wood.  This term emphasizes that the floor will be finished on-site, in the location of installation.


A fancy word for the type of wood: i.e., ash, beech, oak.

Specified-Length Bundles

This is a rare category.  It’s just the way it sounds:  every floorboard is the same, exact length (a couple of feet or shorter).  You probably won’t need specified-length bundles, unless you’re putting together some kind of patterned floor.


Wood flooring in the more common widths of 3 3/4″ or less.


An underlayment such as 3/4″ plywood that is installed directly on the joists and under the finish flooring.

Tongue and Groove

Found in strip. plank, or parquet flooring. On the edge of one piece of floor is a protruding piece called a “tongue.” On the edge of a different piece of floor is a cavity into which the tongue will lock. This cavity is called the “groove.” It is similar to the way a Zip-Loc bag works.


Essentially, raw wood with no type of stain or sealant. You will need to seal before using.




Which Are Better: MDF or Pine Baseboards?

Baseboards often have the same look and profile but are made of different materials.  MDF (medium density fiberboard) and pine are two common baseboard materials.  Which material is better?


Pine baseboards.  Whether solid or finger-jointed, pine is a better baseboard material than MDF.  MDF baseboards are half the cost of solid pine but a little more expensive than finger-jointed pine.


Pine is real wood that is stronger than MDF because of its grain.  MDF is fake wood and is weaker–little better than cardboard.

Using MDF for high-impact areas like door and window trim and baseboards makes little sense.  If there is ever a place where you want to prioritize stronger materials, it’s here.

MDF Baseboards

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is a mix of sawdust, wood chips, and binders.  Imagine a dried-up bowl of oatmeal.  That’s a good representation of MDF.  Ranking MDF baseboards lower than pine baseboards is pretty easy:  MDF is crumbly, heavy, and a potential victim of moisture.

Pine Baseboards (Solid, Continuous Wood)

Continuous grain pine is what you think of when you think of “real wood.”  It is one continuous length of wood, no joints, no glue.

Pine Baseboards (Finger-Jointed)

Finger-jointed means several smaller lengths of pine that are factory-joined.  In the lower right quarter of this photo, you can see where one grain ends and another grain picks up again.  This is the tell-tale sign of finger-jointed wood.

Price Comparison

A price snapshot of baseboards of the same profile and look, 8′ long by 3.25″ high:

  • Finger-Jointed Pine:  $3.50
  • MDF:  $4.50
  • Solid Pine:  $10
  • PVC:  $10


There are a few reasons you may want to choose MDF baseboards over pine:

  • You Don’t Want to Prime/Paint:  MDF baseboards always come primed white.  While priming is not the same as painting, in a pinch in can serve as “paint.”
  • Cost:  MDF is cheap, but not always as cheap as it is represented.  As shown above, it is cheaper than PVC and solid pine, but more expensive than finger-jointed pine.
  • Predictablity:  Because MDF is 100% manufactured, there are no surprises that await users of natural wood, such as knots and cracks.  It is completely homogeneous.
  • You Expect to Pull It Out:  For temporary construction, MDF baseboards are easy to remove and discard.  They break up by hand into small sections.


Which Is Better: Building a Ground-Level Addition or Second Story?

A house addition, the dream of many space-strapped homeowners, can either be built outward or upward.  Which is the better choice?


Building a ground-level addition outward is a better choice than adding a second story to your home.


  • Greater Privacy During Construction:  Do you like having work crews milling around your house?  If so, you’ll love building that addition upward, because crews will constantly be in your home.  In fact, you’ll need to vacate your house for periods.  On the other hand, building outward gives you back your house.  The most dramatic moment when you lose your privacy is when the crew breaks through, or opens up the wall between the addition and your existing house.
  • Cheaper:  Hanley Wood’s annual Cost vs. Value Report says that, for a mid-range project, building an addition ranges from $43,232 for a one-room, 48 sq. ft. bathroom addition to $176,108 for a four-room, 768 sq. ft. two story addition.  Second story additions are far less common, so cost estimates are more difficult to come by.  Legal Eagle Contractors of Bellaire, TX estimates that second story push-ups should cost between $150,000 and $200,000 for a full upper addition on a 2,000 sq. ft. house and between $90,000 and $120,000 for a partial addition (500 to 700 sq. ft.).
  • Less Invasive Construction:  With the “up” option, extensive post-construction work will need to be done on your lower level (drywall work, painting, etc.).  With the “out” option, only a little work will need to be done around the pass-through.
  • No Additional Structural Support:  Can your present home physically support a second story?  If not, you’ll need to shore up your structure, thus driving up costs.
  • Aging-Friendly:  There is a growing trend in building and remodeling called aging-in-place.  This movement emphasizes the value of homeowners remaining in their homes–often with significant modifications–rather than going to an assisting living facility.  An outward, ground-level addition is far more mobility-friendly than an upper story.


If any of these qualifiers apply to your situation, you may want to build that second story instead:

  • You Want to Preserve Open Property Space:  When you put down a ground-level addition, you are not losing property.  This property is still yours, but it’s being inhabited by a wood-and-concrete squatter tenant who refuses to leave.  You’re losing less yard space, which you may want for other projects (pool, garden, arbors, sheds) or simply because you like having a wider band of privacy around you.
  • It May Be Difficult to Merge Spaces:  Building outward, how will you transition from your existing floor to the new floor?  You can interweave wood flooring, but only if they both run in the same direction (end to end).  Building a second floor means you can install any kind of flooring without having to worry too much about matching materials.
  • You Want Tighter Traffic Patterns:  Even though you’ve got that staircase to contend with, it’s still a shorter walk between all rooms of the house.   Building outward can seriously increase the distance from the two farther points in the house.
  • You Are Concerned About Permit Issues:  When you build a ground-level addition, it pushes horizontally towards the property line.  Diminishing the buffer zone between your structure and property line means
  • You Want to Avoid Foundation Work:  Ground equals foundation, and foundation equals big bucks spent digging. And heavy machinery in your backyard (or crews of men digging by hand). Then more digging. Foundation work drives up addition costs in a big hurry.

Are Heartpine Floors Too Valuable to Cover With Solid Wood or Engineered Wood Flooring?

Short Direct Answer



What kind of heartless monster are you?

MDF, medium-density fiberboard, is the formaldehyde-enriched bully, a child of the big, bad Fifties, rolled off in giant sheets from Southern mills, glued together, coming from China, from Indonesia. Plywood is the Middle American of building materials, only one notch up from MDF.

Heartpine. Our hearts already feel better. Heart. Pine. Both good words, fifty-dollar words. Heart–blood, emotion. Heart, the thing that loves the baby. Pine, knotty pine, natural. Heartpine they dredge up from river bottoms, hundred year-old heartpine because it is so expensive, so much in demand.

And you are considering putting plywood down over heartpine? What kind of heartless miscreant are you?

Do it.

Smack down a nice solid layer half-inch ply if your floors can take it. Think this through, because if you have floor problems, they may not be able to carry the considerable weight of ply plus hardwood.

It’s an emotional issue, mate. Has nothing to do with aesthetics. You want a nice smooth surface. Got kids? You doubly want that floor smooth and splinter-free.



Is It Possible to Refinish Ceramic Tile?

Ceramic tile rarely will completely wear out–in the sense that vinyl flooring, paint, or carpeting will wear down and out.  But over time, tile can look shabby:  discolored grout, cracked tile, and faded colors.   Can you refinish tile without replacing it?


Yes, ceramic tile can be refinished, but it will never look as good as the original tile.


  • The Finish Wears Down:  Refinishing doesn’t last forever. Surfaces that are used a great deal will wear and require new finishes over time. If you refinish ceramic tile on a wall, it will remain attractive for much longer than floor tiles will that have the same refinishing materials. Manufacturer’s suggestions may vary, but applying a new finish every two or three years is probably best for floor applications.
  • The Look Is Different:  Tile will not look the same after refinishing. A clear epoxy finish can be installed as a protection on a good floor, but if the tiles are in poor condition, a clear finish is probably not going to make much improvement. Applying a colored finish is going to hide imperfections, but it will also change the look of the tile and the grout joints won’t be visible anymore.

Not so many years ago, you wouldn’t have considered attempting to refinish ceramic tile because there were no proven products that would adhere to the tile or hold up for very long. Epoxy finishes have addressed both of those factors and provide a great alternative to replacement.

If your first choice is replacement, consider the expense. Since you can’t just add more ceramic tile to an existing floor without creating a raised area, you must first remove the old tile before installing new. Demolition is an expensive process on its own, and it makes a great deal of mess. The labor for floor demolition can be more expensive than installing the floor originally, after taking into consideration hauling and disposing of waste materials.

Depending on the tile used to replace what is removed, the reinstallation can cost in the double digits per square foot. Of course, a good installer can make a floor look very nice, but the cost is not going to be cheap.

Cost-Effective Tile Refinishing

The basic process involved to refinish ceramic tile is painting, which most people can do themselves with a little direction. The finishing materials are more expensive than standard paint, but nothing in comparison with removal and replacement of tile.

The Process of Tile Refinishing

Cleaning is one of the most important parts of refinishing. Trying to cut corners on cleaning will only shorten the life of the application and cause some areas of the cover to fail. Any paint drops, oil spots, or accumulations of other foreign materials will cause a weak area in the tile refinishing.

After cleaning and patching any holes or pockets in the tiles, the floor, wall, or counter should be allowed to completely dry before applying any finishes.

Epoxy paints come in both high gloss and matte finishes, and most epoxy coatings are a two step process. The primer coat is designed to create an adhesive layer that will bond the finish coat. The application of both coats can be done with a short nap paint roller or with special paint spraying equipment. One finish coat is usually all that is necessary.

It is important to use all of the epoxy coating that you have for the floor because there is a short shelf life for the materials. When the epoxy is a two part mix, all the material must be applied within a short time after it is mixed.