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?
Install drywall on the walls before installing floor covering.
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.
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.”
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.
IBC tote hot tubs are the latest craze. What could be better than turning an oversized free or very cheap container into a bubbling bath of ahhhh-someness?
Anybody who repurposes anything for the sake of water fun is a winner in my book. Over the years, I have tried all sorts of things–some moderate successes, many failures–that can be grouped under the heading of: quickly collecting water in one place so that people can get into it.
Using IBC totes to make a hot tub is the best kind of repurposing there is. Giant food-grade plastic containers are purchased used, tops cut off, piping added, and voila–water fun. It’s a bit more involved than that, of course (details to follow), but let’s see what the best of the best have done.
Four Things You Will Learn About IBC Tote Hot Tubs
1 – IBC totes are bulk storage containers, typically for food or chemicals.
2 – They are tough to find for free, but likely you can find one cheap. Even new IBC totes are relatively inexpensive, compared to the high entry costs of a real hot tub.
3 – IBC tote hot tubs are small but mighty. A 330 gallon tote is about the same as four or five bathtubs’ worth of water.
4 – Creative makers cover the outside of the tote in any number of materials: wood, corrugated steel, reed bamboo screening.
What Is an IBC Tote?
Unless you work in an industry like food, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals, you may have never seen an IBC before. Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are cube-shaped plastic containers that hold liquids or solids. They are basically modern replacements for the classic 55 gallon drum.
IBC Tote Components
Tote Tank or Bottle: The tank, or bottle, is the plastic cube that gets turned into the hot tub. The plastic material, High density polyethylene (HDPE), is thin enough that it can be cut with a reciprocating saw.
Cage: IBC totes must rest within steel cages. If it does not come with a steel cage, you need to built a supporting frame.
Pallet: Steel cages have integrated pallets.
Common IBC Tote Sizes
Minimum: 180 gallons
Maximum: 550 gallons
Average: 275 and 330 gallons.
Weights: The 275 gallon tote is 123 pounds.
IBC totes aren’t all that expensive, when you price them in relation to an actual hot tub. While you’ll probably use a free or low-cost used IBC tote, let’s start at the top with new and reconditioned totes from The Cary Company:
New 275 gallon tote: $267.00
New 330 gallon tote: $300.24
Reconditioned 275 gallon tote: $181
Reconditioned 330 gallon tote: $205
While prices are not bad, shipping and handling is expensive. Sample shipping cost to Seattle, WA for a new 330 gallon tote is $254, bringing the total up to $554.
Craigslist will save you money, but probably not as much as you expect: Some sample prices:
Used food grade 275 gallon tote: $160
Used 330 gallon tote: $200
Size and Capacity
IBC totes may be big for transporting cooking oil, but they are small for using as a hot tub. Looking at it from the top, a 330 gallon IBC tote measures 40″ long by 48″ wide. The height is 54″. IBC tubs are good for one or two bathers.
Capacity is tight, too. A 330 gallon IBC is about 3x to 4x larger than your average 60″ x 34″ bathtub.
Totes to Avoid
Heavy-Duty Totes: An improved (and more expensive) tote, these do not require a metal cage because they are strong enough as-is. Because of their construction, they will not work as hot tubs.
Non-Food Grade Totes: When you buy anything but a new tote or a tote that has a new bottle, you run the risk of anything having been stored in it. Use at your own risk.
IBC Tote Hot Tubs Hall of Fame
DIY master Reon Hogg already had built two birthing tubs, but needed another. So he whipped up this one out of an IBC tote.
Corrugated Steel IBC
YouTuber Andrew McLeod constructed an industrial chic style IBC tub by attaching corrugated steel to the outside.
Cozy Fire-Heated IBC Tub!
My favorite IBC hot tub of all! I love the little L-shaped deck that wraps around the corner and the wood-burning heater that he built from scratch out of an old propane tank and copper tubing. He even coiled the copper himself by wrapping it around a large cardboard tube.
Wood Fired Fun
From YouTube maker Mogens Rokkjær, another fantastic wood-fired backyard hot tub.
Mixing an entire bag of manufactured (veneer) stone mortar all at once is not practical for most do it yourselfers. The mortar hardening process outpaces your fledgling masonry skills. Yet when you try to fractionally measure out water and mortar in small amounts, it becomes confusing and inaccurate. What’s the easiest way to do this?
By texture and visual cues, mix the mortar in a small batch in a paint tray or 5 gallon bucket until it has the consistency of creamy peanut butter.
When you have a 30 pound bag of mortar, like Laticrete MVIS Veneer Mortar, and you add their recommended 5.9 quarts of cold water to the entire bag, you get two things:
First, you end up with a veneer stone mortar that’s perfect for do-it-yourselfers. You can apply it directly to the back of the stones and then stick them on cement board, no need for wire mesh and a scratch coat. And this, my friends, is one of the core tenets of the cherished system of half-assed remodeling: why do it hard when you can do it easy?
Second, with the addition of the water, it’s now 42 pounds, which is a hell of a lot of mortar for one session. If you were a professional mason or even a seasoned novice working in a pair, you just might be able to put away that entire bucket in a session. But for most of us, the mortar is going to stiffen up pretty rapidly. You don’t have hours and hours of workable time with mortar. And it’s not like other wet substances like drywall compound or paint that can be cryogenically frozen simply by putting a lid on it.
How to Do It
You get to use up all of your mortar in one session–without having to dispose of any over your neighbor’s fence. Even better, it means you get a better installation because you’re not rushing your work or over-extending your session, simply because you want to use up what you’ve got.
1. Scoop Mortar
You can use a five-gallon plastic bucket, like those cheap orange buckets from Home Depot. Or if you want to dispose of the container when you’re done, you can use a one-gallon plastic milk jug, cut in half and thoroughly washed. Better yet, use a metal paint tray with a plastic liner in it. The low sides and wide, flat bottom make it easier to mix the mortar.
Scoop out about three or four trowels of dry mix. This is better than pouring directly from the bag, as pouring is a less predictable delivery system. Also, it creates a lot of dust.
2. Add Water
Fill a measuring cup like a glass Pyrex with about 2 cups of cold water. Slowly pour in small amounts of water, continually folding over and mixing the mortar. Don’t let the water get ahead of the dry mix. If so, you’ll need to add in more dry mix to balance out the mixture.
3. Mix Until Smooth But Stiff
Keep mixing until the mortar becomes smooth and creamy. One metaphor you always hear about stone veneer mortar is to mix it until it has the consistency of creamy peanut butter. This is a good comparison. The mortar should still be stiff enough that it will stick on the trowel when you turn it on its side. But it should not be thick and clumpy.
Given that I’m not especially fond of wetwork (grout, mortar, paint, etc.), yet I consistently turn out perfect small-batch veneer mortar, you can feel confident that this method will likely work for you. My “likely” hedge is there because some people have a hard time dealing with “by feel” mixing and prefer exact weights and volumes.
Mainstream Media – Home Related
I am not alone: many sources use that “creamy peanut butter” metaphor. This Old House has a good tutorial about installing a veneer stone fireplace surround where they discuss mixing mortar to that consistency rather than doing an entire bag.
Satin and eggshell paints tend to be more popular than flat (also called matte) paint. The first two have a slight sheen; the second two have no reflective qualities at all. Their look is a matter of personal taste. But when applying them, which is easier?
Flat paint is easier to apply than satin and eggshell sheens because flashing (sheen inconsistency) is not an issue.
Though it looks great on your ceiling and walls, flat paint has a lot going against it. It’s not the most popular paint sheen out there for a few reasons. It’s difficult to clean. It doesn’t stand up well against moisture, meaning you won’t be applying it in the bathroom. it needs constant touching up.
However, flat does have one tremendous quality: it is far easier to work with than any of the paints that have a sheen: eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.
Less Resins = No Leading Edge to Worry About
When brushing or rolling paint that has any type of sheen, you need to be aware of the leading edge. Working off of this wet leading edge (the last part that you painted) is key to a good finish.
Sometimes, when you let that leading edge dry, then try to work off of it later, a dull line develops where the old finish and new finish meet. Sheen inconsistency is called flashing.
Flat paint has a greater pigment-to-resins ratio than all other paint sheens. Resins help a paint resist water better, yet they are also the cause behind flashing. With flat paint, you can essentially paint with abandon, without worrying about ending up with those dreaded start-and-stop marks on your wall.
By consulting perms, you can see the tremendous spread in resin content between flat paint and other sheens. A perm is a standard unit that measures water vapor transmission. Any perm rating above 1.0 means that the surface is not considered a water vapor barrier.
Epoxy-polyamide (gloss) 0.14
Alkyd semigloss 0.57
Latex semigloss 4.98
Alkyd flat 19.9
Latex flat 27.0
Mixing Still Required
Applying flat paint is not completely foolproof, though. Like other paints, it still needs to be thoroughly mixed. It is still possible, with flat, to create a difference between two areas of paint because pigment has been dispensed differently between the two.
Limited Scope of Discussion
Though I don’t usually remind readers of the topic of an article, in this case it’s important. We are only discussing which is easier to apply, flat paint or satin/eggshell paint. Post-application, the script is flipped. Flat is far more difficult to maintain than eggshell, stain, semi-gloss, or glossy paints.
Paint manufacturer Dulux discusses the moisture vapor transmission ratings, called “perms,” of several types of paint sheens.
Professional painters in the forum Paint Talk discuss the difficulty of maintaining a wet edge (and preventing flashing) when working with eggshell sheen paint.
Drywall screws are plentiful and cheap. Since they are used in great quantities, they come in great quantities–which means that they always seem to be at hand. Can you build with drywall screws? Or are they too weak for anything but hanging drywall?
Yes, you can use drywall screws for light building projects around the home.
It is heretical to say that drywall screws can be used for building. If you’ve ever opened a box of drywall screws and seen the duds–heads snapped off in production and random bits of metal–this may give you some pause.
Snapping Off (Shear Strength)
True, drywall screws snap. This cannot be denied. With drywall screws, it’s all or nothing. Either they’re holding or they have broken apart, unlike steel or brass screws or nails which bend before breaking.
Tension Pull-Out Strength
Some evidence shows that drywall screws have roughly half the tension pull-out strength of steel self-drilling screws.
Benefit vs. Risk
The benefit to you may outweigh the risk of using drywall screws to build with. Benefits include: they are inexpensive; coarse-threaded drywall screws easily pull into wood; driver grips screw heads well. The risk is that your kitchen cabinet falls down.
Light Building Only: Using drywall screws for any type of heavy building project, like framing a house or setting a beam to replace a load-bearing wall, would not be a good idea, to put it mildly. Used in great numbers, the drywall screws would still likely have enough redundancy to hold up the roof or wall. But given the safety issues, it’s just not worth it to go this route.
Indoors Only: Drywall screws have a black or gray phosphate coating that does not stand up to moisture well. As Grabber Canada says, “Phosphate is a porous coating, which is usually applied in combination with oil. It is the lowest cost of all fastener finishes and as such, offers only a minimal barrier to corrosion . It is suitable for indoor applications only, where there is minimal chance of exposure to moisture.”
Impact vs. Resting Loads: Because drywall screws have such a tendency to snap upon sharp impact, you would want to avoid using drywall screws for any building project that involves sharp movements.
Interfast Group, a fastener manufacturer, published some data about pull-out tension strength of their drywall screws vs. other types of their screws.
Matthias Wandel, a Canadian woodworker and former software engineer, takes a methodical, measured approach to the issue of drywall screw tensile strength and pulling ability. He found that drywall screws snap off when hit by a hammer from the side and that they have good gripping strength.
Grabber Canada, a fastener manufacturer, offers some technical data about drywall screws’ strength.
Most opinions about the wisdom or not of using drywall screws for building are anecdotal, and go both ways. One commenter on Sawmill Creek asks, “has anyone actually seen catastrophic failure from a cabinet installed with drywall screws?” Another says, “I put the cabinets in my garage 20 years ago and hung them with drywall screws and have had zero problems.”
Dedicated paint stores offer different “contractor grade” or “builder grade” paints in addition to regular paints. What’s the difference between these two types of paints vs. regular paint and is contractor/builder-grade paint worse than regular?
Regular paint is better than contractor/builder grade paint, though exceptions abound and it depends on your definition of regular paint. The amount of solids differs in each paint. More solids delivers more physical product to your surface.
Rarely do paint stores actually call these paints builder or contractor grade. Sherwin-Williams, for instance, says of their ProMar® 200 HP Zero VOC Interior Acrylic Series that it is “made for the commercial or light industrial jobs,” which means the same thing. Some manufacturers, like Benjamin Moore, avoid these designations altogether.
Solids volume and weight are by no means the sole determiner of quality. However, it does make sense that you want more paint remaining on your surface after application. Or to put it the reverse way, when you end up with less product on your surface, you have less coverage.
Sherwin-Williams Paint Solids
As an example, Sherwin-Williams paints greatly differ in terms of paint solids. A sampling of 10 paints show that solids volume and weight differ greatly, with Harmony® Interior Acrylic having the greatest amount of solids and ProMar® 700 Interior Latex the least, at about 43% less solids than the Harmony.
Solids Volume %
Solids Weight %
™ Interior Stain Blocking
ProMar® Ceiling Paint
All paints flat or matte, white or extra-white. All are +/- 2%.
“Regular Paint”: This is the word that qualifies so much of this answer, because “regular” is so malleable. Regular paint can range from ultra high premium $78/gallon paint down to bargain $10/gallon paint. So, you could still have a “regular” paint that is low in solids. For example, Benjamin Moore’s ben brand interior flat latex has a solids volume percentage of 31.5%, lower than Sherwin-Williams’ ProMar 200, which is considered contractor-grade.
Voices / Ranking
Paint Is Paint, Right? by Jeff Stec, Southern Painting. Stec discusses volume of solids in paint, saying, “[S]olids are what is left after the “solvent” (water in the case of latex paints) evaporates out of the paint. It stands to reason that paints with a higher percentage of solids in the bucket will cover better than paints with lower percentages of solids.”
Sherwin-Williams: The company’s site is a good source for Product Data Sheets (PDS).
Ceramic and porcelain tiling is not an easy remodeling project. But within that subject area, are there ways to make components any easier? Specifically, how about eliminating that last step altogether and tiling without grout lines?
No, tiling without grout lines will not make your job easier. Some aspects of the installation would be harder than you might think. If you want the no-grout look, the best you can do is to install tile with micro-thin, 1/16 inch wide seams.
Grouting tile seems like an indignity. After those previous painful steps–cement board, mortar, cutting, setting–now you have to take on yet another task: grout. On top of that, this is the final wet work stage that really visually matters. If you mess this one up, your installation will look terrible. So how about eliminating grout?
Rectified Tile Purchase Required
To start, if you were going to install tile with no grout lines, you would have to purchase rectified tile. All major tile companies produce this, but it’s never their main product. Instead of leaving the tile as-is after leaving the kiln, the edges are “mechanically finished” (sawed down) to create dimensions that are exactly the same from tile to tile and edges which are perfectly straight.
No Way to Seal the Seams
The main problem, though, would be that you have seams between the tiles that must be sealed in some way or another. Even rectified tile perfectly, squared installed against each other will have seams.
No Wiggle Room
Tile installation is not a perfect thing; lines that begin straight mysteriously begin to veer off. The solution for this is called tile grout. Wider seams between the tiles allow you to ever-so-slightly readjust the tiles’ pathway, producing an illusion of straightness. Tiles butted right up against each other allow you no wiggle room. In fact, even tiles with a 1/16 inch seam are considered difficult to install because that micro-thin seam doesn’t allow for much wiggle room.
Sources / Trust Ranking
The Floor Elf: Roger Lodwig, a Ft. Collins, CO-based tiler is one of the better voices out there about tiling because he’s a working tradesman and a good writer. He says that “butting the tiles against one another…is not a recommended installation procedure.”
Home improvement stores present you with only a few choices of stair materials for railing, treads, and risers. Between hemlock, pine, and oak, which one is best to use?
Stair Treads (Bare): Oak
Stair Treads (Carpeted): Pine or hemlock
Risers: Any kind of wood of the right size
Hemlock and pine are softwoods; oak is a hardwood. That’s the controlling idea behind this answer. Because oak is harder than hemlock and pine, it will last longer under foot traffic on staircases.
Based on Janka wood hardness ratings, hemlock comes in at 500 lbf (pounds-force). Both types of pine you would find on the consumer market, Eastern and Western White Pine, are softer than hemlock, both in the 380 to 420 lbf range.
In sharp contrast, red oak comes in at 1,290 lbf, making it about 2.5 to 3 times stronger than hemlock and pine when impacted. Janka ratings, though, only measure the impact of a ball bearing when fired a test samples of wood. Scuffing, scratching, and other activities that may affect stairs are not measured.
Carpeting will protect the stair treads from most traffic wear.
Red oak can give off needle-sharp splinters that are hard to sand out. By contrast, pine and hemlock’s softwood qualities mean that it can be sanded down so that splinters disappear. This makes them better for railing than red oak.
Cost can be an issue when it comes to stair treads and risers because you need to buy so many of them to construct an entire staircase.
On a pure board-lumber cost basis:
1 in. x 6 in. x 6 ft. Hemlock Board: $19.21 ($3.20 per linear foot)
1 in. x 6 in. x Random Length S4S Oak Board: $27 ($4.50 per linear foot)
Source: Home Depot, 09/19/2017
This makes red oak about 34% more expensive than hemlock in those board sizes. Because of this cost difference, you should use red oak only if you want them to stay bare (or a protective coating like polyurethane). If you want to carpet your stairs, it makes more sense from a cost perspective to choose hemlock.
Tread board is a slightly different matter because they are not milled boards with 90 degree angle edges. They tend to be 4 feet long to allow for nearly all stair widths and they have a bullnose on one side that forms the leading edge of the tread.
Red Oak Treads: $6.42 per linear foot for 11-1/2 x 48 in. Red Oak Stair Tread (total cost $25.70)
Pine Treads: $2.66 per linear foot ($10.63 total cost)
Source: Home Depot, 09/19/2017
Pine treads will always be less expensive than red oak treads.
This answer is predicated on the idea that you are shopping for your wood at a franchise home improvement store like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, or the like. With more wood choices, the answer above may differ.
Cover chain link fence and save the cost and misery of building an entirely new fence? Sounds like a pipe dream. But one of the few good points about chain link is that the posts are insanely rooted into the ground. You can use this to your advantage, because it allows you to hang other fence on top of that chain link.
Chain Link: Ugly as Sin, Easy to Correct
Chain link fence: ugly stuff. Nobody ever put up chain link for aesthetic reasons; it’s purely functional. It keeps in the dogs and out the intruders. Because chain link fence is unbelievably hard to remove–posts are set very deep and that floppy chain link is a bitch to handle–it’s often easier to cover it than remove it.
You’re looking for 6′ tall cover-ups, not 8′. If you think you’re going to circumvent your local building code’s 6′ maximum fence height by adding a taller cover-up, forget it. Fence code applies to those sneaky cover-ups, too, like foliage So, to prevent your eyeballs from melting, here are ways to cover up chain link fence:
Large Rolled Bamboo Fencing
In a Word: Bamboo
In a Few More Words: This can best be characterized as “real bamboo,” not that reedy thin stuff. Full-size bamboo–1″ minimum diameter–is expensive stuff. Four 14-gauge steel wires running horizontally connect the poles into a mat.
Cost: About $10.00 per linear foot for 6′ high, not including shipping. If you cannot do the calculations, that’s $1,000 every 100 feet. $1 per linear foot is cheap when compared to an all-new wood fence, expensive when compared to the other cover-up methods listed here.
Best: Looks fantastic and gives you lots of woo-woo crunchy-granola street cred.
Worst: You can see through it. Large gaps between individual poles let neighbors see you nude sunbathing.
Where: You will not find these larger pole bamboo screens at your run-of-the-mill garden shops. Larger, more specialized nurseries may have them, though. Online, try Cali Bamboo.
Smaller “Reed” Rolled Bamboo Fencing
In a Word: Reed
In a Few More Words: Called reed, this too is bamboo–just smaller.
Cost: About $1.60 per linear foot for 6′ high from a local store like Home Depot.
Best: So very cheap and easy to find. It’s right there at your local store. Also, because the reeds are thinner than full-size bamboo, each mat is lighter and easier to handle.
Worst: They turn gray within a season.
Where: Local home improvement stores and nurseries.
Fence Mesh Privacy Screen
In a Word: Plastic
In a Few More Words: They call this fence mesh, privacy screen, or fence windscreen. You’ve seen it: it’s the plastic mesh that covers up construction sites or the action at outdoor concerts so that nobody can see inside without paying. Is this stuff right for your precious little home, though?
Cost: Minimum of $1.44 per linear foot for 98% black mesh screen, based on a 50 foot order, including shipping.
Best: You’ll have it up fast.
Worst: What’s the worst, besides making your home look like the the loading zone behind a grocery store?
Where: Numerous online sources, but most prominently FenceScreen.com. Watch out for their add-ons, though.
For texturing small wall areas, Homax Aerosol Wall Texture is an easy way to go. The more difficult alternative is the way professionals do it: with a spray gun, hopper, and bags of dry texture mix. By contrast, the aerosol type is self-contained. But user-reviewers often complain about this product, saying it splatters and doesn’t produce the texture seen in Homax’s pictures. What’s the easiest way to do this and still get a good texture?
Shake more thoroughly than you might imagine, keep the can warm, test outdoors on scrap material, and view results with a low-angle light. And hang onto your store receipt so you can return it if necessary.
All those negative comments from users about Homax Wall Texture have some validity. Sometimes, for whatever reason, Homax just will not spray a good texture. That’s why you returning the product to the store is part of this technique: don’t settle for cans that don’t work.
I’ve had more good experiences with Homax than bad experiences. My tips will not produce perfect results 100% of the time, but you’ll greatly increase your chances of a good finish.
Shake It Forever
If you think you’ve shaken it long enough, you probably haven’t. Shake the can for about 2 minutes. You need to hear that ball freely clacking around inside of the can.
Keep the Can Warm
Success with Homax is all about temperature. Any can from the cold or even cool outdoors should be brought indoors and left for about 2 hours before you even consider using it. When Homax says “Sprays best between 68° F and 72° F,” you should believe them.
You can also warm it up under running warm water but don’t do this until you’ve test sprayed it on board (below) because it might be fine as-is.
Homax Wall Texture is extremely messy. Its job is to be messy. Use a dark piece of cardboard or the dark back of a scrap of drywall for this one. Dark is better than light, because you won’t see the results as well on light surfaces.
Spray at a Distance
The 36 inch distance that Homax recommends is the distance you should start at. I have found that farther away is usually better with these Homax texture products.
Check Texture With Light
Look at the texture in a dim place with a light held at a low angle. This is the only way how you can see if the texture is correct.
I have never understood why a company allows negative product reviews on its site, but whatever–it benefits the rest of us. Homax’s company site has some choice reviews of its products, along with a number of positive comments. In general, it’s fairly well balanced.
“I purchased five different cans of the Pro Grade Knockdown texture and only one worked.”
“I bought two cans of this. One worked flawlessly. When I went for can two, the nozzle broke when removing the safety tab. I’ve reapplied the nozzle in a few different ways but absolutely nothing is coming out.”
“I needed to repair a relatively small area in a very visible wall. By following all the instructions and testing various spatters until I found just the right one, the product worked perfectly. I was able to match the existing orange peel spatter and paint the repaired area within an hour.”