Sunday, September 26, 2010

So You Want a Granite Countertop

One of the best home improvements for yourself and for the value of you home is a granite countertop. Don't settle for substitutes such as Korian or Silestone. They are just not the same, believe me. One of the best investments in my home is our granite countertops. They look great, are easy to clean, are durable, and add value. We almost made the mistake of putting in granite tile, which meant more work for me, a top mount sink, joints to clean..... and guess what? They were the same price as granite and I had to do all the work.

So take some basic measurements and go price some granite. You will notice a wide swing the the price per square foot. This is not based on quality, but rather on the rarity of the granite chosen. Choose what you like, even if it is the less expensive slab.

At most places granite starts at $50.00 per square foot. Home Depot often has sales where it starts at $39 per square foot. These prices include installation. But don't fooled into thinking that is the final price of your granite. That price covers only the granite, measuring the template, cutting your granite and installing it. What is not covered is what you need to know about.

Before they will measure for the template your current countertops need to be removed and you base cabinets need to be leveled to within 1/16". This means that your sink needs to be unplumbed, countertops removed and leveled. This is not covered in the installation price. Also, you will need to have purchased you under mount sink. They will need the model number when they measure for the template. You should also not that there is approximate cost of $250 to attach the sink to the granite when they install the granite. Attaching the sink does not mean that they plumb it. So, after they measure for the template, if you want to use your kitchen over the next couple of weeks you will have to re-install the sink, plumb it, and re-install portions of your countertop. These items are not included in the price of your granite per square foot install.

The day before your granite arrives you will need to once again remove the countertops and sink. They will then install your granite and attache your sink. Now you must have your new sink plumbed which means you need to install the faucet, new strainer sets, new garbage disposer, new trap set, new water supply hoses, new soap dispenser, attach the dishwasher, the ice maker, and sometimes install new water supply faucets. These are all added expense.

Is it all worth it? In our case, yes, it was. We love the look, the durability, and the overall value it adds to our home. The important thing is that you go into this with your eyes open and don't get caught off guard by the extra expense.

Feel free to ask questions about home repairs and remodel. I'll do my best to answer them here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ready for the Grout?

One of the most important steps to tiling your floor is applying the grout. This is what gives your floor the finished look. Properly applying the grout is very important. Please read the instructions on the package carefully. Improperly applied grout will fail.

The most common failures in grout are cracking, and small chunks falling out. There are primarily three reasons for this. 1) There was no cement fiber backer board laid and properly secured before laying the tile. Now the floor has a tiny degree of flex and it is causing the grout to crack and fallout. 2) The tile was not tamped down into place with a rubber mallet or squiggled into place and now there are air pockets under the tile and at the bottom side the grout is not held securely. 3) Too much moisture was added to the grout compromising the strength of the grout itself.

There are additives that can be added to the grout and mixed in that will strengthen the grout and actually make it more elastic, and therefore making it easier to apply. There is also an epoxy grout that is strong and will not ever need to be sealed. Whatever you do, do not add too much moisture. The grout is supposed to be stiff and squeezed into the spaces between tiles with a rubber trowel (float).

Tools you will need to apply the grout: A trowel to scoop the mixed grout out of your container. A rubber float for spreading the grout. A clean pail of water and a sponge.

Applying the grout: 1) Before you apply the grout make sure that all thinset adhesive is cleaned up off the tiles. It is much easier to do it now than later. 2) Start at the furthest part of the room from the door. You will want to back your way out the door. 3) Wet the tile in the area you are grouting. 4) Scoop out a liberal amount of grout and begin troweling. 5) With the rubber float press the grout into the spaces between tiles. Pass over this area several times at a 45 degree angle. Drag off as much excess grout as possible as this will make for easier clean up. 6) Lightly sponge the area just grouted with a damp sponge cleaning the tile until the grout has the correct exposure between tiles. 7) Repeat this process until the entire floor is grouted. 8) Go back over the floor with a damp sponge cleaning up all excess grout.

De-hazing the tile: Once the grout is set (hardened) you need to de-haze the tile. There are de-hazing tools for this which looks like emery cloth attached to a trowel. After you have de-hazed you should vacuum up the residue with a soft brush nozzle.

Seal the grout. Follow instructions on the bottle of sealant.

Presto! You have a great looking floor!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tile Your Bathroom Floor

Sorry folks, I got really busy and wasn't able to blog. But I'm sure you got along fine without me.

So far you have stripped your bathroom and prepped the floor for tile. In this lesson I will give you tips on tiling the floor. But first, a list of tools and materials. The tools you will need are a wet saw for cutting the tile, tape measure, carpenter's square, chalk line, .5 inch notched trowel, pencil, and a rubber hammer. Materials include you tile, ceramic tile adhesive, and plastic spacers for proper spacing of the tile.

So let's lay out your floor. In this layout you will be tiling under the vanity cabinets to the wall. The first thing you must do is get a parallel line to the wall to assure that the tiles will lay in a straight line and not drift off toward a wall. If your cabinets are on the opposite side of the room as the entrance you can lay out your tiles from the center of the door toward that back wall. Lay the first tile centered on the door way and under the middle of the door, (Note: do not stick these tiles down with adhesive at this time). Lay the next tile adjacent to it using spacers, then lay the next one adjacent to that using spacers. Now you are 3 tiles deep into the room from the door. Draw a pencil line along the third tile parallel to the wall. This is your starting point. Now chalk a line from one end of the room to the other directly on top of this line. Once that is done, measure from the far wall to the line at each end of the line. If the distance is the same, your line is parallel. Draw a permanent line.

When laying tiles you will work from this line to the back wall. Now apply tile adhesive to the floor using the notched trowel. Set your first tile precisely where it should be and tap it down with the rubber mallet. Now set tiles back toward the wall and from side to side using spacers to line them up. Note, don't lay the spacers down but set them on edge so that they can be easily removed. As you get to the back wall and end walls you will need to cut tile to fit. Remember, your cabinets and baseboards will cover the edges so you won't need to be so precise on the back side of the room.

Once the tiles are laid and set on the back side of the room, you will now need to work from the long end toward the door. You will need to back yourself out of the door as you lay the tiles. In most cases when you cut tiles you may be able to cut several at a time. This will reduce the number of trips to your saw and will cut down on time to lay the tiles.

After the tiles are set, I like to let an entire day pass before cleaning the tile and installing the grout. Walking on the tile too soon may cause them to go out of flush and/or squirm. That would spoil your tiling job.

The next lesson is on grouting. There are some very important tips there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prep Your Floor For Tile

After you have stripped everything out of your bathroom it is time to tile the floor. However, if you are installing a new tub or building in a shower stall that must be done first.

To prep your bathroom floor you will need to scrape off all debris that may prevent your tile from lying flat to the floor. Make sure you set all nails that may be poking up. Also, if there are squeaks in your floor, now is the time to take care of them. Some extra 1.75" ring shank fence nails or some screws may take care of this. Note that this type of prep is for applying tile over a wood structure, not over concrete.

After prepping the floor is is time to install a concrete type of backer board such as Wonder board, or James Hardie backer board. This is a .25" thick cement fiber board. Instructions are to screw the board down, I found that 1.75" ring shank fence nails work just fine and take a lot less time. Cover the entire floor with this material making sure that you don't cover the opening for the toilet stool.

The cement fiber board comes in 3'x5' sheets. Three sheets usually are enough for a standard small bathroom. Buy only the square footage that you need as this can be pieced in. Make sure that you install this so that it centers under the door. This is the transition line into the next room which may have a different floor covering.

Now walk around on this floor checking for squeaks. This is your last chance to repair them. Your floor prep is complete and you are now ready to tile.

But its probably time for a Coke. Make sure you have enough time allotted for tile installation as it is best to install the entire floor at one time. I'll have tips on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Strip

One of my readers submitted the question about stripping a bathroom for remodeling. I have delayed answering this question due to the scale of the project and the possibility of many variables. I will now answer with the assumption that all electrical and plumbing configurations will stay the same, meaning all materials behind the walls and under the floor.

The bathroom remodel is the second most expensive remodel in your home. Kitchen is number one. So I will now assume that all cabinets, toilet stool, tub/shower, towel racks, light fixtures and plumbing fixtures will be replaced. I will also assume that you are replacing floor coverings.

Step One: Turn off all water supply valves. There should be one to the toilet and two to each wash basin. If your house is older and there are no valves, you will need to turn off the main water supply to the house. If this is the case, you will need to temporarily cap the water supply lines to the bathroom before turning the main water line back on. Later you will need to turn off the main water line again to install water supply valves.

Step Two: Remove toilet, vanities, towel racks, tub/shower. Note: if you are removing a tub you must also remove the tile, sheetrock, and any other fixture that may prevent tub removal. Tubs are installed against the wall studs and therefore the thickness of the sheetrock prevents tub removal.... therefore, remove the sheetrock.

Step Three: Remove all floor tiles, and floor vinyl. Remove baseboards. Your bathroom should now be completely empty.

Step Four: If you are moving any plumbing or electrical, now is the time to open up the walls to do it.

Miscellaneous tips: 1) Remove the bathroom door for ease of access. 2) At tub or shower, don't remove individual tiles, rather cut the drywall and pull off entire panels of drywall and tile together, you will need new backer board anyway.

Your bathroom is now stripped and ready for remodel.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Setting Pavers and Flagstone

I am sure that sometime or other you have seen patios made out of pavers or flagstones. You probably have also seen the weeds growing up through these and/or the outer edging of these dropping off at weird angles. That's what happens when you install them according to the manual. Conventional installation is to install these on sand, tap them in place and fill the gaps with sand. There is a much better way.

First, you need to lay out your configuration and edge is with metal landscape edging or other suitable materials. Then you need to establish the grade and make sure the grade is flat and smooth.

Secondly, pour in dry concrete to a depth of 2.5 to 3 inches. Take a 2x4 and strike it off so it is flat along your grade. Be careful not to compress the concrete at this time.

Thirdly, lay your flagstone or pavers on the bed of dry concrete and tap them down flush with a rubber mallet. Make sure there are no dips or rises. In rises concrete can be removed and with the dips it can be added.

Fourthly. Once you are satisfied with the way your patio looks, gently, but generously, hose down the stone allowing water to run down between the stones and wet the concrete. Allow this to set up over night.

Finally, Spread dry mortar in the cracks between stones. I use a broom to sweep it in to make sure all cracks are filled. Then I sweep off the stone the best I can. Now I gently wash off the stone allowing the water to moisten the mortar. That will be completely set in about 2 to 3 hours.

Congratulate yourself. Your patio is better than your neighbor's. Yours won't grow weeds and stones won't tip off at the edge. Good job! Write me and tell me how it worked. Also, go get yourself a Starbucks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pesky Hinge Pin

Have you ever needed to remove a door in your house to either make an adjustment to the door or to do some work in that area, and the door is an obstruction to your work area. So you get a hammer and a flat screwdriver and start removing the hinge pins. To your dismay the darned little things are stubborn and won't easily remove. You get to the bottom hinge and the pin doesn't even budge. You can't pound it out because it is too low to the floor. What you thought would be so simple has become a hard task. When you put the door back.... alas, the hinges no longer line up.

One of the reasons for this difficulty is that after original installation many doors will warp slightly due to humidity differences on each side of the door. Once the door is released at the hinge point it springs a little bit so it will not line up to the hinges again.

Here is a simpler, easier, and much quicker way to remove your door and re-install it. If you have a battery powered drill, at the door jamb side remove the screws on all three hinges starting at the bottom and working to the top. Within 30 seconds your door is off and the hinge pins are still in tact.

When re-installing the door, lift the door in place so that one screw in the top hinge lines up through the hinge to the proper screw hole. Drive the screw in, but do not snug it up. That screw will hold the door up while you re-align the other hinges. Drive all the screws in tight. Amazing! you just re-installed your door with very little fuss. Where as removing the door took about 30 seconds, Installation should take about a minute. And now you are not saying, "Where did that hinge pin go? Did you see it anywhere?"

If you have any questions you can submit them in the comments box. Oh! I should acknowledge the question about stripping out a bathroom so that it can be remodeled. That one might have a lengthy answer and it somewhat depends on electrical, plumbing, and what other amenities will be installed in the end..... So, I need more specifics.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are Your Screws Loose?

I know that the title is a loaded question, but I am referring to wood screws. I'm sure your mental state is just fine. You've had your Starbucks and you are ready to go. I don't mean to the bathroom either.

The other day when I went to a job I ran into the old "While you are here, I have something else for you to look at. It will take just a minute." syndrome. This usually means they want something done for free. This lady had some loose screws in her cupboard door that she nor her husband could tighten. They had struggled with this for several weeks and now wanted a professional to look at it. The fix for this is actually quite simple. There are two ways to fix it. Possibly three.

Method #1 is to obtain some screws the same length but a little fatter. Take out the old screws, put a drop of glue on the new screws and install them being careful not to strip out the holes. Wallah! You are finished.

Method #2, which is what I needed to do in this lady's case is to install wooden plugs, then screw into them with the original screws. Here's what you do: Take wooden matchsticks and nip them off the depth of the screw holes. Put a drop of Elmer's glue on them and tap them into the screw holes with a small hammer. Even before the glue is dry you can now install the screws. You just became a pro, and you saved yourself some money.

Of course, there is a third method: You could wait until a home repair man comes to your home, then ask him to fix it for free. After all, he is just sitting around waiting for you to call and has nothing else to do with his time, and his little kids don't eat much anyway. Actually, I was happy to do it for the lady.

If you have other questions or comments, leave them in the comments box below.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roof Repairs

Do you have those nasty three tab shingles that keep breaking and blowing off your roof? These have to be absolutely the worst shingle ever invented. I currently have them on my roof also. They came with the house when we had it built. The house is 12 years old and I have replaced shingles in various spots four times. Thank goodness, our insurance is replacing our roof and our roofer is eating the deductible.

Anyway, having shingles on your roof is pretty important, so if you are not going to replace your roof you should repair it. You could ask a roofing contractor to come out and give you an estimate, but most likely he won't do it because the job is not big enough. At least that's the story I got. They deal in replacing entire roofs. So you may be faced repairing the roof yourself. And, actually, these repairs are quite easy to make.

You can still get 25 year three tab shingles in most colors, or a color pretty close to that on your roof. You won't get it at Home Depot or Lowes, you will have to go to an actual roofing supplier.

Tools you will need for the repair are a 12" carpenter's flat bar, a utility knife, a hammer, a caulking gun, a tube of Henry roof patch, and 1.5" roofing nails.

Locate the broken or missing shingle and find both side edges where the shingle is or should be. Loosen the shingles with your flat bar by sliding it under the broken shingle to break the tar seal and gently lift the shingle. Then loosen the shingles above it in the same fashion. Use the flat bar to pop all roofing nails fastening it to the roof. Remove the nails and slide the shingle out. Insert a new shingle where the old one was removed and nail it into place. Come on, you gotta use more than 2 nails, I suggest 6. Then lift all loose shingle tabs and run a bead of Henry roof patch at the bottom edge of all loose tabs and press down. Presto! You just repaired your own roof. Don't fall off the ladder while patting yourself on the back! Go get a cup of Starbucks to reward yourself. You just saved hundreds of dollars.

If you have any home repair questions you can submit them in the comments box below.

Thanks for reading.