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Remodeling 24: Home Remodeling Answers

Cutting crown molding
Framing a Header in a 2x6 Wall
Repairing Stucco
Kitchen cabinets
Determining the swing of a door
Supporting a ceiling fan
Repairing a textured ceiling
Connecting Wall to Foundation
Concrete House
Renovating an Attic
Size of Rough Opening for Door or Window
Below Ground Windows
Standard Door and Hall Widths
Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets
Size of Dog House
Building an Entertainment Center
Tiling a Floor
Patching Holes Concrete
Foundation for a Shed

Question about cutting crown molding:

How do I cut 3 1/2" crown molding at the correct angle?


This is how to cut 3 1/2" crown molding on a compound cut-off saw.

Think of the table on your cut-off saw as the floor or the ceiling where the molding will go. Base (floor) molding is cut upright and crown (ceiling) molding is cut upside down. Crown is tricky this way, because not only is it upside down but its ends are reversed. I usually have four sample pieces with me when I cut crown molding: one for the inside right miter, one for the inside left, one for the outside right and one for the outside left. Mark each piece so you know which one's which. These save me cutting up expensive crown just to get my head right every time. I'm referring, of course, to a maximum of a 3 1/2" crown that will stand up vertically against the saw fence. Anything larger would have to be cut on the flat, a different procedure entirely. If your fence isn't high enough, make a 3 1/2" high fence from 1/2" plywood and screw it to your fence from the back with wood screws.

Question about framing a header in a 2x6 wall:

On a 2x6 exterior wall, how thick do you make the header?


The header is the same thickness as a 2x4 wall. Don't add a 1/2" spacer, just nail the two 2x10s together as usual. Nail the header in place with the outside of the header flush with the outside of the wall.

Nail a 2x6 (on the flat) under the header and against the two cripples. This gives the thickness of the wall below the header for drywall (or any other type of wallboard) on the inside of the wall. Make sure the 2x6 trim, on the flat, is not nailed on under the cripples. The cripples should be supporting the header directly as in this drawing:

Diagram showing how to frame a header in a 2x6 wall.

Question about repairing stucco:

I have to repair some stucco damage around the outside of the house due to water coming up behind the stucco. How can I get a good color match and how do I go about getting started?


Color match is a tough one, even for the pros. Color is dependent on the portland cement used, the color of aggregate and the texture of the finish. Try mixing some samples first to see how they dry to get a feel of it. In some areas, check with your local dealer, they have premixed quantities of stucco in the popular colors. Allow for fading of your color depending on its age.

If the damage is done to the sheeting repair that, of course and apply any missing tar paper, a special vapour permeable, water resistant paper. There is stucco lath applied to the sheeting, over the paper, with furring nails or self furring lath with dimples. This keeps the lath about 1/4" away from the surface to allow the first coat, the scratch coat, good penetration and coverage of the metal lath protecting it from corrosion. This lath also acts as a reinforcment. The scratch coat is applied about 3/8" thick and left evenly sratched providing a good mechanical key for the next coat. Ater 48 hours, the second coat or the brown coat which again is 3/8" thick is applied to a dampened scratch coat and is left with a rough surface for the final or finish coat which is colored and textured at least 1/8" thick. The three layers give a total of 7/8" minimum thickness. Each coat should be kept moist for at least 48 hours with a gentle fog mist sprayed on them, not soaked just damp, not allowing the coat to dry out. The brown coat should be left to cure for 7 days before the finish coat is applied. Dampen the brown coat before applying the finish.

Question about kitchen cabinets:

I'm looking at building kitchen cabinets. Would they be similar to your corner cabinet plans or is there a difference in the case construction?


The design of kitchen cabinets is dependent on your choice of hinges. With a face frame (the style used in the corner cabinet plans) the doors can be flush with the frame or overlap them. Also, with a face frame you can buy european hinges, which are hidden from the front and overlap the face frame in three different ways: 1/4", 1/2" or a full overlap of 5/8". Without a face frame, you are limited to the euro style of only full- or half-lap hinges. I really like the euro style hinges because they can be adjusted three ways: up or down, in or out, and sideways.

Question about determining the swing of a door:

How does one determine the swing of a door?


Conventionally, a door opens into a room. Stand on the outside of the door facing into the room. If the door swings to the left, it is a left hand door; if it swings to the right, it is a right hand door.

For a door that opens outwards from a room, say for example an outside door or a small bathroom, the bevel on the door is reversed. Also, the lock set hand is reversed. Stand on the outside of the room facing into the room, as before. If the door opens towards you with the hinges on the left, it is a left hand reverse door; if the hinges are on the right, then it is a right hand reverse.

Question about supporting a ceiling fan:

How do I attach a heavy ceiling fan so it won't fly or fall off?


If you have access over the light (an attic, for example) this is what I'd do. Leave the existing electrical box in place that the old light attached to. Watch for wires and drill a 1/2 inch hole or remove the knock out in the center of the box at the top. Get the appropriate length of 1/8" running pipe thread; these come in lengths from 1/2" up to 3'. At the bottom of the rod in the box, attach a spreader bar with a threaded hole already in it to accept the 1/8" pipe thread of the rod. It may be in the fan/light kit or you might have to buy it from a light shop. Attach the spreader bar to the two screws in the box with the rod sticking up through the box into the attic. Go up into the attic and place 2 - 2x4s, on edge, with the rod between them. Screw a plywood scab over the top into the 2x4s to keep them together and put the washer on top of the scab. Fasten these 2x4s across the ceiling joists or truss bottom cord. You will notice that the fan has a steel safety wire to help support it as well. This wire should be fastened to the 2x4s for safety. Now the weight of the fan is supported by the joists or truss. This will hold a very heavy fan.

If you have to make a large hole around the box, you can install a rosette around the box later. They come in a variety of sizes and designs, giving an easy fix to a messy hole.

Question about repairing a textured ceiling:

I did some repair work on a ceiling that had a textured stucco-like finish. How would I go about duplicating that finish in the area I was working on.


There are three ways to texture a ceiling that I know of. Blown on, hand textured with a trowel and a combination of the two where it is blown on then gone over with a trowel. If you've got a large area to do, you can rent the machine to blow it on and adjust the nozzle for different size of texture. Otherwise, buy the textured ceiling mix in a bag, mix in water and trowel it on with a 12" drywall trowel. Either way, practice first on spare pieces of drywall. I watched the guy hand trowel my ceiling and he applied a 10'X10' area then went over it again, flattening it out. Sorry, I can't be more specific, there are just too many variables with a textured ceiling.

Question about connecting wall to foundation:

Should I put tar paper against the cement foundation wall before I put up the 2x4's?


Tar paper isn't necessary inside, as long as the foundation walls are covered with a bituminus coating (standard) on the outside. Leave an air gap between the concrete and the studs, about 1", and insulate with fibreglass with a vapour barrier on the warm side of the wall.

Question about concrete house:

Do you know how I might find information on building the walls and roof of a residential home from cement as they do in commercial construction? This seems like it would be an extremely strong and inexpensive building.


Concrete is not really inexpensive. The forming material alone would be the cost of the conventional framing. The roof slabs would require beams and posts to hold them up for 28 days. An engineer would have to be involved since it is not conventional. Forming pockets for plumbing and wiring through the walls and roof would have to be considered. Attachments for windows and doors would have to be allowed. Once built it would last forever, though.

Most of the industrial buildings that I worked on were structural steel buildings with suspended slabs of concrete for the floors, the roofs were mostly steel as well. The buildings that were made totally of concrete were built that way for the structural strength required to support primary crushers and the like.

Commercial buildings including schools were built of concrete block with steel or timber roofs. I worked on high rise buildings that were mainly concrete construction. These are very expensive structures to build.

All things considered, I wouldn't advise building a residence out of concrete, there are too many better products out there. Concrete is best left to the footings and foundation walls.

Question about renovating an attic:

I am determined to turn an unfinished attic into a bed room. How do I get started?


My first advice to you is to check out the size of the ceiling joists (the attic's floor joists). When a house is built, the ceiling joists are designed to hold the ceiling and the material on the ceiling, such as the drywall. If you make the attic into a living space you need to upgrade the floor joists to support a greater load.

Question about size of rough opening for door or window:

When installing doors and windows in a new construction house, how much bigger do I make the rough opening than the actual size of the door or window?


This is something you should check with your local supplier. I found big differences in rough openings, especially between window manufacturers. I'll give you the rules of thumb.

Exterior doors with sills: allow an extra 2" for width and 4" in height over the nominal size. Example: for a 36"x80" door, the rough opening should be 38"x84" with sill.

Exterior doors without sills and interior doors: allow an extra 2" for the width and 2 1/2" for the height over the nominal size.

Bifolds: the finished opening is the size of the nominal size of door. Example: for a 30"x80" bifold, the finished opening is 30"x80". So allow for the thickness of the drywall or whatever finish to be installed. This holds true for a vinyl floor, anything thicker than that, allow extra. For 3/4" hardwood allow an inch; for carpet allow a good inch. There is height adjustment on these things (within reason) so better high than low.

Windows - vinyl and aluminum: check with the supplier for rough openings. There should be about 3/8" clearance around the entire window. When nailing the flange, only nail the sides and bottom. Don't nail the top, at all. When the siding is applied later it will hold the top in place. This allows the framing to settle without taking the window with it. Most windows manufactured around here (the west coast of Canada) require the rough openings to be 1" under the nominal size. Windows in eastern Canada have totally different clearances for their nominal size, so it is very important to check the rough openings for the doors and windows from the supplier. If the rough opening is correct, the door or window will fit. If not, disaster!!

Headers for windows and doors: It used to be so easy before they changed the lumber sizes to 1-1/2"x3-1/2" from 1-5/8"x3-5/8", etc. Headers were as follows: 4' opening used two 2x4s; 6' opening used two 2x6s; 8' opening used two 2x8s; 10' opening used two 2x10s; etc. Now most framers just use a double 2x10, tight underneath the top plate for all the lintels 8' and under to support a roof and one floor. Over 8', it is considered a beam and its size has to be determined from tables in the code book. For spans 2' and under, no lintel is required when supporting just the roof. In fact, the studs can be placed on 2' centers, that's in Canada anyway. I wrote an article on the Building Code, I tried to stress the point of asking questions from the inspectors about items like headers or lintels, depth of footings, snow loads in your area, etc.

Question about below ground windows:

How do you construct window wells?


Basement windows that extend below ground require window wells to retain the dirt. Galvanized, corrugated sheet steel used for this purpose is one choice. My choice would be to form and pour a concrete retaining wall around the window. Recently, pressure treated wood and plywood has also been used for foundation material. A drain at the bottom of the hole should be added which ties into the perimeter drainage for the house. If this well is for a bedroom window and will be used for a means of egress, a clearance of not less than 22" should be provided in front of the window to enable a person to get out in an emergency. Here is a picture that might help:

Drawing of a window well.

Question about standard door and hall widths:

Is there a standard width to a hallway? Also I've got a 36" front entrance door, the rest are 32". Is there a reason to put a 36" door anywhere else?


I prefer 36" doors for entrances. They usually cost the same as 32" and 34" but give you that added extra room to move in furniture and appliances. The standard door size for bedrooms and other interior doors are 30". A hallway should be ideally 38", 36" minimum.

Question about refinishing kitchen cabinets:

I would like to refinish my kitchen cabinets that are lacquered with a dark brown lacquer.

I want to strip the lacquer and repaint them in a solid color. I do not want a glossy finish and am worried about paint brush strokes. I was considering an antique looking finish.


If you are painting the cabinets there is no need to strip them down to bare wood. If the finish is smooth but glossy, just remove the gloss with medium sandpaper, say 100 grit. A palm sander is excellent for this job.

Then paint the surface with 3 coats of a Urethane paint, such as Varathane. You can choose a satin or semi-gloss finish. No primer is needed, even on bare wood. Follow the directions on the can. Varathane goes on easily with a brush and levels out to a smooth surface, showing no brush strokes. Just make sure you apply it in a warm room. Between coats, sand with extra fine sandpaper such as 220. Make sure the last coat is put on in a dust free environment.

Question about size of dog house:

I am in the process of building a dog house for my German Shepherd puppy. Can you please tell me what would be the correct size to accomodate her when she has reached her adult state?


According to the Humane Society of the US and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada, they say to make the inside measurements of the dog house about 3 1/2 - 4 inches larger than the length of the dog. The height should be about 3 inches higher than the dog's height. These measurements are inside the finished dog house, so allow for the thickness of your materials for walls and ceilings.

The size of a German Shepherd when fully grown is up to you. I'm sure there are dog owners out there that can help you with that.

Question about building an entertainment center:

I'm planning on building an entertainment center/armoire. Most of the plans that I've looked at call for a 1/4" plywood back to be nailed into the sides. However, one plan that I've looked at uses a 3/4" plywood back with dadoes routed into it to hold the shelves. I plan to use the center shelf to hold a 27" TV.

In your opinion, would it be better to use the 3/4" plywood back with dadoes routed into it so that the center shelf will hold the TV without sagging?


If the length of the shelves is no more than 36" and made of 3/4" material, a 1/4" back should be sufficient if you glue and nail the back into the sides and shelves also and if the unit is supported off the floor by the sides. A 3/4" back would be necessary if the shelves are longer than 3' and if the back is used to hang the shelving unit on a wall.

Question about tiling a floor:

I am installing tile and carpet in the rec room of my house and the problem is that there's a two foot perimeter of tile around the room and the center of the room is carpet How do I finish the carpet and attach it to the floor? There is underpad for the carpet and the tile is only 1/8".


First of all, make sure your choice of tile is correct for a floor. Floor tile is thicker than 1/8". It is standard procedure, when installing ceramic tile on the floor, to stiffen the floor up usually with another layer of 5/8" tongue and groove plywood. This would help your situation also. Place a 2' perimeter of plywood around the room where the tile will go. Lay the tile out first to get its exact width. For the transition between the tile and the carpet, there are products on the market for this purpose: vinyl, aluminum.

When installing a ceramic tile hearth in my house, I used a piece of oak hardwood flooring between the tile and the carpet, which matched the hardwood flooring in the rest of the house. This is just an idea for you. (See picture.)

Most of your problem will be solved by putting in the plywood to raise up the tile. Check on the thickness of the tile. It should be 3/8" to 1/2".

Question about patching holes concrete:

How do you fill and seal the gaps between cement and brick or cement and cinder block AND how do you fix the cracks in a cinder block wall?


I think the best thing to use in both cases is LePage Poly Super Strength Cement, a fortified, quick-setting, patching cement because of its great bonding ability and the fact that it sets up in just a few minutes. Make sure the area to be patched is clean of mold, dirt, etc. Dampen the area with water. Mix up the poly cement into a paste and pour it into the gaps, working it with a putty knife to make sure it is compacted into the gap. Build it up a bit with the putty knife or trowel to ensure that water will runoff. Work quickly because it sets up fast. Read the carton for further instructions. This product is better than just sand and cement since concrete will shrink when drying.

Question about foundation for a shed:

I'm building a 10' x 12' gambrel roof storage shed on 3 - 4" x 6" runners and I'm going to use 2" x 12" x 12" bricks under them. I want to know if sand is good enough to 'level' the bricks with, as they shouldn't get any rain or water on them after it's built.


Sand is good to level the bricks with. Just make sure it is well compacted.


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Your source for building tips, woodworking & furniture plans, house plans and building advice directly from Dave...

Hi, I'm Dave Osborne. With over 50 years experience as a journeyman carpenter, foreman and contractor in heavy construction I enjoyed working with apprentices and sharing the tricks of the trade that others shared with me. Now I get emails from Members all over the world and we include many of my answers in our Free Monthly Newsletters. Some of my answers include drawings and instructions specific to a project, but may also answer your questions. I use correct construction terminology, so you can confidently inform your building supply dealers or contractors exactly what you need.


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