Building Confidence

Volume 8 Issue 7
ISSN 1923-7162

Welcome to our Newsletter including home improvement questions and answers, a tip of the month and an article from our website.

What's Happening

This month we discuss a reno on an older home that we did for my daughter and her family.

Tip of the Month

To get rid of the smell of smoke in a house, vinegar works wonders on odors. Setting out small pans reduces odors very well. Another good idea is cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract or used coffee grounds to absorb the smell.

Ask Dave!

During July and August my wife, Frances and I were helping our daughter, Jacqui, her husband, Mario and their two kids, Sheldon and Katelyn renovate a house they just bought. The plan was to start on the upper floor and renovate the four bedrooms; covert a walk-in closet to an ensuite and change the out dated fixtures in the main bathroom.

We started with an Eco Audit from a government authorized company to collect information on the insulation values in an older home, before and after a renovation has been done. If the difference in the before and after calculations are large enough, certain grants are offered to help pay for the cost of installing insulation, windows, etc. to get the older house up to present day eco standards. There are programs like this in both Canada and the United States.

While Mario was removing the old style window valances the women and kids were removing up to 3 layers of wallpaper on the the bedroom walls, some of which were painted over. Frances found that vinegar and water (1/4 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm/hot water) worked best. She applied the solution with a plastic mister bottle, dampening the wall to the point of run off. Don't over saturate the surface. If the wall was covered with vinyl wallpaper, she would lightly sand the surface so the solution would penetrate better. This had to be done with painted wallpaper, as well. She found that it worked well if she could start at a seam and lift it and spray under the paper as much as possible. Sometimes, renting a wallpaper steamer also works well. Don't wet the drywall paper covering too much, or gouging the surface is easy to do.

Mario discovered that removing the valance exposed the wall framing, so he had to install new drywall to match the existing surface. I was impressed with his mudding skills at the end of this project. One would think that an airline pilot would not want to fly into a project like this, but Mario dove right in. The mother of a friend of theirs reproached her daughter, "You did your renovation the lazy way, not removing those old valances." They do date the house, alright.

Here are some photos at the early stage:

Photo of Frances, wife of Dave, preparing a wall for wallpapering.

Frances is wiping the residue off. Notice the Valance removed to the upper left and the carpets are gone.

Photo of a daughter of Dave removing wallpaper.

Here, Jacqui is removing the wallpaper with a large scraper. Notice the window valance to the upper right, has not been removed, yet.

Photo of Dave with a grandson removing a wall.

Dave and Sheldon are working together to remove the existing wall between the walk-in closet and the 2 piece ensuite. Mario has the valance removed in the bedroom and working in another bedroom to replace the drywall. This wall was not a bearing wall so could be removed without structural problems.

Photo of Katie and Scruffy

While the men are working, Katie and Scruffy, our cat, are catching up on their beauty sleep. Actually, Katie was a big help in removing the wallpaper and in the painting process. I can't say the same for Scruffy.

Photo showing the framing of a pocket door.

Framing for the pocket door is complete. The shower base and water supply to the dual control shower heads is being installed.

Photo of what a rough-in shower controls looks like.

Getting ready for drywall. The rough-in for the shower valves and heads are installed, including the pot light over the shower and the ventilation fan. The ceiling vapor barrier is up, ready for cement board around the shower and drywall for the remaining surfaces. Notice, I tried to eliminate as many 90's, as possible, with the Pex plastic tubing. Apparently, adding one 90 degree elbow, in Pex, is the equivalent of adding 10 feet of piping.

Photo of a pex drop ear for a shower.

The shower head is threaded into a drop ear 90 elbow. Screws can be fastened through the drop ears to hold it securely to the framing backing.

Photo of what the water supply for a shower looks like behind the wall.

Here I brought the water supply to each fixture using 1/2" Pex from a main branch of 3/4" Pex.

If you have any questions on the procedures you see here, send me an email.

I'll continue with our reno in the next newsletter.

Article of the Month

Plumbing and Ventilation 1: Plumbing Rough-in Dimensions and Instructions

Introduction: I'll give you the usual heights and dimensions for plumbing fixture drains and supply lines for home improvement rough-in. Follow the directions that come with your new plumbing fixtures. Try to get an idea of the plumbing fixtures you want to install before the house framing stage since some plumbing fixtures will need backing to support them.

I'm really partial to the plastic piping that can be used for hot and cold water supply lines, rather than the straight copper pipe with solder joints. Less expensive, too. They use copper or brass crimp on fittings so no soldering is needed.

The plumbing rough-in stage is made easy with stub-out elbows which are sealed so the water can be turned on for checking for leaks before the walls of the house are sheeted. These usually are available in your local home improvement stores now. A crimper is required but can be rented for a nominal amount, $10 to $15 per day or purchased, of course. They are not cheap to purchase though, ranging from $200 to $300.

After the wall finish is applied and painted... read more at

Almost the End

I hope you enjoyed reading about our daughter's reno and can apply the information here to your own project. Remember that do-it-yourself projects, such as this, will go easier if you do a bit of research and planning. Get the kids involved. They may want to do a reno when they have their own family some day.


(Ask Dave) (About Dave)

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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