Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to patch a big drywall hole in about 1 hour

Whether it is a stain, a rogue child, or an inebriated adult (you know who you are)... a drywall hole can be a daunting fix. Here is how I go about tackling it. In this case there was a 10" stain and hole on the nail from a roof leak... thankfully the water found a spot to come out... otherwise it can be a much bigger patch. Here are the tools you need:

A water bucket with hot water, a mud pan, a 6" flexible blade, a 1" stiff blade, Sheetrock Easy Sand '5' a drill, some 1 5/8 drywall screws, some lengths of 1x2 pine boards, a scrap of drywall and some spray bin if mold or a water stain is involved.

Cut out a squarish hole bigger than the area you want to patch. Cut carefully, especially if you are unsure of wires or pipes hidden beneath. Use the drywall saw, and take your time... feeling for framing, or pipes. Cut shallow around obstacles you don't want to cut through (pipes or framing).

In this case I inspected the insulation for mold, or degradation of the insulation from water exposure (there was none) and I sprayed the area with bin holding the can about 10 inches away and putting 3 thin coats about 10" bigger than the area effected, allowing about 10 minutes of dry time between coats.

Take that piece out and put it on top of a scrap piece of new drywall. Trace it with a pencil, and cut it out with a knife just a hair smaller than the piece you cut out.

Trim the edges of the drywall hole with the razor knife so the sawed edges are smooth. Insert 1x2's into either side of the hole flush with the back of the drywall hole about 12" bigger than the hole. If you put a drywall screw into the 1x2 you can use it as a handle to hold it in place as you screw it in. The goal is to get the new piece of drywall to be held in place.

Screw the drywall in place. Here is the most important part. The tape! ALL TAPES ARE NOT MADE EQUAL! For holes, it is appropriate to use self adhesive PAPER tape. NEVER NEVER use fiber tape for anything ever. Maybe tile backing... NEVER for drywall.

Drywall makes one continuous plane, and papertape allows the full sheet of drywall and the seams be strong. Adding fiber tape (or this Hyde adhesive tape) anywhere else besides a hole patch creates a weak spot. If your house moves... guess where it gives? This is the only adhesive tape I use is this one. I could not find it on Home Depots website, but they do have it there.

Everywhere else... use regular adhesive mud and papertape. NO FIBER TAPE.
Make sure that the Bin primer is dry, and as cleanly and tightly as you can, hang about 1/2 inch of the tape on the outside of the existing drywall, and the rest in the middle.

The goal is to have the patch fool your eye into not knowing that there is a bulge in the middle of the wall. That is the entire premise of taping a room as well... filling in the bevels, and building out the butt ends of the drywall. Fool the eye. And the more your build it out, and the smoother you sand the outside edge, the better you will fool your eye. Finish taping, and mix up a small amount of the Easysand '5.' It is 2 parts powder to 1 part hot water. The hot water sets faster, and you can put more coats on in less time, but you have less time to work with it. Make about 2 golfballs worth.

It is about the consistency of pudding when mixed well... Not too thick as not spreadable, and not too thin as drip off the wall. Spread it evenly, and not to thickly. Usually I will do 4-5 thin coats to build up a patch like this.

Don't worry if it is lumpy at this point. The goal is to fill it in with this coat. 

Clean your pan and tools, wait about 5 minutes for the first coat to set and and make another 2 golf balls of the mix.

If you hold the right side of the blade against the wall, and hold the other end up about a 16th of an inch, it makes a nice smooth transition.

With coats 2, 3 and 4 go out another few inches with each coat, making sure the outside edge is as smooth as you can get it. Keep the middle as smooth as you can. Don't over work it. The smoother you get it, the less sanding. Ideally, the sanding is very minimal, and only at the end when it is dry.

Ok Go make a sammitch and wait for it to completely dry. Get a hair dryer and, moving it frequently you can get it to dry faster.

Sand the entire patch lightly... paying close attention to the edges. Don't over sand. Prime it with PVA primer, or just give it an extra coat of paint before you repaint the entire area. If it is a big patch, you defiantly want to prime it, as the primer seals in the joint compound and the paper part of the drywall.

Call for a free estimate to have your hole patched if you live in Oak Brook, Tinley Park, Willowbrook, Hometown, Oaklawn or in the Chicago area. Call 708-479-4570 or visit for more information!  If this was helpful, Like us on facebook at the right!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to re-caulk your shower or tub

There really are only three times when you should use caulk in a shower. Where shower doors attach to the wall and floor, where a solid surface meets the shower pan, or when you are going to sell your house and you do not want to keep up on the grouting. Especially in Chicago, when the temperature and humidity fluxuate throughout the year, your house WILL move. If you have tile in your shower... one of the spots where it shows is where the tile meets the floor. It is tempting to just hit that sucker with caulk, and call it a day when those cracks appear... but once you caulk it... it will move at that spot. And water WILL get behind the caulk. The best solution is to keep some grout on hand in a tupperware container. Take a screwdriver and carefully loosen and remove any grout that has cracked and let go. Mix a handful of grout and spread it with your finger and wipe it clean with a slightly damp tshirt. Waterproof and beautiful in 24 hours! YES you have to do it every year or two... but I will walk you through the alternative... RECAULKING.

Caulk does not stick to caulk. Never has, never will. ESPECIALLY not silicone. ONLY put 100% silicone in the shower. No additives, no paintability, and not even the stuff at the big box store that says bath and shower. Read the label!

Next get all the old caulk out. ALL OF IT. This job sucks. Its you, a screwdriver, a razor blade, some tunes, and at least 2 hours.

Take your time... and many breaks too! Go outside every 20 minutes... 'cause this job sucks... Carefully scrape at the caulk at an angle where the old caulk comes free, and you dont scratch the wall or the base.

On this job, there was 3 additional layers of different types of caulking over the years. The walls are solid surface (think Corian) and the shower pan is fiberglass. The original layer was 100% siliconce done professionally. Next was a product similar to this one... which has NO silicone... Its grout glue. Next layer was a silicone with mold additive... notice the mold. It took about two hours, but its clean.

Next with a bunch of papertowels... clean the area with acetone. Then clean it again. Acetone works on everything except some plastics. Test a small area... and if the papertowel sticks... DON'T use acetone... use mineral spirits.

Now we are ready. Even for a novice... this will take only a few minutes. Its all about the tools here. Get some silicone spray. Got to get it online cause its a professional secret. So if you have been doing this as you are reading, this next step will take 7 to 10 business days for shipping... Get a garden hose, hula hoop and a kiddy pool and you can bathe in the basement while you wait for the spray to arrive (pictures of this forthcoming.)

This is the stuff I use, Caulk-EZ, and it looks like LOWES might have a similar product by GE, although I have never tried this stuff. This spray is what makes the shaping tool work. Mine is a smaller one made for doing marble countertops, and I can't find where to get a similar one.

Guess you have to be a contractor for 20 years to get that bad dog!

Moving on... With LOTS of papertowels handy, spread on a bead of caulk. Make sure it is not too heavy... you won't need a lot. Do one wall at a time.

Next spray the caulk tooling spray over the caulk, but not too much so it runs.

Next run the tool over the corner to get the best look you are going for... the less the better. If you took off too much, just add some more on top and do it again. You have about 2 minutes of workability before it starts to set up.

Let it dry for at least 24 hours... and you are good!

Call for a free estimate to have your caulk re-done if you live in Mokena, Lisle, Lemont or in the Chicago area. Call 708-479-4570 or visit for more information!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Basement Insulation Tips

Being below grade, your basement is probably the most efficient to heat and cool room of your house. The earth makes a great insulator, and you really don't need to insulate the walls of your basement if it was not for the problem of moisture. It is best to keep the walls of your basement at least 1 to 2 inches away from the foundation. Insulation will wick up any moisture or condensation that may occur on or near the foundation. It is best to use properly installed R11 or R13 PAPER FACED insulation, making sure it fits snugly, but not too tightly between the stud pockets, Making sure that the back of the insulation does not touch the foundation. This is code in most towns in the Chicagoland area. The air gap between the walls and the foundation allows for some circulation of air, and keeps the insulation and the drywall free from mold and mildew. If the wall needs to be built closer to the foundation, i.e. if there is a tight fit around a staircase, use rigid foam insulation cut fairly precicely to fit into the stud pocket. Some types of the rigid panels can be places directly up against the foundation, as they do not provide a medium that would grow mold.

The vapor barior that the paper backing is the only real important part of the insulation system in a basement. It allows the walls to breath moisture back and forth through the insulation and drywall, where plastic would not. Plastic should never be used in the walls because it traps water in the walls and facilitates mold growth.

Call for a free estimate if you live in Bolingbrook, IL. or in the Chicago area. Call 708-479-4570 or visit for more information!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Your pump will fail

Unfortunately its not a matter of if, but when your sump pump, ejector pump, backup pump or any of their switches will jam or fail. There are a few easy things to do to prevent this from happening. First, make sure your pit is clean. Debris from the building of the house can eventually damage the impellor and cause the pump to jam and short out. Second, make sure nothing else is plugged into the pump, and the pump is on a dedicated 20amp circuit.

I have two separate pumps in my pit, and a backup, and each is on a dedicated 20amp circuit. I had a customer that lived by the river with three pits, and three circuits, but the plumber accidentally plugged two of the pumps into the same circuit and when both kicked on at the same time it blew the circuit and flooded the basement. I also had a customer who heard the sump pump running in the basement and assumed all was well. The sump pump switch had stuck, and what they were hearing was the ejector pump running as the basement floor had flooded and was draining into the floor drain on the other side of the basement. They were home at the time, and it was flooding for at least 8 hours.

The very minimum option is to buy a floor water sensor with piercing alarm for $11 at Home Depot, with a detatchable sensor that you can dangle 6 to 12 inches into the pit, and buying you time to fix the problem before the water table overflows onto the basement floor.

A battery backup pump system will work, but assume the power is out for more than 8 hours, the battery will die, and then the basement will flood.

A great additional option is to add a alarm with phone dialer. For as little as $70 The ControlProducts WaterAlarm Plus comes with one sensor that will dial a phone number if it detects water.

The better system is one like the Skylink emergency dialer. The dialer unit can be purchased for as little as $80 and can have up to 16 wireless
alarm accessories added.

You can put one by the hot water heater, under sinks, by the washing machine, and by the sump pump and the dialer will dial up to 9 phone numbers and stores a 40 second message. You can even add door, smoke, and motion sensors to it as well to use as an burglar alarm system without the need for a monitoring contract. It is all wireless with lithium battery back up, and low level battery warning, and is a great solution for vacationing worries, especially during a wet chicago spring!

Call for a free estimate if you live in New Lenox, IL. or in the Chicago area. We can install sump pump battery back up systems and water alarms, and even finish your basement! 708-479-4570 Visit for more information!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Steel vs. Wood Stud Framing

There are definitely positive and negatives to both framing with wood or steel.

Steel can be cheaper, and is straight as an arrow. It is lighter, but residential grade steel studs are very flimsy and can have that office tinny feel. The higher gauge studs are more sturdy, but are more expensive, heavier, and can not be purchased at a big box store.

An experienced commercial framer can tackle a steel basement with little difficulty, but it can be a very frustrating experience for the faint of heart. Steel, if lined up properly, allows conduit to pass through the pre-stamped holes through the studs, which is a time saver. Special small steel stud screws must be used to fasten the studs to the track, and to fasten the drywall to the studs. Wood must be placed in the door jams, because there is nothing more frustrating than hanging a door with using only screws. Also wood framing must be added if cabinets or vanities, or plumbing fixtures are going to be hung, because steel is not strong enough to hold these things securely for the inexperienced.

Soffits can also be more difficult to manufacture out of steel, but they are light, and very straight. Cornerbead must be done with spray adhesive, or the mud adhering type, and baseboards and trim must be screwed in place with special small square headed screws.

Steel studs can be cut with a metal sawblade, or the lighter gauge residential studs can be cut with metal snips. Framing long walls goes quickly, and if that is the majority of the job, it goes quickly. Unfortunately there are usually many angled, lowered, and other more difficult types of walls to be constructed in a typical basement.

Nothing can beat the fire resistance and mold and mildew resistance of steel. Also nothing can beat the amount of damage a sharp stud can do to the human hand.

If you are going to build round walls or soffits, flexible steel track with wood studs is the way to go for residential basements.

Call for a free estimate if you live in Frankfort, IL. or in the Chicago area.
708-479-4570 Visit for more information!

Firestopping Before You Build

Basement fire stopping codes are new in some areas, but not for long. It is easiest to fire stop the basement before you do any framing or electrical. Since basement walls are not load-bearing, there is no continuous framing between the walls and the ceiling. Any fire (most likely electrical) would easily spread between and behind the walls and ceiling and up to the first floor.

Before building the walls, drywall the area on the ceiling between the ceiling joists to the rim plate about 1 inch behind where the wall will be framed. they are usually about 5 inches wide and cut them to 4 feet long.

Screw them to the ceiling framing, and use fire caulk to seal the crack between the drywall and the foundation. Tape and mud the drywall seams, and around exposed electrical conduit. When you build the walls, this forms a fire barrier between the ceilings and the walls, and also isolates the area behind the wall.

Soffits are a little trickier. These have to be isolated from the space behind the wall pocket, behind the wall and inside the soffit. Blocking (drywall) can be installed horizontally behind the soffit opening to the foundation, and then solid blocking (wood) can be installed between each stud. Any gaps can then be caulked with fire caulking or mudded and taped. Keep in mind that you want to have no air spaces between direction changes (walls to ceiling, walls to soffits, etc.) Soffits are considered part of the ceiling and only have to be isolated from the walls.

Beams, stairwells and columns also have to be isolated from direction changes, and this can be done with gluing tightly cut drywall into the space and then fire caulked. Smaller spaces can be filled with fire barrier, which is non-flammable and is easy to rip and jam into spaces too big for caulk and too small for drywall.

The bottom of stairwells needs to be drywalled and taped as well, even in unfinished storage spaces, to keep fire from spreading through the basement stairs to the first floor.

These steps are easier to do before the walls are up, and before the inspector comes to do the rough inspection, if you missed the fire code specifications on your permit.

A good basement finisher should know all these codes and should be able to do this step quickly. It may seem like over kill, but properly installed fire stops can starve a fire, and it could go out, or it may give the homeowner enough time to evacuate the house if the fire should be big enough to burn through to the next area. Forty-five extra minutes might not seem like a lot, but it is when it comes to the safety of your family.

Call for a free estimate if you live in Naperville, IL. or in the Chicago area. 708-479-4570 Visit for more information!

Framing Basement Walls: Moisture

Typically you build the walls for a basement right on top of the cement floor. There is usually moisture inherant with locations below grade. Even with a vapor barrier under the cement floor, it is damp. There are a couple of key things to do to minimize the problems that come with these conditions. First, pressure treated lumber must be used anywhere that the wood comes into contact with the cement. This will minimize rotting that is caused by mold and mildew that could grow in untreated wood. Metal studs could be used instead of wood, but there are more negatives than positives when framing with metal over wood in a basement.

It also is a must to leave at least a 1 inch gap between the framed walls and the foundation. This allows for there to be air circulation behind the walls, and it keeps moisture from wicking into the wood and insulation from the foundation.

Once the basement is finished, it is a good idea to run a higher-end dehumidier with a moisture sensor and drain next to the furnace. This keeps the mositure in the house and basement in comfortable levels, and can help cut down on extra moisture that would facilitate mold growth and the musty/mildew smell.

Call for a free estimate if you live in Orland Park, IL. or in the Chicago area. 708-479-4570 Visit for more information!