Saturday, December 29, 2007

Drywall Texturing Made Easy

Most DIY homeowners can follow instructions for framing a wall. When it comes to hanging the drywall - no problem. Taping and floating drywall is a breeze after a bit of practice. Everyone can paint a finished wall or ceiling (although most find it tedious).

The one step that can be intimidating is drywall texturing. It need not be so! When terms like "crow's foot brush", "stomp", "orange peel", and "California knockdown" are bandied about, the process sounds a bit exotic.

Taking the Mystery out Texturing

Actually, texturing drywall can be as simple and inexpensive as you make it. There's no real reason to rent a compressor and hopper or buy expensive texture additives. There are simple texturing techniques using just a paint roller, pan, and drywall compound.

But my favorite method involves a texture knockdown tool that I made about ten years ago. It only took about twenty minutes to brainstorm, a few bucks spent, and an hour to build. Since it's a custom tool, the resulting texture pattern is unique.

In the years since, the end results have been remarked favorably on by customer after customer !

Why Texture at All?

Why indeed? There are several reasons. First, residential wood framing is not perfect. Some studs are bound to be slightly warped. Unfortunately, what seemed a minor defect initially becomes a major eyesore later.

Do you have the time or inclination to float and sand a dozen times? No, I didn't think so!

The next reason involves your choice of paint. If you plan to use a gloss, semi-gloss, or satin sheen paint, any imperfections are visually amplified. A texture will make them unnoticeable.

Finally, a creative texture adds character to any wall or ceiling. Subdivisions may be awash in cookie-cutter homes and your homeowners association may veto external modifications, but you can still make the interior scream, "Hey, this is my house, and I've got style!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flooring - Laminate or Hardwood

It's no wonder that floors are right up there in the top ten when homeowners are ready for a bit of a remodel on the old homestead. Not surprisingly, one question I often get from my DIY readers at Suite101 is, "Which is a better way to go, traditional hardwood flooring or laminate flooring?"

Well, in a nutshell the answer is, "It depends". Not trying to be vague here, but it depends on a number of factors. Both hardwood floors and laminate floors have their pros and cons. Let's look at a few of them...

Hardwood Flooring, Pros
  • Installing hardwood flooring. Installing tongue and groove planks is a bit easier than laminate because because you only have to deal with mating up on the long side.
  • Maintenance. Unlike laminate planks, you can wet-mop properly-sealed hardwood to your heart's content.

Hardwood Flooring, Cons
  • Finishing hardwood flooring. Unless you go with the more costly prefinished planks, you will have to sand, perhaps stain, and apply a finish. This significantly adds to the cost and labor. If you're looking for a weekend DIY project, you'll be disappointed.
  • Cost. Prepare to pay more for material. This wood is the real thing.
  • Maintenance. Caring for hardwood floors is straightforward. Although not mandatory, hardwood looks better with a periodic waxing.

Laminate Flooring, Pros
  • Installing laminate flooring. On the bright side, laminate weighs next to nothing. Moving it around will not leave you sore the next day.
  • Maintaining laminate flooring. The prefinished laminate planks are very tough and scratch resistant. As a matter of fact, it's not recommended to wax them.
  • Cost. Laminate is cheaper than hardwood. It's cheaper to produce and since competition is fierce, there's always a sale somewhere.

Laminate Flooring, Cons
  • Installing laminate flooring. As I found out, installation is a bit trickier than the instructions let on. Especially when trying to snap long runs into place. It had me talking dirty on more than one occasion. Two person installation and laminate installation tips are recommended.
  • Maintenance. Since the mating joints aren't sealed, you should never wet-mop laminate or use cleaners of any kind. You can only damp-mop it. And never spill liquids on it. Not recommended for a bathroom or kitchen.

As you can see, the choice boils down to preference and how the floor will be used. Choose wisely, new flooring is an investment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Concrete Kitchen Countertops

Over on my DIY home improvement site I wrote an article on building concrete kitchen countertops. The first time I heard about concrete countertops, I let out a mystified, "Huh?" Of course the picture in my head was something like those concrete picnic tables in a public park. You know, the ones with ketchup stains and juvenile graffiti.

Boy, was I wrong. The ones on the market today are very impressive. They rival granite countertops when it comes to looks. They come in stone looking patterns, solid colors, and even new age art (for lack of a better term).

They aren't without their drawbacks though. You have to be careful not to cut on them directly or set hot objects on them. Oh, the concrete is durable enough; it's the sealer finish that damages easily. But I see the day when someone develops a better finish. Then, I'm betting that concrete countertops will really take off.

I'd like to make one myself but I think it would be a good idea to start with a smaller DIY project first. Maybe a coffee table top. From all I have read, these aren't the easiest things to get just right the first time.

What I'd really like is 3/4 concrete countertop and 1/4 butcher block countertop. Now that would be mighty fine.