Sunday, February 24, 2008

prepping a basement for paint

So one of the reasons that I started this blog was to share sometimes hard-to-find information on doing home improvement projects. Strangely, I found it pretty hard to find information on how to prepare concrete basement walls for paint.

The project at hand is to paint the concrete walls of the basement of our 1924 home. In the past there has been a fair amount of water seeping through one of the walls. After improving drainage on the exterior of the home, we think we have the leakage problem solved.

But there is still a lot of peeled paint and efflorescence on our East facing wall. The rest of the basement walls have paint that has held up pretty well and I imagine that we'll be able to paint over that. But we need to somehow prepare the flaky surfaces for primer/paint.

This article from the New York Times seems to outline the necessary steps pretty well. I also found some good tips in this book, "House Painting, Inside and Out."

Based on these sources, here's what I'm planning on doing:
  • use Peel Away paint stripper to remove all old paint around the flaky areas; this paint remover is supposed to be especially useful for safely removing lead paint, which we might have in the basement
  • brush off excess concrete
  • treat concrete with muriatic acid (etching)
  • prime/seal it
  • paint it

Monday, February 18, 2008

demolition days

As we've been clearing out our basement and doing some demolition of our own, our neighbors across the street are having their house "deconstructed" by the Rebuilding Center. Good entertainment for the neighbors, if nothing else.

At this point, the chimney stack and the stairway are about all that's left of the first floor.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Craftsman Style Cedar Fence

I copied this craftsman style cedar fence from one similar to it in my neighborhood. I created four sections of it: two six foot high sections that serve to enclose our backyard and two three and a half foot sections to visually block a trash area. Photos in various sizes are available on Flickr.

The fence is composed of:
  • 4X4 cedar posts
  • 1X cedar boards for the vertical slats
  • 2X4 cedar for the three horizontal pieces
  • 3/4"x3/4" trim pieces to attach the slats to the 2X4s on either side
There is a basic pattern for the main fence sections and a separate pattern for the gate.

The first step to making this fence is putting in posts:

I used a technique for setting the posts that I found on the Prowell Woodworks website. Basicallly, you set the post bottom on a few inches of gravel and use pea gravel around the post for the first two-thirds of the hole. This makes it much easier to plumb the post (instead of using stakes). The posts that are meant to hold up the gate are set in full concrete.

I set the posts with plenty of extra length on top so that I could cut it off as needed. I think that I used 10 foot posts for the short posts and 12 foot for the long posts, putting them about 3ft in the ground.

In compliance with local regulations, the fence is exactly 6' tall, with the gap in the top section about 1', and the remainder of the height in the bottom section. The arbor and the post caps poke up above 6'.

The main fence panels are created by cutting and attaching 2X4s to the posts. I used stainless steel screws for this to prevent bleeding when the cedar got wet.

I made the top two horizontal pieces level and let the bottom one follow the contour of the ground, with an inch and a half or so of clearance.

To put in the panels, I measured and cut one side (top and bottom) of the 3/4" trim piece and finish nailed it to the 2X4s with stainless steel nails. Then it was time to install the vertical slats. The slats had to be ripped, and then cross cut to size, one by one, and this was time consuming. They were then nailed diagonally into the trim piece and down into the 2X4 below or above.

The basic pattern of the slats was one 1X6, a 1/2" space, and a 1 7/8" slat (the approximate width of a 1X6 ripped into 3 pieces), then a 1/2 inch space. Before starting a small section, I planned on starting and ending on a wide piece and figured how much I needed to cut off the first and last piece (waiting to cut the last piece until I got there).

The top section was assembled just like the bottom one. The slats are all the same width as the narrow ones on the bottom and go directly above the narrow ones on the bottom and centered above the wide slats on the bottom.

When it came to the gate, that's when things got interesting. It took me quite awhile to figure out how the gate was done on the other fence in the neighborhood that I copied. The gate is framed on three sides (top, left and right) with 2X4 ripped so that it is just 21/2"wide instead of 31/2" wide. This is thick enough to hold 2X4 cross pieces plus the slats so they are flush. The top horizontal piece is the full width of the gate, the verticals are attached to it with stainless steel screws set from the top.

The first step in gate assembly was to create that frame. Then I installed the 2X4 support pieces by screwing them in from the sides. Then it was time to flip it over and nail the slats in the bottom section onto the 2X4s with wide head, flat nails. The top gate section is assembled like the main sections, but using mini, 1/2" wide trim pieces.

Regarding gate width: one of my gate openings was 31/2', the other 3'. I recommend leaving about 1/4" gap on either side of the gate (so make the gate 1/2" shorter than gap). Initially, I only left 1/8" on either side and there was enough sag that the gate wouldn't close. I used fairly standard steel hinges pre-painted black. These were hard to find for some reason--I had to go to a hardware store geared towards contractors. I actually mortised out the hinges with a router so that I could make the gap a little wider. This seemed like overkill, but it made the gate easier to install.

The arbors were a nice touch. They helped stabilize the gate and make for a nice gateway. I made one arbor that encompassed just the fence itself and another that used two additional support posts. I used 2X10s for the wide pieces and 2X4s on top. I sawed the ends of the top cross pieces at about a 5 degree angle or so so that they are slightly longer on top. I assembled everything with screws.

The fence sections around the garbage cans just eliminated the top section and were cut to be about 3 1/2' high.

To preserve the rich color of the cedar, I sanded the smooth surfaces of the fence, brushed the rough surfaces (one side of the slats), and applied 3 coats of Sikkens Cetol 1 in the natural color. The color is a little on the orange side, but looks like wet cedar. I might try natural light if I had to do it again. Painting the fence is a pain in the rear, but it does look sharp afterwards.