Category: Walls & Ceilings


Quick Tip: Trim Protection Tape

True to its name, trim protection tape keeps woodwork from being damaged in the course of remodeling. Here's what to know about it.

Protecting woodwork before you paint (or do other work) around it will save you time and money later. Trim protection tape comes in a variety of widths for any trim detail, from moldings to banisters. Look for a product that’s easy to use, will stick solidly to surfaces for as long as your project lasts, and won’t leave a sticky residue when it’s removed.

For more on trim and molding, consider:

How To: Paint Trim
Quick Tip: Installing Crown Molding
Get Trim! 9 Ways to Dress Up a Room with Molding


Bob Vila Radio: Plaster Wall Cutouts

It can be somewhat complicated to create plaster wall cutouts for light switches, electrical outlets, or recessed shelves, but following these simple steps can help you get the job done with minimal fuss.

It’s pretty straightforward to cut a hole in drywall to add a light switch, electrical outlet, or even a recessed shelf or niche. If your walls are made out of old plaster, the job is a little bit more complicated, but you can still do it yourself if you take proper precautions and have the right tools.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PLASTER WALL CUTOUTS or read the text below:

Plaster Wall Cutouts

Photo: how2plaster.com

The tricky part is that old plaster doesn’t necessarily want to come down in straight lines, and unless you’re gutting the whole room, you probably want a sharp outline between the plaster you’re removing and the wall you’re leaving up. So how can you get clean cuts in plaster?

One way is to pencil in your cutout first, then score the plaster surface with a utility knife or a rotary tool, penetrating a quarter-inch or so. Once you have a clean line scored all around the area you want to cut, use a reciprocating saw to cut along the line and take out both the plaster and underlying lath at once. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t force the blade.

Remember, wear a respirator mask, safety goggles, and thick work gloves. And if the plaster does crumble in a spot or two and create a jagged edge in your straight line, don’t worry—you can fill in small irregularities with drywall compound.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


What Would Bob Do? Preventing Window Condensation

Does water condense on the inside of your windows all winter long? If so, try a few of these moisture-controlling solutions.

Window Condensation

Photo: shutterstock.com

It’s winter and I keep getting condensation on the inside of my windows. What’s the solution?

When moist, warm air makes contact with a window—typically the coolest surface in a given space (at least during the winter)—condensation forms. That’s because cool air cannot hold as much water vapor as warm air. If window condensation drives you crazy throughout the winter, I can recommend any number of solutions, most of which are geared toward lowering the relative humidity in your home. One or a combination of the actions listed below should do the trick. It may be worth it for you to purchase a hygrometer, an instrument that measures relative humidity, to assist you in your efforts to reduce household moisture.

• Operate room humidifiers strictly on an as-needed basis. If you are running a whole-house humidifier, reduce its output, then wait a day to see what happens. If the problem persists, turn the humidifier down even further. (It is usually necessary to do this only when outdoor temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.)

• Run the bathroom exhaust fan while you’re showering and the range hood exhaust fan while you’re cooking. Leave fans running for 10 or 15 minutes after either activity. Double-check that both of these fans—and indeed all the exhaust systems in your home—ventilate to the outdoors and not to the basement, attic, or garage.

• Inspect the entirety of your home—including the basement, roof, and plumbing—for evidence of leaks, because they can have a significant impact on relative humidity.

• If you’re in the habit of drying your laundry on racks indoors, try suspending the practice to see whether that prevents window condensation from forming.

• Avoid indoor storage of freshly cut, nonseasoned firewood, because it contains a high degree of moisture.

• Pull back window treatments so the heated air in your home can raise the temperature of the window glass, thereby reducing the likelihood of condensation.

Install storm windows, which can raise the temperature on the surface of your interior windows, keeping them from reaching the point at which water condenses.

In addition to high relative humidity, insufficient household ventilation can also cause window condensation. If you live in a climate with cold winters and your home is very tightly sealed—and if there are more than a few inhabitants, each of whom adds moisture to the home every day—consider a heat recovery ventilation system. This type of system controls the introduction of fresh air from the outdoors and the expulsion of stale, overly moist air from within.


Quick Tip: No-Coat Drywall Corners

Installing drywall corner bead makes quicker, easier work of what can be a time-consuming and often tricky process. Here's how it's done.

If you’ve ever done drywall work, you know the corners are the really tricky part. These no-coat drywall corners are ready-made of high-impact plastic backed with joint tape for an easy, tight bond with mud. Shove the corner into a bed of mud—no need for screws or nails. Feather the edges with compound, and you’re done.

For more on drywall, consider:

Drywall vs. Blueboard
Quick Tip: Taping Drywall Joints
How To: Finish Seamless Drywall


Quick Tip: Ornamental Plaster Reproductions

With ornamental plaster reproductions, homeowners can replace damaged historic detailing or grace new construction with a charming addition, rich in history.

The lost art of Victorian plaster detailing is making a comeback in a new form. Modern manufacturers are finding ways to reproduce cornice moldings, brackets, rosettes and ceiling medallions, using lightweight polymers. Less prone to damage than plaster, polymer details are flexible, paintable, and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

For more on trim and molding, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Plaster
How To: Patch Plaster Walls
Plaster Cornice Reconstruction (VIDEO)


Quick Tip: Taping Drywall Joints

Taping drywall is the most important—and often the trickiest—step in the installation process. Follow these guidelines to render the seam between panels all but invisible.

Here’s a helpful tip for getting really smooth drywall seam. After you’ve laid the tape in a four-inch bed of joint compound, apply another thin coat of compound with a six-inch knife. Let it dry overnight, then add another coat with a ten-inch trowel. Feather the edges out with the knife. Smooth it out again with the ten-inch trowel and let it dry. Apply your third coat the same way, this time with a 12-inch trowel. Increase the size of your trowel with each coat, and you’ll be sure to get an invisible seam every time.

For more on drywall, consider:

Seamless Drywall Finishing
Quick Tip: Installing Drywall
How To: Finish Drywall Joints


How To: Texture Walls

Raise visual interest in your home by raising the texture of your walls. It’s a fun DIY project that allows your creativity to really come through.

How to Texture Walls

Photo: shutterstock.com

When you texture the walls of your house, you accomplish two things. First, you transform boring-to-look-at surfaces into pitted, peaked, and otherwise visually appealing objects of interest. Second, you are able to hide any imperfections that may exist on the wall, which saves the trouble of making a dozen little repairs.

Related: 5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas

There is an almost endless number of techniques for texturing walls—the process is as much an art form as it is a popular home improvement job. To learn more about several of the most common approaches, we contacted texture and design specialist Larry Oliver, owner of Westchester, New York-based Lawrence Oliver Painting.

Drywall Mud
An easy way to texture walls is by simulating a stucco finish. According to Oliver, this virtually fail-safe method often yields satisfying results for average do-it-yourselfers. “Apply taping or joint compound to your wall with a trowel or a wide compound knife,” he explains. “Next, dab a sponge into the compound, then press the sponge against the wall repeatedly to create an overall texture. Dab on additional compound as necessary. Let dry and then paint.”

Joint taping compound, also known as drywall mud, can be purchased at any home improvement store. When using compound to texture walls, first make sure the walls are clean and completely dry. Water down the compound slightly prior to application so that it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. One thing homeowners like about working with compound is that if you apply too much or incorrectly position it, you can simply wipe away the mistake and begin again.

Another way to use joint compound to texture walls is to apply it by means of a notched trowel (the kind used to skim-coat a plaster wall) or a squeegee into which you’ve cut a series of indentations. Use either tool to make a line pattern across the breadth of the wall surface. Work in one direction first, then go in the perpendicular direction, spreading the mud in such a way as to form a crosshatched pattern, one that looks the way some woven fabrics do when seen up close.

To achieve the popular “skip trowel” wall texture, a knife is angled during compound application to create a pleasingly uneven surface. Don’t be fooled: You need a steady hand to pull this off. That’s why Oliver suggests a different approach for DIYers: the knockdown method. “Use taping compound and a sea-sponge roller. Roll the compound onto your wall with about 80 percent coverage. Before the compound dries, lightly smooth the higher areas with a knife.”

In the stomp-knockdown technique, a variation of the above, a special brush is smacked repeatedly against a compound-covered wall. Some of the mud pulls away from the wall with each strike. Before the compound starts to dry, the installer follows up with a knife or paint scraper in order to eliminate unwanted peaks.

Oliver says that if you’ve chosen to apply taping compound with either the knockdown or stomp-knockdown method, it’s important that you wield the putty knife at the correct angle (approximately 15 degrees) and not exert too much pressure. “The slight angle and light pressure ensure that you do not smooth out your finish too much.” Oliver then cautions, “Always remember not to be heavy-handed in the corners and edges—that’s a common mistake made among DIYers.”

Other tools that may be employed to apply joint compound include tissue paper, old rags, and specially designed deep-nap rollers. In addition, you can also try rolling on the compound with a standard paint roller before artfully removing some of the material you have added. Because compound has a forgiving nature, feel free to experiment with whichever technique you find the most promising. In all cases, let the compound dry thoroughly before you proceed to paint. Depending on local humidity, drying may take as long as 24 hours. To speed the process, aim a fan toward the wall surface on which you have been working.

How to Texture Walls - Blue

Photo: shutterstock.com

Paint
Many of the major paint manufacturers offer a line of textured paints. Such products work similarly to drywall mud, but because they are comparatively more difficult to remove, they require greater precision.

For example, when using textured paint, you must work quickly to cover the entire surface before the coat dries. If one area dries before you’ve covered the next, rigid lines may appear at their intersection.

Related: How To: Paint EVERYTHING 

That said, textured paint goes on simply with a standard paint roller and a brush to cut in at edges and corners. Two coats are typically needed, one for the base and another as the finishing layer.

Because textured paints are available in only a limited range of hues, you may wish to pursue a different option—namely, a paint texture additive, which can be mixed with any color of regular paint you like.

Machines
If you wish to texture a very large wall or the walls in several rooms, consider renting a drywall texture sprayer. Powered by compressed air and featuring a gun-like nozzle, a sprayer speedily covers surfaces in joint compound, producing, among a variety of other looks, the currently passé “popcorn” texture.

The pattern a sprayer creates depends on three variables: the type of compound used, the nozzle selected, and the amount of air that is propelling the mud. There’s no harm in experimenting, as the compound can be easily sponged off if you end up with a texture that is not to your liking.

Be advised that if you decide to employ a sprayer in a home decked out with furnishings and finished floors, it’s essential to cover anything that you don’t want hit by mud.

No matter the technique you opt to use, Oliver offers one final recommendation: “When texturing walls, try not to be too repetitive, making the same shape over and over like chicken tracks,” he says. “To create a more professional finish, keep the textured pattern random.” This should come as a relief to many DIYers, because intricate patterning is harder to accomplish than random texturing. So give it a shot, and have fun!


What Would Bob Do? Dealing with Bulging Drywall Seams

Bulging drywall seams have a number of possible causes. Read on for the likely culprits and the most effective solutions.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Many of the drywall seams on my 40-year-old house are bulging. It doesn’t appear as if the joint tape is pulling away from the seams, because when I tried to remove some of the tape, it was extremely difficult. Also, the drywall appears to be pretty firmly attached. When I press on both sides of the seam, the drywall doesn’t move. Could it be that the seams have always looked this way? Could this just be the result of a poor spackling job when the  joint tape and compound were applied in the first place? What should I do to make these seams less visible?

With the drywall firmly attached, as you say it is, I can think of only three situations in which the seams would bulge, sag, or buckle.

Sometimes, drywall seams become visible when a house has undergone considerable settling. But unless your geographical area has had unusually dry or wet conditions in recent years, structural problems are probably not at play in your 40-year-old home. If, however, you notice any other signs of settling—cracks in the foundation, torn drywall joints, or gaps either along the baseboards or at the point where walls meet ceilings—hire a foundation expert to do an inspection.

Related: Drywall vs. Blueboard Explained (VIDEO)

The more likely culprit is the manner in which your drywall was installed. For the seam between drywall panels to disappear after painting, that joint must be covered with compound in a specific way—in a series of layers, with each layer wider than the last. Additionally, each layer needs to dry—and, in some cases, should be sanded—before the next layer goes on. For tradesmen, it’s a time-consuming process, one that often requires repeat visits to the job site. That being the case, it’s not uncommon for a contractor to use fewer layers than would be ideal, leaving the drywall seam insufficiently feathered to the adjacent surfaces. Or, an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer may have done the work, in the process making some common mistakes without knowing the error of his ways.

Here’s yet another possible cause: When drywall sheets with uncut edges are butted together, a depression forms along the line where they join. That depression is meant to accommodate joint compound and drywall tape. Trouble arises only when installers opt to use cut drywall: Because the edges of these sheets aren’t tapered, there’s no depression when they’re paired. As a result, the joint compound and drywall tape are applied over the plane of the drywall surface, resulting in a buildup that looks very much like a bulge. Again, the explanation is that either a pro did the work and chose to cut corners, or a DIYer did so unwittingly.

No matter the cause, the solution to bulging drywall seams is almost always the same: Call in a contractor to apply a skim coat of compound over the entire wall. That coat fills in the recessed areas, creating a flat-looking surface. This isn’t a job for the average person to do over the weekend; it’s specialized work that requires a trained hand. If you’d rather not spend the money, consider repainting the affected walls in a flat paint, as sheens make it easier to spot imperfections.


Bob Vila Radio: Glass Block

If you want to let light in while maintaining privacy, look no further than the glass block. It enjoys many applications, from flooring to shower stalls to skylights— and here are a few reasons why it just might be right for your home.

Glass block has been used as a building material for more than a century, but it experienced a big surge of popularity in the 1930s and ’40s. That was when technological advancements made the blocks more durable and easier to install. Its use has risen and fallen over the years, but glass block continues to be valued for its strength and its unique ability to let in natural light while maintaining privacy.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GLASS BLOCK or read the text below:

Glass Block

Photo: shutterstock.com

Some of glass block’s other selling points? It’s a far better insulator single-paned glass. Glass block is also easy to clean, it resists fire and impact, and it’s secure against break-ins. If correctly installed, it is long lasting and can be less expensive than traditional windows.

These features explain many of the common applications for glass block, which include basement windows, non-load-bearing walls, skylights and partitions. Its translucence and easy care make it ideal for shower stalls. And glass block flooring is a great way to bring light to rooms below. Outdoors, it can be used for walls or wall accents, bars, deck features—wherever you need to add light or drama. And the good news is that glass block is an accessible material for a competent DIYer who wants to let in some light.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Install a Tongue-and-Groove Ceiling

For a traditional look either indoors or out on the porch, why not install a tongue-and-groove ceiling? Follow these simple guidelines to achieve pro-quality results.

Here’s a way to install a tongue-and-groove ceiling without damaging the wood. Set a board in place. Then with a scrap piece of tongue-and-groove stock as a block, give the board a firm tap. This forces the tongue tightly into the groove. Using finish nails, secure the backboard in place. All the tongues remain intact and undamaged if you use a block.

For more on ceilings, consider:

5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas
Top Tips for Installing Tongue-and-Groove Paneling
From Finland with Loves: Notes on Installing a Wood Ceiling