Category: Walls & Ceilings


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


How To: Find Studs

It's easier than you thought to find studs. Here's the skinny on the three most common—and most effective—methods.

Whether you’re hanging shelves or breaking through a wall, you’ve got to know where to find the wall studs. There are three ways to find studs. One, sound it out. You should hear a solid thump when you hit a stud. Two, look for nails along the baseboard. They’re usually driven at stud intervals. And three, use a magnetic finding device. It will zero in on the nails or screws that fix the wall to the stud.

For more on walls, consider:

Quick Tip: Using Metal Studs
Bob Vila Radio: Locating Studs
How To: Identify a Load-Bearing Wall


How To: Repair Plaster Walls

Find out how easy it can be to repair plaster walls, without having to pay for the services of a contractor.

If you have an old house with holes in the plaster, here’s a quick way to patch them. Apply your base coat (or brown coat) of rough plaster with a small trowel. If there’s no existing wire mesh, make sure you staple some on first for support. Smooth the plaster out with a large trowel and let the rough coat set for one to two hours, depending on the humidity. Then apply a finishing coat of premixed joint compound. Let it dry overnight and with a 12-inch knife, apply your final skim coat.

For more on plaster, consider:

Patching Plaster Walls
How To: Rebuild a Wall with Three-Coat Plaster
Blueboard and Veneer Plaster Offer Old-Style Look


Quick Tip: Using Reclaimed Brick

With reclaimed brick, remodelers can match new repair work to the original portions of an existing installation.

In a restoration project, reusing the original brick is a great idea. Water damage and neglect can destroy the mortar in a brick wall. For repairs, reuse your original bricks with new mortar to strengthen and rebuild the wall. Use tinted mortar to match the original foundation. Recycled bricks create a new wall without sacrificing a historic look.

For more on walls, consider:

How To: Lay Brick
Repointing Brick Walls
Brick Basics: Maintenance, Care, and Cleaning


Add Visual Interest with Board and Batten

Historically associated with Arts and Crafts architecture, the three-dimensional appeal of board and batten is finding renewed popularity in both exterior and interior applications.

Board and Batten

Photo: jeremykohm.com

A striking dimensional finishing treatment, board and batten, is enjoying renewed popularity, with homeowners installing it both on the exterior and indoors. Historically a staple of Arts and Crafts architecture, board and batten originated as a form of house siding. The term “batten” refers to the strip of molding placed across the joint between boards. The resulting look boasts an attractive geometry: strong vertical lines balanced by a sense of texture across the horizontal.

As an exterior cladding, board and batten manages to impart a rustic, handmade quality even to new homes built in unmistakably contemporary styles. Within the home, board and batten commonly appears in mudrooms and hallways, bedrooms and dining areas, adding charm to otherwise bland expanses of drywall or plaster. Many traditional designs for non-permanent elements of the home—shutters, for example, or cabinet doors—also feature board-and-batten construction.

Board and Batten - Exterior

Photo: historicalconcepts.com

For the average do-it-yourselfer, installing board and batten lies well within reach, especially since home centers and hardware stores often sell pre-measured kits that make it a breeze. If you are planning a project either on the exterior or interior, here are a few hard-earned tips to help you achieve a professional-level result:

Exterior Installation Tips:

• Before you begin the work of installation, paint or stain the boards and battens, and don’t forget to apply a sealer, protecting the wood from the weather.

• Start by cutting the boards, typically to width between one and four feet. Leave a 1/4- or 1/2-inch gap between the boards to allow for seasonal expansion.

• Center the one- or two-inch-wide battens over the joints between the boards. Nail through the battens so that the fasteners drive into the expansion gaps.

• Buy or build enough battens to use as trim pieces that finish off the top and bottom edges of your installation, as well as its sides or corners.

Board and Batten - Staircase

Photo: goodarchitecture.com

Interior Installation Tips:

• Depending on height, interior installations typically run between baseboard and chair or plate railing.

• Paint or stain the board and battens prior to installation just as you would do on the home exterior.

• A simple approach is to use plywood panel boards, roughly four feet wide by four- or six-feet tall.

• In the course of installing the boards, always retain a 1/4- or 1/2-inch expansion gap between them.

• Position one-by-two-inch or one-by-one-inch battens over the expansion gap between the boards.

• Nail through the center of the battens, so the fasteners drive between the boards and into the wall.

• Remember that any extra pieces of batten may be reused as molding around windows or door frames.

• If you prefer not to work with plywood, other cost-friendly materials include MDF and composite.

Board-and-batten styling imparts depth and texture to both exteriors and interiors, lending a sophisticated yet unpretentious air to virtually any home, whether it’s a recent construction or has been around 100 years.


How To: Bend Drywall

In curvilinear rooms, or in situations like an arched doorway, you can bend drywall using this tried-and-true technique of the pros.

Here’s a tip on how to throw a curve with drywall. The trick is to use two sheets of quarter-inch drywall instead of one standard half-inch sheet. Hose down both sides of each panel and form it to the curve, fastening with nails or drywall screws. Do the same with the second sheet, then tape and finish.

For more on walls, consider:

Drywall 101
Bob Vila Radio: Drywall Costs
What Would Bob Do? Cutting Drywall


Quick Tip: Installing Beadboard Wainscoting

Beadboard wainscoting is as attractive today as it was in the 19th century, and it still does a great job of protecting walls from dings and dents.

To achieve a Victorian look on an interior wall, try a beadboard wainscot. You can buy beadboard at your local lumber yard. Here are some things to keep in mind when installing it yourself. Run your baseboard first to avoid creating a dust collector. Use a drill and a jigsaw to cut holes for outlets. Fit each board together snugly, then nail with 2-1/2-inch finish nails. Angle the bottom nail into the tongue of each board. Base nail the top and cap it with the molding.

For more on trim and molding, consider:

5 Things to Do with… Beadboard
5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas
What Would Bob Do? Installing Beadboard


Quick Tip: Custom Moldings

Give character to dull bland spaces through the use of custom moldings, whether baseboards, chair rails, or any other type.

Dress up the rooms in your house with a variety of custom moldings. These moldings are available in many historic profiles. You can add a one-piece baseboard molding for a 19th-century look, while popular cherry rails and picture moldings add detail and take paint well. And for a more elegant look, add a multi-piece crown molding to the ceiling.

For more on trim and molding, consider:

Adding Custom Moldings
Character Building: A Case for Moldings
Know Your Moldings: 10 Popular Trim Styles to Spiff Up Any Space


What Would Bob Do? Cutting Drywall

With the right tools and technique, you can cut drywall cleanly and keep the dust level under control.

How to Cut Drywall

Photo: diynetwork.com

I’ve got to remove some drywall in a room so I can nail studs behind the wall for anchoring purposes. What is the best tool for cutting the drywall?

If for any reason you want to cut drywall that has already been installed—for a nailer (blocking), say, or recessed lighting—the name of the game is minimizing dust. The jab saw is often the tool I recommend, because not only does it generate less dust than a power saw, but it allows you to closely control the cut so as not to disturb electrical work and plumbing behind the wall. As you work, use your free hand to follow the cut line with the nozzle of a shop vac. Further minimize dust by fitting the jab saw with a metal-cutting blade, which has fine teeth that won’t remove as much material as a comparatively coarse standard blade. Let the inside face of the stud be a guide for your cut; once the cut has been made, follow up with a utility knife, using the precision tool to smooth out any irregular edges.

Related: 9 New Uses for Old Tools

When you’re cutting a drywall panel prior to installation—or when patching a damaged section—your best bet is to use a utility knife in combination with a 48-inch drywall square. With the square, mark your cut lines, then score them with the utility knife, going deep enough to slightly pierce the gypsum core. Next, snap the panel along the scores you’ve made. What remains now is the drywall face paper on the side that you didn’t score, but at this point in the process, you should have no trouble cutting it away, once more using your trusty utility knife. Avoid tearing the paper, particularly if your project is going to involve taping drywall seams. To make any minor, final-stage adjustments to the panel or patch you have cut, use a rasp to grind the drywall down to the dimensions desired.


How To: Build a Cement Block Wall

Cinder block wall building is a project that can be managed easily even by the beginning do-it-yourself.

Here’s how to lay out a cement block wall yourself. Mix two parts masonry cement with one part sand, and add just enough water for a firm mortar mix. Then butter all webs and the sides of each block, using the top part of your trowel. Stagger your joints and place the open end of one block to the flush end of the next, allowing three-eighths of an inch for your mortar joint. Finally, check for level.

For more on masonry, consider:

5 Things to Do with… Cinder Blocks
9 Easy DIY Concrete Projects
Concrete and Cement: A Case of Mistaken Identities