Ask Tom Have a question about rough or finish carpentry? Need to figure out a shortcut for doing remodeling work? Send me an email at Tom@ArtisticHomeRenovations.com. The best questions will appear with answers below.

Q: I was telling a guy at work about my weekend project. I was closing off a heating run in my duct in the basement hoping to get better airflow to the room above. I patched the hole with sheet metal and sealed it with duct tape.

My "friend" laughed at me and said you NEVER use duct tape on duct work. Is this BS or what?

A: Use duct tape on a duct? Makes sense but it's really not a good idea. It'll dry out and fall off after a few years. Better to use special aluminum tape designed for duct work. Sorry to tell you your friend's right!


Q: Hello. I am finishing my basement and trying to figure out how to frame duct work in a basement. I don't want to lose much head room but using 2x4s and drywall uses up at least 4 inches of space. I don't want to hit my head. Any ideas?

A: I get this a lot. Here's what I do. Hang 2x4s from the joists above and run them flush to the duct bottom. At that point attach lineal boards (2x2s or 2x4s) to the 2x4s hanging from the joists that run the length of the duct. Important: only attach sheetrock to the framing, never screw into the ducts themselves. That's a code violation.

This works for up to 24" wide ducts. If your duct is wider just run a bead of drywall adhesive on the bottom of the duct before putting up the sheetrock. You'll need to brace the bottom of the drywall while the glue dries overnight. I use a T-brace made out of 2x4s.

Instead of you using up 4" of headroom this trick uses on 1/2".

Q: Why do you builders always use flat wall paint? I hate cleaning dirt off that stuff, it never comes off without taking the damn paint with it. I told my builder I wanted the semi-gloss that will clean up better but he said flat was the best.

A: OK, here's the truth. Flat wall paint hides mistakes in the sheetrock finishing. The builder can patch it or do a sloppy taping job and flat paint will still hide it from you, the homeowner. The more glossy the paint is the more mistakes will show.

I've used semi-gloss on a stairwell because the homeowner knew there would be a lot of fingerprints to clean off. It was a pain because I was painting over the same color but in the flat finish. I had to paint the stairwell 3 times before I thought it looked good. So, using a glossier paint will cost more than a flat paint.


Q: Hey Tom! I'm finishing my basement and will use 2x4s on the wall with fiberglass insulation. I know you're supposed to use plastic to keep water out but which side does it go on? Between the concrete wall and the studs or between the studs and the drywall?

A: The vapor barrier always goes against the concrete basement wall. It won't protect you from a leaky basement though! Make sure your walls are completely dry before you frame them. If you have water problems later you *will* also get mold problems. Bad!

If you have water leaking in, check the bottom of the wall. Is it wet? Is it wet only after heavy rains or melting snow? This is probably caused by the dirt around your house foundation settling. When the dirt settles down towards the foundation the rainwater/snowmelt will run TOWARDS your basement not away. This is bad. This is a big reason why basements get wet.

To fix the runoff problem bring in enough dirt to backfill around your foundation to make sure it slopes AWAY from the foundation.

>> Watch out if you have poured (not block) concrete walls. When you start framing you'll discover your walls are not perfectly flat but wave in and out. I've seen poured walls wave in and out by 2 inches from corner to corner. This is because the wall forms used when your basement was poured had already been used on many other houses. The crews have to bang on the forms to break them loose after the concrete cures. This bends the forms so the next house (YOUR HOUSE) doesn't get perfectly flat walls.

Instead of power-nailing your framing following along the wavy wall you'll need to shim it away from the wall to get a nice straight finished wall.

Q: We've got trouble. We're selling our house and the real estate agent noticed the bottom of the wall in our finished basement has black mold on it, right where the baseboard is glued to the wall. How do you get rid of it?

A: As you know mold can be a big problem, especially with how it can affect your health. In most areas you cannot sell a house until the mold is taken care of.

Getting rid of mold is complicated. It involves protective measures such as:
-special facemasks,
-protective clothing,
-securely bagging all materials removed to prevent mold spores contaminating other areas of the house,
-put up a protective plastic curtain to seal off the area while the work progresses
-treat the areas opened up with special chemicals.

You know this is almost like the movie Outbreak with the CDC isolation tents and environmental suits! Because of this DO NOT TRY TO DO THIS YOURSELF. You must hire a trained mold remediation specialist.



03/10/2012 10:33 PM
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