A crowning achievement

A necessity, no, but crown molding can really make a room. Postmedia Network

If you’re the type of do-it-yourselfer that is willing to try most any small renovation at least once, provided of course the potential for injury or loss of home due to fire or flood is kept to a minimum, then at some point in time you’re probably going to attempt to install a crown molding.

For the uninitiated, a crown molding is the decorative trim used to elegantly bridge the harsh corner between your interior walls and ceiling. Is the crown molding a necessary part of a home’s finishing? No. However, will a home be all the better for having crown moldings, providing an upscale setting, allowing you to host guests and dignitaries somewhat above your normal social status? Very likely. So, for the décor value, as well as the potential to expand your guest lists, thereby elevating the conversation of your gatherings beyond such subjects as to whether Mankind really deserved the win over The Undertaker in WrestleMania 13, we install crown moldings.

Basic tools for the job will include a 10 inch chop saw, and an air-compressor type of finishing gun. Because your crown molding will most likely be painted, and as a result made of MDF (medium density fiberboard), you’ll require the power and blade count (at least 60 carbide teeth) of a 10 inch blade, along with the superior performance of an air gun. Don’t attempt to pre-drill and install a crown molding with finishing nails. Finishing nails are fine for pine and real wood moldings because real wood, even when dry, maintains some of its elasticity. MDF material, on the other hand, is simply too hard, and offers no forgiveness, causing the amateur carpenter to make a mess of the molding’s surface when countersinking the finishing nail.

Considered the most challenging finishing molding to install, due to the crowns two beveled edges needing to be placed squarely against the wall and ceiling, there are strategies to installing this molding correctly. As a precautionary measure, and before loading the car up with tens of moldings, be sure to purchase the two following items. One, an 8 ft. piece of the crown molding of your choice, and two, an “OGEE” cutting guide. Once at home, carefully remove the OGEE cutting guide from its box (because you may have to return it) and read the how-to instructions. Finishing carpenters each have their own type of wooden jigs or strategies when it comes to holding a crown molding in place as they cut it. The OGEE guide is simply a plastic version of one of these jigs, and safely sets the crown molding in position under the saw for the amateur finisher. The 8 ft. length of molding is basically a 10-12 dollar research and development expense into whether you’re capable of performing this task or not. Because the crown molding sits on an angle, has beveled edges, and must be further cut at 45 degrees, all while being positioned in an upside down manner for at least half of the required cuts, the directionally challenged person is going to find this experience frustrating.

So, read the OGEE guide’s instructions, take your 8 ft. molding, and try a few left and right hand, inside and outside corner, practice cuts. Then, using these short lengths of moldings, see how they fit up into the corners of where the wall meets the ceiling. Once you’ve established what an inside left corner cut is, as well as an inside right, and any right or left outside corner cuts, label these short pieces with a marker. These “pre-cuts” will be a great help in directionally guiding you when it comes to cutting the longer lengths. On the other hand, if after cutting an entire 8 ft. crown into bits and pieces you still can’t get the hang of it, don’t despair, some people can perform open heart surgery, then can’t figure their way out of a round-a-bout, it’s just what is.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Big Gulp moldings

Unusual and elaborate crown molding is kind of old school, and that can be a good thing. Postmedia Network

Because door and window casings, as well as baseboards, account for about 90 per cent of the finishing trims in a typical home, let’s look at how to effectively choose a casing and baseboard.

First, and not so much a rule, but more of a general recommendation, don’t be shy to go big. In fact, buying casings and baseboards is kind of like ordering popcorn and pop before taking your seat at the movie theatre. A small drink and medium sized bag of popcorn may seem sufficient when presented to you, but once in your seat, the drink’s gone in moments, while the popcorn inevitably gets eaten during the movie prelims, leaving you with nothing but a dry mouth, and un-popped kernels to munch on during the feature film.

Back in the olden days of home building, generally referred to as the frugal 1970’s and 80’s, where disposable incomes were put towards the purchase of polyester leisure suits in anticipation of hitting the discotheque Saturday night, a standard casing of 2-1/8 inches in width, was paired with a very modest 3-1/8 inch tall baseboard. Today, casings are a standard 2-3/4 inches wide, and get combined with a 3-7/8 to 4-1/8 inch baseboard, which seems heavy enough, especially if you’re renovating a 1970’s styled home, or grew up surrounded by those somewhat diminutive 70’s moldings.

Regardless, even though the standard casing and baseboard sizes have gotten larger, people should really be looking to duplicate what was put in the grander homes of the early 1900’s. With casings measuring anywhere from 4-6 inches wide, along with 8-10 inch baseboards, this generation definitely new how to finish a home, and how to dress up for the weekend. Recommendation, go with the ‘Jumbo’ sized bag of popcorn, and two-litre ‘Big Gulp’ every time.

Translated into moldings, custom home builders, as opposed to those building rental units, should consider using at least a 3-1/2 inch casing, along with a 5-1/2 base. Again, when comparing moldings in your local building supply centre, these casings and baseboards may look a little big at first glance, but don’t despair, the hesitancy you’re experiencing is due to your familiarity of being handed a medium bag of corn and small pop since infancy, when you really merited the Jumbo and Big Gulp.

How do you pick a casing and baseboard? These types of moldings form part of a series of either Colonial, Victorian, modern, or Contemporary styles, with casings generally having a matching base to partner up with. So, depending on the home and interior door style, a person would be directed towards one of these particular series of moldings.

Once a style or series of casings and baseboards has been decided on, it’s then time to experiment. Because each series of casings and baseboards will have a number of profiles to choose from, the most effective way of picking one over the other is to have a few chosen baseboards butt up against their matching casings, while both moldings lay on the store’s floor. This way, you can stand back and better evaluate all the pairings. Try to avoid comparing moldings by standing or leaning them up against whatever wall, or racking is available. It’s our experience that when a bunch of casings and trims get leaned up against something, either the moldings or the something gets bumped, with the whole mix toppling over. When things are laid out on the floor, they’ve got nowhere to fall. Laying the casings and baseboards out in this manner also allows you to add a back-band trim (casing enhancing molding), various quarter round moldings, or to mix and match the various styles and sizes, in a much more effective manner.

The only one rule to keep in mind when matching moldings is that the casing must always be thicker than the base, and the base always wider than the casing. Enjoy choosing your Jumbo and Big Gulp moldings.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Notice of continuing suspension

The biggest single factor related to the effective finishing of a basement space is ceiling height.

Basically, and in most cases, there’s rarely enough of it.

So, other than spending $150,000, to have your home raised off its foundation, or conversely, hammering out your basement’s concrete floor, and gaining the headroom by digging down a few steps, the challenge to finishing a basement involves dealing with the many ceiling obstacles. Our goal is to install a suspended ceiling.

It’s a logical choice for a basement due to the vast series of ductwork, plumbing, and wiring that may on occasion require cleaning, repair, or adjustment. The dilemma?

In order for our ceiling tiles to be installed and removed (if necessary) with relative ease, the grid components will need to be four inches lower than the floor joists above. Or, four inches below whatever’s lower than the joists.

Basically, there are three things we shouldn’t touch in a basement, being the floor joists, which support the first floor components, the beam supporting the floor joists, and the jack posts supporting the beam. If you didn’t make the connection, “support” was the key word here.

So remember, you never touch something that is, or in any way could be, supporting something else.

Unless, of course, you’re willing to put down the big bucks for some re-engineering.

If we can’t touch the posts, or the beams, or the joists, then in order to get a reasonably high ceiling, let’s look to move some of the plumbing and ductwork that are cluttering our otherwise perfectly good ceiling. If the original homeowner, or builder, didn’t have a finished basement strategy in mind, then the tradespeople would have taken the simplest, most direct route when making the various plumbing and ductwork connections.

Now that we’re talking finished ceiling, it’s time to call the plumber and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) fellows back. Their goal will be to re-route the plumbing and mechanical venting, if possible, around what would be the future finished area. With a little imagination, and the help of some engineering mechanics or motorization, plumbing and ductwork can be directed through the utility, or storage areas of the basement.

If logistics dictate that certain plumbing lines or venting must pass through the finished area, then perhaps it can be relegated to the edges of the room. This way, the pipes and vents could be hidden by a false wall, or bulkhead, and go practically unnoticed.

As mentioned last week, we want to install the perimeter moldings first, then the main tees, placing them four feet apart, and perpendicular to the joists. With the room’s dimensions drawn to scale on a sheet of graph paper, outline where the four-foot and two-foot crosspieces will be placed.

The graph paper will allow you to more easily centre the tiles and avoid too narrow a border – less than six inches is too thin, and unattractive. Plus, it’ll strategically help you avoid obstructions such as beams and posts.

Inserting the cross pieces should not be left to guesswork, or trial and error. These components are stubborn to detach if you’ve inserted them in the wrong hole. So, avoid the hassle, and get things drawn on paper first. Having things on paper will also help you plan a lighting schedule.

Be sure to secure the help of your electrician when deciding how much recessed lighting will be necessary. What size of tile works best? The larger 2’x4’ tiles are easier and quicker to manipulate, while the 2’x2’ tiles, due to their softer, less etched surface, and recessed edge, generally look better.

If you’ve got a lot of border cutting to do, a recessed tile will require a lot of extra trimming. In this case, you may want to use a non-recessed tile for the border only, keeping the more decorative tiles for the center of the room.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Suspended ceilings

When installing a suspended ceiling, our handyman recommends going in with a plan. Postmedia Network.

Today we’re going to be discussing the consumer’s most versatile ceiling option, that being a grid system of T-bar shaped metal tracks with either 2’x2’ or 2’x4’ sized tiles, otherwise known as a suspended ceiling.

Suspended ceilings are popular, especially in basement renovations, because the manor of assembly is a relatively quick learn, and a natural progression for those homeowners who received gold stars in kindergarten for their excellence in manipulating Lego blocks.

The grid system is comprised of four basic components — a 12 ft. wall angle, a 12 ft. main tee, along with 2 ft. and 4 ft. cross tees. The strategy to assembling the grid components in a basement involves following three basic steps. One, the 12 ft. wall molding gets installed first, using regular wood or drywall screws, and follows the entire perimeter of the room. Next, sit the edges of the 12 ft. main tees in the L-shape of the perimeter molding, making sure they lie perpendicular to the floor joists above. Then, space these main tees four feet apart.

Whether the ceiling space is square or rectangular is irrelevant. Spacing the main tees four feet apart allows you to lay the tiles (if we’re talking 2’x4’ panels) in whatever direction you wish. Laying the main tees perpendicular to the floor joists, allows you to easily support these main tees with wires strung down from screws inserted into the joists. Place a supporting wire every four feet along the length of your main tee. With the perimeter moldings installed, and the main tees secured in position, two and four foot cross tees can then be installed. This, in a nutshell, are the basic steps regarding the installation of a suspended grid.

Now, however simple this procedure seems, frustration and profanity will be your future if you don’t come up with a strategy beforehand. Because the cross tees insert quite easily, but are about as much fun to disconnect as having to undue a tight knot in a shoelace, you’re only going to want to fasten a cross tee to a main tee, or cross tee into an adjoining cross tee, once.

Getting every connection right the first time you assemble grid in a room requires either a lot of previous practice, or a plan. So, assuming you’re not a professional ceiling installer, let’s come up with a plan that’ll leave all our trials and errors on a few sheets of paper in the recycle bin. On a sheet of graph paper, outline the exact co-ordinates of the room. In order for the ceiling panels to be easily placed into the track, the entire grid system must hang four inches below the lowest beam or length of ductwork. Please understand that the four inch drop is a minimum. With the main tees measuring about two inches in depth, a four inch minimum drop leaves you with about two inches of air space to slide in, and manipulate a tile into position. If you’ve purchased a ridged tile, and because of their superior quality and sound attenuation value, I definitely recommend that you do, these panels are going to be a son of a gun to handle if you’ve shorted yourself drop space. If dropping the grid system four inches below the lowest beam is going to create a living hazard for those with futures in basketball, with the proposal that persons susceptible to head scuffing protect themselves with the coveted basement helmet, receiving little praise, then the beam may have to be left as is. In cases such as these, beams get boxed-in with drywall, or simply painted, to somewhat camouflage their existence, with the grid systems butting up to it on either side. In most basements, it’s not so much the low lying beams, as much as the low lying ductwork, that can make finishing a ceiling all the more difficult.

Next week, what to do with ductwork and other ceiling obstacles.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard