Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back on track

I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted an update. The primary reason for my absence has been tax preparation. Oh how I enjoy that process.

Another thing that kept me away was the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s not the highest level of play on earth (am I the only one who expects an athlete to make a wide open 15-foot shot, i.e. a free throw?), but it is the most exciting sporting event of the year.

There were also a couple of days away from the house for some rest and relaxation, and spell of warm weather that sent me outside to enjoy life outside the bounds of this Cape Cod and its issues.

On the organization front, I acquired a copy of Adobe’s new Photoshop Lightroom, a powerful software package that helps you manage your digital images with keywords and metadata. In addition to help you get organized, Photoshop Lightroom also has some advanced image editing tools similar to that of Adobe Photoshop. The problem I face is that I have a few years worth of photos that need to have keywords and metadata applied. Once I installed Lightroom, I got hooked on getting organized. Still a long way to go, but so far Lightroom has completely won my respect and is probably ranking up there with some of the best software I’ve ever purchased. If you need a tool that will help you keep your images organized while also offering editing tools, I’d highly recommend Adobe Lightroom. You can learn more about it at

On the home improvement front, I helped a friend clean out his clogged dryer vent a couple of days ago. And when I say clogged, I mean clogged. That was a collection of other peoples’ lint the size and magnitude of which I hope never see again. He’s lucky the dryer knew when to shut off or it could have overheated and destroyed the entire house. I actually took the camera with on that little expedition and will be sharing our process for unclogging his dryer vent sometime very soon.

I also need to get you up to speed on the upstairs bathroom project. With the new wooden light soffit in place, I need to share how I accomplished that. Hopefully I’ll have that for you in a couple of days.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Custom beadboard ceiling, reprise

Earlier this week I shared the progress of my new custom beadboard ceiling with a friend of mine, Ed Blysard. Ed is a fellow woodworker and turns some amazing custom pens (see his Renaissance Writing Instruments Web site). After reading my post about the new beadboard ceiling Ed pointed out that I should consider priming the back sides of the panels. After all, if there’s moisture in the air, it will find its way behind those wood panels. Considering the humid conditions of a bathroom, I think he’s right. Who knows what could happen to the boards and beadboard plywood if the back sides are left un-primed or un-painted.

Come on, Ed, I thought I was almost done with this project!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Custom beadboard ceiling, part 2

Building this beadboard ceiling meant I got a chance to do some work in my basement workshop. For the past couple of months this bathroom project has meant a lot tasks that are not all too enjoyable; primarily applying joint compound and then sanding it. Since I made the beadboard ceiling from a 4' x 8' sheet of beadboard plywood and 1" x 4" "clear" pine (that is, no knots) boards, I had the opportunity to use a variety of my woodworking tools. This was a good thing.

Again, the frame of the ceiling was made with 1" x 4" clear pine boards that had a rabbetted lip along one edge to hold the plywood in place. The sketch I mentioned in my Custom beadboard ceiling, part 1 post was invaluable when it came the time to start milling the boards. The photo to the right shows my router table set up with a 3/4" straight-cutting bit to create the lip. The board shown is one of the middle support sections.

Before I move on, I want to mention how invaluable of a tool a good router can be. With the right bit, and there are literally hundreds to choose from you can take a common board and turn it into a unique piece. To see what I mean, check out the router bit selection at; 9,033 bits to choose from at the writing of this piece! My router is a Bosch 1613EVS plunge router. I’ve had it about four years and consider it to be one of my favorite power tools. Every time I use it I walk away with a great sense of satisfaction. See the more modern Bosch 1617EVSPK Plunge Router kit at

OK, back to the project at hand. Once I had the four outside boards of the frame and the one middle divider milled, it was time for assembly. If my router is my favorite power tool, the next item I’m going to mention is easily the favorite jig I own.

The photo to the right shows the assembled frame in my workshop (notice the pile of dust on the floor under my router table from milling the frame’s boards). It only took me about 15 minutes to take the milled boards from individual boards to assemble, ready-for-use frame. How was I able to do it so quickly? The Kreg R2 Rocket Pockethole System.

Pocket holes have long been used by cabinet makers as a way to build strong joints with screws, yet conceals the screw heads below the surface of the board. Kreg Tool Co. makes a variety of pocket hole kits; mine is the Kreg R2 Rocket Pockethole System.

Here’s how the process works...
Clamp the Kreg jig to the board that will receive the screws and use the provided drill bit to drill the holes. The depth collar on the drill bit (seen on the right side of the photo) is positioned based on the thickness of your board (to assure you don’t drill through the face of your board.

With the jig removed you can see the clean holes that the Kreg Pockethole System produces.

Use the same clamp (which is provided with the kit) to hold the two boards together and drive the screws into their holes. I add a little dab of glue for added strength. Viola; you’re done. The trickiest part for a large project like this was finding a way to keep all the boards supported during assembly.

With the frame built, I cut the beadboard plywood down to size and installed the panels into position. To secure the plywood panels to the frame, I added wood glue to the lip of the frames and then drove 5/8" brad nails through the plywood and into the frame. To drive those nails, I used my Porter-Cable BN200A Brad Nailer. This might seem like a frivolous toy, and frankly, when I purchased it I thought I was being a little irresponsible. However, I’ve got so much mileage out of the brad nailer that I’d recommend it to any woodworker or home improvement junkie. It makes hanging trim or assembling special projects like this beadboard ceiling quick, neat, and solid.

As a write this it’s becoming clear why I enjoyed this project. Not only did the beadboard ceiling panels help us solve the ceiling’s problems; and not only did I get a chance to spend some quality time in my workshop; I also got a chance to use three of my favorite woodworking tools: my router, my Kreg pocket hole jig, and my Porter-Cable brad nailer. Finally; fun returned to a project!

Once the beadboard panels were painted, I secured them to the plaster ceiling with spring-loaded wall anchors. If you take on a project like this, you’ll have to determine what type of fastener works best for you.

With the ceiling complete, I can now go back to work on the light box I was supposed to be working on. For a recap of where that project stands, read my Custom wooden light soffit post.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Custom beadboard ceiling, part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, the problems with the primer and joint compound on the ceiling meant I had to come up with a new solution for the ceiling. My wife and I agreed on a beadboard ceiling, but the layout of the ceiling is such that this project, like most projects, meant a custom solution was needed.

To see what I mean about the layout of the room, read my Upstairs bathroom primer post and enlarge the photo of the bathroom’s blueprint. From the blueprints you can see that the primary portion of the bathroom – basically from the bathroom door to the far side of the closet door – is standard ceiling height and essentially a rectangle.

The ceiling near the window, while called “Arched Lower Ceiling” on the blueprints, is actually a flat ceiling that’s about a foot lower than the other side of the bathroom. The tricky part about this portion of the bathroom is that the area isn’t a rectangle or square. If you look at the blueprint, you’ll notice on the left side that the wall "jogs" in almost two inches as you move from the shower nook toward the window. (I assume it’s like this because the window area is one of the dormers on the front of the house.) That little jog meant I had to build the frame for my beadboard ceiling to fill that odd little area.

Once I had the dimensions from the bathroom written down, I took the time to create rudimentary drawings to help me with the construction of the two frames. This took a little time, but it was immensely helpful in the end because it helped me with the following particulars:
  • How long to cut the 1 x 4" clear pine boards that served as the sides of the frame.

  • How deep and wide to make the rabbetted lip on the 1 x 4" boards to support the plywood.

  • Where any oddities in the room where, like the placement of the bathroom fan in the primary portion of the bathroom as well as the notch for the wall jog in the window portion.

VERY IMPORTANT>>> If you make a drawing for your beadboard ceiling framework, just remember that your finished piece will be hung upside down. Keep in mind that your drawing will most likely be created looking down upon the paper, while the finished ceiling will be hung from the underside of the paper. Make sense? That’s why you’ll notice on my drawings that I included North, South, East, and West to help keep the framework’s orientation correct (I also did the same thing on the actual boards themselves). Plus, you’ll notice that my drawing goes North, West, South, East, opposite of the traditional map style of North, East, South, West. That way, then I went into the room to get an idea of how the drawing compared to the actual room, I flipped the drawing over my head and look at it as though it were the frame’s finished side. If I hadn’t done this, the opening for the bathroom fan may have wound up on the East side of the room, instead of the West. I hope all of this makes sense.

My custom beadboard ceiling is made from beadboard plywood (shown to the right). To support the beadboard plywood, I built a custom frame that would not only hold the 3/8” beadboard plywood in place, but would also give me a rigid structure to fasten the framework to the ceiling.

Since the plywood would sag in the middle if I were to only use a frame around the outside, I also included a board down the middle of the frame. This was also necessary because of the bathroom fan in the primary portion of the room. I’ll jump ahead a little bit and show you the finished frames so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. If you enlarge the image to the right, you’ll notice the framework on the left is a rectangle (for the primary portion of the bathroom), while the framework on the right has a notch protruding from the lower left side. This is the frame for the window section of the bathroom, and that notch will fill the notch area mentioned above. You’ll also notice in the photo that the frame for the window section doesn’t have a support board on the top side. This was intentionally left off because the beadboard on that side of the frame will snug against the window trim and I didn’t want a support board to cover the window’s trim.

Next time I’ll cover how I milled the lumber, assembled the pieces, and hung the finished ceiling.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Hiatus / failure resurgence

Actually, I’m not sure I’d call it a hiatus, because I was hardly taking a break from the home remodeling. To the contrary, over the past week I’ve done little in my free time except for work on the house. I guess it was just a hiatus from updating the site. Let me bring you up to speed...

In my last post, The light at the end of the tunnel, I mentioned I had finished my portion of the upstairs bathroom project. Talk about jinxing myself! The final phase of the joint compound work was to repair the flaking ceiling paint on the short ceiling (shown to the right). It was a week ago Saturday when I finished the joint compound work in the bathroom and turned the project over to my wife so she could start painting.

That night she put a coat of primer on the walls and ceiling in the bathroom. The following morning we notice the primer had some adverse reaction to the joint compound in a couple of places on the ceiling. Enlarge the photo to the right to see the result. The primer had bubbled up in a couple of small areas. I’m not certain how it happened, so I’m not even going to speculate. All joint compound repairs on the walls were fine, so I think it was a problem in areas where a very thin coat of joint compound went over the old paint on the ceiling. Once the primer went on the thin areas of joint compound, I think the paint primer didn’t adhere for some reason. Again, I am just speculating.

With that paint problem at hand, we needed a solution, and fast because we were having a family party at our house six days later (this past Saturday). Here were our choices:
  • Try to fix the bubbled-up paint: No way. I had already put a lot of time into that ceiling, both skim-coating the small area of the ceiling in the one part of the room, and repairing cracks in the area over by the bathroom fan (read my post Upstairs Bathroom Primer to see the layout of the room). Once the primer was on the ceiling, I had little faith that I could repair the problem spots and then have the subsequent coats of primer not bubble up like the first coat did. In other words, I wasn’t going to put more time in only to wind up in the same spot a day or two later. We were under the gun to get this fixed, for good.

  • Alternative ceiling: Yes. What could we use as a ceiling surface in a Cape Cod home that wouldn’t look like we were trying to hide a blemish, but rather add more charm to the room? Hmmm... we stood there and stared and stared at that damn ceiling. Then it hit us: beadboard! Yes; we’ll go with a beadboard ceiling! We’ll give the bathroom a nice cottage feeling. Why didn’t we think of this a month ago?

With the idea in place, I had to think of a way to install a beadboard ceiling in our bathroom and make it look like it was meant to be from the beginning. I also had to figure out a way to attach it to our rock-hard plaster ceilings with some type of anchors.

In the next few days I’ll share how I did it. For now, I’ll share a photo of the completed ceiling, just to prove that it all worked out.

It all worked out, but it meant we had to stay up past midnight every single night last week to finish the project. The family party went without a hitch and everyone loved the bathroom’s new look. (See the Upstairs Bathroom Primer link above for a before photo, including the nasty old metallic wallpaper.)

Now we just need to finish off the last few little projects that didn’t get wrapped up, including the wooden light box above the sink. More on that and the steps involved with building the new bead board ceiling coming soon.