The Comprehensive Guide To Home Renovations Large and Small
Home Renovation Guide - Chapter 9

Remodeling Projects

Note: definitions for the underlined words in this chapter are found in the Glossary of Terms.


If you are a homeowner with intermediate carpentry skills and don’t mind the work, mess, and time involvement, you might consider taking your old kitchen cabinets down and replacing them with new as a do-it-yourself project.

Unless, of course, you will be replacing old cabinets with custom-made; in which case the cabinet builder should do the installation work his or her self to ensure workmanship and dimension accuracy of each unit.

To remove old cabinets yourself you will need the following:

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers
  • Shims
  • Hammer
  • Stud sensor
  • Drill with drill bits and screwdriver attachment
  • Hole saw
  • Decorative molding or valance
  • Trim
  • Finish nails
  • Chalk line
  • Utility knife
  • Safety glasses


The most difficult part of hanging wall cabinets is lifting them to the appropriate height and holding them in place. This makes installing wall cabinets a 2-person job.

  1. Remove old cabinets; repair any holes in the walls.
  2. Locate wall studs using the stud finder. Snap vertical chalk lines to indicate either stud centers or edges. Note: studs are spaced at regular intervals. Most common is 16- inches, although 24-inch intervals are sometimes used in newer houses. Once you locate one stud and determine the distance to the next, measure to locate others.
  3. Measure 54-inches up from the floor at both ends of the wall; this is the standard height of wall cabinets. Snap a horizontal chalk line.
  4. Start in the corner, at the highest floor point; nail up a 1X3 temporary straight so it is level. It may not match the vertical chalk line if the floor is not level.
  5. Place either a corner or end cabinet on the temporary straight; make sure it is level. Drill 3/16-inch pilot holes through the top hanging strip inside the cabinet into wall studs. Drive 2 ½-inch roundhead screws into the pilot holes.
  6. Position the next cabinet on the temporary straight, snug against the first; make sure it is level. Drill 3/16-inch pilot holes through the top hanging strip inside the cabinet into wall studs. Drive 2 ½-inch roundhead screws into the pilot holes.
  7. Install remaining wall cabinets following step 6.
  8. Clamp together face frames of adjacent cabinets; counterbore 2 ½-inch drywall screws through the inside edge of one face frame to the other.
  9. Fit a filler strip into the remaining gap at the wall juncture. Attach the filler strip to the face frame of the last cabinet with counter sunk screws.
  10. Remove the temporary straight; plumb cabinet fronts by shimming between the wall and bottom hanging strip of the cabinet at stud points.
  11. Drill 3/16-inch pilot holes; attach bottom hanging strip to shim and stud using 2½-inch roundhead screws. Trim shims using a utility knife.
  12. Apply trim using finish nails to cover gaps between the backs of cabinets and wall. Stain or paint trim to match cabinets.
  13. Fill the gap between cupboards over the sink space using decorative molding or a valance; stained or painted to match the cabinet. Secure in place using counterbore screws through adjacent face frames into the valance.


  1. Remove old cabinets; repair any holes in the walls.
  2. If you plan to install new vinyl flooring, do so before new cabinet installation. If you plan to install marble, tile, or a wood floor, use a piece of plywood the same thickness the new floor will be; lay the plywood under the cabinets to serve as a height reference.
  3. Mark the locations of wall studs using the stud finder. Note: studs are spaced at regular intervals. Most common is 16-inches, although 24-inch intervals are sometimes used in newer houses. Once you locate one stud and determine the distance to the next, measure to locate others.
  4. Not all floors are perfectly level. You will want to use the high point as the reference for installing the cabinets. Mark a level line at the height of the base cabinets at the highest point of the room floor.
  5. Set a cabinet in place; level it to the line by tapping wood shims under low points. Level cabinet front to back, and from side to side.
  6. Drill pilot holes into a stud; drive screws through cabinet framing into the stud using the drill screwdriver attachment.
  7. Once cabinet is level and securely in place, remove any shims using a hammer and chisel.
  8. Clamp together face frames of adjacent cabinets. Counterbore screws into the inside edge of one face frame, ¼-inch into the other.
  9. Follow steps 5 to 8 for installation of remaining bottom cabinets.
  10. Before installing the sink cabinet, measure from the reference line to the top and bottom of the drain and water supply pipes; measure from the side of the adjacent cabinet to both sides of the drain. Transfer measurements to the back of the sink cabinet; drill appropriate holes using a hole saw.
  11. Complete the job by installing molding or filler strips to cover any gapes between the counter and the walls or floor.

Note : if a thin shim is required between cabinets to compensate for minor irregularities, make sure face edges butt tightly.

Handy Tips for Project Success:

  • Schedule enough time to complete the project. Once old base and wall cabinets have been removed, expect to spend 4 to 5 hours for a straight run of cabinets; more if corner cabinets are complicated.
  • Before installing cabinets, separate base cabinets from wall cabinets. Install wall cabinets first so you don’t have to lean over base cabinets.
  • Remove cupboard doors before installing wall cabinets; they will be lighter and easier to handle.
  • Use the type screws specified by the manufacturer; drive screws through frames as opposed to the back or side panels, which are thinner and less sturdy.

Note: another, more cost-effective alternative to replacing old kitchen cabinets with new is this. If old cabinet construction is still sound and strong, give them a “face lift.” Clean, sand, and refinish just the doors, or all cabinetry – if needed; Replace handles, knobs, and any other hardware desired, with new. This can save a considerable amount of money in renovation costs, while yielding great results.


Structure of ceilings and floors are basically the same. First-floor joists serve as basement ceiling joists; first floor ceilings joists serve as floor joists for the second floor, etc.

Joists run perpendicular to their supports and carry the structural load; the ends of joists may rest either on support beams, foundations, or load-bearing walls. Whereas joists used for flooring are typically 2X10 or larger, joists to support only a ceiling can be as small as 2X4.

The joists can either be leveled before put in place, or furring strips can later be added to the bottom edges to make them level. Optional blocking can be installed between joists for additional support. At this point, the ceiling is considered framed out. Plaster lath or drywall is attached to the joists; the ceiling can be finished off using either plaster or joint tape and joint compound.

Of course, if ducts or pipes need to be hid or ceiling height adjusted to match another ceiling height, you will want to frame out the entire ceiling. Do this by building soffit framing; this will resemble a horizontally hanging wall, instead of vertical.

Top floor ceilings that slope are usually attached directly to the roof framing; with insulation in between. Open beam ceilings usually consist of the finished underside of wood plank roof decking. And open cell ceilings use multi frames that lock together and cover the whole ceiling, forming a number of open cells.

While the existing ceiling will be lowered by the height of the cell framework, an open cell ceiling provides a creative, modern look that can yield interesting effects to help set room design apart from the norm.


Instead of more traditional material such as acoustical or ceiling tiles, some homeowners prefer a tongue-and-groove paneled ceiling. This provides a warm, attractive finish especially suitable for vaulted ceilings.

Pine tongue-and-groove is a common choice. It is cheaper and easier to obtain than other wood choices. Plywood planks are also popular. Some are available in tongue-and- groove styles that have a pine veneer top milled to look like old-fashioned bead board, suitable for both flat and sloped ceilings. Select cedar or redwood paneling for rooms prone to moisture, such as bathrooms and saunas; or lightweight, easy to install mineral fiber planks that resemble wood.

Panels are typically 3/8 to 3/4-inches thick and are sometimes attached directly to ceiling joists and rafters. Note: if you use paneling that is thinner, check your local building code first; some codes require installing wallboard as a fire stop behind ceiling paneling less than 1/4-inch thick.

When purchasing tongue-and-groove paneling, get about 15-percent more than the actual square footage of your ceiling. Why? Because the tongue portion of each panel slips into the grooves of adjacent boards; square footage is based on the “reveal;” This is the exposed face of panels after they have been installed. To calculate the reveal – fit two pieces of paneling together and measure the exposed surface.

To determine how much paneling you will need, divide the distance from one to the other and then divide by the reveal surface of the two boards. For a sloped ceiling, divide the overall distance between the top of one wall and the peak of the ceiling by the reveal surface area, then multiply by two.

If you decide to panel a ceiling in your home, do the following:

  • Using the reveal calculation of two pieces of paneling, make a control line to indicate the top of the first row of paneling. At both ends of the ceiling, measure down from the peak an equal distance. Make a mark to represent the tongue edges of the starter boards, and then snap a chalk line through the marks.
  • If the paneling isn’t long enough to span the entire ceiling, plan the locations of the joints and stagger them in a 3-step pattern to make joints less obvious. For best results, select boards of similar color and grain for each row; make sure that each joint falls in the middle of the rafter.
  • If boards span the ceiling, square cut both ends. If boards will be pieced, a 30- degree bevel cut on adjoining ends will form a scarf joint and will be less noticeable than buttjoints.
  • Use a compound miter saw to ensure that paneling cuts are clean.
  • Attach paneling using 2-inch barbed flooring nails with spiraling shanks; although heads are larger than finishing nails, they hold better. Compensate for the larger heads by blind-nailing. Be sure and toenail each one.
  • Attach face-nails at joints and locations where more support is required (i.e. first and last boards).
  • If the ceiling peak is not parallel to the starting wall, compensate for the difference by ripping the starter piece at an angle. The leading edge of the starting piece, as well as every piece that follows, must be parallel to the peak in order for the project to be a success.

Getting started

Because layout of paneling is critical, use the reveal measurement to calculate the width of the final board. If it measures less than 2-inches wide, trim the first (starter) board by cutting the long edge that abuts the wall. Leave about 1/8-inch gap between the end of the wall and the board.

Position the starter board so the grooved (cut) edge butts against the side wall and the tongue is aligned with the control line. Attach the board nailing through its face about 1- inch from the grooved edge. And then blind nail the board to the rafters using a 45- degree backward angle; use a nail set to drive nail heads beneath the surface of the paneling.

Making sure scarf joints fit together snuggly, cut and install remaining boards in the starter row. When connecting scarf joints, drill pilot holes if necessary to prevent splitting. Drive two nails through the face of the top board at an angle to make sure nails secure the board behind it.

Use a hammer and scrap piece of paneling to seat the grooved edge over the tongue of the starter board; be sure subsequent rows fit snuggly together. Fasten by blind-nailing. As you continue to work, make sure rows remain parallel to the peak. Correct alignment using slight adjustments to the tongue-and-groove joints. Snap additional control lines if necessary.

When you come to the final row it may be necessary to rip the boards for proper fit; bevel the top edges so they will fit flush against the ridge boards. Complete the other side of the ceiling; cut and install the last row of paneling; form a closed joint under the ridge board.

If desired, install trim or crown molding along the walls; outside and inside of corners. Bevel or miter-cut back edges to better accommodate ceiling slope.


One of the final steps in any remodeling or renovation project is finishing the walls and ceiling. Gypsum wallboard, also called drywall, plasterboard, and sheetrock, is the most popular choice for walls and ceilings; it can be painted, textured, or wallpapered.

While walls commonly are textured and painted, or just primed and painted, ceilings almost always are textured. The reason ceilings are not left smooth is because ending up with a perfectly smooth finish is very difficult. In addition, ceilings reflect light in such a manner that every little variation of a smooth surface would stand out like a sore thumb.

Completely skimming a drywall surface is something that professional drywall contractors do to make sure a whole wall or ceiling is perfectly smooth. Even when skimmed by a professional, some variations can still stand out on a ceiling. Consequently, even most professionals add texturing to a ceiling. This not only covers any flaws or surface unevenness, but adds character to the surface.

Types of Texturing

Ceiling texturing is available in several application methods. Popcorn texturing is a mixture of granular particles available in several forms. An aerosol form of granules suspended in a semi-liquid base can be applied by hand-spraying onto the ceiling surface.

Popcorn texturing can also be achieved by adding dry granules to latex paint; the resulting mixture is applied by rolling it onto the surface with a paint roller.

Note: this type of ceiling texture is not as durable as other forms. The granules come off when touched, or when applying subsequent coats of paint; resulting in a messy floor.

The best type of texturing for a ceiling is made from drywall compound, slightly thinned with water. When rolling texturing compound on a ceiling, thin it to about the consistency of thick paint. Apply it using a long-nap paint roller on an extension handle.

Once applied, the thinned mixture can be textured by making circular swirl patterns using a trowel; or by gently tamping it with a “stomp brush.” With either of these methods, it is important to work quickly before the compound begins to set. When using a stomp brush, be sure to rotate it after each stroke to avoid a repeating pattern from occurring.

Another way to add this type texture is to use a spray applicator to spray the thinned down drywall compound through a spray nozzle onto the surface being textured. The compound is placed in hopper; the spray nozzle can be adjusted for a variety of fine to course textures.

One popular variation of this texturing method is to gently smooth over the finish once it has partially set with a smooth trowel or wide drywall knife. The resulting texture is called a “knock down” finish.

While any of these methods can be achieved without a high level of skill and expertise, it usually is necessary to practice on pieces of scrap drywall to insure a uniform finish when doing the actual work.

Once the texture has dried, paint with one or more coats of your choice of color and finish interior paint. Note: flat finish paint is not washable. But egg shell, semi-gloss, and gloss finish paints are. Multiple coats will further enhance durability and wash-ability of your new textured ceiling.

Working with thinned drywall compound can be messy business. Especially when sprayed onto a surface. Items in the room which cannot be easily cleaned, or that can become permanently stained by the compound should be removed, or completely covered, or masked off. To clean the compound off floor surfaces, let it set and then scrape it off with a floor scraper; a hoe-like tool.


Installing a ceramic tile countertop is one type do-it-yourself project especially rewarding when careful planning yields the expected results and project success. Ceramic that has been properly installed provides a durable, attractive, easy to clean surface that will compliment your kitchen décor.

Ceramic tile is one of the more popular choices for countertops and backsplashes for a variety of reasons. It is available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles; it can also be easily repaired. Another reason tile counters are so popular is because many types of tile are very reasonably priced.

Before you purchase tile or begin your project however, take the following into consideration:

  • Because of the varying sizes of tiles from which to select, tiles combined with the width of grout lines between each rarely works out to an exact match for the size countertop planned. Therefore, it is often necessary to cut tiles for proper fit.
  • The best tile for most countertops is glazed ceramic floor tile; for two reasons.
  • Glazed tile is stain resistant, and floor tile is usually more durable than tile made for counters. Porcelain tile is also hard and durable, and another good choice as countertop tile.
  • Select tile with at least a Class 3 hardness rating.
  • Use grout containing latex to minimize staining in between tiles.
  • An equal row of partial tiles on both sides of the counter will look better than a full row on one side, with a narrow sliver on the other.
  • When planning your tile counter layout, consider the size and shape of edge tiles.
  • Bullnose tiles are flat with rounded edges; V-cap tiles are formed to completely cover edges.
  • Also take into consideration the vertical measurement of the finished edge; the edge tile combined with the thickness of core materials. Measure to ensure edge tiles won’t interfere with base cabinet doors or draws. If so, you’ll need to shim up the countertop using pieces of plywood that have been nailed along the cabinet rims.
  • Adding new tile slightly raises sinks and other fixtures, so plumbing will have to be adjusted. Even if you install the tile countertop yourself, you may want to hire an experienced plumber for this purpose.
  • Recessed sinks should be set in place prior to tiling; surface-mounted sinks should be installed after tiling is complete.
  • If you have to remove an old tile counter in order to install a new one, you will have to use a masonry chisel to break the old tile up; be sure and wear protective goggles. If the counter has a masonry bed, cut it apart using a circular saw with a masonry-cutting blade; be careful not to damage the base cabinets.
  • New tile can often be installed directly over old laminate surfaces as long as the laminates are in good condition and still firmly attached to their substrate.
  • When installing a whole new counter, ceramic tile can be installed on a 3/4-inch plywood core topped by a 1/2-inch thick cementboard; a material made specifically as backing for tile. Cementboard is also known as “glass mesh mortar unit” (GMMU). As an added moisture barrier, a layer of plastic can be inserted in-between the plywood and cementboard.

Note: if you decide to install the tile directly to a plywood core, select 3/4-inch exterior grade plywood; free from holes or crevices of any kind. This will help protect against moisture.

If you still feel comfortable installing a ceramic tile countertop yourself, let’s get started! In addition to the tile and possibly a plywood core toped by cementboard, you will need the following materials:

  • Tile, including edge tiles
  • 3/4-inch exterior grade plywood; for frame supports, the core, and base strips for along the edge, unless using pine
  • 1X2 pine (for base strips along the edge, unless using plywood)
  • 1/2-inch cementboard – to fit over the core
  • 4-ml polyethylene sheeting (to place in-between the plywood core and cementboard as an extra moisture barrier – if desired)
  • Tile adhesive
  • Carpenter’s glue
  • Grout
  • Latex additive (for the grout)
  • plastic grout spacers
  • Silicone caulk
  • Liquid silicone sealer, one that is food safe
  • Latex underlayment

You will also need the following tools:

  • Measuring tape
  • Putty knife
  • Framing square
  • Safety goggles
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nippers
  • Hammer
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Caulking gun
  • Electric drill with appropriate screw bits
  • Circular saw with a carbide-tipped blade
  • Screwdriver
  • Galvanized 2-inch wallboard screws
  • Galvanized 4d common nails

Make a Plywood Frame and Core

When constructing a whole new tile countertop, begin by making a 3-inch frame support made from plywood to go around the top perimeter of the base cabinet. Fasten the supports every 24-inches using galvanized 4d common nails. Install frame supports across the cabinets about 3-inches from the sides of the sink and cook top locations; secure in place.

Make the core the same size as the base cabinet using ¾-inch exterior grade plywood. Top with ½-inch cementboard cut to fit; lay over the core. Be sure all edges are flush; fasten the core and cementboard to the frame supports using galvanized 2-inch wallboard screws. Use the underlayment to fill the cracks and screw holes. Allow to dry before sanding flush with the surrounding surfaces

Measure the locations and sizes of sinks and cook tops; cut according to the rough-in dimensions provided by the manufacturer. Wear goggles when cutting the cementboard; use a circular saw with a carbide-tipped blade. The safest cutting procedure is to make several passes along each line, setting the blade a little deeper with each pass. While cutting, it is important to provide support under the waste material to prevent tear-out.

Make a base for edge tiles and overhang. Install 1X2 build-up strips of pine along all countertop core exposed edges. Attach the strips using carpenter’s glue and galvanized 6d finish nails; the strips should be flush with the top of the core. If you prefer, use 1X2 strips of exterior grade plywood in place of pine. Note: instead of using pine strips or plywood, you can cap the edges of the plywood and cementboard topper with strips of cementboard; finish with fiberglass mesh tape and thin-set mortar.

Prepare to Install Tiles

Before installing the tile, makes sure the surface area is dry and free of debris. Begin by measuring and marking the middle of the countertop core. Your first full tile will be placed along this center line; be sure it is flush with the edge of the build-up strip.

Use a framing square to establish perpendicular lines that extend to all edges of the core. If you are using V-cap edge tiles, begin with an edge tile; allow for grout spacing, and then place a full tile against the layout lines. Dry fit the first row of tiles along the perpendicular lines; if tiles don’t have spacing lugs on their edges, use plastic grout spacers to set gout-joint gaps between the tiles. Make adjustments as necessary.

Cutting Tile

To make work easier, precut all partial tiles before you begin actual installation. For straight cuts, place the tile face-up in the tile cutter. After making adjustments for the proper width, score the tile with the cutter wheel. Apply pressure to snap the tile, according to tile cutter directions.

For curved cuts, use a tile scoring tool to etch the outline of the curve on the tile. Cover the unwanted portion of the tile with crisscrossed lines; use tile nippers to break off small pieces of the section of tile to be discarded until the cutout is complete

As you work, remember:

  • Take into account the grout lines when measuring for partial tiles.
  • Where tiles meet the wall surface, allow 1/8-inch of space; or the thickness of one tile.

Installing Tiles

When installing a tile countertop, begin with edge tiles. Apply a layer of thin-set mortar to the back of the tile and the edges of the countertop using a notched trowel. Use a slight twisting motion to press tiles into place. Add (temporary) plastic gout spaces between tiles, if needed. The rounded tops of bullnose tiles should be flush with the surface of field tiles, so keep a loose tile along the build-up strips for easy reference.

Once the edge tiles are in place, begin laying top tiles working one small area at a time. Spread adhesive along the front of the counter top core; install a row of full tiles. When finished, begin a perpendicular row of tiles along the layout lines. Insert gout spacers as needed.

After each small section is complete, lay a carpeted 2X4 block of wood over the tile and tap gently with a hammer, and then run your hand over the tiles to insure they are even. Remove any spacers with a toothpick; scrape any excess adhesive from the gout joints.

Use denatured alcohol to remove any adhesive from the face of tiles before it has time to dry.

Continue installing tiles, alternating perpendicular rows as you work. Once you are finished installing field tiles, you are ready to start installing the backsplash tiles. You will want to leave between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch between the bottom of the backsplash tiles and the field tiles; this will be filled-in with silicone caulk once tile installation is complete.

Applying Grout and Caulk

Once tiles are all in place, mix grout according to package directions; use a latex additive if desired. After making sure all plastic grout spacers have been removed, use a rubber float to apply the grout in sweeping motions, forcing the gout into the joints between the tiles. After all spaces between tiles are completely filled-in, use a damp sponge with rounded edges to wipe away excess grout. Do not use a sponge with squared corners, which could wipe away grout from the joints.

Allow grout to cure for one hour before wiping away the powdery residue left on tiles; follow the manufacturer’s directions, and allow the grout to dry completely. Once grout is dry, caulk along the backsplash using a fine, unbroken bead of silicone caulk; smooth with the tip of a wet finger and wipe away excess.

Once the caulk has had time to cure, apply a penetrating liquid silicone sealer to the grout; one that is food safe. Use a foam brush for application. Allow the sealer dry, and apply a second coat. Once the second coat is completely dry, buff the tiles using a clean, soft cloth. For proper maintenance purposes, reapply a sealer once a year.


Sooner or later, everyone doing a renovation or new construction project will have to deal with some aspect of the floor. Floors are usually one of two basic types; floor joists supporting a substrate deck (plywood or particle board flooring nailed or screwed to the joists), or poured concrete. Both floor types are covered with a top floor covering of the homeowner’s preference; such as carpeting, hardwood, tile masonry, vinyl, or laminate simulated hardwood.

Whether installing a floor covering for the first time or replacing an existing with new, there are considerations to be made.


Probably the least difficult floor covering to remove is carpeting. Carpeting is usually attached to the floor in one of two ways:

  1. Tack strips – nailed, screwed, stapled, or glued to the subfloor around the perimeter of a room. The carpet pad is glued or tacked to the floor up to the edge of the tack strip. Carpet is then stretched into place and held by the sharp tack points in the strip. The strips are installed so that the angle of the points slant away from the center of the room, thus grabbing and holding the backing of the carpet in the desired position. Carpet is sometimes installed on concrete using the tack strip method. This is difficult, because tack strips must be attached to the concrete using concrete nails or screws. But this is necessary when pad is desired over the concrete.
  2. Glued to subfloor – Carpet is trimmed to fit and glued right to the subfloor without padding underneath. This is the preferred method for installing carpet on a concrete floor; however sometimes carpet is also glued directly to a wood subfloor; especially when pad is not being installed with the carpet.

Carpet Removal

Removing carpet that has been installed with tack strips is a simple process. Use a screwdriver to loosen a corner; grab onto the corner with pliers and carefully start pulling the edge of the carpet up along the wall. Carpet will usually release from the tack strip easily. When metal edge trim strips have been installed, the metal lips bent down over the carpet to hold it in place will need to be pried upward.

Once the metal lip has been pried up and away from the carpet, the carpet will easily come away from the strip. Occasionally the sharp teeth in the strip will catch on the carpet yarn. Be careful to work it loose without jerking and damaging the edge of the carpet if you want to salvage it.

If carpeting is installed in several rooms and adjoining halls with seams, and you only want to remove one room or area, you will need to take a seam apart. Seams are usually found at the threshold of entry doors, and must be cut exactly on the seam with a utility or carpet knife. If you are not re-installing carpet, cut it leaving a small margin on the room side of the seam; this can be finished and trimmed later.

Once carpet has been removed, the pad can usually be cut into strips using a utility knife and pulled up. Tack strip can be popped off the floor using a floor scraper (a driveway ice scraper works fine). If the pad has been stapled, the scraper can easily remove them. If the pad was glued, more work will be required to scrape it all off.

Glued carpet requires more time and labor to remove. If you can get an edge started, cut the carpet in place; in 2 or 3-foot wide strips using a utility knife. Grab the loose edge, and pull the strips of carpet off the floor.

If the carpet is glued to concrete, often the case for carpeted basement floors, and if getting the carpet wet won’t cause damage to the surrounding area, removal can sometimes be simplified. Certain types of glue will release when wet; allow 30 minutes to an hour for the glue to release. Then cut carpet into manageable strips while in place; and then roll the strips off the floor.

Removing Other Types of Flooring

Other types of flooring can prove more of a daunting task when it comes to removal:

Vinyl sheet goods are normally glued to the substrate, and will require scraping to get it loose. On some types, the soft backing may separate and remain on the floor, requiring extra scraping to pry it loose. Vinyl tiles are also glued down, and require scraping. In addition to a driveway type scraper, there are various types of razor scrapers readily available; specifically for this purpose.

Asphalt tiles are glued down with mastic. Sometimes two people working together with a scraper and a propane hand torch can help the task go more quickly. One person heats the tile with the torch; the other follows behind with the scraper.

Ceramic tile must be broken and scraped; tiles that have been installed with cementboard and thin set mortar may require more effort than those glued to the substrate.

Asbestos tiles may have been used on floors in older homes. Because of the health hazard posed, extreme environmental measures must be taken when removing this type of flooring; the services of an environmental contractor should be used without exception.


Whether preparing a new floor for floor covering installation, or changing an existing floor covering to another type in a remodel; in most cases there will be some type of preparation process required. Floor substrate surfaces should be made as level and smooth as possible.


Installing carpet and pad requires the least amount of preparation, because this type floor covering does not show substrate or leveling flaws like other types of floor covering. The substrate should be swept clean of any loose debris; any protruding staples or nails should be driven into the substrate or removed.

Baseboard moldings should be spaced with approximately a 3/8 inch gap between it and the substrate, to allow tucking the carpet edge. This promotes a solid grip on the tack strip, which should also be spaced 3/8 of an inch away from the molding. Many times baseboards are already installed with the proper spacing to accomplish this, and can be left in place.

Sheet goods

When installing sheet goods, hardwood or simulated hardwood laminate, or ceramic or stone tile, remove baseboards from the perimeter of room.

For substrate surfaces which are slightly uneven, leveling compound should be used to achieve a more level surface. Apply and smooth the compound using a trowel. You may want to have a professional complete this task.

Sheet goods , such as vinyl require the highest level of effort and precision. This is because even the smallest imperfection in the substrate will be highly visible in the finished surface. This type floor covering also needs special attention when it comes to leveling the substrate.

In extreme cases, the substrate may need several coats of leveling compound before being covered with 4X4-foot sheets of ¼-inch thick underlayment; which will further help provide a smooth, level substrate surface.

Glue-down Vinyl and Asphalt Tiles

Underlayment may also be necessary to prepare a level surface for installing glue-down vinyl or asphalt tiles. Special attention should be given to each run of underlayment, so that the joints are staggered from one run to the next. Nails or screws should be spaced no more than 8-inches apart over the entire surface of each sheet.

Ceramic and Stone Tiles

To prepare a floor for ceramic or stone tiles, many professional installers prefer using ¼- inch or 3/8-inch cementboard or “hardy board” ( concrete-impregnated Masonite) that has been nailed or screwed to the subfloor. Note: particle board subfloor decking will not stand up to moisture; it will need to be removed and replaced with plywood.

It is recommended that the total thickness of subfloor decking and cementboard be at least 1 ¼ to 1½-inches for stability. Using ¾-inch plywood and ½-inch cementboard will meet this requirement. Use high-grade construction adhesive to glue the cementboard to the plywood. Arrange the layers so that the cementboard overlaps plywood seams.

Make sure floor joists are marked to that plywood and cementboard can be securely fastened using screws or nails. Finish seams in the cementboard with fiberglass mesh tape and thin set mortar.

Hardwood and Simulated Hardwood Laminate

Hardwood flooring or simulated hardwood laminate flooring both require a level, smooth substrate, although not as exacting as what is required for vinyl sheet goods. Plywood ¾-inch thick or particle board substrate is adequate. If there are squeaks or creaks in the floor, add additional screws into the joists in the area of the creak to remove it.

Hardwood requires 15-pound asphalt felt paper or red rosin paper between the flooring and subfloor; laminates require a thin foam cushion. Both come in rolled sheets which are rolled out onto the substrate.

Whatever type of flooring is being installed, remember; preparing the substrate surface is important. It is better to take the extra time and effort in preparation to avoid any possible problems. Measure accurately, and don’t hesitate to consult a professional about any aspects you are unsure of.

Taking the extra time for preparation will help insure an attractive, functional floor covering for years to come.


Many homeowners opt to install hardwood flooring for both the aesthetic beauty and durability offered by this type floor. In addition to the more traditional woods such as oak or maple, exotic tropical woods such as teak and mahogany are becoming increasingly popular.

Hardwood flooring has become widely available in pre-finished choices; sanded and finished with multiple layers of baked-on finish. Select only flooring with a high Taber test rating; a rating for finish durability. Using a pre-finished product saves time and effort, and provides a higher quality finish.

Despite their popularity, due to the staggering cost of exotic woods, many homeowners choose to install simulated hardwood laminate flooring, instead. When installing a laminate, it is best to use only top of the line products that offer the ultimate durability, performance, and appearance. Middle of the line or economy selections perform poorly and may leave the homeowner dissatisfied with their choice after a short period of time.

Both types of flooring come in “tongue and groove” boards: each board has a tongue on one side, a groove on the other. The tongue side of board fits snugly into the groove side of the board preceding it; rendering an interlocked system of floorboards for the final surface. In addition to tongue and groove sides, the ends of the boards are tongue and grooved so that joints in the middle of a run are interlocked. Be careful in planning your runs to avoid unnecessary waste.

Preparing for Installation

Begin with careful measurements and planning; keep in mind that you will need an extra 10 to 15-percent of the total square footage to allow for defective or unusable boards; plus waste from cutting.

Hardwood should be installed perpendicular to the floor joists; beginning with the longest perpendicular wall of the room. Mark the floor joists at the bottom of the wall along the room perimeters. Roll out paper or foam cushion and staple to subfloor.

A baseline must be established for the first run of boards. Take multiple width measurements of the room to establish an accurate center line; use a chalk line to mark the line in the center of the room, perpendicular to the floor joists. Using the center line, establish a base line perfectly parallel to the center line; spaced about ½-inch from the wall to allow for expansion of the floor.

This will be the line for starting the first run of boards; it will be covered by the baseboard once the floor is completed. Snap a line between the perimeter joist marks to show the joists on the floor.

The Installation Process

Hardwood is nailed to the subfloor; simulated hardwood laminate is usually left floating; only the boards are glued together.

Select the longest boards for the first run; rip the tongue edge so it is flush. Line the edges up on the wall baseline and pre-drill screw or nail holes close to the wall edge, so they will be covered by baseboards on the joist line.

Nail or screw through the subfloor and into the joists to secure the boards. Blind nail the groove edge by pre-drilling pilot holes at a 45-degree angle in the grooves, so that 1½- inch finishing nails can be nailed into the joists, at 10-inch intervals the length of the run. Recess nails with a nail set.

Complete two more runs blind-nailing in this fashion. Use a scrap piece of flooring against the board edge to tap boards firmly into place with a hammer before nailing into place.

Space joints in each run so that they are at least 8-inches from the wall ends, but no closer than 6-inches from joints in the preceding or following run. When installing wider boards, some manufacturers recommend leaving a gap the thickness of a putty knife between runs to allow for expansion.

If you are laying floor in a smaller floor area, continue on in this fashion. For larger areas, use a flooring nailer with 2-inch staples or nails. Fit the nailer snugly into the groove; strike the plunger with a heavy rubber mallet. Drive nails into the center of the joists, and one between joists. Be careful not to damage board edges in the process.

When you are ready for the final row, wedge the boards firmly into place, drill pilot holes. Nail or screw the boards to the floor near the edge, as you did with the starter row. Be careful with placement so nails or screws will be covered by baseboards.


Vinyl sheet flooring comes in both 6 and 12-foot widths. Because it can be installed in kitchens and bathrooms without seams, it remains a favored choice floor covering for those type rooms. If seams are inevitable, installation can be planned so seams occur in inconspicuous, low-traffic areas. This reduces the risk of water seeping through the seams and causing damage.

About Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl resists water; it is practical, durable, and cushions the feet. Like any other type floor coving, it is available in different grades and qualities. Rule of thumb, the higher the concentration of vinyl in the sheet floor covering, the more resilient and long- lasting it will be. Thickness is another indication the floor will wear well. Solid vinyl is best, as well as the most expensive.

It is available in both full-spread and perimeter-bond types; full-spread has a felt-paper backing. It is secured using an adhesive that bonds it tightly to the floor. Perimeter-bond has a smooth, white PVC backing; it is laid directly over underlayment and secured in place using a special adhesive around the perimeters.

Underlayment and Installation Success

There are several factors that contribute to whether or not sheet vinyl installation is a success or a failure. At the top of the list for installation success is underlayment surface.

It must be smooth, even, and clean. Made from a material approved for that purpose; free from any ink, factory stamps, or paint. Otherwise stains or discolorations could bleed through.

Lauan plywood is construction grade plywood, made from a tropical hardwood. Type 1 exterior grade lauan plywood is the only type accepted by most sheet vinyl manufacturers as an appropriate sheet vinyl subfloor. Other types of plywood that may be more suitable as sheet vinyl subfloor include poplar or birch.

Using lesser grade plywood as sheet vinyl underlayment is not recommended, as hollow spots in between the veneer face layers can cause “spongy areas” on the floor. Other poor quality underlayment choices contain water soluble extractive chemicals that can cause staining.

A good thing to remember is that just because one type underlayment is recommended as the best choice by one vinyl sheet manufacture, that same underlayment may not be the best choice for another. It is important, therefore, to carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the product you are going to install.

Other secrets for installation success include:

  • Clean, accurate cuts – the vinyl must fit perfectly along the contours of the room, matching the outline of the floor.
  • Using a paper template will help insure cuts will be accurate. (See directions for making a template below.)
  • Full-spread vinyl can be installed over any flat, level surface recommended for underlayment material as long as it is clean and free from ink, factory stamps, and paint – as noted above. Perimeter bond vinyl that will be stapled around the perimeter will require a wood substrate.
  • Before applying new adhesive to the floor, remove any old. Old adhesives can react with chemicals in new adhesive and create stains.
  • Always use the recommended adhesive for whatever type sheet vinyl you are installing. Note: Some manufacturers require you use their name brand glue and will void their warranty if another type of glue is used.
  • Apply adhesive sparingly; use a 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch notched trowel for application.

Reduce the risk of failure

To reduce the risk of failure when installing sheet vinyl, remember the following:

  • Avoid using an adhesive not specifically recommended by the sheet vinyl manufacture. Not only can this void any warranty, but some type glues contain chemicals not compatible with the components used in sheet vinyl. This can cause discolorations to leach through the vinyl, creating unsightly stains.
  • Sheet vinyl seams require extra attention. Cracking and separation can result from using an “off the shelf” products unapproved by the sheet vinyl manufacturer.
  • Avoid using poor quality plywood as underlayment, as well as any material not recommended by the sheet vinyl manufacturer.
  • Avoid using poor quality floor mates on sheet vinyl after it has been installed, as discolorations can develop.

How to Make a Paper Template

Place paper that is 12 to18-inches wide along the walls of the room you plan to install sheet vinyl; butchers or brown wrapping paper works best. Be sure and leave a 1/8-inch gap between the wall and paper. Cut out triangular holes in the paper at about 18-inch intervals using a utility knife. Fasten the template to the floor using masking tape over the holes.

Work with one piece of paper at a time in making your template. As you work your way around the perimeter of the room, overlap pattern seams about 2-inches and tape together. Slide paper under door casings. Fit around pipes the following way:

  • Tape sheets of paper on either side of the pipe.
  • Measure the distance from the wall to the center of the pipe; subtract 1/8-inch (to account for the 1/8-inch wall to paper gap).
  • Transfer the measurement to a separate piece of paper; use a compass to draw the pipe diameter onto the paper.
  • Cut the pipe hole with scissors or a utility knife; cut a slit from the center of the cutout to the edge of the paper.
  • Fit the cutout around the pipe; tape the pipe-hole template to the adjoining template sheets.

Once the paper template is complete, identify the top side with a mark. Carefully roll or loosely fold the template for carrying.

Cutting Sheet Vinyl for Installation

Unroll the vinyl flooring, pattern side up, on any large, clean, flat surface; dry and free from debris. If installation requires more than one piece of vinyl, plan seams carefully.

Position pieces so the seam will be located in an inconspicuous, low traffic area of the floor. Cut the seam to fall along patterned lines or simulated grout joints so it will be less noticeable. Overlap edges of vinyl sheets by at least 2-inches and tape together. If possible, avoid standing or kneeling on the vinyl while working.

Situate the paper template over the sheet vinyl carefully; tape it securely in place. Trace the outline of the template onto the vinyl using a non-permanent fine tip felt marking pen, and then remove the template. Cut along the tracing lines using a sharp utility or linoleum knife. Use a straightedge as a guide when making long cuts.

Cut holes for pipes and other permanent obstructions; cut a slit from the pipe-hole to the nearest edge of the flooring. Whenever possible, make slits along decorative pattern lines. When complete, roll – do not fold – the flooring, and then transfer it to the installation area.

Preparing for Installation

Once the sheet vinyl has been cut, and rolled loosely for transportation to the installation site, you are ready to install it.

Make sure the floor surface is clean; completely free of dirt and debris. Unroll the flooring and carefully position it; slide the edges beneath undercut door casings. For two-piece installations, trim the excess (2-inch overlap).

Use a framing square as a guide to cut the seam along patterned lines; be sure and cut through both pieces of vinyl. Remove the scrap pieces; the two sheets of vinyl should be pattern-matched. Make sure flooring is perfectly in place before applying adhesive.

Perimeter-bond Vinyl Installation

If installing perimeter bond vinyl, begin to attach the vinyl to the subfloor / underlayment at the seams. Gently fold back the seams about 1-foot. Use a notched trowel or wallboard knife to apply a 4-inch wide swath of flooring adhesive to the subfloor.

Place the seam edges on the adhesive, one at a time; press gaps together with your fingers, making sure each seam is tight. If needed, use a hard rubber roller (also known as a J-roller), wallpaper seam roller, or rolling pin; press firmly and roll evenly.

Apply flooring adhesive underneath flooring cuts at pipes or posts, and around the entire perimeter of the room. Use the roller to ensure proper contact with adhesive. If flooring is being applied over wood underlayment, use 3/8-inch staples driven every 4-inches around the perimeter of the vinyl to further secure it to the subfloor. Make sure, however, staples will be hidden by base molding once it is in place.

Full-spread Vinyl Installation

Once the flooring is perfectly in place, pull back half of the flooring and apply a layer of flooring adhesive over the underlayment. Use the adhesive sparingly, but cover the area completely. Lay the flooring back onto the adhesive.

Use a heavy flooring roller to roll the vinyl in even rolls, moving toward the edges of the sheet. The roller helps to create a stronger bond and eliminate air bubbles. When finished, fold over the un-bonded section of flooring and repeat the process. Using a clean damp rage, wipe away any adhesive residue from around the edges of the vinyl.

Arrange metal threshold bars cut to fit across doorways; position over the edge of the vinyl flooring, and nail in place.


Ceramic and stone tile make beautiful floor covering and are favored choices for rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens. One significant drawback, however, is how cold it can be to walk on in bare feet. This is especially true during cold season months.

One remedy for this problem is the installation of a floor-warming system underneath the tiles. Something enjoyed by some 850,000 households across the United States and Canada. Characteristically, these systems consist of one or more thin mats with electric resistance wires, and are installed in thin set cement. Normally, they are hard-wired to a 120-volt GFCI circuit, and controlled using a timer-thermostat; much like an electric blanket.

Besides providing an evenly warm walking surface, floor warming systems offer a secondary heat source that increases room temperature comfort level; allowing you to zone heat your home and reduce heating bills. Another great thing about floor-warming systems is how cost-effective they are. Because heat isn’t forced through ducts or lost rising to the ceiling, most systems operate on less than 10-cents a day!

Households with Energy Star rated, programmable thermostat floor-heating systems in their bathrooms, kitchens, basements, or other rooms of the house can reduce energy costs by as much as 40-percent.

Because the system functions with a sensor in the floor and does not measure air temperature of the room, the thermostat can be placed in a closet or another unseen, inconspicuous location. Although installation of the mats and cold lead wire work can be accomplished by a do-it-yourselfer, timer and thermostat connection are aspects that should be handled by an experienced electrician.

Safe, quiet, relatively easy to install, and a great way to provide more consistent temperatures throughout the house and get rid of “discomfort zones,” there are floor- warming system mats that can also be installed under vinyl, laminate, and engineered wood floors. If not being installed directly over cement, install cementboard as a subfloor before laying the mats.

Systems normally range from $300 to $600 for the average sized-bathroom of around 30 square feet. There are various sized mats for larger rooms; custom made systems are also available.

What to look for in a Floor-warming System

  • Select a floor-warming system that can be installed in a single layer of thin set cement rather than two layers. This allows for faster, easier installation a DIY handyman can more easily handle.
  • Look for cold lead wires long enough to connect to the thermostat without requiring cut-&-turns of the mat to bring it closer to the thermostat.
  • Some products weave the wires over and under a fiberglass net – leaving some areas of the wire vulnerable to damage. Look for a product with a fiberglass net or other supporting material that completely covers the resistance wire. This helps ensure wires will not become nicked or damaged by the trowel during installation, when applying the adhesive.
  • Look for a system with ultra-thin 1/8-inch thick cold-lead wires. Cold-lead wires as thin as the heat resistance wires will help ensure easy, complete coverage by the adhesive. Note: a system with thicker cold-lead wires will add extra steps to the installation process. It will require that either a groove be chiseled in the cement slab underneath, or cut in the plywood sub-floor or backer board to keep the floor level flat.

One cost-effective option to consider in place of a thermostat is a dimmer switch, which runs just under $40. Although the system would not turn on automatically, you would still be able to increase and decrease floor temperature manually.

Manual thermostats with floor sensors are available for under $70; programmable thermostats with sensors run around $150.

Although using a timer independent of a thermostat to heat the floor during certain periods is possible, it is not recommended. This is because the floor temperature will continue to increase as long as the timer is on – since the timer by itself has no floor sensor.

Finally, select a manufacturer that offers vender technical support that helps DIY homeowners by designing a layout for the system, customized to the homeowner’s own floor plan for maximized uniform heating.

Before and After Installation Checks

One critical aspect of installing a floor-warming system is to perform a resistance test to ensure heating wires were not damaged during shipping. Other tests should also be performed once the system is in place to ensure wires were not damaged during the installation process.

To check for wire damage prior to installation, inspect the resistance value of each heating mat using a digital multi-tester. Check the reading against the factory-tested reading noted in the manufacturer’s guide. Your reading should fall within the acceptable range determined in the guide. Otherwise, the mat has been damaged and should not be installed. Record the reading to compare against others that will be taken.

During installation, check the resistance of the mats periodically; once installation is complete, check the resistance once again.

How to Install a Floor-warming System under a Tile Floor

While keeping to the specific guidelines for whatever floor-warming system you are installing, pay attention to the basic steps below. In the event of a discrepancy between the two, always follow the manufacturer directions.

  1. Remove the wall surface to expose the framing for installation of the boxes for the warmer system thermostat and timer. Install a 2 ½-inch deep by 4-inch wide double-gang box for the thermostat on one side of a stud; a single-gang electrical box for the timer on the other side. Note : select an easy-to-access location; box placement should be about 60-inches from the floor.
  2. Make holes for routing the power leads and thermostat sensor wire. Use a plumb bob or level to mark points on the bottom wall plate directly below the two knockouts on the thermostat box. At each mark, drill a ½-inch hole down through the top of the plate; drill two more holes through the sides of the plate as close to the floor as possible, to intersect the top holes.
  3. Using a tube cutter, cut two lengths of ½-inch thin wall electrical conduit to fit between the thermostat box and the bottom plate. If installing 3 or more mats, use ¾-inch conduit instead.
  4. Place the bottom end of each conduit up about ¼-inch into a hole in the bottom plate. Using a setscrew fitting, fasten the top end to the thermostat box.
  5. Run a 12-gauge Nm electrical cable from the service panel to the timer box; attach it using a cable clamp. Be sure and leave about 8-inches of extra cable extending from the box.
  6. About 12-inchs above the boxes, drill a 5/8-inch hole through the center of the stud. Making a smooth curve, run a short branch cable from the timer box through the drilled hole, to the thermostat. Secure both ends using clamps.

After planning out ceramic or other tile and snap reference lines, vacuum the floor thoroughly and spread out the heating mats. Make sure the power leads are positioned closest to the electrical boxes.

Mats should be positioned no closer than 3-inches to walls, showers, tubs, toilet flanges, or other permanent fixtures in the room. They should be positioned 1 to 2-inches under the kick space of vanities to prevent hot heels and cold toes when standing in front of the vanity.

The mat, however, should not be positioned under the cabinet itself, or under expansion joints in the concrete slab. Individual mats should be set close together, but should not overlap; heating wires should be no closer than 2-inches from wires on neighboring mats.

Once the mats are in place, check to insure power leads will reach the thermostat box. The mats should be completely flat, wrinkle and ripple free. Secure the mats to the floor using double-sided tape. Space tape about every 2-feet and press firmly to insure the mat is firmly secured.

Because insulated power leads are on the thick side, you will most probably have to create recesses in the floor for the connection between the power leads and heating-mat wires. Use a grinder or chisel and hammer to make the recess. Once the connection has been fitted in the recess, secure it using a bead of hot glue.

Your next step is to complete the wiring process:

7. Thread steel fish tape down the conduits. Use electrical tape to attach the ends of the power leads to the fish tape; pull the fish tape and leads up the conduit.

8. Disconnect the fish tape, and secure the leads to the box using insulated clamps.

Leave about 8-inches extending from the clamps; cut any access leads using snips or pliers.

9. Feed the heat sensor wire through the other conduit, and then weave it into the mesh of the nearest mat. Extend it into the mat 6 to 12-inches, and secure it in between two resistance wires using dabs of hot glue.

10. Using the multi-tester, test the resistance wires once again to ensure they are still undamaged; record the reading for future reference.

You are now ready to install the tile flooring. Use thin-set mortar as an adhesive; spread it carefully over the floor and warming mats using a square-notched trowel. Every so often, use the multi-tester to check the resistance reading to ensure no damage has been done to the mats. Once tile installation is completed, check mat resistance once again.

If everything checks out, complete the floor-warming installation process as follows:

11. Attach the adapter cover to the thermostat box. Patch the wall opening with wallboard.

12. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, complete the wiring connections for the thermostat and timer. Attach the sensor wire to the thermostat setscrew connection. Apply the manufacturer’s wring labels to the thermostat box and service panel. Mount the thermostat and timer; complete the circuit connection at the service panel.

Once the flooring materials have fully cured, test the floor warming system one last time to ensure it functions properly.


The most common way to finish walls and ceilings is by installing gypsum wallboard to the framing and ceiling joists. It is also called drywall, sheetrock or sometimes just “rock.” It is available in 4X8, 4X12, and 4X16 foot sheets; in 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch (becoming increasingly difficult to find because it is not commonly used), 1/2-inch, and 5/8-inch thicknesses.

Most local building codes require that perimeter walls and staircases of a building have 5/8-inch thickness for enhanced fire resistance. 4X8 sheets of drywall have a grey backing; longer sheets have white.

Gypsum wallboard is also available in a water-resistant form for use in bathrooms. It can be identified by its light green paper covering instead of the standard white. Wallboard is not a suitable substrate for installing ceramic tile; use cementboard, instead.

Once insulation has been installed, and vapor barrier (if included) in place, walls and ceilings are ready for wallboard.


If any wall studs or joists look out of alignment, check them using a straight edge. Shim recessed wall studs and ceiling joists using paper drywall shims, so the wall is relatively even.

Wall framing studs have a “crown” side; one that slightly bows outward. Most framers put the crowns all on the same side. This causes the wall to be slightly concave (curved in) or slightly convex (rounded), depending on crown placement.

Starting at one end of the wall and pushing sheets tightly against a curved wall will throw the joints off. So, if what you desire is a concave wall, first snap a chalk line across the framing studs 4-feet out from the ends of the wall; lay the first row of wallboard to that line. For a convex wall, you would snap the chalk line 4-feet from its innermost point.

The long edges of wallboard are slightly tapered. When two sheets butt against the other it forms a shallow “hollow, with the seam in the middle. This allows for easier taping. When long sheets are installed horizontally, ends butt together without forming a hollow. The resulting seam can be somewhat more difficult to tape.

The horizontal method will produce fewer seams. It will also result in waist-height seams that are less noticeable than 4-foot interval vertical seams. The difference in appearance is especially noticeable near the ceiling area.

The Ins and Outs of Wallboard and What you will Need

When purchasing wallboard keep in mind that it must be carried into the job site. Longer sheets will be more difficult to maneuver, and may not fit through some passage ways.

Also keep in mind that wallboard is relatively heavy and awkward to carry. For that reason it may well be worth the extra money to have the building supply store where it was purchased deliver it to the job site.

It may also be worthwhile to purchase more sheets than what you feel is needed; in case of breakage, or measurement or cutting miscalculations. This will reduce the risk of having to make a return trip to the store for more at a later time.

Wallboard is fastened using either screws or nails driven through the sheet into the wall stud or ceiling joist beneath. Although most do-it-yourselfers find nails easiest to use, screws will be stronger. Sometimes a bead of glue is also used for additional support. It will take about 5-pounds of 11/2-inch drywall screws or 1 3/8-inch drywall nails (ring- shank nails will not hold as well as drywall nails) per 1,000 square feet of drywall.

Even when using screws, be sure to get some nails for corner bead. When using glue, use an adhesive such as PL-200, which comes in a tube-like caulk. Allow a large 32-ounce tube for every three 8-foot sheets of wallboard.

Corner bead is available in plastic or metal strips; it is used to finish corners and certain edges. Metal corner bead makes a durable 90-degree corner; if you want a rounded edge, use bull-nosed bead.

Segmented bead is suitable for rounded openings; flexible corner bead is available for edges other than 90-degree. Inside corners are simply finished with tape and drywall mud (joint compound); J-bead is used for inside corners where a new wall butts up to a finished or concrete wall.

Other Considerations

Drywall compound or “mud” is a mixture of gypsum and water used to cover seams, screws, and nails. When dry, it is easily sanded to make a smooth surface which does not show seams and fasteners. Approximately 140-pounds of compound will be needed for 1,000 square feet of drywall. A 5 gallon bucket weighs 62-pounds; it is also available in 40-pound boxes.

Compound comes in 2 grades; “all-purpose,” and “topping” or “finishing.” All-purpose can be used for all phases of taping, patching, and texturing. Topping grade is slightly thinner and smoother; making it easier for use as a final coat on seams, or for texturing. Buy extra; it will be less expensive to have more than what is needed than to have to drive back to the store for extra later.

As drywall compound dries, it shrinks. So, if you are patching large areas or holes it is best to use a product such as Durabond. It comes in powder form and is mixed with water; dries quickly, and does not shrink. Be careful, however, to purchase the right type. Durabond comes in 2 types; one is sand-able, the other sets up very hard.

Paper drywall tape is about 2-inches wide and sold in rolls. It is used with drywall compound to reinforce and hide wallboard seams. A thin coat of compound is spread on the seam; once dry, the tape is placed over it. And then another thin coat of compound is smoothed over the tape.

Some people prefer using plastic mesh tape, which is slightly adhesive on one side. Mesh tape is a little more expensive, but may well be worth the additional expense for the novice DIY installer. To use, simply press it over seams, and cover with mud.

The Installation Process – Start with the Ceiling

When you begin installation, always start with the ceiling. Anyone who has ever mounted wallboard on a ceiling knows it is a nearly impossible task without one or more helpers to hold it in place.

The use of a drywall jack can simplify things immensely. A sheet of drywall can be placed on the jack, hoisted into place, and then fastened to ceiling joists after being adjusted for a precise fit.

Be sure and measure accurately. Install wallboard so that sheets run lengthwise across the ceiling or at a right angle to joists; with end seams falling as close to the middle of the joist as possible. Use a pencil to mark lines for easy placement of fasteners.

When fastening, start with ends. Rule of thumb is to space fasteners about 8-inches apart. Around the edges, place one fastener at each joist. Add 6 fasteners along each joist line, in pairs spaced 2-inches apart. Space pairs evenly along joist line. When taping, fasteners can be covered with drywall compound with a stroke of the drywall knife.

Note : building codes have very strict regulations about how many fasteners are required to attach wallboard. Be sure and check your local building code requirements.

Most professional wallboard installers use a screw gun with a special adapter that disengages screws at a proper depth. Attachments are available for a regular or cordless screwdriver that works in the same way. Avoid using the clutch on a cordless screwdriver. It could result in inconsistencies in screw depth.

Screws that are too deep break the paper, causing a raised area in the drywall. Screws not driven in far enough protrude above the finished surface, and make taping and patching difficult.

Measure accurately when pre-cutting openings for light fixtures and HOT WIRE vents.

If you prefer, you can tack the drywall up in place and then cut openings using a drywall router or a drill with a zip bit.

When installing the next row of sheets, be sure to arrange them so that end joints are staggered from the first run of sheets. Occasionally, a piece may finish just short or just past a joist. Either cut the piece, or add a 2X4 to the side of the joist, then attach the drywall.


Once the ceiling has been installed, begin the walls. Butt the first run on each up to the ceiling. In some rooms longer sheets will span the entire wall. However, if wallboard needs to be pieced, make sure joints will fall in the middle of a framing stud.

When installing wallboard around a door or window, carefully measure and pre-cut openings. Use just a few fasteners to tack up a sheet of wallboard right over the opening, and then cut with a drywall router. A drill and zip bit also works well. Once the opening is cut to fit, install the rest of the fasteners. Note: openings for wall outlets, switch panels, and HVAC vents should be cut in this same manner.

When cutting full sheets for a custom fit, use a large T-square, and then score the wallboard on the line you want cut using a utility knife. Carefully push the waste piece away from the cut; the gypsum core of the wallboard should “pop” and break on the line. On the back side, cut the paper along the break line using a sharp utility knife. Use a Surform plane to straighten and smooth the edge for a tight-fitting joint.

If the ceiling is less than 8-feet, the bottom run of drywall will have to be cut lengthwise. When installing the bottom run, allow a gap of 3/8 to 1/2-inch at the bottom. Use a pry bar to gently lift the sheet off the floor, and then fit snugly into place. Leaving a gap will help prevent moisture from wicking up into the wallboard if the floor gets wet. Note: if there is enough water present in a water damage/flood situation, drywall with an insufficient gap at the bottom can wick the moisture 4-feet or more up into the wall, causing un-repairable damage.

Before starting on the bottom run, mark the position of the framing studs so that once wallboard installation is complete, there will be a reference for installing baseboard moldings.

Corner Beading

Once wallboard has been fastened in place, outside corners will need corner bead to protect the corner and allow proper finishing. Corner bead is simple to install. Simply place over the corner and nail it in place using the smaller holes; spaced at about 6-inch intervals.

There is a trick to proper corner bead installation:

  • Take a short piece of corner bead and hold it against a corner.
  • Place a 6-inch drywall knife with one corner touching the corner bead edge, the other touching the surface of the drywall beyond the corner bead.
  • There should be about a 1/16-inch gap between the knife and the nailing edge of the corner bead.

When properly nailed in place, the 1/16-inch gap allows the drywall compound to be spread in a layer just thick enough to hide the corner bead, yet blend in well with the surface of the drywall.

Pushing too hard will make contact between the drywall knife blade and the nailing flange. If the spine of the corner bead is pulled out too far, the corner will exceed 90- degrees, making it difficult to install the base molding.

Finishing Up

After beading is properly installed and wallboard joints (seams) neatly taped, the final step is to apply drywall compound. This can be a difficult task to perform properly, and may take practice. A poor job will be highly visible. But with practice and by following basic techniques, even a do-it-yourselfer can achieve a wall finish with finesse.

There are 3 “stages” of drywall finishing; each involves the application of drywall compound. First, cover screw and nail heads, then fill joint cracks. Finally, apply 2-inch joint tape to reinforce joints. Use either paper or plastic/fiberglass mesh, whichever you prefer. Most beginners find fiberglass mesh easiest to work with.

How to Apply Drywall Compound and Tape

Before starting, make sure no nails or screw heads protrude above the wall surface. Accomplish this by running the edge of a 4-inch drywall knife over the wall; listen for the ping of metal on metal. Drive any protruding heads further in, so they are below the surface of the wallboard.

Buttjoints are usually done first, then flat joints, (factory-recessed edges), and then ceiling-to-wall joints. By starting with the buttjoints, ceiling corner tape and flat joint tape will cover butt joint tape.

Use a 6-inch drywall knife; take small dabs of compound from the pan, and trowel them across the joint along its entire length. Lightly smooth with the trowel. Next, place a piece of tape over the joint; press it lightly into place. Cut it off at the end of the joint.

For vertical joints, start in the middle of the joint and work out to the ends. Using modest pressure, pull a 6-inch knife along the joint; pushing the paper slightly into the compound, squeezing out the excess. Be careful not to press too hard and squeeze too much of the compound out, or the tape will not stick to the wall and will bubble.

Gently clean off ridges of excess mud at the edges of the tape; smooth one final time from the middle of the joint, and then leave it. The tendency most novices have it to keep smoothing it; but once you’ve followed the above process, leave it alone and move on.

The concept is to use as little compound as possible, while at the same time getting just enough on so that the tape has something to stick to with no dry spots that will bubble. It takes practice to get the feel for just the right amount of compound. When sanding, keep it to a minimum.

Once buttjoints are dry, do the flat joints in the same manner. Start in the center and work out towards the ends. By waiting until the buttjoints are dry, there is no risk of pulling the butt joint tape loose when intersecting.

Inside corner joints are handled like butt and flat joints, but are more complicated because of the right angle. Place dabs of mud along the joint, and smooth using a 6-inch drywall knife. When taping, use your fingers to crease the tape along the factory ridge in the center. Gently push the tape into the corner and smooth it along the drywall surface with your fingers.

Trim to fit at the ends, which can be ½-inch shorter than the joint. Start at the center; push the tape into the corner. Trowel one side towards the joint end using a 4 or 6-inch drywall knife. Do the same along the opposite edge.

Be careful to leave enough of the compound under the tape so it will adhere correctly. Tip: allow wall-to-ceiling inside corner joints to dry before starting on vertical wall-to-wall inside corner joints.

If outside corner bead has been properly installed, applying mud will be easy. Simply dab mud along both sides of the corner, and then smooth using one edge of the drywall knife. One edge of the blade should be slightly straddling the corner, the other riding along the wall. Smooth off any ridges of excess mud, and then leave it alone.

Applying the Second Coat of Compound

Once everything has dried, carefully apply a second coat of compound to fill in low spots and cover any defects in the first coat. This will also help feather the taped and mudded surfaces into the drywall surface. If the first coat was properly applied, sanding between first and second coat applications will not be necessary.

Remove any ridges or dried blobs of compound with a 6-inch knife. Be thorough; any bumps or ridges left behind will be difficult to deal with later. Use the same order of application used with the first coat, but use a 12-inch drywall knife instead of 6-inch.

Start with the buttjoints; trowel mud up along one side of the joint, and then the other. It might take a second pass to get an even coat. Once you have an even coat on both sides, make one more pass on each.

Put slightly more pressure on the outside of the blade; you want to feather compound from a slight ridge in the center of the joint, while blending it to the wall edge. Then leave it alone and move on.

Finish all buttjoints and let them dry before starting flat joints; do the same before moving to corner joints. You’ll also want to second coat the screw and nail heads as you work.

Applying the Skim Coat

Before you begin the final or skim coat, again scrape off any dried lumps, ridges or slops. If there are problem areas, you can sand them. But full sanding comes later.

The skim coat fills any imperfections in the joints or feathering using a thinner, lighter compound. Use a 12-inch blade on butt and flat joints; a 6 or 8-inch blade for corners, nail and screw heads. Because the coat goes on thinner, it dries much faster.

Once the final coat is thoroughly dry, full sanding can begin. Sanding drywall will produce an abundance of fine white dust. Therefore, it is a good idea to seal off the area using plastic sheeting to minimize dust intrusion to other areas of the structure. If there are windows that can be opened with fans venting air to the outside, it will help.

Be sure to wear a dust mask and safety glasses or goggles. If applications of tape and compound have been properly administered, a minimum of sanding will be necessary. The surface just needs to be smooth for primer and painting.

While sanding, go lightly. The idea is just to minimize humps over joints, not create a perfectly flat surface. Small ridges will quickly disappear; be careful not sand into joint tape or drywall paper. If you do, circle them with a pencil to repair later, and move on. When finished, use a trowel to skin the areas, including any crevices that didn’t sand out. Let dry, then sand lightly.


Most renovation projects or new construction utilize gypsum wallboard as the preferred choice for finishing interior walls. Once wallboard has been installed and joints taped and sanded, walls can be paneled, painted, wallpapered, or textured. For walls that will be textured, texture is applied before adding a coat of primer and paint.

Texturing not only adds character to the wall. It also efficiently covers any flaws or imperfections in the joint taping work. Since “perfect” wallboard joint taping is more likely achieved by a professional drywaller, DIY homeowners who undertake a wallboard project are more likely to add texture to their walls.

The Two Most Popular Types of Texturing

One of the most common types of wall texturing is “orange peel;” also known as “eggshell” or “splatter.” Small splatters of thinned drywall compound are sprayed onto the wall; the finished result is a roughened texture much like the outer peel of an orange.

Another type of texturing that is popular is called “knock-down,” also known as “skip trowel.” This is accomplished by spraying spatters of thinned drywall compound onto the wall. After it has started to set up, it is gently smoothed using a 12-inch drywall knife or trowel to flatten the tops of larger spatters. Small-sized spatters produce small, flat, smooth areas within the texture; large sized spatters produce larger, flattened areas within the texture.

Both orange peel and knock-down finishes require a spray applicator to apply splatters of thinned drywall compound to the wall. There are various types available for purchase or rent, including those that use compressed air to spray the compound. Other types of applicators use electric pumps.

Each application device incorporates a hopper into which thinned drywall compound is placed. Some use larger hoppers that sit on the floor and feed the solution to a hand-held trigger sprayer. Others use smaller hoppers attached to the spray gun itself.

Other Texturing Techniques

Another texturing technique is known as “slapbrush/knockdown;” sometimes also referred to as “palm texture” or “tiger skin texture.” This technique employs the use of different types of special texture brushes; round, square, single, or double-headed – each creating a different effect.

With the exception of popcorn ceiling texturing, most texturing methods used for ceilings can also be used on walls; for instance, the stomp brush technique. Texturing compound is thinned to about the consistency of thick paint, and then applied using a long-nap paint roller on an extension handle.

The applied mixture is then textured by gently tamping it with a “stomp brush.” It is important to work quickly before the compound begins to set. When using a stomp brush, you must rotate it after each stroke to avoid a repeating pattern from occurring.

With the use of bull-nose corner bead that produces rounded corner edges, a rustic “old- world” effect can be achieved by using a trowel to apply a thick coat of drywall compound. Start at one end of a wall, and then finish with a series of half circles that overlap down the wall.

Another texture can be obtained by applying a lump of compound and then tapering it down to the surface. Repeat the process, over-lapping and working subsequent applications in the same direction, as you work your way down the wall.

When you use drywall compound to add texture to a wall, use your imagination to produce different effects. The key is achieving a consistent finish throughout the project with whatever texture you develop.

Once texturing has dried completely, apply a primer coat. Follow by at least 2 coats of paint in the color and type preferred; egg shell, semi-gloss, or gloss finishes are best choices for washable walls.

Besides those mentioned above, are other types of wall texturing techniques; including “sand swirl” and “Spanish knife.” Application of many types of texturing requires only a minimum amount of practice to develop the technique adequately. The main requirement is that application be consistent throughout the entire area being textured.

Note : spray-on texturing is messy business; all surfaces not being textured should be covered with plastic sheeting and masked off. Entryways leading into other areas of the house closed off.


If you desire a room with enhanced soundproofing qualities, a good time to provide for it is when installing insulation.

Soundproofing is rated by a system called Sound transmission class (STC); the higher the STC rating, the better the soundproofing qualities of the wall. In addition, since air transmits sound, any air spaces left in the wall (such as around outlets, plumbing, vents, and wiring) will adversely affect the STC.

An STC rating of 20 to 25 allows normal speech to be heard through the wall; a wall with an STC rating of 42 reduces normal speech to a murmur. A 2X4 frame wall with fiberglass insulation and drywall on both sides will provide a moderate STC of 39. The same wall with a double layer of drywall on the soundproofed side will increase the STC to 44.

The top layer of drywall is installed using sound channels; creating air space between the layers of drywall. The same wall can be slightly improved by using acoustical tile instead of the second layer of drywall, the STC rating can be increased to 46. This can further be enhanced by using a little different design in the stud wall itself.

Enhancing STC Rating

To enhance STC rating, install 2X4 studs vertically on a 2X6 top and bottom plate when constructing room walls. Stagger the 2X4 studs so that they alternate being flush with either side of the plates. Weave fiberglass insulation into the middle space between each, with batts running horizontally.

Once both sides of the wall are finished off with ½-inch drywall, the resulting STC is an impressive 48. Note: at an STC rating of 50, a loud voice or shout cannot be heard on the other side of the wall.

Other Sound Proofing Material Options

One inexpensive alternative to regular insulation is foam sound proofing material. The foam comes in ½-inch to 2-inch thicknesses, enabling it to fit into any space. STC ratings using the foam run between 40 and 50.

Vinyl sound proofing materials yield even more impressive results, with ratings between 42 and 55. And Metal wall channels have STC ratings of 38 to 50. Of course, home location, the nature of the noise, and homeowner budget are all determining factors on which soundproofing techniques will work best.


Besides being the looking glass into the outside world from the interior of your home, windows add to aesthetic house appeal – inside and out. As home components, windows serve a dual functional.

They provide light and control air flow throughout the house, and allow for exits from the house in case of an emergency. Windows also affect the comfort of interior climate and play a vital role in the way your home gains and loses heat.

Window frames come in a variety of materials. Including traditional wood; this provides the best insulation, although water, humidity, sunlight, and other outdoor elements take their toll. Making regular maintenance and upkeep necessary in order to keep wood frames looking attractive and in good repair.

Other frame materials include aluminum and vinyl (PVC-U) – both virtually maintenance free; offering a more modern look that enhances a variety of home styles. Composite frames such as fiberglass are also available. With the same advantages of aluminum and vinyl, they are also strong and long-lasting.

Although they are a more expensive window frame choice, one added advantage of composite frames is that they can be painted for a more natural look.


Older double-hung windows have heavy sash weights concealed behind the frame’s side jambs. The weights are connected by a rope and pulley system that counterbalances sashes. Making them easy to open and enabling them to stay in partial opened positions.

Newer double-hung windows use spring lift devices instead of weight and pulley. Both newer and older double-hung windows allow for one-half the total area to be opened for ventilation. Besides being arranged in single units, doubled, or in groups of three or more, they are often used on either side of a large stationary insulted window to create a “window wall.”

More traditional than other the window types, double hung are also the most familiar and a good window choice when you want to maximize the amount of wood on the interior of a home. They come in various widths; from short and narrow, to tall and wide – up to 45-inches. Opting to one larger window in place of two smaller, narrower casement windows can help homeowners cut down on new window costs.

Other types of windows available include:

  • Casement windows – which are becoming more common in newer homes. They work like a door, swinging to the side to open and close, and are a great window choice in areas where windows are harder to reach – such as over the kitchen sink. They are available in a variety of sizes and in square and rectangle shapes; as well as custom shapes such as arches and trapezoids.
  • Sliding windows – also called “sliders,” open one-half the width of the total window area. Some have one fixed sash, and another that slides; on other styles both sashes slide to open or close. Sliding windows are the perfect choice for homeowners who desire an unobstructed view of the outdoors.
  • Awning windows are similar to casement windows but wider than they are tall; they tilt outward instead of off to the side. Some also slide downward as they tilt, allowing them to open at a nearly horizontal position for maximum cooling effect. Awning windows are commonly placed above or below another type window or over a door, providing more light and ventilation
  • Jalousie windows use a series of glass slats that overlap one over another, and pivot open when a crank is turned. The sloped slates allow cooling ventilation while resisting direct sunlight and shedding rain. Because the design is not airtight nor energy efficient, many building codes no longer allow jalousie windows for interior home use. They also represent a security risk. Therefore, these type windows are usually reserved for breezeways, porches, and other unheated areas of a home; especially in warmer-climate areas.
  • Bay windows are typically three windows joined together. The center pane is stationary with double-hung or casement windows placed at an angle on either side. Arching out, giving the sense of reaching out into the world and capturing the most view in a limited amount of space.
  • Bow windows are similar to bay, but consist of four or more casement windows jointed together, forming a graceful curve. Choices include fixed windows, vented windows that can be opened, or a combination of both. Creating a visually stunning effect and an entirely new look to a room, while at the same time offering more space, light, and enhancing outside view.
  • Fixed windows cannot be opened. They are available in a wide range of sizes; up to 48-square feet. They come in different shapes with various features, and are often used by themselves or in addition to other window types. Very large fixed windows are often referred to as “picture windows;” they monopolize a wall with an unimpeded outdoor view.
  • Circle-head windows are another type of fixed window. Used as an accent over tall windows or doors, they add more light and an elegant, dramatic flair. Available in a wide variety of shapes to be used singularly or in combination with others.


Installing new windows can drastically enhance the aesthetic appearance of your home. They also provide advanced features that can step up security, improve room lighting and climate comfort, and increase energy efficiency, as well.

Certain aspects of removing old windows are dependent on the particular window type involved. However, other aspects of removal are applicable to all window types.

Basic Guidelines

Regardless what window type you have, care must be taken during removal. Consider the following:

  • The risk of breaking glass can represent a danger to safety. Place strips of masking tape crisscrossing over the glass surface will help reduce the risk of glass breakage during the removal process.
  • Lay a sheet or tarp outside, below the window area. Not only is this another good safety precaution, but saves on clean up time in the event glass does break.
  • Windows are heavy and can be awkward to handle while removing, so help will be required. And because old windows are commonly coated with layers of old paint which can be lead-based, wearing a NIOSH-approved dust mask and gloves is recommended.
  • As with any demolition project – especially those involving outdated materials now recognized as possible health hazards, prompt removal of debris from the premises is important. In addition to efforts to prevent as much dust and debris from filtrating into the home while the project is in progress. Prompt interior clean up and vacuuming is important.

Specific Removal Techniques for Window-type

Follow the procedures below for specific window-type removal.

Wood framed windows – although removing an old wood window sash is fairly easy, some types of wood frames may be nailed in place through the exterior casing or jambs. It may be necessary to pry off the casing using a pry bar. Use a hacksaw blade to reach between the jamb and frame to slice through any nails in order to remove the window. A reciprocating saw with a metal-cutting blade can also be used.

If the window has been nailed through the concealed portion of the blind stop, remove the exterior casing and pull out the nails holding it in place. If the window has counterweights, remove the access panel and take them off before working on the rest of the window.

Metal framed windows – because most metal framed windows are screwed in place, removing the screws is usually all that is required. The screw heads on old windows may be concealed by layers of paint; searching for each and scraping them off and cleaning out the screwdriver slots might be required before removal.

Aluminum and vinyl framed windows – will typically be nailed to sheathing under the siding through flanges. This can make removal a more difficult process than other window types. A portion of the siding will have to be removed to expose the perforated nailing flange in order to remove nails and pry the flange loose. A cats paw can be used to work out the nails for easier removal.


The framing required for a window for structural support is very similar to door framing. One added feature is crippling studs below the window to support the sill. Other aspects include a header supported by king studs with jack studs (to support the header) on either side. Some local building codes may require blocking between the king and next stud.

King and jack studs are necessary; they transfer the weight of the home’s structure to the sole plate below. Headers are built using 2X8s, 2X10s, or 2X12s, with a ¾-inch piece of plywood sandwiched in between. Other aspects of framing for a window include the top plate, sole plate, and rough sill.

Window manufacturers usually specify the size of rough opening required for window installation. Although modest-sized windows can many times be handled as a DIY project by a homeowner with house structure requirement knowledge, a helper will most likely be required for at least some aspects of window installation. For instance, to hold the window in place while the window is shimmed, so it will be level and plumb.

When it comes to wide window openings of 6-feet or more, some building codes require special trimmer methods. Although this might add to the expense, it helps adequately handle the extra load of large windows. In addition to following any local framing code requirements for window installation, a permit might also be required. Check with your local Building Department to see if this is true in your area before beginning your project.


Some types of window installation will definitely require the services of an experienced window installer. However, a DIY homeowner with advanced carpentry skills who is familiar with framing can usually handle a window installment project on their own. Especially when working with standard-style windows 3 ½-feet wide or smaller.

Wall construction/anatomy knowledge is important when installing windows. Before beginning a window installation project, you might want to refer back to Chapter 1, House Structure Basics, under the sub-chapter sections “Walls – Interior and Exterior” and “Walls – Load and Non-load Bearing,” found on page 30.

Guidelines for Window Installation Project Success:

  • Following the clearance recommendations of the window manufacturer, size the placement window slightly smaller than the opening. Carefully measure for the window’s opening; width, height, and depth. Note: vinyl frames require more clearance than those made from other materials.
  • Carefully plan the window’s location to avoid plumbing, heating, electrical lines. Note : while wiring can easily be relocated to accommodate new window placement, pipes and ductwork are another matter entirely.
  • Check local building codes before replacing old windows with new. There may be certain guidelines that must be met; such as window type, size, grade of window and glass type used. In addition, wind load guidelines for coastal and mountainous areas may also apply.
  • When ordering windows from the manufacturer, allow extra time for custom- sized windows, and windows using tempered glass. High-performance windows with special coatings usually require an even longer lead time.
  • Carefully consider new window rough-in dimensions; the exterior opening needs to be only slightly larger.
  • Make sure new window installation is level, square, and plumb. Otherwise, the sash will not close properly and weather stripping may not provide a proper seal.
  • Work from the inside out. Mark window location, and then remove the wall surface from ceiling to floor; to the inner edge of the first stud on either side of the rough-in measurement.
  • Wait until just before inserting the window to cut the exterior sheathing and siding.
  • Pre-drilling fins and frames is recommended; countersink anchors installed through wood jambs.
  • When installing windows with wood frames, use a good-quality primer and exterior paint or sealer. Untreated wood or wood not properly protected that is exposed to outside elements will warp and deteriorate.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations on acceptable protective coatings and application techniques to avoid damage to new, unpainted wood framed windows.
  • When wood is cedar or redwood and paint is used instead of a sealer, a special primer is required to prevent wood oils from bleeding through the finish.
  • When painting frames, remove sashes first; put back together once paint has completely dried. Never apply paint to weather stripping or other non-wood parts.
  • Allow about 8 to 10 hours to complete a window installation project.

Also, when replacing old, standard-glass windows consider safety or tempered glass as replacements. In fact, this may be a building code requirement. Such code requirements normally exist for windows subject to “human impact.”

Human Impact Windows

Human impact windows are those attached to entrance doors, and windows adjacent to a door. Also included are windows placed within a certain distance arc from a closed door; usually 24-inches.

Windows larger than 9-feet are considered human impact windows when the bottom is less than 18-inches above the floor and the top more than 36-inches above the floor. And windows placed within a horizontal walking path of 36-inches to the window.

Actual Installation

Tools required for window installation:

  • Hammer
  • Corrosion-resistant nails / screws
  • Chisel
  • Keyhole saw or reciprocating saw
  • Circular saw
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Level
  • Nail set
  • Caulking gun
  • Standard drywall or plaster tools
  • Materials required:
  • 2X4 trimmers
  • Enough 2X4 to construct a sill with cripple studs as outlined in step 6 of “How to Install a Window” (see below)
  • Enough 2X6 and ½-inch plywood to construct a header for the window opening as outlined in step 5 of “How to Install a Window” ( see below)
  • Shims
  • Materials required to refinish the interior wall once window installation is completed
  • Caulk

How to Install a Window

If applicable, remove the old window, and then follow these 12 easy steps for new window installation:

  1. Once you have carefully planned new window placement, mark the opening.
  2. Using a chisel and then a keyhole or reciprocating saw, cut the opening for the window from the ceiling to the floor along bordering studs. Be sure and leave the sole plate intact.
  3. Remove any studs that will be interrupted by the window. Cut through the center; carefully pry them away from the sheathing. Also remove any other obstructions, if any; including loose materials and old caulk.
  4. Nail 2X4 trimmers to the studs located at either side of the opening; the trimmers will support the window’s headers.
  5. Build a header; use two 2X6 boards with a scrap of ½-inch plywood sandwiched in between. Install the header on top of the trimmers.
  6. Build a 2X4 sill supported by cripple studs. And then nail 2X4s between the header and sill, framing the side jambs at the rough-in dimension width.
  7. Cut out the exterior sheathing and siding. If working from the outside, drill pilot holes to mark corners first.
  8. Set the window in place from the outside; make sure it is level and plumb. Trace around the molding; cut away siding to the trace line.
  9. Level the window again. Insert shims, and nail the window to the framing through the exterior casing into the studs.
  10. Inside, insert shims and nail the sides of the window frame (the jambs) to the studs.
  11. Insulate between the frame and studs; foam backer rod or loosely packed insulation is the preferred. Non-expanding, one-part polyurethane foam is acceptable if carefully installed and not used in excess – which could cause frame distortion. NEVER USE EXPANDING FOAM. Note: do not over pack insulation between the window frame and studs. This could put too much pressure on the window frame and distort it; impeding smooth operation of the sash.
  12. Refinish the interior wall, and then attach the inside window casing. Caulk around the window frame on the exterior.


Proper caulking is vital to window installation success. Even if you carefully follow every other aspect of proper installation, a poor caulk job or the wrong choice in caulking product could yield disastrous results. Caulking is also important for effective window insulation –for both warm and cold months of the year.

To avoid mistakes that could prove costly, note the following important tips:

  • When gaps between the window frame and wall surface exceed 7/8 of an inch, use solid fill strips to make gaps narrower before caulking. Likewise, when the depth of gap is deep, use foam backer rod or another type backup material to partially fill the cavity before caulking.
  • When caulking, install the product to the proper depth using a continuous bead, free from voids. Beads should be about as half as deep as they are wide, and bead depth should never exceed bead width.
  • Before caulking, carefully rid the area of any old caulk, dirt, oily substances, moisture, and any other debris which would prevent the caulk from properly adhering.
  • Follow the window manufacturer’s recommendations when selecting caulk; a waterproof product made specifically for exterior use.
  • Caulk formulas made using polysulfide, polyurethane, and silicone provide the best seal for window installation and will adhere well to most materials while still remaining flexible. This is especially important for the top of the retrofit unit to prevent damage to the frame should the header flex or sag.
  • The wrong type caulk on vinyl window frames could not only compromise the seal and stain frame fins, but cause severe damage to the frame, as well. In some instances, dissolving the vinyl. Use only caulk formulas recommended by the window manufacturer.
  • If you plan on painting the exterior of the new window frame, make sure the caulk you use can also be painted, or that the color caulk will be compatible with surrounding materials.
  • Pick a day to install the new window when temperature is mild, and within the range required by the caulk used for a successful seal. Note: changing temperatures cause joints to expand and contract. Applied on too-hot surfaces can cause caulk to tear once substrates contract in the winter. Applied in too-cold weather can cause caulk to become over compressed by substrate expansion during summer.

Next, be sure and caulk in all the right places, otherwise the window will leak:

  • Finned windows should be caulked around the entire fin perimeter.
  • Caulk corners of mechanically joined frames and other joints where leakage could occur.
  • Caulk any wood strips installed to fill gaps left where siding was removed – except when finishing trim has been installed over shim strips. In such instances a neat bead around the edges suffices and will look more professional.
  • Caulk the gap between the window frame and the opening of boxframe windows using one continuous bead, free of bubbles.
  • Caulk gaps between the edge of the siding and rough opening. However, never caulk weep holes in the sill jamb; these are important for condensate drainage.

Remember, improper caulking procedures compromise the entire window installation process and leave your home vulnerable to unnecessary energy loss. A seal that does not adhere properly will not be weather tight, and can result in moisture penetration and water damage. The area around the window frame will not be well insulated, resulting in less effective internal heating/cooling efforts.

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