The Comprehensive Guide To Home Renovations Large and Small
Home Renovation Guide - Chapter 10

Quick Handyman Projects

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


If a restricted budget forces you to keep a tight rein on kitchen renovation costs, one great way to cut corners is to give old cabinets a makeover

As long as cabinet construction is sturdy and surfaces not badly warped, the following easy to follow steps below can give cabinetry the face-lift required for a fresh, new look:

  • Remove hardware – while you may want to clean up and reuse the hinges, replace handles and knobs with ones that will better enhance new kitchen décor. If you decide to replace hinges, consider concealed spring styles. Hardware holes that don’t match hardware replacements will, of course, need to be filled in and new ones drilled.
  • Raised-panel cabinet doors usually have a center panel that can be removed; some pop out, others have screws that hold them in place. These-type panels can easily be removed before painting, unless they have already been painted in place.
  • Remove surface buildup; use a scraper to remove gunk. Remove remaining residue with an appropriate grease-removing cleanser; check label for application guidelines and warnings. If everything checks out, follow directions for use, and then allow surfaces to dry thoroughly before continuing.
  • Patch hardware holes made obsolete by new hardware with wood putty; use a putty knife. Follow instructions for dry time.
  • Sand surfaces – use fine grain sandpaper; 400 to 600 grit. This will remove rough spots, even out the surface, and prepare the surface for primer.
  • Apply primer – apply a thin layer; allow it to dry for at least 24 hours; longer in humid areas. Lightly sand; apply a second coat of primer, let dry and lightly sand again.
  • Apply paint – two coats of gloss or semi gloss enamel for a nice, uniform finish; allow to completely dry between coats.

Old Hardwood Cabinets

For old hardwood cabinets that are unfinished or refinished, use a penetrating wood stain after step 4. Stir stain well, apply with a brush; rub off with a clean rag. The longer the wood stain stays on the wood before rubbing it off, the deeper the stain.

Wait at least 48-hours before applying polyurethane. Gently stir before use; do not shake the can. Shaking the can will result in air bubbles, creating an uneven finish. Follow instructions for drying time; usually 6 to 8 hours. Apply a second coat; this will seal the wood, protect it from kitchen grime, and enhance the natural wood grain.

In addition to traditional wood grain stains, oil-based pastel stains are available that give wood a soft pastel color; without compromising the beauty of the grain.

For a country look that will totally alter kitchen cabinetry style, replace removable cabinet door center panels with safety glass, Plexiglass® or other acrylic, bead-board painted in a contrasting color, or decorative pierced tin.


Doors are one of the most important features of any home or structure. They are available in a nearly infinite variety of styles and types. One of the most common mistakes made, whether due to economics or lack of knowledge, is using interior doors for exterior applications.


Exterior doors are designed to act as a weather shield or seal; keeping outside elements such as cold and moisture from entering the structure. Normally, an entrance to a structure will have a set of two doors; a storm or screen door, and a heavy exterior door.

Storm doors are usually glass with a metal or wood frame; sometimes with screen inserts.

Exterior doors have a hardy solid-core wood construction, or solid metal “security” construction. In some instances a heavy exterior door will suffice, without a storm door. An example would be the outside entrance to an apartment or motel room.


Interior doors are designed for just that. Use for inside the structure, as entrances into rooms such as bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. They typically have a light duty “hollow core” construction. These doors are not designed to insulate or keep out weather elements. Nor are they designed for home security purposes. Their intended use is as partitions; to separate one room from other common areas of a structure, and to provide privacy.

Some interior doors may include a locking doorknob, meant more for privacy than security. Interior doors are usually covered with a thin decorative wood veneer, such as mahogany, oak, maple, or birch. Which if exposed to outdoor elements will quickly de- laminate, splinter, and break down.


Whether purchasing an interior or exterior door, most are marketed as “pre-hung;” a single unit complete with frame. Hinges are usually already installed on the door; the door already attached to a frame.

Pre-hung interior doors usually arrive from the factory with double-headed nails driven through the frame and slightly into the edge of the door. This is to hold everything in place during shipping. The nails should be removed before installing the door.

Exterior doors, on the other hand, come with a retaining bracket. This should be left in place until installation is nearly complete.

While height is fairly standard, doors do come in a variety of widths. The opening should be prepared and framed in such a manner that whatever width door you have chosen will fit into the opening with minimal shim requirement.

Standard pre-hung doors have 4½ -inch jambs for use with 2x4 framing and ½-inch wallboard. If your walls are thicker, you will need to special order doors to fit. Or else fur the door jamb out flush with the wallboard using jamb extensions, or furring strips.

Whether installing a door in a partition wall (non-load bearing) or in an exterior (load bearing) wall, the principle is the same. The rough opening is framed using a king and jack stud on each side, with a header and cripple studs above. Working out from the door, the door jamb will be shimmed and nailed to the jack studs on either side. The jack studs will hold up the header. The king studs run along side the jack studs, from bottom plate to top plate.

The header bears all of the weight of the structure that is directly over the door. The load is transferred to the header by short cripple studs between the header and the top plate; jack studs transfer the weight down to the bottom plate.

Measure Accurately

The rough opening after framing needs to be the width of the door and frame (the frame is also referred to as the door jamb), allowing an extra ½-inch on each side and above the door. Also keep in mind that 2x4 studs are not 2x4-inches in measurement. They are actually closer to 3 ½-inches by 1 ¾-inches; this can vary slightly due to shrinkage.

For accuracy, mark the width of the door at the desired position on the sill plate, plus the additional ½-inch on each side. Mark the width of your jack studs (measure the actual studs you plan to use), and then do the same for the king studs.

For example: for a 4-foot pre-hung door (measured from the outside jamb on one side to outside of the jamb on the other side) you will add 1-inch (1/2-inch for each side), plus 3½-inches for the thickness of the two jack studs (1 ¾-inches each; but be sure and use the actual measurement for the studs you will be using), plus 3 ½-inches for the thickness of the two king studs; 1¾-inches per side. But again, use actual measurements.

The first set of marks should be 4-feet apart, the next set should be 4-feet, 1-inch apart; the next set should be 4-feet, 4 ½-inches apart. The final marks should be 4-feet, 8- inches apart.

Any framing studs located in the area included in the rough opening will need to be cut, and the bottom portion removed. You will need to allow for the height of the door plus ½-inch, plus the size of the header. For example, if you are using 2x6s for a header, you would need to include the 6-inch measurement (door height, plus ½-inch, plus 6-inches).

Since you will be removing the bottom plate and the door threshold will be sitting on the floor, you must measure from the floor to the cutting mark on the framing studs. Make sure that your line is plumb and square across the studs you will be cutting. What remains will become cripple studs between the header and top plate.

Beginning with the widest measurements, nail the king studs into place; running from bottom plate to top plate, flush with the out side marks. Make sure each is plumb before nailing. The jack studs must be cut to the proper length. Since they will sit on the bottom plate, you will need to allow for the thickness of the plate, as well.

The length of the jack studs will be the height of the pre-hung door set; to the top of the jamb, plus ½-inch, minus the thickness of the bottom plate. Nail the jack studs to the inside of the king studs.


Almost all modern construction utilizes platform framing. However, older structures may have been constructed with balloon style framing, commonly used during the 1930s and 1940s.

When adding exterior door framing for a rough opening in balloon framing, follow this procedure:

  • Remove interior walls to expose framing. Select two studs to use as king studs.

The distance between the selected king studs must be at least 3-inches wider than the required rough opening. Measure from the floor; mark the rough opening height on the selected king studs.

  • Determine the size header required. Using the marks on the king studs, measure up; mark the top of the header on the king studs, and on any studs in between.
  • Cut open the subfloor and remove fire blocking with a reciprocating saw to gain access to the sill plate for installing jack studs. If more than one wall stud is removed, you will need to make temporary supports (see “Making Temporary Supports” for balloon framing, found in Chapter 1, page 31).
  • Cut the intermediate studs on the top header markings using a circular saw, but leave the king studs intact. Make additional cuts approximately 3-inches below the first cut, and 6-inches above the floor. Finish the cuts using a handsaw. Knock out the 3-inch sections with a hammer; remove studs with a pry bar.
  • Cut jack studs to fit from the sill plate to the rough opening marks on the king studs, and then nail them in place to the king studs. Use10d nails spaced every 12 inches.
  • Install the header on top of the jack studs. Nail it to jack studs, king studs, and cripples using 10d nails.
  • Mark the rough opening width measurement on the header; use a plumb bob to mark the opening width on the sill.
  • Install additional jack studs if necessary in order to frame the proper rough opening size. Toenail the jack studs to the header and sill plate.
  • Install blocking between the primary jack studs and additional jack studs on each side of the opening using 10d nails. Make sure to install blocking at the location points of hinges and locksets.
  • When you are ready to install the door, remove exterior wall surfaces. Cut the remaining ends of intermediate studs flush with the tops of the floor joists using a handsaw or reciprocating saw.
  • Install 2X4 nailing blocks next to the jack studs and joists, flush with the tops of the floor joists. Replace fire blocking.
  • Install plywood over the joists and blocks to make a level surface for the door threshold.


When it comes to door framing for a non-load-bearing wall, standard 2x4 framing studs are adequate as a header. When framing in a load-bearing wall, however, special consideration must be given to proper header size. The width of the rough opening will determine the minimum header size for that width.

Headers can be obtained in the various sizes made from engineered beams, (constructed by laminating layers of wood together into a beam). Or they can be made by gluing and screwing framing lumber together with ½ inch plywood set between, using two 2x4s, 2x6s, etc. The piece of plywood is cut to the same size as the lumber. Width requirements are:

  • Up to 3 feet – 2x4
  • 3 to 4 feet – 2x6
  • 4 to 6 feet – 2x8
  • 6 to 7 feet – 2x10
  • 7 to 8 feet – 2x12
  • 8 to 12 feet will require special engineered wood header beams

The header should be cut to fit between the king-studs, resting on top of the jack studs. Nail through the outside of theking studs into the ends of the header using 10d nails. And then nail the jack studs and cripple studs to the header.

Using a reciprocating saw, cut the bottom plate flush with the inside edge of the jack studs, and remove it. The rough opening is now ready to receive the door.


Follow these simple instructions for installation of interior doors:

  • Set the door into the opening so that it is centered and flush with wall surfaces.
  • Using a level, adjust the hinge side so that it is plumb.
  • Starting near the top hinge, slide shims into the gap from both sides of the door until it is snug. Make sure that it remains plumb, while shimmed by every hinge.
  • Using 8d casing nails secure the hinge side of the door, driving the nails at the location of the shims.
  • Repeat this process for the other side of the door; inserting shims from both sides of the door between the top jamb and latch side jamb and framing. Align them with the shims on the hinge side. Adjust them so the reveal is 1/8-inch wide, or slightly less.
  • Drive nails through the jamb at the shims, into the framing. Set all nails below the surface of the jamb with a nail set.
  • Trim the shims flush with the wall surface using a hand saw. The door is now ready to trim with door casing.


The installation process for exterior doors is similar to interior door installation, but with some variations.

Exterior doors in their framing can weigh several hundred pounds, so make sure you have help with installation. Pre-hung exterior doors come with brick mold. You will need to test fit the door by setting it in the opening and shimming it until it is plumb. Then do the following:

  1. Trace an outline around the brick mold onto the siding. Remove the door, and trim the siding using the outline. Be careful to cut just through the siding, and not into the sheathing. Be careful around corners; use a sharp wood chisel to finish the cut.
  2. Slide 8-inch wide strips of building paper between the siding and sheathing at the sides and top of the opening. Wrap the building paper around framing members, and staple in place. This acts as a moisture shield for the framing. Note: for extra moisture protection, cut a piece of drip edge to fit the top of the opening. Simply slide it between the siding and building paper; do not nail.

Apply several thick beads of silicone caulk to the subfloor on the bottom of the opening. Also apply caulk to the front outside edges of the building paper on the framing, both at the top and sides of the opening.

Center the door in the opening, with the brick mold on the exterior side. Make sure it is pushed up snug to the sheathing.

Insert shims into the space between the jamb and framing from the inside of the door at the hinges and lockset, spaced about 12-inches apart all around the jamb. Make sure the door remains centered and plumb.

Remove two screws out of the top hinge plate on the door jamb. Replace them with longer anchor screws (usually included with door set) to reinforce anchoring to the frame.

Drive 10d galvanized casing nails through the front of the brick mold into the framing. Space them about 12-inches apart. Use a nail set to drive nails below the surface of the brick mold. If necessary, adjust shims, whiling making sure the door remains plumb.

Fill the gap between the door jamb and framing with loose fiberglass insulation.

From the out side, drive 10d galvanized casing nails into the jamb (at the shims) and into the framing. It might be a good idea to drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the jamb wood. Set nails below surface using a nail set.

Remove the retaining brackets installed by manufacturer; check the door to make sure it operates correctly.

Being careful not to strip the screws, adjust the threshold to make a tight seal along the bottom of the door.

Trim the shims flush with framing members using a handsaw or framing knife.

Apply paintable silicone caulk around the entire door unit.

Install the lockset and finish the door according to the manufacturer instructions. Install casing around the inside of the door.


If you only want to remove the door for repairs or refinishing, just carefully pry the pins out of the hinges and remove the door. But permanent removal of a door is a little more complicated.

To remove a door, closing the rough opening to revert the space back to a wall, the process is similar to framing the door - only in reverse; with a shortcut or two. Note: in most cases, doors, casing, brick molding, and jambs can be re-used if care is taken not to damage them during removal.

To remove a door:

  1. Start with the casing on the interior side of the door. Carefully pry it loose with a pry bar, being careful not to damage the casing.
  2. Trim away caulking from around the brick molding on the exterior side with a utility knife. Carefully remove the brick molding with a pry bar. Remove the door and hinges from the door jamb.
  3. Carefully pry the jambs out of the frame, and remove the threshold. If you encounter stubborn nails while prying casing, brick molding, or door jambs, cut them with a reciprocating saw. At this point, you can either close off the doorway, or install a different door.

If closing off the doorway, once you are back down to the frame add the bottom plate between the jack studs. Add cripple studs between the bottom plate and the header; spaced 16-inches on center for continuity.

Mending the Exterior

On the exterior side, the siding around the door will need to be replaced; the rough opening will need to be filled in with sheathing. Building paper should go over the sheathing before siding is replaced. Note: a much larger area than the rough opening will need to be taken off and repositioned to allow for proper spacing of seams on the siding.

Mending the Interior

Once the door has been installed, insulation will need to be installed in the framing, and the frame walls covered with wallboard. Refer to installation directions located in Chapter 9, page 102.

Tape seams; allow taping compound to dry, and then sand. The wall is now ready for texture or paint, or any other type wall covering of your choice.


One aspect of home renovation/remodeling sometimes overlooked is insulation; new insulation as well as upkeep of old. Proper insulation plays a vital role in helping to efficiently maintain a comfortable, conditioned temperature inside the house. It also helps cuts down on noise coming from outside the home as well as other areas of the house. Reducing distractions and making the home seem more comfortable and relaxing.

Poor insulation produces uncomfortable, fluctuating indoor temperatures, and also increases utility costs. In fact, insulation so affects energy usage that replacing improper insulation with the correct type and amount of insulation can reduce energy bills by as much as 50-percent!

While in more recent years much attention has been given to proper insulation during house construction, many dwellings built before the 1970s remain under-insulated. Check local building codes as to minimum insulation requirements for each area of your home. Levels vary from state to state, depending on climate conditions.

Determining Insulation Needs

Depending upon where you reside, there are “rules of thumb” to consider when insulating a dwelling; as well as different insulation needs of specific areas of that dwelling. Proper insulation of attics, walls, and floors are key factors.

When selecting insulation, judge by its R-value, not its thickness. Insulation’s R-value is rated according to its ability to resist heat flow per inch-thickness of the insulation. You need to calculate the R-rating times the thickness of the insulation for proper selection.

Cold climates will require insulation with a higher R-value rating than milder climates. Good options for attic insulation might be 13-inch thick batts or blankets with an R-3.8 rating per inch; or 17-inches of (blown) loose fiberglass with a rating of at least 2.9 per inch. While loose-fill provides better coverage than batts without allowing heat loss through framing, that type installation will require a contractor.

Other factors such as initial expense and cost of insulation grade verses cost of energy in a particular area should also be considered when deciding which grade of insulation will be the most economical choice in the long run.

Note : R-value measures the thermal resistance to heat flow through the material. Therefore, In homes where air leakage is the main problem and heat is lost through convection – other renovation measures should be taken in addition to insulation efforts to fortify the home. Especially since air leakage can account for as much as 40-percent of the total energy lost by a home.

Some utility providers offer free or low-cost energy audits to determine how energy- efficient your home is. And if there is notable energy loss, the main source of the problem is highlighted; poor insulation or convection.

Insulation considerations:

  • Ventilation plays an important role in providing moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills.
  • Single-level homes have different insulation needs than multi-level.
  • Ceiling height can affect insulation needs. As well as main type of energy used; electrical, gas, or propane.
  • Make sure attic vents are installed along the entire ceiling cavity. This will help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic; making your home more energy efficient, and the internal climate more comfortable.
  • Proper attic insulation can save you money and make your home more comfortable year round.
  • Recessed light fixtures can increase heat loss.
  • Always wear the proper protective gear when installing insulation; including gloves, mask, and safety goggles.

Although installing insulation can run into a considerable amount of money, you may find it well worth the investment. Proper insulation can eliminate hot/cold spots in your home, omit drafts, control moisture problems, and improve indoor air quality (IAQ). It can also pay for itself in monthly energy cost savings.


Ducts running through an unfinished or partially finished basement that gets even just occasional use should be insulated to keep the area warmer. Duct insulation is available in 1 and 2-inch thicknesses. If your ducts are rectangular opt for the thicker of the two. This can help cut heat losses down by one-third more than the 1-inch.

Insulating the ducts will increase the temperature of air at registers. Therefore, if your ducts don’t already have dampers, add some before insulating them. And then fine-tune the air system for more uniform heat/cool air distribution throughout the various areas of your home.

Ducts between joists can be wrapped with cut blankets stapled to the floor. Joints can be sealed using duct tape. Insulation can be wrapped around all sides of other ducts and sealed with tape; leaving the vapor barrier on the outside.

Extend the insulation beyond the end of ducts, and then cut an insert with a facing flap. Fold the flap and tape it, package style.


Besides insulating pipes in cold climate areas to protect them against freezing, wrapping exposed cold water lines prevents them from sweating and collecting moisture in warmer climates and months. This won’t help conserve energy. But it will prevent drippings and condensation that can cause spots or water damage.

Wrapping both hot and cold water pipes will help to conserve energy. In fact, when contractors compute heating and cooling load needs, they tack on an additional 10 to 20- percent to cover calculated losses associated with inadequately insulated ductwork and pipes.

Types of Pipe Insulation

You have a choice when it comes to pipe insulation type. If you select spongy adhesive- backed insulating tape, make sure and wind the tape around pipes with one layer overlapping the other by about ½-inch.

Flexible foam, slit-sleeve insulation will protect the pipe with a thick jacket. This type insulation is quick and easy to apply. It is also a great choice for longer pipe runs and as additional insulation over adhesive-backed tape for extra cold winter months.

Cut the insulation using a hacksaw or utility knife; use short lengths to fill spaces at pipe ends and corners. At pipe junctions, wrap uncovered areas with spongy insulation tape; peel off the backing and wrap several layers.

Other types of pipe insulation to consider include:

  • Self-sealing fiberglass insulation. It comes with or without an “all-service jacket,” in various thicknesses – ½-inch to 4-inches. Molded and heavy density, it is used primarily by commercial and institutional buildings.
  • Sponge felt insulation comes in straight blocks, as well as preformed shapes for valves and fittings.
  • Wool felt is available in thicknesses of ½-inch to 1-inch. It comes with a canvas jacket, and is formed using matted fibers of wool, fur, or hairs that have been pressure rolled. Wool felt is useful for both cold water service and hot water pipes.
  • Cork pipe covering is comprised of compressed and molded bark from cork trees. It comes with a coating of plastic asphalt. This makes a good choice for all kinds of cold waterlines and low-temperature range pipes.
  • Heating Tape.

A Word about Heating Tape

Heating tape is a great way to insulate water pipes in areas where winter temperatures are extreme. It consists of plastic coated wire to wrap around pipes, and is plugged into an electrical outlet to keep pipes from freezing.

Also known as “heat cable,” heating tape is relatively easy to install. Different types of heating tape have distinct requirements; read and follow instructions carefully, and take necessary precautions. Also make sure to plug the tape into a properly functioning ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), to protect against electrical shock.


There is more than one reason to insulate the walls of a structure. The primary reason is to help retain cool in the summer and heat in the winter.

Insulation also helps with soundproofing a room; to reduce or eliminate annoying sound from being transmitted from one room to the next. The insulating factor of any given type of insulation is measured by the R-value; the thicker the insulation material, the higher the R-value. Fiberglass batt insulation for 2X4 walls come in R-11, R-13, and R-15 values.

There are numerous ways to insulate a wall for either purpose – to retain temperature or for soundproofing. The most common types of thermal insulation include fiberglass batt insulation, polystyrene foam insulation board, blow-in cellulose, and spray-on foam.

Note: installing fiberglass batt insulation or foam insulation board are the two most DIY-friendly types of insulation for a homeowner to install.

Blow-in cellulose continues to be an alternative for retro-fitting insulation; it is blown into existing wall spaces, usually by an insulation contractor. One drawback is that it settles over time, leaving wall spaces near the ceiling un-insulated.

Spray-on insulation might be a good choice for large buildings, and is applied using a spray-on process. It expands as it is applied to unfinished walls between the framing studs, and sets rigid.

Polystyrene foam insulation board may be the only workable choice for shallow wall cavities that have been furred out with 1X2s or 2X2s, such as in a basement with concrete walls. This material comes in thicknesses of ½-inch to 2-inches, with R-values of 3 to 10. It comes either pre-cut to fit standard stud spacing, or in 4X8-foot sheets that are scored to break at standard widths.

Drawbacks include the fact that most stud spacing varies, so using the pre-cut or pre scored pieces will not always fit properly. This can reduce the R-factor by resulting air leakage. In addition, panels must be glued into place with foam-compatible adhesive, such as PL Premium or PL 300. Other adhesives can dissolve the foam.

However, there are advantages to this type insulation. Which include easy cutting, no fiberglass particles in the air, and it stays in place when glued.

Fiberglass batt insulation is by far the most widely used. Since it is installed between the framing studs, it must be installed before walls are finished off. Handling fiberglass insulation causes small particles to become airborne, getting on you and your clothing. Therefore, a face mask, eye protection, and gloves are a must. Fiberglass particles are hazardous to breathe, and cause irritation when they get under clothing.

In addition to the assorted thicknesses and R-factors, fiberglass batts come either faced or un-faced. Faced fiberglass insulation has a paper lining on one side with just enough extra width than the fiberglass to allow it to be stapled to the framing studs on either side. This ensures a snug fiberglass fit between the studs underneath. The paper face is porous and does not make a vapor barrier. Since framing studs are hidden by the paper, however, hanging drywall is made more difficult.

Un-faced batts are simply pressed firmly into place between each stud.

Fiberglass Batt Installation

Fiberglass batts come in a standard 96-inch length, and fit perfectly into standard 8-foot walls. Taller or shorter walls require that batts be trimmed and pieced together. Cut to fit; sandwich pieces in between two 2X4s and then compress them into place.

Either style batt will require trimming to allow for outlets or other elements in the wall. Be sure to trim in such a manner that the insulation will fit snugly around fixtures. In places where wires or pipes run through the framing, simply split the thickness of the batt so that ½ of the thickness rests on each side of the wire or pipe.

Stuff small pieces of insulation into nooks and crannies; such as around door or window jambs. Be sure not to over-stuff. Doing this could force the door jamb or window out of plumb.

Installing a Vapor Barrier

Installing 4-mil clear plastic over the insulation will create a vapor barrier. This prevents warm moist inside air from penetrating the wall, and forming condensation between the insulation and outside wall. Condensation such as this can promote a mold or mildew problem within the wall. This type plastic is readily available at building supply centers. It comes in various widths, and up to 100-foot lengths.

Once insulation is installed, simply roll out the plastic and staple it to the top plate around the perimeter of the room. A swing stapler, (also called a hammer tacker) works best. Working from the top down, smooth the sheet into place and staple it to the studs. Cut out door and window locations, and then tack around them as well. Finally, cut an X over outlets and other fixtures. This helps to simplify wallboard installation.

Helpful Insulation Tips for Whirlpool Baths

When insulating whirlpools, staple insulation batts to the vertical frame supports inside the base/foundation. Affix the insulation so that the paper side is facing inward. This will help keep fibers out of the motor. Note: do not insulate within 6-inches of the pump, heater, or lights.


First patented in 1927, by 1948 General Electric was mass producing and marketing electric garbage disposals. Since that time they have remained a popular kitchen accessory; adding convenience to mealtime preparation and cleanup tasks in households in those localities that do allow them.

Disposals help reduce urban and landfill waste. And the amount of garbage collected and disposed of by city services. However, they also increase the maintenance costs of municipal wastewater treatment plants, which is why some localities ban their use.

Before installing a garbage disposal in your kitchen, check local building codes to make sure they are allowed in your area. Also check what type requirements may be in place for their set up. For instance, most codes specify that the disposal must be plugged into a grounded unit, and that they are controlled by an on and off switch.

Types of Disposals

Garbage disposals are one of two types; either batch-fed or continuous feed. A batch-fed disposal runs only when the drain lid is in place; they are operated by turning a special stopper after the disposal receptacle has been loaded with food debris. Because this type disposal can only be activated while the cavity is covered by the inserted stopper, these type disposals represent a safer choice.

Continuous feed models are activated by a switch that allows you to add waste while the motor is turned on. Running water helps to flush food scraps down the disposal as they are added. The motor continues to run until the switch is turned off. Both types of disposals attach to the sink drain system.

The switch should be located on the wall to back of the sink, as far from the edge of the counter as possible; or in an out of the way place for safety purposes. Switch location is an important consideration; especially in households with small children.

The Installation process

A new dedicated 20 amp circuit should be installed under the sink in close proximity to power the new garbage disposal. Although switches and outlets should be installed by an electrician, installing the garbage disposal itself isn’t all that difficult for the resourceful homeowner with some plumbing knowledge.

Installation is relatively uncomplicated. Requiring the use of silicone caulk or plumber’s putty, mineral spirits, and only the most basic of tools to accomplish the task; both flat-tip and Phillips-head screwdrivers, a utility knife, hose clamps, pipe wrench, slip nuts, beveled washers, and a flashlight.

Before installation, make sure that the dedicated circuit for the disposal is turned off at the circuit box. Do this by either turning off the breaker or removing the fuse.

Now you are ready to begin the installation process; follow these simple steps:

  • Remove the existing drainpipe and p-trap using the pipe wrench; place a bucket or another container underneath to catch any water remaining in the drainpipe.
  • Remove the strainer body from the sink by unscrewing the large nut that holds it in place under the sink. Be sure to scrape off any old putty from around the sink opening, and then clean the opening completely using denatured alcohol or mineral spirits.
  • Apply a bead of silicone caulk or plumber’s putty under the edge of the drain opening sleeve. Insert the sleeve into the drain opening; press down evenly to ensure a good seal.

Working underneath the sink, place the fiber gasket and backup ring onto the sleeve. Attach the lower mounting ring onto the sleeve and put the snap ring in place.

  • Position the disposer against the lower mounting ring; line the lugs up with the mounting screws, and then tighten the screws. Be sure and alternate tightening each screw so the mounting bracket is evenly seated against the bottom of the sink.
  • Remove the bottom plate on the disposer to expose the wiring. Position the garbage disposal under the sink; connect wires from the garbage disposal to the wires from the power source with wire nuts; white to white, and black to black.
  • Connect the green ground wire from the disposal to the green ground wire on the power source; replace the disposer’s bottom plate to cover the wires.
  • Fasten the discharge tube to the discharge opening with the mounting washer.
  • If a dishwasher will be attached to the disposal, remove the knockout plug from the dishwasher opening. Carefully tap it out using a screw driver and hammer; attach the dishwasher drain hose with a hose clamp.
  • Attach the drainpipe to the discharge tube and gasket using a slip nut and beveled washer. If the discharge tube is too long, cut it to fit. If it is too short, purchase an extension piece. Make sure the washer faces the threaded drainpipe.
  • Secure the disposal by inserting a screwdriver into the mounting lug located on the lower mounting ring. Tighten the mounting lug screw.

Once installation is complete, test the unit out and check for any leaks.


Whether installing a bathroom sink or a kitchen sink, the procedure is basically the same.

There are three basic types of counter sinks used in bathrooms and kitchens:

  • Self-rimming drop-in sinks with clamps. This type sink is very common in stainless steel double sink or single sink models for kitchen use, and porcelain or stainless steel for bathroom use. Self-rimming drop-in sinks feature a “rim” or lip around the perimeter. They drop into a pre-cut hole in the counter top so that the rim rests directly on the counter top, and are fastened in place using special clamps below. Caulking is applied around the rim to provide a water seal; or plumber’s putty is used under the rim.
  • Self-rimming drop-in sinks without clamps. This type sink is simply dropped into the opening so that the rim rests on the counter top; clamping underneath is not necessary. Usually porcelain or ceramic, they are held in place with a bead of caulking around the rim. This holds it to the counter top and provides a water seal.
  • Recessed or undermount sinks. This type sink rests on a plywood base under the counter top level, creating a seamless flow. It is popular for ceramic tile, natural stone, or other solid type material countertop, but should not be used with those made from laminate. This is because of inevitable “bubbling” that will happen due to condensation that has seeped underneath. Ceramic/porcelain or cast iron is favored over stainless steel; due largely to the difference in expansion and contraction properties. In some cases, double-walled stainless steel is acceptable.

Before you Begin

The first step in any sink removal/installation is shutting off the water supply. If the water supply lines under the sink do not have shut-off valves on them, now is a good time to have some installed.

Reasonably priced, high-quality flexible vinyl hose kits are available in most hardware or building supply centers. Be sure to size fittings accurately for both the supply lines and faucet fixtures. Installing shut-off valves in supply lines will make future sink installation and maintenance easier and handier. It will also provide quick access for emergency shut-off.

Sink Replacement – Same Size as Old

If you are replacing an old sink with a new one into an existing counter top opening, you will need to install one that is the exact same size as the old.

After removing the old sink, check the counter top for any water damage and rot. If any is detected, make necessary repairs. If the extent of damage warrants it, replace the old counter top with a new one.

Follow these steps for installing the sink:

  1. Use denatured alcohol or mineral sprits and a clean rag to cleanse the counter top around the opening. Also clean the underside of the new sink’s rim to prepare it for caulk or plumber’s putty.
  2. To install the new sink, simply drop it into the opening; make sure it fits with no gaps. For clamping sinks, apply a thin ¼-inch bead of plumber’s putty or caulk under the rim around the opening to provide a water seal. Once the sink is aligned and clamped firmly into place, clean off excess caulk or putty with the rag.
  3. Install the faucet and connect the supply lines. Connect drains, using a ¼-inch bead of plumber’s putty beneath the rim of the drain assembly; press it into the opening. Screw the tightening rim on the assembly from underneath, and tighten with a wrench. Attach and tighten drain fittings.
  4. Check supply lines and drain pipes for leakage. Monitor closely until you are sure there are no leaks. Even a slow drip left unattended will wreck havoc under your sink cabinet.

Installing a Sink in a Countertop for the First Time

If you are installing a sink for the first time into the counter top, it is necessary to take careful measurements for proper placement of the sink and opening. Be sure to leave at least 1 ½ inches, but not more than 3-inches from the edge of the counter.

Once you are sure of placement, place the sink upside down on the counter top, and mark around the perimeter of the rim. Be sure that the edge of the rim is parallel to the edge of the counter top. Remove the sink, and mark a second line about 1½-inches inside the first mark. Note: if another measurement is specified in manufacturer’s instructions for any given sink, use that one instead.

Since a jigsaw (reciprocating saber saw) is used to cut along the inside mark, you will need to drill a hole just inside of the inside line at each corner big enough to insert the saw blade. It is best to put masking tape on the bottom of the saw to avoid scratching or other damage to the counter top.

Cut carefully, staying on the line. Do not allow the saw to wander off of the line. When the hole is finished, insert the sink, and check the fit. Make sure the sink is properly aligned.

Self rimming sinks without clamps are dropped into the opening and caulked into place. Finish installation following the 4 steps previously listed.

Recessed or undermount sinks are installed to the bottom side of the counter top before the counter top is installed. This type recessed sink/countertop arrangement is readily available in a variety of pre-manufactured kits; the sink and pre-cut counter top come ready to assemble. Some kits even come with the sink already installed.

Caulk the edge of the sink, and put it into place. Screw it down using the hardware that came with the sink, following manufacturer guidelines. Once the sink is in place, the countertop installed and sink faucets attached and secured, follow previously listed steps 3 and 4 to connect supply lines and drain.


There are various types of wall switches for electrical power.

For example: dimmer switches, combination switch/ receptacles, programmable switches, toggle-type easy to use universal designs for persons of all ages and physical ability. And motion or sound activated switches for on-demand power without lifting a finger.

The three types most often found in homes are single-pole, three-way, and four-way standard design switches. Each can be identified by the number of screw terminals it has; a single pole has two, a three-way has three, and a four-way has four. Newer switches may also have push fittings in addition to screw terminals.

Before installing any type wall switch, turn off the power at your service panel, or the fuse or breaker box. If you are absolutely positive as to which fuse or breaker controls belong to the circuit you will be working on, remove that fuse or trip that breaker. Otherwise, remove the main fuse or trip the main breaker.

Aside from the switch kits, tools required will include:

  • Screwdriver
  • Knife or stripping wire
  • Insulating tape
  • Hand cleaner
  • Side-cutting pliers
  • Cable connectors

Below are directions for installing each of these three types of switches.


The most common type of switch of all, a single-pole switch usually has ON and OFF marks on the switch lever. It is used to break or feed electrical current to a set of lights, or an appliance or receptacle from one location. In addition to two brass terminal screws, most single-pole switches also have a grounding screw.

Important installation points:

  • A hot circuit wire will be attached to each screw terminal when correctly wired.
  • If two cables enter the box, both hot wires attached to the switch will be black; the switch will lie in the middle of the circuit. Neutral wires and grounding wires should be capped.
  • If one cable enters the box, one hot wire will be black; the other will usually be white. A white hot wire will not be plain; it will be coded with black tape or paint. This type insulation is sometimes referred to a “switch loop;” the switch will lie at the end of the circuit.
  • When connecting a wire to the terminal screw, always turn the loop on the end of the wire in the same direction as the screw threads. Otherwise, tightening the screw will loosen the loop.

Notes: white wires are generally attached to light-colored terminal screws, such as silver. Black wires are generally attached to dark colored screws, such as brass. If terminal screws are the same color, either wire can generally be attached to either terminal. Green terminal screws are used for grounding wires.

Three-way Switches

These type switches do not have On / OFF markings. They are always installed in pairs; used to control a set of lights from two different locations.

Important installation points:

  • One screw terminal will be darker than the others (a dark copper or brown); this is the “common” screw terminal; location will vary according to the manufacturer.
  • Two screw terminals will be lighter in color (usually brass); these are called “traveler” terminals and are interchangeable.
  • If installation is for a three-way switch in the middle of a circuit, the box should have two cables; one will be a 2-wire cable, the other a 3-wire cable. Connect the black (hot) wire from the 2-wire cable to the darker screw terminal; connect the red and black wires from the 3-wire cable to the two lighter screw terminals.
  • When the installation is for a three-way switch at the end of a circuit, connect the wires from the 3-wire cable; the white wire will be hot and should be coded with black tape or ink.

Four-way Switches

These type switches have no On / OFF markings; they are always installed between a pair of three-way switches. This makes it possible to control the flow of electricity to a source from three or more locations. Four-way switches are commonly found in homes with large rooms and multiple living areas; for instance, where a kitchen opens into a dining room.

Important installation point:

  • The box should typically contain two 3-wire cables. With most switches, hot wires from one cable should be attached to the bottom or top pair of screw terminals. Hot wires from the second cable should be attached to the remaining pair of screw terminals.

Not all switches are designed the same way, and some box configurations may also vary. For instance, some four-way stitches may have screw terminals that are marked “Line l” and “Line 2.” A pair of color-matched circuit wires will be connected to screw terminals for one line; another pair of color-matched circuit wires will be attached to the other.

Regardless what type wall switch you install, study the wiring diagram and directions that come with the switch carefully. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines to the “T.” Some switches even have a wiring guide stamped right on the back of the device.

Note: working with electricity is tricky business and can represent a danger if not handled properly. Always use extreme caution when working with electricity. Your wisest choice may be to hire an experienced electrician for all electrical aspects of your remodeling and renovation projects.

< Chapter 9 (Remodeling Projects)  |  Glossary of Terms >