Tiling the gap

Filed Under: Bathroom, Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

If your bathroom is tiled, or if there is a tiled splashback around the bath, the simplest solution is to bridge the gap with quadrant tiles the ceramic equivalent of wooden quadrant beading.

These are normally available singly as straight lengths with both ends cut square, or with one end finished in a bullnose, and in mitred pairs for coping with internal corners. One drawback with quadrant tiles is that they are becoming difficult to obtain, and it’s worth bearing in mind that not only can they work out quite expensive, but they also come in limited range of colors (designed to existing bathroom suites rather than tile ranges).

If you’re going to seal the gap in course of actually tiling the wall splashback, then you can fix the tiles in position and grout them in the way, 12-24 hours after the last has been pressed into place_ In to accommodate any movement, you should make sure that the Wes bedded in a thick layer of silicone where they rest on the bath’s lip.Onthe hand, if you’re faced with existing round the edge. simply bed the tiles in mastic from start to finish. using instead of grout as well.

Quadrant tiles can be used successfrAl situations where the wall is not hied—pew painted, papered or timber-ciad.

However, in the last case its worth considering the use of timber quadrant beading as an alternative. All you have to do is pin it to the cladding or fix it to clean, bare plaster using an epoxy resin adhesive.

Again, make sure that the timber is bedded in mastic where it rests on the lip of the bath, shower tray or basin. Do remember to treat the timber with a good-quality preservative (one that can be painted or varnished over) and then paint or varnish it all round, including any cut ends, before fixing it in place.

Casting a Solid Floor

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

The first job is to remove the old floor and dig out the ground below to at least 12in below the final floor level. Lever up an old wooden floor and saw through the joists for easy removal. Then demolish the dwarf walls. Break up a concrete floor: the best way is with a rented jack hammer. Keep the rubble for use as a bed for the concrete later. Wear stout boots, thick gloves, overalls and safety goggles.

Find the flashing in the walls; it may be a layer of slate or bitumen, or one or two courses of engineering bricks. If necessary, chip away the plaster to find it.

If the floor in the next room is of suspended wood, lay plastic drain pipes between any airbricks and the inter-connecting door threshold, setting them in place with bits of stone or brick: this is vital to provide ventilation throughout the floor. Build a retaining wall across the threshold with concrete building blocks.

Next make up some datum pegs from 2 x tin sawn softwood marked with the depths of the bed and concrete subfloor layers: 6in and 4in respectively. Cut a point on one end of the pegs then drive a peg into the ground near a given reference point, to indicate the surface of the floor. Drive the other pegs in at 3ft intervals, checking that their tops are level with the first.

Put down the brick and stone bed, leveling it with the marks on the pegs and compacting it well with a purpose-made tamper. Spread a layer of damp builder’s sand over the top to fill any voids.

The concrete for the subfloor should be of 1 part cement: 21/2 parts concreting sand: 4 parts gravel.

Lay the concrete so that it is level with the tops of the pegs, tamping it down well and drawing a stout batten across the tops of the pegs to level it. Fill any hollows with more concrete then tamp again.

When the concrete has cured, lay the cleavage membrane. With bitumen emulsion apply about three coats, taking it up the wall to the flashing. If plastic sheet is used, tack it to the walls above the flashing. Fold the corners and overlap the sheets by 8 to 12in, sealing the join with building adhesive.

Use 1 x 2in battens to divide the floor into 3ft wide bays for the finishing screed. Set them in place with dabs of mortar, level if necessary by packing offcuts underneath: check with a spirit level.

Fill the bays with a 3:1 mortar mix and draw it off level with a straight-edged batten held across the tops of the dividing battens. When two bays have been completed, lift out the batten in between and fill the resulting slot with mortar. Then trowel both bays smooth with a metal trowel. When the mortar has stiffened, give it a final polish with a wetted trowel.

Fitting a New Lintel

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

With the wall above the window opening supported by stout wooden needles and adjustable jacks, and the old window frame taken out you can remove the old lintel and brickwork from above the opening.

Remove the bricks from the outer layer first. These may be laid in horizontal courses across the lintel or they may be set vertically. If the house is old, they may form a self-supporting segmental arch.

Cut through the mortar joints with a bricklayer’s chisel to remove the bricks, making a gradually tapering, stepped opening up to the level of the wooden needle above. This will prevent any brickwork from falling while working on the opening.

Removing the bricks from the outer leaf of the wall will expose the face of the load bearing lintel set in the inner leaf. You should remove this next.

From inside the house, hack off the plaster above the window opening to expose the inner face of the lintel and the brickwork above it. Again, cut out the bricks to foam a stepped opening up to the level of the needle. Then cut into the mortar joints at each end of the lintel, working along the top, ends and underneath. Use a stout bar to lever the ends of the lintel upwards to finally release them. Then get some help to lift the lintel from its bearings in the wall.

the thickness of the wall. It may lodge and form a bridge for moisture to cross from the outer skin to the inner and cause damp patches on the inner wall.

Measure up the new lintel and draw its outline on the inside of the wall centered over the new window position. Remember, the new lintel should be at least 6in wider at each side of the window opening to provide decent-sized bearings. Also, allow an extra lin at each end and on the depth to provide enough space to manoeuvre the lintel into position.

Cut straight down through the plaster along the outline with the bricklayer’s chisel to provide a cutting guide and then hack off the plaster within the outline.

Go on to remove the bricks exposed by the removal of the plaster, again cutting through the mortar joints in an effort to keep as many bricks in one piece as possible. Clean up the bearing openings and make sure their surfaces are flat and level.

Whether you are using a steel or concrete lintel, you will need some help to lift it into place.

Trowel a layer of mortar onto each bearing and lift the lintel into place, setting it centrally over the opening. Check that the lintel is flush with the inner face and outer layer of the wall.

Hold a level against the underside of the lintel and check that it is horizontal. If necessary, correct this by packing pieces of tile or slate beneath the ends. When level, fill the gaps round the ends of the lintel with more mortar and brick offcuts, pointing the joints neatly flush with the surrounding brickwork.

Constructing Archways

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

One of the problems with taking out a wall between two rooms to make a through-room is that the beam and its supporting piers remain as clear evidence of what has been done. The same applies if you remove a door and frame from their opening to make an open plan access point between two rooms. These functional pieces of the structure can be disguised and made to look more decorative by forming them into curved archways.

There are many ways in which you can construct archways from scratch, using a basic framework of sawn wood clad with hardboard, plywood, drywall or imitation bricks, but probably the easiest is to use prefabricated galvanized steel mesh arch formers. These are fixed in place at the top of the opening and plastered to match the adjoining walls.

Mesh arch formers usually come in four pieces, each piece being half of the face of one side of the arch and half of the associated area of soffit. In this way they can be trimmed down to fit narrow walls, or widened by the addition of extra soffit strips. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes for spans of up to 10ft. Some one-piece versions are also available.

The faces of the prefabricated mesh panels are usually extended at the edges to form mounting flanges which sit flat against the face of the wall. The formers are

secured by driving galvanized masonry nails through the flanges into the wall or by pushing the flanges into dabs of plaster.

If you intend to disguise a newly fitted beam with arch formers, they should be installed before you plaster either the beam or the piers. If you want to improve the look of an existing opening, you will have to cut – away a margin of plaster so that the mounting flanges of the formers will sit back flush against the wall.

Instead of using Bonding plaster for the floating coat, the mesh arch formers should be given a backing coat of Metal Lathing plaster. This hardens to leave a rough finish ready for the application of thin layers of Finish plaster. Rule the finish layer level with any surrounding original plaster.

Cutting an External Doorway

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

The positioning and installation of external doors is subject to the requirements of your local building code, so make the necessary applications to your local building department first.

Temporary support for the wall must be provided by Sin sq needles on top of adjustable metal props. To fit the needles, remove a whole brick from the outer layer and drill through the inner layer at the corners of the opening. Use the holes as a guide for cutting out the masonry from the inner layer. Insert the needles and tighten the props.

Draw the outline of the lintel on the inside wall and cut out the plaster and masonry from within. Drill the corners of the outer layer and remove the masonry. Fit the lintel on mortar bearings packed out with tiles or slates to set it level. Fill all round the inner portion of the lintel with mortar and rebuild any brickwork above it. Similarly rebuild the outer brickwork in the existing bond or stand the bricks on end to form a “sodier” arch.

When the mortar has set, remove the needles and brick up the holes. Then cut out the opening for the door frame — to fit the size of the frame.

Remove the bricks down to floor level, cutting through the protrud-bricks of the inner layer, on solid walls but removing whole bricks from the outer layer to give a toothed appearance. Square up the toothed outer layer by fitting cut bricks in place so that their “finished” ends are outermost.

Toe-nail the frame together before inserting it in the opening. Tack a length of flashing material to the underside of the sill, covering the nail heads with a bituminous sealant.

Fix the frame in the opening with screws and wallplugs, packing the sides to make them vertical. Fill gaps on the inside with mortar; apply caulking around the frame on the outside to keep out water.

The door sill should overhang the brickwork slightly and is best fitted with a metal weather bar, which is set in caulk. Once the frame is in place, hang the door and finish.

Blocking Redundant Doorways

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

There are two methods you can use for blocking off a redundant doorway: you can fit a wood framework around the inside and panel it with wallboard on both sides, or you can use bricks or lightweight building blocks if the floor is solid. In each case, plaster is used to finish it off.

Alternatively, consider whether you can put it to some other use such as paneling in the back and filling the recess with shelves.

Removing the old frame

To remove the old door and frame, unscrew the door hinges, lift the door away and lever off the molding. The lining frame may be fixed by masonry nails, screws or metal ties cemented into the brickwork. You should be able to lever it free, but if not, cut through its fixings by working a saw blade between the back of the frame and the wall.

Paneling with wallboard

If you are filling an opening in a stud partition, the supporting framework should be made of wood to match the framework of the partition — usually 2 x 3 or 4in lumber. On the other hand, if paneling a masonry wall, you might need two separate frames of something like 2in sq wood to panel each side flush.

The frame should comprise a head plate, sole plate, two upright studs and a central brace. Toe-nail these together and to the insides of the opening, making sure the frame is set back from the face of the wall to allow for the thickness of the skimmed wallboard.

Nail a panel of wallboard to each side of the frame, and to prevent the skim coat shrinking back from the edges, nail lengths of metal lath around the join. Apply a skim coat of finish and when the plaster has hardened, fit a length of new baseboard across the opening.

To fill the opening with bricks or concrete blocks, you must tie the new masonry to the old. The easiest method is to hammer 6in masonry nails half-way into the side of the opening to correspond with the mortar joints of alternate courses of the new bricks which will eventually be buried in the mortar.

Lay the bricks or blocks in the normal overlapping fashion and point all the mortar joints flush with the face of the masonry when finished.

Finally, apply floating and finish coats of plaster, using the surrounding original plaster as a thickness guide.

Putting a Doorway in stud partitions

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

To put a doorway in a stud partition, first expose the framework below the skin of the partition. Find the stud positions on each side of the proposed opening by tapping the surface and probing with a bradawl. Draw in the stud positions on the surface and another line between them to mark the height of the door frame plus an allowance for the wood lintel.

Cut along this outline with a keyhole saw continuing the cut through the skin across the top of any studs or bracing you come across. Lever off the skin to expose the framework and the back of the other skin. Remove the latter in the same way.

Cut out all the framework within the opening and then make up two short “trimmer” studs to support the lintel. Nail the trimmer studs to the original studs on each side of the opening and the lintel to the tops of the trimmer studs. Nail through the lintel into the base of any cut stud.

If the door frame is narrower than the distance between the trimmer studs, fit an intermediate between the lintel and sole plate, linking it with short braces to one of the trimmer studs.

Cut out the section of sole plate across the bottom of the opening and fit the door frame. Finish the partition by nailing on gypsum- board and applying a skim coat of plaster over the top.

A hatchway between a kitchen and dining room can be extremely useful, and you may wish to consider installing one should you have to block off a redundant doorway, or to suit other remodeling plans. Plan its position carefully so that it coincides with a work surface in the kitchen and something like a worktop or small table in the dining room so that there will be somewhere to place dishes and plates, for example.

The method for making a pass-through is basically the same as that for making a doorway, except that the opening is not continued to the floor. In a wood framed partition, a wood sill piece is needed between the studs on each side of the opening.

The pass-through can be left open with plastered edges and a wood sill, screwed across the bottom or a wooden lining frame can be fitted to take hinged or sliding doors, or some form of roller blind to give the maximum amount of privacy, and also to prevent cooking smells, for example, from drifting through.

Working on the Interior

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Wearing protective clothing, (especially the goggles), carefully cut away the plaster from within the lintel outline to expose the masonry below. Remove the bricks or blocks by cutting through their mortar joints and lifting them out. If any above the slot should drop, remove these and keep them for replacement later. Retain any whole bricks from the slot for possible reuse.

Lift the lintel into place, bedding it on mortar (3 parts soft sand: 1 part masonry cement) laid on the “bearings” at each end of the slot. It is best to get the help of an assistant with lifting the lintel, especially when lifting weights above the head. Make sure the lintel is level and, if necessary, pack it out below the ends with tiles or slates.

Finally, fill any spaces around the lintel with more mortar and replace any bricks or blocks that may have dropped out at the slot-cutting stage. If the wall is constructed of blocks, bring the lintel up to the height of the adjacent blocks by laying a course of bricks on top, and mortering them in place.

Leave the mortar to set for at least 24 hours, and preferably 48. Then remove the needle and wood supports. Fill the needle holes with brick offcuts and mortar. Lever off the baseboard and place it to one side for cutting down later.

Remove the plaster inside the outline of the opening to expose all the masonry below. Using a light sledge hammer and bolster chisel, cut this out by chiseling through the mortar joints, carefully working down the wall one course at a time. Because of the bonding pattern used, you will find that on alternate courses you will have to cut through bricks at the sides of the opening. Do this as you come to them. driving the chisel into their faces and levering them out from below to leave a straight edge to the opening. Remove all the bricks from the opening.

Trim off the masonry flush with a solid floor, or jus: below a wooden one. In the latter case, join the tv,-: floors by screwing battens to the joists then fit a piece of plywood or short pieces of floor-board on top neaten and close the gap.

The frame can be held in place with either galvanized metal ties mortared to the wall, or by screws and wall plugs. If ties are to be used, you need three per side. Cut recesses in the sides of the opening for the ties. If you intend screwing the frame to the wall, drill screw clearance holes in it and offer it up so these can be marked on the wall. Drill and plug the holes.

Set the frame in place, packing out the sides as necessary with wood offcuts to set them vertical. Then either fill the tie recesses with mortar and brick offcuts or insert the screws.

Fill in the gaps round the frame with more mortar and offcuts and trowel a thin layer of mortar over any exposed masonry at the sides and top before refinishing the plaster.

Finally, nail lengths of molding around the frame, mitering the corners, and trim and refit the base boards to the base of the wall.

Plastering Masonry

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Hardware, Remodeling    by: ITC

To plaster a newly built wall you will not have to do any preparation work to it at all before you fix wooden grounds or metal lath in place.

Then the masonry should be dampened by splashing on clean water with a paintbrush. This will help slow down the rate at which the wall absorbs moisture from the plaster, preventing it from drying out too quickly and possibly cracking.

It is a good idea to practice scooping plaster from the hawk and applying it to the wall before you attempt the job for real. Set the loaded trowel against the wall so that the bottom corner of the blade rests on the ground or bead and the blade is at an angle of about 30° to the wall surface. Move the blade upwards to spread a vertical strip of plaster next to the thickness guide, keeping the blade resting on the guide and gradually reducing its angle as the plaster spreads.

Apply more strips of plaster in the same way, working upwards from the bottom and across the bay adding a good thickness of plaster to the wall.

When the bay is finished, use the long wooden rule to strike it off level with the thickness guides. Place it across the guides and draw it upwards, moving it from side to side in a sawing motion as you go. This will level off the high spots and accentuate the dips. Add more plaster and repeat the process until level.

Before it sets, key the surface for the finishing coat by passing a wooden float, with nails knocked through its face, over the plaster to leave score lines.

When the floating coat has hardened (it should take about two hours), you can apply the finishing coat. This is done in exactly the same way as plastering wallboard, applying two thin coats of Finish plaster to produce a polished, flat and hard surface.


1. Scooping plaster from the hawk; put the trowel into the plaster and scoop forwards and upwards.

2. Practising applying paster to the wall; work upwards from waist-height, starting with the trowel at 30 degrees to the wall.

3. As you apply the plaster, tilt the trowel more parallel to the wall surface; keep the hawk close to the wall to catch droppings.

4. Applying the plaster in vertical strips; at the end of each stroke, press the lower edge of the trowel to firm the plaster onto the wall.

5. Ruling off the completed bay; use a straight-edge with a sawing motion to lower any high spots and to show up areas with too little plaster.

6. Scoring the surface to provide a key for the finishing coat; the nails should protrude in through the float.

7. Filling the gap left after taking off the ground batten; level off with the trowel, flush with the hardened plaster on each side.

8. Applying the finishing coat; work from bottom to top and cover the floating coat with a thin layer; apply a second coat. 9 Polishing the finishing coat; wet the surface sufficiently to remove ridges and marks and polish firmly with a perfectly clean, flat trowel.

Making a New Doorway

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

As with all jobs of this type, making a new doorway requires careful planning. You should also check the requirements of your local building code.

A lintel must be chosen to match the type of wall being cut into and you must select a position for the door that, if possible, will not interfere with existing cable and pipe runs and which should be at least 18in from any corner.

It is possible to buy doors and ready-made frames in a range of standard sizes, and unless you are making the frame, it is best to buy the door and frame first, making the opening to fit it. Make sure its height leaves enough of the wall above the opening for fitting the lintel and the temporary wood supports.

With a masonry wall, you must provide temporary support for the wall above the opening and the load it carries while you cut out a slot for the lintel. If the wall supports the joists of the ceiling above, you must also make sure you support the ceiling on both sides of the wall as well.

Support the wall with 6ft lengths of 2 x 4in wood called “needles” — on top of adjustable metal props, which work like an automobile jack (you can rent these), spaced at 3ft intervals. With a normal sized doorway, you would need only one set centrally above the opening.

To support the ceiling, lengths of 4 x 12in wood are used across the tops of more props. None of the props should be more than 2ft from the wall, and if they are to stand on a wood floor, the feet should be placed on another length of 2 x 4in wood to spread the load.

Before marking out the doorway on the wall, use a bricklayer’s chisel and hammer to remove patches of plaster roughly where the edges and top of the opening will be. This will allow you to adjust fairly accurately the position of the opening to coincide with the mortar joints, in order to reduce the number of bricks you have to cut through.

Measure up the door frame, adding 2in to its width and lin to its height to allow for positioning. Using these dimensions, draw an outline of the opening on the wall. Then measure up the lintel — which should be at least l ft wider than the opening — and add a further 2in to its width for fitting. Draw the outline of the lintel on the wall above the door opening.

Finally, draw the outline of the wood needle centrally above the needle outline. Repeat the outlines on the other side of the wall.

Cut the hole for the needle with a hammer and bricklayer’s chisel. Slide the needle through so it protrudes equally on both sides of the wall and fit the props beneath it, tightening them to take the load. Both props must be adjusted simultaneously to ensure even support. Then fit the ceiling supports.