My “Bags”

The tool bags I carry weigh just a little over 35 pounds. I choose to have just about every tool I need at hand so that I don’t have to start and stop my jobs in order to find a tool I should have. A good belt has a spot for all the important tools and they are placed to facilitate no look “grab and replace” actions so no time or effort is wasted getting the tool I need when I need it – kind of like a gun fighter in the old West.. They wouldn’t have lasted long if they needed to look down at their 6 shooter in the middle of a show down! Most guys will have a bag on each side of their belt… I’ve got a 3rd bag that is attached behind me that I use to carry wirenuts, crimp sleeves, drywall screws and my hammer pouch.  I also spend a little time prior to each day thinking about the work I’ll be doing and the tools I’ll need to add to my bags or my tool box on my truck.

P.S. I fell off a scaffold at about 8′ and landed right on my butt – on my wirenut filled bag and it felt like I landed on a pile of marshmallows… I was the most surprised guy in the world that I wasn’t hurt bad. Belt


Extension Cords, Ropes and Hoses

If you’ve ever tried to coil up a long or heavy gauge extension cord, rope or hose, you may have found that it can be hard to coil it up because it can be unruly, heavy and hard to handle not to mention keeping it from getting tangled the next time you need to feed it out… here is how professional contractors coil, store and use their long and/or heavy cords, ropes or hoses:  Link

Adding can lights to a 1st floor bedroom.

Before adding can lights to any room there are a couple of questions that need to be answered to arrive at a “go – no go” decision.

  1. Is there room for the can light – above, below, around.   No- no go!
  2. Do we have power available on this circuit to power up the additional cans* Turn off power at branch circuit, main disconnect or neighborhood grid (if you’re a real scardey cat)  No – more difficult but not impossible.
  3. Layout the cans keeping the joists / trusses in mind with WTPB tools/probe.
  4. Mark the cut outs with your WTPB tape measures
  5. Cut the drywall with a drywall saw and WTPB dust pan to feel for wires, pipes and heat ducts.
  6. Install wiring between can lights and switch.
  7. Wire up using good quality wirenuts and provided single wire fastening methods on can.
  8. Note:  Always test the lights to insure they work properly before installing dimming devices (a short in the system will ruin the dimmers, which are expensive, use a cheap switch or touch the switch leg to the power pigtail to turn on the lights).
  9. Pat yourself on the back and know that you’ve saved at least $100 a can and even better you’ve proven  you’re SelFREEliant!

* Go to your electrical panel and see what the breaker size the room you are lighting has. Codes have changed but older homes required lights and plug to be separate circuits (1/2 hot plugs on lighting circuits). Newer homes simply load calculations to determine the number and size of circuits.  It will be either a 15 or 20 amp circuit. A 15 amp supplies approx 1,500 watts and a  20 amp circuit supplies approx 2,000 watts. Using your detective skills determine what is on the circuit to determine what the existing load is and whether there is any room for additional load. The electrician who wired your house probably circuited it based on 1 of 2 things… square footage: 500 square feet per circuit or 12 – 15 devices per circuit. Older homes usually have many fewer circuits and fewer devices, newer homes have more circuits but many more devices… common sense and math will tell you if you can tap an existing circuit or if you’ll have to originate a new circuit from the panel.


Most used tool I have…

The most used tool that I have is in my truck or in my bags is probably an 11 in 1 screw driver by Klein Tools.  It has a 1/4″, 3/8″ and 5/16 drivers, small and large straight edge and #2 and #3 phillips drivers, #10 and #15  torx drivers and #1 and #2 square drivers and you can even twist wire nuts with the handle. I’ve stolen the bits out of this tool to use with my cordless drills and it’s butt has been used as a hammer at times.

Updating the recessed can trims

Felicia’s client had 17 misc trims that they needed to update from black baffles to white baffles.  The 17 trims would add about $200 to the bottom line so we volunteered to see how well we’d be able to whiten the rings and change the color of the inner baffles. 6 cans of high temperature white paint and a little elbow grease they turned out better than new because they won’t fade to yellow like new plastic rings will. Here is what we did:

  • Disassemble the trims by separating the trim rings, the baffles and the springs.
  • Washing in soap and water each part to remove the dirt, and any loose parts
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Apply high temp white paint in as many coats as necessary, 6 in our case.
  • Let the paint dry thoroughly
  • Reassemble and install trims

For $25 and 2 hours labor you’ve got better than new trims.

Painted can trims
Painted can trims

Plumbing and why plumbers are the highest paid trade…

I spent 1/2 of the day under a clients sink today and wished about 30 minutes into it that our plumber was available instead of me. After working on the leaks 3 or 4 times and installing new parts it finally stopped leaking. I’ll have to make a trip there tomorrow to check on it and remove the container that I left there just in case…. man I dislike plumbing!

I can come up with 3 reasons that plumbers are the highest paid tradesmen:

1st. When something related to water breaks… it needs to be fixed immediately – sewer backed up, washer hose spraying water and flooding the basement, no water for drinking, dishes, bathing or bathroom!!! You’d pay almost anything to resolve those issues!

2nd. There are few things more frustrating than trying to get leaks to stop leaking. Tighten more, loosen a little, replace, can’t see where it’s coming from, uncomfortable cabinet face frame sticking into my side, if it leaks it’ll ruin the cabinet shelf, Teflon tape, plumbers putty, ABS glue, Hot glue, Blue glue, etc…

3rd. I read recently that plumbers have done more to extend life expectancies for humans than doctors by providing clean drinking water, improved personal hygiene and sanitation (waste removal)…

Maybe they are worth what we pay them after all…  LOL


Which wire goes where?

This morning we were removing cover plates, thermostats, door bell chimes, and everything else that we didn’t want to get painted in place by the painting crew. One of the tricks of the trades is to do something that will remind you of the order that the wires are hooked up when they have to be reinstalled.

Here is what I did this morning with the thermostats that I pulled off knowing that if these ever need to be replaced the newer models always have a smaller footprint on the wall and will expose the paint lines from the older, larger stats.  I unplugged the FAU* (forced air unit) to make sure the unit the low voltage power to the thermostat would be off – not because of any danger to me, but to make sure that there wouldn’t be any danger of damaging the thermostat.  I removed outer cover, the inner guts and the  the screws holding the base plate to the wall and then pulled the wire feeding the thermostat out to insure there’d be enough wire to reinstall it if I did my trick, there was so here is what I did.

  • I leave the wires attached to the screws on the device, using my side cutters (dikes) I cut the wires just behind the point where the insulation starts, leaving a small piece of colored insulation on the wire that’s still attached to the screw on the device.
  • I could use my phone and take a picture of the device and it’s wiring at the same point that I’d cut the wires too, as long as I can see the detail of color, location and such.

Now when I reinstall the device on the wall I’ll simply attach one wire at a time and replace the bobtail wire with the wire from the wall and presto-chango when the unit is plugged back in it’ll work.

* This work was done at the beach and this home has no A/C unit that might power up the thermostat. If you are working on a home that has an A/C system you may need to turn off the breaker for the A/C or pull out the disconnect at the A/C unit and to cut power to the FAU to be sure your thermostat is de-energized.


Building Beautiful Projects while You Watch and Learn!