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Phouka Home

General Restoration Tips

Basic Roof Repair - Using Plywood Underlayment - Laying a Brick Walkway - Installing a Tin Ceiling
Refinishing a Floor - Installing Clapboards - Installing a Pre-hung Door - Paintbrushes
Desk heights - Floating a Hardwood Floor - Shelving Spans


Basic Roof Repair

Tiled roofs

Tiles can fracture, spall, or drop out.

Don't work on a tile roof by yourself unless you are very comfortable on a roof. They are slippery and dangerous. Hire a contractor to do it if you have any doubts.

  • Check condition of all fasteners. If you have loose tiles, you have failing fasteners.
  • Replace damaged or displaced tiles

Wooden Shingles

Shingles can split, fall out, or decompose.

Replacing wooden shakes is a do it yourself job, if you're fairly handy and have the right tools. A shingle-puller is almost required (a flat-bladed tool with a set of hooks on the end that catch and cut the nails holding shingles in place), and a good, comfortable hammer.

  • Keep the roof clear of debris and moss
  • Replace loose or damaged shingles
  • Repair hips and ridges

Slate Roofs

Cracked or missing slates will leak

Slate roofs are heavy and expensive, but they will last almost forever, if cared for. Slate as well should not be worked on unless you are comfortable working on a roof. This is especially true with the steep pitch of some older houses. Get help or hire it done.

  • Remove and replace broken or missing slates
  • If nails fail, have roof slates re-laid. If more than one fails, you can bet the rest of them will soon.

Ornamental Features

  • renail or replace ridge tiles
  • replace or repair missing wooden ornaments

Metal roofing

Corrosion can weaken roofs

Metal roofs (terne, tin, copper, steel, etc. ) can be long lasting and low-maintenance if installed correctly.

  • Keep the roof clear of debris
  • Check condition of flashing
  • Repair promptly

Preparing for a new roof

Strip the roof if there are:

  • more than 2 layers
  • extensive water damage
  • rafters are undersized
  • an adjacent section must be replaced

Using Plywood Underlayment

  • Leave a 1/8th space in wall, floor, and subfloor panels to account for expansion.
  • Lay plywood so the long dimension is perpendicular to the joists
  • Stagger joints
  • Use 5/8" tongue and groove for roof sheathing
  • Use ¾" for subfloors
  • Use ½" plywood for walls

Use sawdust or woodshavings to remove the remains of stripper. If you don't have any, unscented cedar pet-bedding works just as well!

Laying a brick walkway

Use only bricks rated for extreme weather
  • Dig down 2 feet ( yes, two feet) for the entire width and length of the walkway
  • Fill the bed with gravel and rake it in well.
  • Make sure to slope the walk for drainage
  • Add stone dust, or sand, to the main plane of the walk, tamping 2" down
  • Lay bricks
  • Tamp bricks with a dead-blow rubber hammer
  • Work stone dust into the cracks with a broom after laying
  • Wash thoroughly.

Your walkway may need additional applications of stone dust or sand periodically as it is packed down. Every hour you spend in preparation of the bed for the walkway will pay off by preventing days of maintenance later on. Trust me. Skimp on gravel or sand or tamping and you'll pay for it with a heaving walk and lumpy brickwork.

Refinishing a Floor

The average cost of recoating a wood floor is $100 for a 200 ft2 room.

Oil-Based Poly -- dries more slowly, may have a yellowish hue, might darken with time. Vapors can be hazardous.

Water-Based Poly -- more durable, dried clear with no yellowing, dries faster.

Tongue and Groove Siding or Clapboards

Always lay tongue with the tongue UP

In hot climates, consider installing siding over battens, to create an airspace for ventilation. Do not use a vapor barrier.

Installing a prehung door

  1. check height and width of opening The rough opening (RO) should be 2" taller and 2 ½" wider
  2. measure the thickness of the wall, from finish to finish
  3. if finish floor isn't in yet, figure it's height. Jambs should sit flush on subflooring. Allow ½" clearance
  4. check floor for level, and adjust jambs
  5. cut jambs to length with circular saw
  6. assemble the jambs to the head, using white glue and finishing nails
  7. locate the frame in the rough opening
  8. margin the frame - center in relation to the wall
  9. check the frame head for level
  10. tack in place with 10d nails. Start shimming in top corners
  11. plumb the hinges, jamb first - using a 6' level. Shim behind lower hinge, pairing shims. Work up the jamb, using 5 pairs on each side. Interior doors need at least three - behind each hinge and halfway between.
  12. Secure latch jamb. Hang door
  13. shim the frame head at either corner
  14. check margins, and see if door operates
  15. install door stop - allow 1/16" gap

Paintbrushes to own

To get quality brushes, look for multi-length split bristles. The brush should be ¾" - 1" thick for a 4" brush.

Use synthetic bristles for latex paints, natural bristles for oil/alklyd paints.

  • Flat, round, oval. (Oval are probably best, although US and UK use flat brushes)
  • Sash brushes, 1-2"
  • Paintbrushes are usually flat, wide, and short bristled for even coverage
  • Pointed fitches - for picking out work or painting deep moldings. A lily bristled fitch is more controllable and stiffer
  • Lining brushes - made for a thin flow of paint in a fine line. Use sable or polyester for thin washes of paint, hogbristles for thicker lines
  • Swordliners and sables - used for lining, molding, detailing. A sable artists brush will be OK
  • Round fitch - most versatile. Will hold a lot of paint
  • Flat fitch - designed for making neat, controlled marks.
  • Varnishing brushes - a pointed brush for thin varnishes,. NEVER brush varnish with a paint brush. Apply shellac with a pointed brush to avoid brush marks
  • Badger hair softener - the creme-de-la-creme of brushes - 8 to 10x more expensive than a paintbrush. A dusting brush can be used in a pinch. This is usually used for specialty finishes.

Study space

  • A writing desk should be a 30" tall
  • A drafting table should be 1" below elbows
  • A typewriter desk should be 26" tall

Floating a hardwood floor

  1. Remove shoe moldings. Unroll foam underlayment
  2. Draw chalk line for placement of first board. Place first whole plank - secure with brads.
  3. Leave ½" spaces for the edges. Apply glue and tap together
  4. Snug in edge boards to spacers
  5. Remove nails from first board
  6. Match shoe moldings and nail to WALL, not floor.


Limit shelving spans to 36" if you use ¾" plywood,, 24" for 1x12, 18" for glass

Shelves need to be 8" high for paperbacks, 11" for hardback, 15" for oversize

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All content ©1998-2009 R. Fingerson
Last updated 03/05/2009