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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Do It Yourself: Making the right connector choice key to framing

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune

Q. I want to build the framing for a couple of partition walls to convert large rooms into smaller rooms. I’ve always had trouble with framing, especially when I have to do what is called toe-nailing. Any tips?

A. Whether you are building partitions, a deck, a utility shed or almost any other project that requires framing, you will get faster and stronger results if you use framing connectors at the joints. The fasteners are made of strong steel in many configurations to suit various framing needs, and you can find a good selection of them at almost any home center.

One of my favorite connectors is a piece of strong steel about 3 inches wide, bent into a right-angle shape, with holes for the short, thick nails used with the connectors. If you are installing a wall stud, for example, nail one flange of one of these connectors to each end, put the stud in place, and nail the other flange to the supporting structure.

You can eliminate toe-nailing with these connectors, and you are not alone in finding toe-nailing tricky (toe-nailing involves driving nails at an angle into the end of a part such as a stud, then driving the nails deeper into the supporting structure.)

There are variations on the simple L-shaped connector I like. Simpson, a leading manufacturer of connectors, makes one that has tabs with nailing holes. Another connector that I found extremely useful is the joist hanger.

Many decks, sheds and room additions are attached to existing buildings with a so-called ledger board – a thick, strong plank to which the ends of joists are attached. A joist hanger forms strong steel pocket for each joist – again, no toe-nailing needed. Post supports, which elevate the bottoms of posts to keep water from rotting them, are also useful connectors.

There isn’t space here to discuss the many other helpful connectors, but any do-it-yourselfer thinking of starting a building project would do well to visit a home center or building-supply outlet and check out the wide variety of connectors available.

Q. My house has a concrete-block foundation that is unfinished and is pretty ugly. I’d like to paint it. What is the best painting tool to use – big brush, roller or pad? A sprayer is out, because I don’t want to spend much money.

A. Unless the instructions call for a different applicator, a roller is the best tool, with a brush handy to do the edges and tight places. Most people like 9-inch rollers best, and you should take a good look at the texture of the blocks before buying roller covers. If the blocks are reasonably smooth, covers with 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch nap length will do well. If the blocks are very coarse, try a covers with half-inch nap.

I like painting pads and use them regularly for some painting or sealing, but they work best on smooth surfaces where the area to be covered is not too large. The biggest problems might not be in selecting tools, but in picking the best paint and preparing the surface properly.

Concrete has some unique properties that can cause paint to deteriorate, including efflorescence, a leaching of minerals from inside the concrete to the surface. Special cleaning might also be called for in the instructions, including etching with an acid.

There are also special paints to suit special situations, such as Drylok, which can help prevent moisture seepage through the foundation walls. Some painters prefer elastomeric paint for masonry walls; it can bridge small cracks and can expand to suit weather conditions.

However, I have painted masonry walls with house-and-trim paint, with minimum preparation, and it lasted many years. An important step is to read the directions for any paint, before buying, and make sure it is suitable for masonry walls and what preparation might be needed.

Another good step is to paint just a small area at first as a test, to make sure the paint will adhere well and give the effect you want. After painting a test section, wait a month or so and check the results before proceeding.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.